Cooking in the West


October 2, 2020

I realized the other day that I had a drug problem when I was growing up. I saw a meme regarding this topic on Facebook, and I realized I indeed had a drug problem. We were drug to church, family functions, and community socials. We were drug by our ears and maybe drug to the woodshed if we disobeyed or disrespected anyone. We were drug to the sink for a mouthwash if we used profanity. We were drug out of bed to do our chores seven days of the week. We were drug to the homes of family, friends, the elderly, or the less fortunate any time they needed a helping hand. Those drugs are still in our veins, and they affect our behavior and attitude even yet. I am so fortunate to have had a drug problem growing up!

Unfortunately, Montana is dealing with a different kind of drug problem now, which is the ballot issue of legalization of recreational marijuana. Back in 2004, I investigated an entrepreneurial idea for ranch diversification that was created by the voters of Montana when 62% of them passed Initiative 148, which legalized the growing and consumption of marijuana for medicinal purposes. As you all know, I am always looking for a way to make ranching profitable. I have tried ranch vacations, singles' weekends, wood burning picture frames (which cost me $50.00 for supplies, a half day to realize it wasn't my calling, and quite a few minutes off my life from inhaling acrid smoke), and many other moonlighting jobs such as the night my friend Marie and I spent painting the Town Pump ceiling. (We were almost in tears at 2:00 a.m. when we enlisted the help of her son Matt, to whom we gratefully gave all our profits.)

However, I suspected I had hit pay dirt with this idea--I would become a "caregiver", which is the politically correct term for a grower of medical marijuana, and it sounds so much nicer than "pot purveyor" or "drug dealer". Yes, I was going green--literally, and it would only cost me $25.00 for a license through the Quality Assurance Division of the Department of Public Health and Human Services at

I couldn't quite convince my family that it was a good idea, but that never stopped me from pursuing my other ideas. I drew up a business plan, and I think it would have made a viral YouTube video the moment I presented my plan to our banker Lars down at Stockman Bank. In the end, he couldn't authorize approval of funding of my buying trip to Columbia, even though bankers are always giving inspirational/motivational speeches about ranch diversification, maximizing profits, utilizing resources, etc. Obviously I had been scheming outside of the bank's comfort zone.

Opportunity was knocking, and I was tempted to answer! All I had to do to be in business was send $25.00 with an incredibly simple application to the DPHHS in Helena, get some seeds, cultivate six marijuana plants, and count my money from selling marijuana legally to a growing number of patients who have legally obtained medical marijuana cards for almost every ailment from depression to cancer. Apparently through an unforeseen loophole (really voters?) many of my card holding clients would be twenty to thirty year old unemployed folks who snowboard all day, but who am I to judge that they do not need medical marijuana to treat their severe depression? A doctor they met in a motel room and slipped $150.00 had already made that determination, so ethically I was in the clear!

The Department of Justice cannot reveal my identity as a "caregiver" nor the identities of my "patients" to the local sheriff, because that would be a violation of the HIPAA privacy rule. (My new promotional hat with little marijuana leaves embroidered on it goes off to the masterminds of I-148--they were true legal geniuses who covered all the bases!)

There were a few bugs to work out of my business plan. There is no cannabis market report on the radio, but the profit margin is reportedly really good. Unfortunately, however, when other states legalized marijuana it drove prices down. Of course, I would have had to raise the "good stuff." I don't have a clue how to go about obtaining high quality seeds for the "good stuff", and I am a little afraid to enlist the help of our County Extension agent whose office is just down the hall from mine at the Sweet Grass County Annex. Although I would like to see South America, I am not sure how one orchestrates a buy of quality seeds after flying to Columbia. Do I take out a classified ad or put up a Facebook post or what? I suppose I would have to make a deal in Spanish, which is also a problem, since my conversational Spanish is limited to words like "taco", "burrito", "loco", and "por favor".

I am not sure we have sufficient guard dogs for a "caregiving" operation, because we have an arthritic border collie named Della, who is quite timid and therefore not too intimidating. Perhaps Della would benefit from small doses of our crop, but we have to keep an eye on the profit margin, so she is probably just going to have to keep limping around while on pot patrol. Do I need special fertilizer or will Miracle Gro suffice? Do I need a tattoo, dreadlocks, Birkenstocks, and a few piercings to look legitimate to my "patients" or is my casual old lady look somehow reassuring?

Stieg Spring Ad

If calf prices stay low, I just may have to do a bit more research and overcome the drug problem of my youth, so if I suddenly have a new wardrobe, new car, and a bunch of new horses, it is probably because I "care"!

If you have a hankering for chocolate desserts, here are some of my fall favorites!

Best Easiest Fudge:

18 oz. chocolate chips (or any flavored chips)

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

2 T. vanilla

chopped nuts or other add-ins of your choice

Microwave the chips, milk, and vanilla until melted. Stir until smooth, and add any add-ins such as marshmallows or nuts or dried fruit. Pour into a greased 8 X 8 pan and let sit until set. Double the recipe for a 9 X 13 pan.

Malted Milk Ball Dessert:

10 to 12 chocolate ice cream sandwiches with vanilla ice cream

12 oz. tub Cool Whip

large container of malted milk balls, coarsely crushed

Unwrap sandwiches and place them in a 9 X 13 glass pan. Fill pan, cutting sandwiches as needed to fill the space. Combine Cool Whip and most of candy, reserving 1 C. of candy for garnish. Spread mixture over sandwich layer. Sprinkle reserved candies on top and freeze until firm. Garnish with whipped cream and cherries and drizzled chocolate for a special occasion dessert that takes just minutes to make!

French Silk Pie:

1 sheet refrigerated pie pastry

2/3 C. sugar

2 large eggs

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 t. vanilla extract

1/3 C. butter, softened

2/3 C. heavy whipping cream

2 t, confectioners' sugar

Whipped cream and chocolate curls, optional

Cut the pastry sheet in half. Repackage and refrigerate one half for another use. On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining half into an 8-in. circle. Transfer to a 7-in. pie plate; flute edges. Line shell with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Bake at 450° for 4 minutes. Remove foil; bake 2 minutes longer or until the crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and eggs until well blended. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 160° and coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the heat. Stir in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Cool to lukewarm (90°), stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add cooled chocolate mixture; beat on high speed for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. In another large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners' sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour into the crust. Chill for at least 6 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.


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