view sourceprint? 01 Ramblings from a Ranch Wife

Random Thought:

"The darkest nights produce the brightest stars"

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Flank Steak

The flank steak is a beef steak cut from the abdominal muscles or lower chest of the cow.  The cut is common in South America.  A relatively long and flat cut, flank steak is used in a variety of dishes including London broil and as an alternative to the traditional skirt steak in fajitas. It can be grilled, pan-fried, broiled, or braised for increased tenderness. Grain (meat fiber) is very apparent in flank steaks, and many chefs cut across the grain to make the meat more tender.  Flank steak is popular because it is affordable, flavorful, and works in a wide range of dishes.

Flank steak gets its flavor and satisfying chew from its location on the animal’s body.  It lays across the belly of the cow, in between the ribs and hind legs in an area that is very well exercised.  Because these muscles are stronger, they are also chewier.  Because they get more blood flow, they are also more flavorful.

Flank steak is best when it has a bright red color. Because it comes from a strong, well-exercised part of the cow, it is best sliced against the grain before serving, to maximize tenderness. It is frequently used in Asian cuisine, often sold in Chinese markets as "stir-fry beef".

In the heat of July, cooking a dinner for family inside isn’t very appealing.  Cooking outside is relaxing, and keeps your house cooler.  Grilled Fajita Steak Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing makes delicious and healthy dinner for any night of the week. Spicy marinated flank steak on a bed of greens and loaded with the perfect dressing; it’s sure to be a hit around the dinner table!  This recipe is best prepared will all fresh ingredients.

Flank steak can be tough if it isn’t prepared properly.  To avoid toughness, try marinating.  The acid and salt in a marinade will help break up muscle fibers.  Marinate for at least 2 hours, never more than 24 hours as they acid will begin to “cook” the meat.  You can also ask our butcher to tenderize your steak, or do it yourself.  Cook it quickly at high heat to a nice medium rare.  Let your steak rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting to seal in its juices.  Always slice it against the grain!
Grilled Fajita Steak Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing


For the steak:

  • 2lb flank steak
  • 1.5 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce

For the salad:

  • 6 cups loose greens
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 medium white onion
  • ½ pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • chopped fresh tomatoes

For the dressing:

  • 1 avocado
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ pepitas
  • ½ cup water


1.      The day before, make the marinade for the steak. Mix together spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together lime juice, vinegar, oil, and soy sauce. Add spices to create a sauce. Place steak in large dish or ziploc bag, and pour marinade over the steak. Marinate for at least 24 hours for best results.

2.      The next day, heat up your grill. Grill steak for 5-10 minutes per side depending on thickness and preference for doneness. Brush peppers and onions with oil, and grill 5 minutes per side.

3.      While steak and vegetables are grilling, prepare your salad dressing. Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth adding additional water if needed.

4.      Prepare your salad. Line individual bowls or one large bowl with greens. Top with vegetables, steak, tomatoes, steak, extra pepitas, and dressing. Toss to combine.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Beef Tri Tip

The eight primal cuts of beef are: chuck, rib, loin, round, flank, short plate, brisket, and shank.  The Tri Tip roast hales from the sub primal bottom sirloin, which is a sub primal of the loin.

For years, the beef Tri Tip found itself ground into hamburger or cut into cubes and sold as stew meat.  This often-overlooked cut of meat is relatively inexpensive and very flavorful.  Also known as a Bottom Sirloin Roast or a Triangle Roast, Tri Tip is a popular crescent shaped cut of beef.  It comes from the Bottom Sirloin sub primal cut.  The Tri Tip has a good amount of marbling throughout but is quite lean.  Tri Tip roasts are popular because of its full flavor, lower fat content, and comparatively lower costs.  It is a juicy, tender, and versatile roast that offers a rich beef flavor.


Tri Tip became a local specialty in Santa Maria in the late 1950’s.  The roast is quite popular in the Central Coast of California, and gaining popularity in the western states.  The Tri Tip is to the west, what the Brisket is to the south.

Cooking Methods

Season with salt, pepper, garlic, and other seasonings and grill to a medium rare doneness.  Roast whole on a rotisserie, smoke in a pit, bake in an oven, or braise after searing on a grill.  It is a fantastic roast that should be grilled indirectly for 30-40 minutes.  You can also cut the Tri Tip into 1” thick steaks that grill up in about 8 minutes.  Always let your steak or roast rest for 5-10 minutes before carving and serving.  This allows the juices to redistribute and evens out the heat.  Because Tri Tip is lean, be careful not to overcook.  Medium is as far as you should go with this cut to avoid drying out.

Also known as a Bottom Sirloin Roast or a Triangle Roast, Tri Tip is a popular crescent shaped cut of beef.  It comes from the Bottom Sirloin sub primal cut. 
Within the Tri Tip cut, two different grain directions intersect:  approximately half of the steak contains fibers running vertically and the other half contains long muscle fibers coming in at an angle.  This makes slicing it correctly slightly more difficult than other meats.  The tenderness of Tri Tip is in a large part reliant on how it is sliced post cooking.  Incorrectly slicing meat can make a Tri Tip steak tough and chewy.

To correctly slice, first allow to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.  Next locate where the two grains intersect and cut vertically, splitting the roast roughly in half.  One side should be longer than the other.  Inspect the grain of each piece of the severed roast, slice perpendicular to the grain of each half.  Enjoy!


Each 3-ounce cooked serving contains 158 calories, 7 g fat, 23 g protein, .5 mg vitamin B6, 1.2 mcg vitamin B12, 1.5 mg iron, and 4.2 zinc.


Santa Maria Style Tri Tip

Prep Time:  30 minutes

Cook Time:  60 minutes

Serves: 6


3-pound Tri Tip roast, fat trimmed

Dry Rub-(1/2 cup)

·         1/8 c. paprika

·         1 T. chili powder

·         1 tsp. cayenne pepper

·         1 T. cumin

·         1 T. dark brown sugar

·         1 ½ tsp. granulated sugar

·         1 tsp. garlic powder

·         1 tsp. onion powder

·         1 T. salt

·         2 tsp. ground black pepper


1.      Combine all dry rub ingredients in a small container and set aside.

2.      Trim fat from the Tri Tip roast.  Place Tri Trip on a sheet of plastic wrap.

3.      Generously coat the Tri Tip with 4 T. of dry rub, 2 T. on each side.  Store dry rub in an airtight container for later use.

4.      Tightly wrap the seasoned Tri Tip and refrigerate until ready to use.  Allow the rub to settle into the meat for at least 3 hours, up to 3 days.

5.      When ready to grill, remove the seasoned Tri Tip from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

6.      Heat the grill to medium-high heat if using a gas grill.  Place the meat on the grill, searing one side for 10 minutes with the lid open.  Turn Tri Tip over and sear for another 10 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium and close the lid.  Allow the meat to cook for about 15-25 minutes, checking temperature until the thickest part of the meat reaches 135*F for medium rare to medium doneness.  The meat will continue to cook after being removed from the heat, so stop cooking at a temperature a few degrees lower than the desired doneness.

7.      Remove the Tri-Tip from the grill and allow to rest wrapped loosely in foil for at least 15 minutes before slicing.  The foil will catch any juices from the meat, which can be added back to the meat after slicing for more flavor.

8.      Thinly slice the Tri Tip against the grain.  Serve!

The Tri Tip is a juicy, tender, and versatile roast that offers a rich beef flavor.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Best Mom Ever

Whenever I do something spectacular, like pack their favorite lunches or remember to pick up ice cream at the grocery store, I ask my boys “Who’s the best mom ever?!”  They promptly reply “You are mom!  You are the best mom ever!”  This only works because my boys are young and they haven’t figured out that I am not the best mom ever.  I can’t be the best mom ever because that title belongs to my mom.  My mom is the best mom ever.

Who do I call when I’ve had a hard day?
My mom.

Who do I call when I’ve had a good day?
My mom.

Who do I text “What did I do wrong?” with a picture of my latest culinary fail?
My mom.

Who bakes the CowBoss carrot cake for his birthday?
My mom.

Who do I email when I have an article due yesterday and I can’t get it quite right?
My mom.

Who do I call when my little darlings do something clever?
My mom.

Who do I can when my little monsters do something particularly un-clever?
My mom.

Who tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear?
My mom.

Who do I want to be like when I grow up?
My mom.

Who loves me even when I don’t deserve it?
My mom.

Who is the best mom ever?
My mom!

Truth be told, I am the mom I am today because of the great mom I have.  Without her love, support, and advice, I wouldn’t be the person I am.  My hope for my boys is that they feel the same love and respect for me that I have for my mom when they are all grown up.  Then I will know that I have successfully raised two wonderful men.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of those moms out there who truly are the Best Moms Ever!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

There's Nothing Romantic or Poetic About Being a Cowboygirl

There's nothing romantic or poetic about doctoring calves in a foot of snow.  When it's cold, and slick.  And you have to keep the vaccine bottle in your bra so it stays warm enough you can actually draw vaccine out of the bottle when you need it.

There's nothing romantic or poetic (or even cool poems about....) processing yearlings in the rain.  In mud up to your knees.  With wet gloves.

There's nothing romantic or poetic about classing calves in the alley.  In 6 inches of oozy, sticky, gummy mud.  Buried under 8 inches of snow.  One hour before the truck shows up.

There's nothing romantic or poetic about trailing cows down the highway in subzero temperatures.  Leading your horse because you can't feel your feet.  When you can see your breath.

There's nothing romantic or poetic about calving out 1500 heifers.  In 4 weeks.  Twelve hour days.  Each black heifer looks exactly like the black heifer you just rode past.  In January.  By week 2 you won't remember your own name.


It is kind of cool to watch the sun come up over the canyon rim as you trot out of camp in the morning.

There is definitely some poetry in a perfect heel loop that scoops up two feet, or a bridle horse working a cow in a gate.

I'll admit, it is romantic, holding hands with your CowBoss while driving home from the sale after selling a trailer load of your own calves.

I guess drinking Carlo Rossi out of a tin coffee cup by gaslight after a long day doing cowboy stuff is rather romantic and poetic!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Branding at the Neighbors

The best indicator of a good day branding is how dirty the boys are at the end of it, and how long it takes them to fall asleep on the drive home.  I used to judge my day on how many calves I roped, how my horse handled, or how good the company was.  Now I can miss every loop, have my horse’s nose straight up in the air, or fall off in the branding trap (that hasn’t happened yet!) and it won’t bother me too much, as long as the boys have a good time.  It has been so much fun watching them grow in our ranching community.  Funny how your perspective changes as you grow up!

During Spring Break we went to one of the best brandings that the Cow Boss and I have been to in a long time.  We helped Kevin and Kristi Tomera brand a few calves.  The thing that made this branding so much fun?  The ground crew and half the ropers were all kids.  They ranged in age from 5 to about 16 years old and they worked hard! The older kids took turns roping, and the rest of them raced each other to wrassle the calves.  I thought a fight was going to break out a time or two over who got to the calf first and got to sit on it.  It was chaos.  It was loud.  It was windy.  It was wonderful!

TR worked his tail off.  He held the feet on a few calves on QT’s trusty stead “Knothead.”  He got in some good practice dallying and keeping the rope tight.  These old ranch horses are worth their weight in gold.  “Knothead” took pretty good care of TR, and kept him out of a couple of wrecks.  TR carried the nut bucket for a while, and hustled between calves, calling out “heifer!” or “bull!” to keep the castrator on task.  He even wrassled a couple of little calves by himself.  He did good! 

QT.  QT kept track of the girls.  He’s quite the ladies’ man these days.  If you can’t find him, just look for some girls, and there is a pretty good chance he isn’t too far away.  They keep a pretty good eye on him, which was good because mom stole his horse to rope on.  When I told him I would be keeping “Knothead” for myself and he would need to find a different horse to ride he informed me “You can’t have Knothead!  I love that horse!”  I think we all do.

I’m not really sure how the Cow Boss did, or how many calves I roped.  I was too busy watching all of the kids work.  It was a long, windy, dusty day, and we were exhausted when we got home.  The boys were almost asleep when we got to the ranch, and yes, they were filthy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Day the Leppy Went to School

We have a Charolais leppy bull calf, and he is kind of a big deal.  His uncle was the Grand Champion Charolais Bull at the American Royal this past November.  “Taylor” as the boys call him has some pretty big shoes to fill.  He comes from Small Charolais of Mountain City, where he would still be if he wasn’t an orphan.  His mom died shortly after he was born, and where my sister commutes from Boise on the weekends, we inherited him to feed for the time being.  Apparently home owners associations around Boise frown on cattle in your yard, no matter how big your yard is!

Truth be told, we are suckers for strays and leppies.  Taylor the Charolais has taken some getting used to.  The horses and dogs just don’t know what to think of him, he’s the wrong color. I hate to admit it, but he has kind of grown on me.  While his white hair will never compare to the eye appeal of a Black Angus, he definitely has personality.  I know we aren’t supposed to make him too gentle, but it is pretty hard not to when you are hand feeding him a couple of times a day.  From playing with the boys to putting his nose low enough for the puppy to lick the crumbs off his face, he has character.

Now that the boys are in school, I do a little cowboy/ranching presentation for 3rd graders during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every January.  The schools go all out during the week.  From guest speakers to roping lessons to dress up days, students are encouraged to wear bandanas, jeans, western shirts, and cowboy hats, or what we like to call “our ordinary, everyday clothes.”  They do a really good job with it, and I am happy to report that their students have a pretty good grasp of agriculture and where their food comes from.  This year I took Taylor and made arrangements with TR’s teacher for him to bring his class out to meet his leppy.

My neighbor Rachel helped me.  She borrowed the Beef Byproducts presentation from the Elko County Cattlewomen so we could show students where beef comes from and how the whole cow is used.  I started out showing students Taylor, and explaining what a leppy is, what breed he is, and what he is used for.  Rachel finished up by explaining how when we slaughter a beef animal we use nearly the entire animal, and how each part of a cow is utilized.  It was a really good presentation, we spoke to nearly 125 eight year olds and answered a lot of questions.

After the last group of 3rd graders, it was time for TR and his class.  I had tried to prep him ahead of time so he (and I!) knew what he would tell his class about Taylor.  Granted he is only 7 years old, I thought he was well prepared and I wouldn’t have to say too much, or do too much damage control.
I wish we would have filmed him.  TR marched his class to the horse trailer like a little drill sergeant and lined them up around the door so they could all see the calf.  He hopped up in the trailer, leaned against the wall, cocked a hind leg, and put his thumbs in his belt loops.  Then he watched his classmates.  Finally after a couple of minutes he said “I’m not going to tell you guys anything until you get quiet and listen to ME!”  You could have heard a pin drop.  He had everyone’s attention and then he started his talk. 

TR was in his element.  While we need to work a little on his delivery and PR skills, he did pretty well.  Mom had to prompt him a few times, and cringed when he was a little too enthusiastic in explaining Taylor’s “mother was DEAD!” and that we would be eating him someday.  He spoke loudly, and clearly, and willingly answered 3 questions, additional questions were answered under duress.  All in all it was a good afternoon, the afternoon Taylor went to school.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Winter Break

The boys went back to school on Monday after a good winter break.  TR was ready to go back, QT was reluctant, and I was definitely not ready for my boys to go back to school!  TR is our social butterfly, he lives for recess and being with his friends.  I worry about QT.  As excited as he was for kindergarten, formal school hasn’t been his thing so far.  Most days moving cows in a blizzard sounds like a better idea to him than going to school.  As for me, I prefer having my boys’ home with me.  I spend most of my afternoon counting down the minutes until they come home.  It is pretty quiet around our house without my wild little boys.

That first day back, QT and I were waiting outside the school for his teacher to come and collect him and his classmates.  I felt like we had done a pretty good job keeping up with where his teacher left off for the break, and really wasn’t too worried about him forgetting anything he had learned in school up until now.  I was listening to other parents talk with each other about what school work they did with their kids over the break. Those parents were busy!  They were working on their letters, numbers, and coloring all break long.

Other than bedtime stories, we never cracked a book all vacation.  While QT’s classmates were watching cartoons, he was sledding behind the feed wagon.  While other kindergartners were practicing writing their numbers to 30, QT was counting cows to 50 on the feed ground.  While they were practicing their letters and sounds, QT was recognizing his cow’s name on her ear tag and reading animal tracks, or looking for “M” words like muskrat, mountain, and mud.  We hunted coyotes, set traps, shot our bb guns, and explored a good part of our big backyard.

QT may write his 3’s backwards, or not always color inside the lines and we need to work on that, but he can find his way home from anywhere within a 5 mile radius of the house, can tell the difference between most of our cows and tell you their names (better than I can anyway!), and tell you the difference between a coyote’s and raccoon’s tracks.  Listening to these parents made me think about my teaching choices over the break.

Should I have spent more time working on more traditional school type activities?  Maybe, but at this point I feel that having a son who is aware of his surroundings and has the tools to navigate this world is just as important as being able to color inside the lines.  Education is important, but I want him to experience life from the outside, not based on what he sees on a video game or reads about in a book about someone else’s experiences.  I want him to know how to work, get outside, get dirty, and play.  Let’s face it.  He’s only going to be little once, and he will have plenty of time later to write a book for someone else to read about growing up on a cattle ranch in northern Nevada.