Ranch Cooking: Recipes Passed Down from Generation to Generation

Ranch Cooking: Recipes Passed Down from Generation to Generation

A ranch wife shares her meal plan from spring branding.

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By Kylynn Copeland, AQHA Digital Media Team

When cooking for a crowd, whether cowboys, family or friends, tried-and-true recipes come in really handy. As I mentioned previously, I am newly married. One of my most cherished gifts was a handmade recipe scrapbook given to me by my mother. She spent a whole year creating this masterpiece. She asked family members to give some of their favorite “delicious” recipes to fill the pages. These are recipes that were passed down from generation to generation, standing the test of time of good ol’ country cooking and meals made with love. Remember, “love” is the most important ingredient in any recipe.

This book is the first thing I grab when I am deciding what to make for a filling meal for spring branding, a get-together with friends or just a simple dinner with my husband, Caz. What makes these recipes even more special is the memories that go along with each one. The memories of walking through the door of my Nannu and Grandad’s to smell a coconut pound cake coming out of the oven or childhood memories of helping Mom make stromboli (always a kids favorite) and so many more.

While cooking, I have found it is less about coming up with the recipe and more about adding in your special touch.

A few weeks ago, we finished our last cattle branding of the season. While preparing for a long couple of days cooking, I pulled out my favorite recipe book and started planning. I flipped through pages, trying to find the perfect recipes that would be “cowboy approved,” of course. And just like that, I found pretty much my entire menu for Day 1 of branding, which included sausage gravy-stuffed biscuits for breakfast; brisket, ribs, potato casserole, squash casserole, salad and rolls for lunch; and homemade strawberry cake for dessert. 

While this is a “cowboy-approved” meal, I think it would be great for a weekend get-together with friends and family, as well. Nothing better than some ribs on the grill, drink in hand and friends sitting on the patio on a warm spring day.

Several of these recipes can be prepped the day before, making this meal that much easier.

One of my favorite memories of my childhood is waking up to the smell of biscuits and sausage gravy made at least once a week by my dad. He has his gravy down to a science, and I will probably never make it taste the same as his, but here is a simple and delicious recipe that is pretty dang close to Dad’s.

Papa Chris' Sausage Gravy

  Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage (hot or mild)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup flour

Pinch of:

  • Garlic powder

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook sausage in skillet. (Don’t drain grease.)

  2. Once sausage is cooked, add flour a little a time and start browning flour.

  3. Add milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. Note: Once you have added your milk, you can no longer add flour or your gravy will taste like flour.

Dad always calls thin gravy “racehorse gravy,” because you are have to chase it around your plate. So you want to try for the perfect flour-to-milk ratio.

  1. Bring to boil, then simmer ’til it thickens, continuing to stir so it doesn’t stick to pan.

  2. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder.

  3. Pour over favorite biscuits or try a sausage gravy-stuffed biscuit.

Stuffing Your Biscuits

You can pre-make your gravy the night before, so it is a little thicker than usual, which is what you want for this recipe.

This next part calls for refrigerated biscuits, which make for easy prep.

  1. Pull your can of biscuits out of the fridge. Note: if using small biscuits, use one each for top and bottom. If using Grands, cut biscuit in half.

  2. Flatten biscuit between your hands or a rolling pin (about an 1/8 inch).

  3. Add a spoonful of gravy to center of biscuit, add the other biscuit on top. Pinch edges together.

  4. Coat the tops with an egg wash.

  5. Bake according to biscuit directions and they are golden brown.

  6. Serve with some hash browns to make your meal complete.

Now that breakfast is finished and cowboys are fed at the bright-and-early time of 5:30 – I would sure like to go back to bed – but I suppose it’s time to get lunch prepped. Well, at least the stuff that can’t be done beforehand.

Momma Kye's Brisket

Ingredients:

  • 1 large brisket
  • 1 small bottle liquid smoke
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire (can use a little more)

Dash of:

  • Garlic Salt

  • Onion Salt

  • Celery Salt

  • Favorite meat seasoning (mine is Alamo Cattle Special Formula meat seasoning)

  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle brisket generously with garlic salt, onion salt, celery salt and meat seasoning. Press seasoning into meat.

  2. Pour liquid smoke over meat. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight or longer.

  3. Next day, remove meat from marinade and lay on large piece of heavy aluminum foil, salt and pepper, and pour Worcestershire sauce on meat.

  4. Wrap meat in foil, crimping foil tightly around meat.

  5. Lay in roaster pan or oven for 7 hours at 250 degrees.

  6. After brisket is cooked through, let cool, refrigerate overnight in same foil. (Important: Do not skip this step!)

  7. Slice thin the next day and reheat in roaster pan or oven on low temperature until warmed through.

Finger Lickin' Rib Rub

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack baby back ribs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt

Directions:

  1. Mix rub together, breaking up brown sugar.

  2. To prepare the ribs, peel membrane off back of ribs.

  3. Rub ribs with dry rub seasoning all over ribs, pressing the seasoning into the meat.

  4. Let ribs sit for about 20 minutes.

  5. Grill ribs slow on about 275-300 degrees.

  6. Grill a couple of hours until internal temperature reads 170 at least.

  7. Remove and pair with your favorite barbeque sauce.

  8. Note: If you are cooking multiple racks of ribs, double or triple your rub recipe.

Aunt EB's Potato Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 (32 oz) package cubed hash brown potatoes
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 12 oz. grated cheese
  • 1 (8 oz.) sour cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups corn flakes, crushed

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together, except butter and corn flakes.

  2. Spray 9-in. x 13-in. pan with cooking spray.

  3. Pour potato mixture into pan.

  4. Top with crushed corn flakes and drizzle on the melted butter.

  5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

Mamma Morris' Squash Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 3 summer squash
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp melted butter
  • 2 cups stuffing mix
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup grated cheese

Directions:

  1. Dice squash, carrot and onion.

  2. Add to pot, cover with water and boil until tender, and then drain.

  3. Melt butter and mix with stuffing mix.

  4. Spray 9-in. x 13-in. pan with cooking spray.

  5. Line dish with stuffing mix. Add squash mixture.

  6. Mix cream of chicken and cheese together, pour over squash mixture.

  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

If cooking for a big crowd, don’t be afraid to double either casserole recipe. The casseroles are also easy to prep the day before. Be sure to put the potato casserole back in the freezer so your potatoes don’t get soggy. Oh, and leave off the corn flakes until the day you're serving the casserole, then add them before sticking casserole in the oven.

For any celebration, my Nannu would always ask what I'd like for dessert. Not having a big sweet tooth, there are only a few desserts I absolutely love and Nannu’s strawberry cake is one of them.

Nannu's Strawberry Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 1 white cake mix
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 box strawberry Jello
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2  cup cold water
  • 1/2 of 16 oz. of frozen chopped strawberries

For the Icing:

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • Remaining strawberries

Directions:

For the Cake:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a mixer bowl and mix for 4 minutes at medium speed.

  2. This will make two layers of round cake pan or one 9-in. x 13-in. pan.

  3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until done, let cool.

For the Icing:

  1. Mix all ingredient in mixer bowl, cutting in butter.

  2. Add in strawberries a little at a time so that the icing is not too thin

  3. Pour icing over cooled cake.

This dessert is so good – your guests will never know you used a box cake mix and spiced it up with a few ingredients. So don’t tell your secrets (*wink*).

A full day of cooking will make a girl tired, but I made this meal with love and a bunch of cowboys left our house with full bellies!

Another branding season has come and gone for us. It was early mornings, lots hours spent horseback and ranch wives across the country are happy to get to spend a little more time with their cowboys.

I hope you enjoyed a few of my favorite recipes, passed down from generation to generation. Pinterest may be a great source for a good recipe, but there is just something special about flipping through the pages of a handmade recipe book.

Did you miss the first edition of “Ranch Cooking: Recipes From a Ranch Wife”? In it, I shared a few favorite New Mexico-inspired recipes.

Be on the lookout for a few more recipes shared from Kylynn’s Kitchen to yours.