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Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

August 14, 2009

While in Texas this past couple of weeks, I got to spend a day with my dad at the family ranch in Brenham. My folks own some property outside of Brenham, Texas, where we have 93 acres of grass, live oak trees, grasshoppers, a pond, and 30 or so head of Beefmaster cattle. The folks treat it as a hobby farm, raising the cattle and selling off as needed. Yes, they are beef cattle, and yes it’s horribly depressing. But, such is life. If you like to eat steak, it’s just what you do.

Bucket garden

Bucket garden

Enough about depressingness, though, and on to the pictures! While I was at the ranch, I had the chance to do a little produce picking, from my mom’s adorable blue bucket garden.

These blue buckets are what’s leftover after the cows finish eating their protein tubs:

Protein tub

Protein tub

It’s a good way to recycle these suckers, rather than throwing them away. So. Mom’s got yellow squash, zucchini squash, tomatoes, and a tiny grapevine (possibly others, but these were basically it in this weather). Texas, for those of you who don’t know, has been having some serious drought issues.

Dry dirt

Dry dirt

Ergo, Mom has to work pretty hard to keep the plants going. On this trip, we just watered and picked a couple small veggies.

Watering the plants

Watering the plants

Knobbly yellow squash

Knobbly yellow squash

Tiny tomato

Tiny tomato

Harvest, and yes, it's in a Dillards bag.

Harvest, and yes, it's in a Dillards bag.

After we collected our produce for the day, we went to feed the cows. In addition to grazing on the very parched grass on the place, we feed them range cubes, minerals and protein. Protein, as mentioned, comes from the big blue tubs. Range cubes must be hand-fed, at least, hand-poured into the feed trough.

En route to the feed trough

En route to the feed trough

Dad, feeding cubes

Dad, feeding cubes

Next up, we hopped over to the mineral feeder:

Mineral feeder

Mineral feeder

Pourin' in the minerals

Pourin' in the minerals

The mineral feeder has a cover on it, as you can see, which has a fin on top to catch the wind.This is to keep the cover pointing in the direction of the wind, to keep it from tipping over, and give the cattle a bit of protection as they’re eating (at least, this is the story I think is true…if you’re a cattleperson and disagree, let me know).

Fin

Fin

The vehicle we use for getting around the ranch is a cute little Kubota RTV. Somehow I didn’t manage to take a picture of the RTV itself, but I did take a picture of Dad’s pretty maroon truck:

The Beast.

The Beast.

It’s a dainty little thing, and yes, I drove it off the lot when he purchased it. He’s told the story previously in a post, but we exited the dealership, proceeded directly to the nearest Whataburger*,wherein I backed the 20-something-foot-long Beast into a spot (got it on the first try, thank you very much!), my mom and I hopped out, two blond chicks and a pickup truck, then Dad gets out and we all walk in to the Whataburger to a crowd full of stares. Then, in true Texas redneck fashion, some dude looks at Dad and says…”Nice truck.” Yeah. Pretty awesome.

Oh and P.S. It’s a King Ranch edition.

Hooo baby

Hooo baby

Anyways, I digress. After we filled the feed troughs and refilled the minerals, it was time to play with the cows (and by “play with” I mean, herd them towards the place where their food is). We’ve got 12 new babies on the place, so there were plenty to see and go “Awwwww” over. So here is a cattle photo montage!

Babby.

Babby.

Used to be babbies, now just cuties.

Used to be babbies, now just cuties.

This calf, while older than the others, is still the smallest. We think it might be a dwarf.

Dwarf calf

Dwarf calf

Cutie

Cutie

Fuzzzzzy

Fuzzzzzy

The one in the back left is so fuzzy that Mom says he looks like a mink coat. Hehe. Adorable!

Texas

Texas

Thus concludes the cattle portion of this posting. I thought those of you who live in DC would appreciate hearing about my “rural” side…though let’s all be honest. At the ranch, I mostly sit in a chair and read a book while my folks clean out thickets with their bare hands (and sometimes with chainsaws, hanging from trees). But it’s part of my history, so there you go. 🙂

And, because I promised to have something “useful” in every post, here’s a quick review of 2 recipes I prepared while in Texas.

1. Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

2. French Onion Soup, à la Joy of Cooking.

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

For this recipe, I used the standard Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip one, replacing half the chocolate chips with Heath Toffee Bits. When I first bought the Toffee Bits, I thought they were chocolate covered, but when I got them home, I found that they were solely made up of the inside part of the Heath bar, thus the chocolate chips.

Heath

Heath

The final cookie was tasty, but a little weird. I was hoping for a nice, crunchy cookie, with a little saltiness from the toffee, and sweetness from the chocolate chips. In reality, the toffee bits were too sticky, and made the cookie a little too chewy for my tastes. They looked good:

But looks aren't everything...

But looks aren't everything...

So, toffee chocolate chip cookies will not be on my list of Must Makes for the future.

Second up,

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

courtesy of everyone’s favorite cookbook, the Joy of Cooking. This soup came out looking pretty, but again – I wasn’t 100% enthused with the flavor. I’m not sure where the problem began, but perhaps it was the onion (ha, good guess).

Omyums.

Omyums.

My mom had received a few GORGEOUS sweet onions from a friend at work, so I thought I’d use one and a half for this soup. The onions themselves were flawless, HUGE suckers which were perfect for roasting (which we did another night as well). However, for this particular soup, I think they were a tad too sweet. I used the last of my mom’s onion seasoning to try to finish off the flavor, and in my opinion it was still too sweet. So, next time, use white onions, not sweet ones, and I think it’d be better off.

La soupe.

La soupe.

I don’t want to include the recipe here, because that would be plagiarizing the book, but I will tell you one bit I did love, which wasn’t spelled out in the recipe but which was something I’ve made before.** And what’s this, you ask? The toasts!

Toasties

Toasties

I took a baguette-style bread loaf (one of the pre-bake Tuscan loaves from Kroger in this case), sliced it about half an inch thick, and basted both sides with melted butter. Then I put the toasts in the oven (on a cookie sheet covered with foil), in this case I put the broiler on to like 500°, and watched them. When the upward-facing sides were crackly (not brown, but almost there), I flipped them and let the other sides toast. Then, once the toasts are basically a light brown color on top, I pulled them out and set them on the counter.

For a traditional french onion, you should pour the soup into a personal-sized oven-safe crockery dish of some kind, top it with a slice of toast, and then sprinkle some freshly grated gruyère on top (I used about 1/4 cup per dish). Put the soups under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and browning on the edges.

Cheesy cheesy

Cheesy cheesy

Take the bowls out (with an oven mitt – they’re HOT) and let them cool before serving.

The toast points, minus the adding-to-the-soup-and-cheese bit, make excellent dipping utensils for hummus, receptacles for spreadable cheese (like goat cheese or brie, or goat cheese brie), or accompaniments to pasta dishes. Basting them on both sides gives them a nice crunch, but not so hard a crunch as to make them difficult to eat. You can also top them with a grated cheese and put them back in the broiler til the cheese is bubbly. Just watch that they don’t burn!

Enjoy!

* My favorite burger chain EVER.

** That is to say, the recipe recommends topping the soups with toast and cheese, but they don’t spell out how specifically to do it, which is what I’ve done here.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2009 12:33 pm

    NOM.

    This really makes me miss Texas. Running through the brush, spraying water into the dirt cracks, chewing on the long shoots of green grass.

    And, lawdy, I do understand the significance of a King Ranch F350. F350 is it? Marvelous dashboards in those suckers.

    I use yellow onions in my French soup, cut into long, thin julienne strips. Works every time 😀

  2. Anthony permalink
    August 14, 2009 1:20 pm

    Haha, you’re a helpful one on the ranch, aren’t you?

  3. Geoff permalink
    August 14, 2009 2:22 pm

    Whataburger, eh? Did you try that Chophouse Cheddar burger while you were here? I really liked it but it’s too big. And it’s drippy, even with the extra wrapping, not good for driving to the museum district with.

    This onion soup recipe remind me of Alton Brown’s recipe. The segment was on Hulu, but now this is the only form I can find it in. (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/french-onion-soup-recipe/index.html) he recommends a combination of sweet and RED onions.

    My family’s kind of heathens in this regard…we only use Campbell’s french onion soup and we only use it for French dip sandwiches.

  4. Geoff permalink
    August 14, 2009 2:25 pm

    I think I found the Alton Brown Good Eats segment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gekPm1qwPpk

    • lisam permalink
      August 15, 2009 12:44 pm

      Hey thanks, Geoff! Cool!

  5. Courtney permalink
    August 14, 2009 8:41 pm

    My mom uses those same tubs for her tomatoes!

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