If you're here for inspirational, beautifully garnished cuisine with fresh garden herbs, you're in the wrong place. If you're here to prep for calving and want a freezer full of EASY, yummy, good ol' fashion meals, then I got you. Read on...
First you need to know that I am LAZY in the kitchen. I don't enjoy cooking. I do it because apparently it is a necessity for my family to eat. So before our busiest season of the year I like to stock up on ingredients, meals and easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy foods for us to grab on the go (or just eat numbly while we try to keep our eyes open after a long night of calving). Here's a few tips & tricks I use to get ready for calving season (or any busy season!):
BIG BATCH everything & freeze. Period.
In the weeks leading up to calving when I make something for supper, say lasagna, but I'll do a triple batch and freeze the extras in tinfoil containers. Put in the freezer and VOILA, when I'm running behind (or simply don't want to cook), I pull out a freezer meal and I'm a hero. I do this all year round and with baking too. The best part is that I usually have extras after calving still in the freezer- hello haying meals! And those leftovers from branding (or make extras on purpose)- hello harvest meals!
Some of my favorite meals to big batch & freeze are below:
Lasagna- I just wing my lasagna recipe (but I also love this zucchini lasagna recipe when I have tons of big zucchini from my garden!)
Spaghetti Bake- Whenever you have leftover spaghetti (which is often in my house because I can't seem to measure spaghetti appropriately) I throw this together and pop in the freezer
Crockpot Roast Beef- I'll do a rather large one and then use the leftovers for a few days. I can then make & freeze...
Shepherd's Pie- Perfect for your roast beef (or hamburger) & mashed potato leftovers
Roast Chicken- Not a real time saver, but if you plan ahead you can make a chicken and use your leftovers to make & freeze...
Chicken Pot Pie- I sometimes make mini versions for easy individual field/work meals, but you can make large family size ones too. Clearly I wrote this recipe out pre-kids as today I would just buy pre-made pie shells, ha!
Stuffed Potatoes- great to have in the freezer, individually wrapped and ready to pop out whenever you need a quick side. I loosely follow this recipe but mostly just wing it.
Super Potatoes- these are what we make for branding and they're a huge hit! Again, another great side option to thaw and throw in the oven.
Chili- My mom's chili recipe is the BOMB (and not spicy, because we're not spicy family). Check my insta story highlights for a rough recipe. When I cook chili I usually pair it with this cornbread. This also freezes great & is easy to throw on the side of a field meal later on!
Casseroles- My hubs is not a fan, so I don't have any stellar recipes for you (sorry!) but I'm sure you hve your faves.
While anything above could be used for lunch (hello, leftovers), I have a few go-to lunch recipes that I don't prep ahead of time but always have the ingredients on hand for in my freezer. They're not glamorous but they are delicious. Also, they're great if you need to feed a crowd on short notice, or after helping you process cows.
Garlic Bread Pizza: Think pre-made garlic bread from your grocery store, pasta sauce from a jar, your favorite pizza toppings (I buy pre-packaged pizza meat variety packs) & cheese. Bake in oven until warm. Done & delicious!
Ham & Swiss Sliders (my absolute favorite- I could live on this recipe!)- I just always have a dozen tray buns, swiss cheese and a pack of pre-sliced sandwich ham in my freezer.
Pigs in a Blanket. Yep, its definitely not glamorous but its darn easy & tasty. Have hot dogs and pilsbury dough on hand. It's that easy. Pair with some canned soup. Done.
Calzones- Any time I have leftover meat (roast, taco meat, ground beef, chicken, anything!) I will throw it in some sauce & cheese and stuff it in a calzone. Freeze. Thaw when needed & warm!
Pancakes- My mom taught me this and its genius. Whenever you make pancakes, make a ton. Then freeze the extras in a ziploc with parchment paper between. Take out one at a time and throw in the toaster for instant pancakes in the morning!
Baking Powder Biscuits- you'll see this one in dessert too, and you'll know why once you try them. But my hubs loves them with just butter or homemade jam/jelly as breakfast. Or throw some fruit in the recipe for a scone-like breakfast treat. You can find the recipe in my insta highlights.
Smoothies- I like the taste, but hate the hassle/clean up. But of course my daughter loves them, so I'll make a big batch of fruit smoothie (literally just throwing in whatever I have on hand) and then freeze extra in ice cube trays. Then when she wants a smoothie I'll take a few out, add either milk or yogurt and bammo, done!
Muffins- I always have tons of veggies/fruit in the freezer from my garden so I attempted to use up some in these healthy-ish recipes. I did a couple dozen of each and then froze them in variety packs of 12. My intention is to thaw a pack, use them for breakfast & snacks as easy to grab options:
Banana Rhubarb Muffins
Pumpkin Banana Muffins
Apple Rhubarb Muffins
Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Baking Powder Biscuits- Now this is the way my side of the family likes to enjoy these biscuits- as dessert. Add whipped cream & strawberries. Easily one of my fave desserts of all time. I make big batches and freeze in ziplocs. Again, find the recipe in my insta highlights.
Bread Machine Sticky Buns- Now my mom has the BEST cinnamon sticky buns, but they take her ALL day to make. I have no time for that. Hello bread machine- no kneading here! While this recipe does take some time (for rising) and dirty dishes, you can make big batches easy and freeze. YUMMM.
Apple & Pumpkin Pies- These are my go-to recipes for dessert. I grow lots of pumpkins in the summer and collect my mom's apples so these ingredients are always on hand in my freezer for me. I've also made individual pies in little tart shells for brandings or field meals. Super handy.
Is there anything better than baked goods? Nope. I am a sweets girl alllll the way. So I like to bake some snacks for the freezer I can just pull out and thaw.
Banana Bars- If you're like me, I have a TON of old bananas in the fridge, so you'll see a common theme below ;). A new recipe I had to try this year was Rocking Bar H Ranch's Banana Bar. I was insta-influenced on this one and it was so worth it! Also if you don't follow Brooke (@rockingbarhranch) on Instagram, you should!
My favorite year-round cookie hack is to make our favorite cookie doughs, scoop them out on a cookie sheet, then freeze them. Once frozen I take them off the cookie sheet, throw them in a ziploc and put them back in the freezer. This makes it sooooo easy any time you want cookies. Just grab as many as you like, thaw (or if you don 't have time, I add about 2 mins to my regular cook time) and bake! This is my go-to hack for when neighbours show up and I need something yummy to share! This year I made Chocolate Chip Cookies & Double Chocolate Cookies and froze the dough.
Pumpkin Cake Cookies- These are a long time fave of mine and a perfect way to use up more of my frozen pumpking puree. I haven't froze the cookie dough before, but I do freeze the whole cookie, icing and all.
Monster Cookie Oatmeal Energy Bites- My sister-in-law introduced me to these. AMAZING and way too easy. Literally just combine 3 cups oats, 1 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup M&M's or chocolate chips. Shape into balls, refrigerate for an hour. Done!
Yes the necessities of calving usually include chains, tags and bagged colostrum. But that's not what this post is about. This calving prep post is all about the goodies that you don't need, but as a rancHER these will make the stressful (in my case, chilly) time of year just that little bit better!
Lamb's Soapworks Lip Butter. Because winter. You can check out their website or if you're local I got mine as a Christmas gift from Vintage Nineteen89 in Brooks! I have Vanilla Bean and it is HEAVEN.
Running M Brand headbands (fleece or regular, depending on your calving weather) & scrunchies for that wild hair. If that doesn't tame things, just go ahead and get...
Rustic Rose's Farm Hair Don't Care sweater
The Bunkhouse silk scarves. Nicole always has the best scarves, but if you are a little more artistic than I am, you'll need to snatch up one of her Color Me scarves. That's right, you can make your own design! There are also the coolest kids scarves in the Color Me collection to keep your kids busy (maybe while you've ran out to the barn to check on a mama!).
Sweatpants. While you're at The Bunkhouse, you'll definitely need to grab "the cows don't care" sweatpants because who actually wears pants under their carhartts?
Some friends of mine had GREAT suggestions for keeping those legs warm, too. One suggested Lulu Lemon lined studio pants & the other suggested good ol' classic wind pants over your yoga pants. She made a great point... its much easier to run from a cow in yoga pants than carhartts! ;) Plus I love the wind pants idea because you could put them over anything and still have clean pants underneath.
Ciara Sandum Photography Go-Mugs because you'll need alllllll the coffee for those long days (and nights). Mental Note: Restock the Baileys ASAP! And of course I'm going to encourage you all to get the mug with our Whiskey Creek Ranch heifers on it ;) but Ciara has lots of cute go-mugs to choose from!
I don't know about you all but calving time for us usually coincides with little sleep. Whether its waking up to check calves or an overactive brain once we do lay down, I've recently found a few things that help us get back to sleep fast.
Here's a link to our favorite Weighted Blanket Life. Changer.
Essential oils in the diffuser. My favorites are eucalyptus or peppermint as they make me feel like I'm at the spa :). Lavender, chamomile, bergamot and ylang-ylang are also supposed to be great for sleep, but I'm new to this oil thing and stick with the ones I know, ha!
The best way to ensure you fall asleep after a cow check... don't get out of bed! We use our ipad (bigger screen than our phones) to check the camera- that way you don't even get cold 99% of the time. A blog post on our calving camera systems coming soon, since I consider them 100% necessary to our operation!
And finally, here is a list of random unnecessary necessities I like to stock up on in the house before calving as you never know when you're going to get to town...
1. Bailey's (no joke, it had to be in here twice)
2. COFFEE. All the coffee.
3. Vitamins C & D and Cold FX (also recommended by friends on Insta- a must have!)
4. Yeast & bread flour... If you don't have one, invest in a bread maker. There is nothing yummier (and more satisfying) that pushing a button and having a warm loaf of bread or buns when you come in from a cold calving check. Trust me, you'll look like a hero!
5. Meal Prep. Yes I don't leave the farm during calving. I'm here all day nearly every day for weeks on end... but that doesn't mean I want to be cooking ;). So I try to make things a little easier on myself by prepping some meals and a lot of snacks that I can pull out of the freezer and warm with minimal effort. More on that to come!
6. Kids activities. This is a new one for me. My three year old is BUSY. And when I need to rip out to the barn for a few minutes or do a check where I don't want to burn 15 minutes dressing/undressing a toddler, its best to have her busy. Hello DOLLAR STORE! Anything crafty, and I'm there. (Minus paint, because we all know how that turns out unsupervised).
7. Batteries for those flashlights/headlamps. Check and see what sizes you need and stock up. Also for those kids toys ;)
What are your must-have luxuries for calving season? Comment below!
Married with Cows is BACK! And it feels so good. Its been a hot sec, but I have recently been inspired to get back in the saddle and get writing again. The long version will come in another post, but the short version is maternity leave is making me miss the creativity and interaction with producers that my off-farm job provided. I can't say I'll be consistent (#momlife, am I right?). I can't say I am an expert at anything, but I can tell you I'll pop in here to provide my opinions on agriculture, ranch life and probably some momming too. If you're into it, follow along!
Now for the reason I'm really here today.
Tuesday February 22, 2022 is Canadian Ag Day
and as producers we have a job to do (yes in my very first post in countless years I'm asking a BIG favor from you- sorry, not sorry!).
WE NEED TO SHARE OUR STORIES ON SOCIAL MEDIA
I know it can be scary. I know it takes time and effort, and sometimes the response can be negative. But its also completely necessary (and most times the response is actually very positive!). When most consumers (our CUSTOMERS) are two to four generations removed from the farm, we have an obligation (and its in our best interest) to educate them on their food (our PRODUCTS). In any other industry would a business let rumors and incorrect assumptions live freely without correction? We need to set the record straight- and what better way to get that message out than for our customers to hear it straight from the horses mouth?
your job this #CDnagday:
That brings me to that big ask: This February 22 (yes this Tuesday) get on your social media and share your agriculture stories. Share how, why, what you produce. Share the families behind the food (most consumers aren't aware that 98% of Canadian farms are family owned). Share your passion for producing that nations food and the heart & soul that goes into your operation.
Now here comes the how (in ascending order of braveness!)
1. Visit agriculturemorethanever.ca/cdn-ag-day/ for tips, tricks & pre-made social media graphics, using the hashtag #CDNagday
2. Use one of Ag More than Ever's 3 social starters in a social media post: a photo celebrating Canadian ag, a photo of you cooking an all-Canadian meal or a "forks up" selfie.
3. Share a video & recipe of you cooking your favorite Canadian meal (hint: be sure to tag & use relevant hashtags for the commodity you are cooking that producers can follow for reliable resources. Ex: if cooking steaks, be sure to take Canadian Cattlemen's Association, your provincial commission (here in AB, Alberta Beef Producers) and Canada Beef)
4. Make a reel/video of YOU on your operation explaining how you produce safe, healthy food you are proud of. Consumers will be better able to relate to you if they know the story of where their food comes from (and that farming isn't a big factory of scariness out to poison them, eyeroll).
5. CHALLENGE a misconception. This is the BIG ONE. And the scariest for me. Even scarier than talking into a camera for all the world to see. But tackle a common misconception you have heard about agriculture and provide the facts!
Follow me on social media to see how I will be celebrating #CdnAgDay
Start a beef convo with these infographics
Here are a few great suggestions of infographics you can post on #CdnAgDay about Canadian Beef. Just be sure to post from trusted sources. My favorites are the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Canada Beef, Beef Cattle Research Council and Canadian Cattlemen's Association. A new one I have recently been enjoying is Alberta On The Plate! **Remember to tag them when you post so consumers know where to go to find out more!
Still too nervous to AGvocate? That's ok. There are resources to help! Two courses I have taken online that have really helped me to become confident agvocating are the Beef Advocacy Canada on the cattle side, and Crop Life Canada's Certified Crop Science Consultant on the crop side of things. Both are longer module based learning with assignments to ensure you are grasping the concepts, but both are really valuable courses. While they may not be courses you will complete before Tuesday's #CDNagday, I would HIGHLY encourage you to put them in your 2022 Goals to complete!
What are your favorite AGvocate resources? Leave a comment below! And don't forget to share how you are celebrating #CDNagday with us too!
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