Cooking in the West
April 1, 2022
Spring is officially here, and that signals a shift in my world. I have to shift from physical fitness activities like power walking to the break room for a snack and lifting paperclips to doing things like lugging newborn calves into a sled from the snowbank they were born in or crawling through brush behind cows or in some cases in front of cows--depending upon their prenatal or postpartum moods.
Calving season can be a painful transition into fitness that requires a lot of sweat and, therefore, deodorant. The worst part about all that sweating is that there is no reward like a regular paycheck. The calf check coming next fall does not provide much comfort nor incentive to drag my screaming muscles out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the barn to help pull a calf out of a heifer.
I have been on the injured list during calving season for two of the last five seasons. Someone in our house has theorized that my injuries might be psychosomatic attempts to get out of night checks during calving season. This person, whom I have promised to love, honor, cherish, obey, (What was I thinking?) till death do us part has suggested a pre-calving season regimen of diet and exercise to assure that I am healthy enough to participate in night calving checks this year. I suggested several things he could do with his regimen--some of which are physically impossible or at the very least extremely painful.
Just when I was about to the point of exhaustion and despair over just contemplating trying to get into shape for calving, my sister Jane, who is one of those skinny people that I hate, gave me this invaluable tip for getting into shape sensibly.
She said she had found the perfect workout for older people, and I didn't even take offense at that "older people" part, because that would have required an expenditure of too much energy. She said it was the secret to building arm and shoulder muscles. The regimen only takes three days per week, and it works really well.
It works like this. You begin by standing straight and tall with a five-pound potato sack in each hand. Extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there for as long as you can. Your initial goal should be about one minute. Then return your arms to your sides and relax. Try to repeat this several times before you go reward yourself with a cookie.
After one week, move up to a ten-pound potato sack. After two weeks, you should be able to move up to a 20-pound sack. The following week, move up to a 50-pound sack. On the fifth week, you will be able to lift a 100-pound potato sack in each hand and hold your arms straight out for more than a full minute. When you feel confident at this level, start putting a few potatoes in each of the sacks, but be careful not to overdo it!
The best part about Jane's regimen is that you don't experience sore muscles or any of the other usual nasty side effects of working out. You don't really even have to shower, which is an environmental perk. Gee, maybe after calving season, I should find time to submit this revolutionary work-out regimen to health magazines for use in a fitness feature!
I would like to share some recipes from my sister Jane, who lives in Joes, Colorado. Thanks for the recipes and the fitness tips!
Million Dollar Spaghetti:
8 oz. pkg. spaghetti
1 lbs. lean ground beef
16 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 C. butter, sliced and divided
8 oz. cottage cheese
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/4 C. sour cream
8 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti in a pot of salted, boiling water until cooked through but firm to the bite (about 12 minutes). Drain. Brown burger and drain well. Mix spaghetti sauce into burger. Place half the slices of butter on the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch casserole. Spread half the spaghetti into the dish. Mix cottage cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream together in a bowl. Spread this mixture over spaghetti. Layer remaining spaghetti over creamy mixture. Top with remaining butter. Pour ground beef mixture over spaghetti and bake for 30 minutes. Spread Cheddar over the casserole and bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned (about 15 more minutes). This recipe freezes and doubles easily.
Colorado Green Chili:
1 lb. diced pork (1/4" to 1/2" dice, pork loin, pork stew meat or shoulder)
3 T. oil
1-3 C. chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, pressed 1t. black pepper 1-2 t. ground cumin
7 oz to 2 C. green chilies (mild, hot, or a combination – how hot do you like it?)
1/2 to 1 C, diced tomatoes, canned, frozen or fresh
3 cans chicken broth (or 4 C. water mixed with 3 T. chicken bouillon)
3-4 T. cornstarch
In a large pan, brown the pork in 2 T. oil. No need to cook through. You are mostly searing them for flavor and to retain moisture. They will cook through later. Remove and set aside. Add 1-2 more T oil. Cook those onions on high. Get the edges of a bunch of them pretty dark brown. This adds a lot of flavor. Add the pressed garlic and spices and cook for another minute.
Return pork to the pan. Add the pureed tomatoes and green chilies. Cook for a couple of minutes. All this happens at pretty high heat. Mix the broth or water and bouillon with the cornstarch. Pour into the meat/onion/chili mixture. Lower heat as you like and stir enough to prevent sticking. Cook or simmer until thickened. At this point you can taste it and add more chilies if you like, and you can add a bunch more water and bouillon (or broth) and cornstarch to make the gravy more plentiful. Then bring to a boil to thicken. If it’s too thin, add more cornstarch and water mixture and bring to a boil. If it’s too thick, add more water, then add some more spices and/or chili to correct the flavor. Keep it simmering for a good long time and serve over burritos, fries, eggs, nachos, etc.
Mother's Quick and Easy Brownies:
4 eggs, beaten
2 C. sugar
2/3 C. vegetable oil
2 t. vanilla
2 dashes salt
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. cocoa
Mix all ingredients together. Add nuts if desired. Bake at 350 degrees in a greased 9 X 13 pan for 20 minutes.