A Collection of Holiday Feasting Recipes – Chapter 6 of 7 – A Cowboy Christmas

alberta in winter, wide open plain

A Cowboy Christmas is an excellent theme for Alberta food lovers and I’ve rounded up some of my favourite cowboy cuisine recipes to help that idea along. Whether you find the time to enjoy them over the holidays or you corral them to enjoy later, it’s all good.

Cowboy Caviar

This comes from my friend Cindy McCallum, a former Maritimer, she has lived in Alberta, Colorado and Texas. Cindy knows a thing or two about how to eat like a cowboy by now.

2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can diced green chilies, drained
1 can corn niblets, drained
1 Tablespoon Italian salad dressing
1 Tablespoon Fresh squeezed lime juice
½ cup onion, diced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper – to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and serve with corn chips or tortilla chips.

pulled pork on savour it all blog

Joanne Vanden Broek’s Broek Pork Acres Pulled Pork

In the summer of 2011, I got to take a bus load of city folk down to Coalhurst, Alberta to visit Broek Pork Acres. It was fun to introduce people to Allan and Joanne Vanden Broek and their family on this gorgeous farm with pasture-raised Berkshire hogs rooting all around. The Berkshire hogs are revered for their marbling and Joanne was kind enough to make her pulled pork for our lunch and to share the recipe. Tip: it makes a lot but freezes well.

12 lbs pork shoulder or butt
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup paprika
3 Tablespoons black pepper
3 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon cayenne

Mix the dry ingredients and rub over the pork.
Place the meat in a slow cooker for and cook on low for 8 hours.
Enjoy either shredded with a fork or sliced thinly on fresh buns and with the Bucking Bronco Coleslaw.

Bucking Bronco Coleslaw

I developed this recipe to go with Joanne Vanden Broek’s Broek Acres Pulled Pork and it worked out mighty fine. We all thought it kicked (pork) butt.

2 red onions, chopped and soaked in white vinegar for at least 10 minutes
2 heads green cabbage, roughly chopped
2 heads red cabbage, roughly chopped
1 bag carrots, diced in food processor
2 red peppers, cut in match sticks
2 bunches green onions, sliced on diagonal
2 English cucumbers, cut in match sticks
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 jar Hellman’s mayo
1 cup Thai Kitchen sweet chili sauce
1 – 2 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
Reserved onion vinegar – after the red onions are drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Drain the red onions and reserve the vinegar juice.
Chop the cabbages, carrots, peppers, green onions, red onions, cucumbers and cilantro and put everything in a huge bowl.
Empty the jar of mayonnaise into the bowl of a food processor and add the chili sauce and jalapeno plus about a quarter cup of the onion vinegar and process until smooth adding more vinegar as necessary to achieve the consistency of dressing.
Fold the dressing into the vegetables and serve with the pulled pork on buns.

Gussy’s Shepherd’s Pie

My maternal grandmother was a real card. I think she was born out of time. She would have been a great saloon owner in the old west. She always answered the phone, “Gussy’s pool hall, Gussy speaking!” I don’t even want to know how that began but, she was a great cook. She cooked in nursing homes, for road crews and at the county jail for several years. Those cons never had it so good. Here’s her recipe for Shepherd’s Pie. It’s one of my favourite all-time recipes – even though her real name was Elizabeth.

5 lbs potatoes
¾ cup milk
2 lbs extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon summer savoury
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and Pepper – to taste
⅓ cup flour
3 cups beef broth
1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 carrots, diced
1 cup corn niblets
1 cup tiny frozen peas
2 cups grated aged cheddar

Scrub, peel and boil the potatoes in salted water until tender; drain and mash. Heat the milk in a microwave for 1 minute and mash it into the potatoes. Tip: Cold milk makes mashed potatoes gluey.
Cook the ground beef in a skillet while the potatoes are boiling. Add a few tablespoons of water to the meat and work it with the end of a wooden spoon to help break it up. When it is brown, drain any excess fat.
Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft and translucent.
Add the savory, thyme and salt and pepper.
Add the flour, mix well and slowly add the stock, stirring to make a gravy and finally add the Worcestershire and carrots.
Boil for about 15 minutes, then add the corn and peas and cook 5 minutes more. It should be nice and thick by now.
Spread the meat mixture on the bottom of a large casserole and put the potatoes and cheese on top or split into 2 to 4 smaller casseroles so that you can cook one and freeze the rest.
Bake at 400ºF for about 20 minutes and serve piping hot.

Cowboy Tyler Herbert of Trail's End Ranch

Lazy Shepherd’s Pie (from Canadian Living Holiday Favourites Fall 2011)

2 lbs potatoes, unpeeled and cubed
¼ cup milk
1 green onion, sliced
1 lb lean ground beef
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2½ cups small mushrooms
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1½ cups sodium reduced beef broth
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup frozen peas

Boil the potatoes until tender, drain, return to same pot to let them dry for 1 minute.
Heat the milk in a microwave for one minute and add it and the green onion to the potatoes mashing coarsely.
Cook the beef, meanwhile, in a skillet until brown, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and drain the fat from the pan.
Cook the mushrooms, onions, thyme, salt and pepper until the mushrooms are golden in the original fry pan.
Whisk together the broth, cornstarch and mustard in a bowl and stir it into the skillet.
Add the beef, peas and bring the mix to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until thickened.
Serve this mixture over the potatoes.

Tex Mex Tofu Burritos

My nephew Bryn Smith gave me this recipe and you bet your boots, cowboys would eat this.

10.5 ounces extra firm organic tofu
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Tex Mex chili powder
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons organic canola oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup red pepper, diced
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup frozen corn niblets
½ cup salsa
6 Tablespoons queso fresco
6 teaspoons fresh cilantro, finely cut

Place the tofu, cumin, chili powder, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon in a dish, stir and set aside.
Heat the oil and sauté the onion, pepper, and zucchini till soft.
Add the tofu mix, beans, corn and salsa and heat thoroughly.
Serve in tortilla shells with a sprinkle of queso fresco and cilantro.

Dynamite Dick’s Five Bean Beans
Yield: 12 servings as a side dish

My former neighbour Richard Wyman made this one year for a Calgary Stampede barbecue and we all decided it was a keeper recipe. I like to throw it all in the slow cooker and forget about it until it’s time to dish up. We usually serve it with grilled steak and Bucking Bronco Coleslaw.

1 can lentils
1 can red kidney beans
1 can chick peas
1 can Romano beans
1 can lima beans (you get the idea – 5 different cans of beans!)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup tomato juice
⅓ cup brown sugar, packed
⅓ cup fancy molasses
¼ cup chili sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1 pkg Sunterra bacon bits

Drain and rinse all the cans of beans and put them in a slow cooker or large oven proof casserole
Heat the tomato juice, sugar, molasses, chili sauce, mustard, ginger, and pepper in a saucepan on medium heat and add it to the beans once well combined and heated through.
Stir the bacon bits into the mix and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours in your slow cooker or at 325ºF for 2 hours in the oven.

A Turkey of a Tamale Pie

This is a fabulous thing to do with leftover turkey after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

1 lb leftover turkey, chopped
or
1 lb ground turkey – the rest of the year
1 Tablespoon organic canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounce can tomatoes
14 ounces frozen corn niblets
2 Tablespoons Tex Mex chili powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
For the cornmeal topping
¾ cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
⅓ cup organic cane sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1½ cups shredded white cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350℉.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, add the canola oil followed by the onion and garlic. Sauté until soft.
Add the turkey – or if using ground beef add it at the same time as the onions and garlic and brown it.
Add the tomatoes, corn and spices and cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and then transfer it to the bottom of a casserole dish.
For the cornmeal topping
Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.
Combine the milk, egg and butter in another bowl and then stir it into the flour mixture.
Spoon the topping over the meat mixture and sprinkle it with the cheese.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
Serve with a green salad, guacamole and salsa.

Very Corny Zucchini Muffins - photo credit - Karen Anderson - Savour it All blog

Cornbread Muffins with a Kick

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup cane sugar
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1¼ cup milk
2 Tablespoons organic canola oil
1 cup canned creamed corn
1 jalapeno, diced
1 red pepper, sliced in 1×2-inch strips

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and sugar in one bowl and the egg, egg whites, milk, canola, corn and jalapeno in another.
Stir the wet into the dry until the mixture is just moist.
Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and divide the mix into the cups and top each with a few of the red pepper strips.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

Bacon Cheddar Cornmeal Waffles (from Canadian Living Holiday Favourites – Fall 2011)

1½ cups flour
¾ cup cornmeal
1 Tablespoon cane sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup aged white cheddar, shredded
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 egg
2¼ cups buttermilk
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons organic canola oil

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in the cheese, bacon and green onion.
Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and butter and pour it over the flour mixture and stir – just until combined. Let stand for ten minutes.
Heat a waffle iron and brush it with some of the oil.
Use a half cup of batter per waffle and cook them until they are golden.
Serve with scrambled eggs and roasted cherry tomatoes.

Heartland Cafe's Carrot Cake - photo by Karen Anderson of Savour it All blog

Heartland Café’s Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

This recipe comes from the original owners of Heartland Café in Okotoks, Ron and Cecile Swartz and their daughter Bev Pell. It was in use in the café, in Calgary’s Sunnyside neighbourhood and then Okotoks, for over twenty years. Everyone loves this cake and I feel very honoured that they shared the recipe with me. Bev uses organic carrots because they taste about a thousand times better. She says, this recipe’s been kicking around the heartland of Alberta for a long time.

For the cake
1 cup organic canola oil
1 cup brown sugar – packed
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
1½ cups grated carrots
1 (14 ounce) can crushed pineapple – drained but not dry

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Cream the oil and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, to the sugar mixture. Scrape down the sides between additions to make sure everything is blended well.
Combine the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices together in a separate bowl and blend well with a fork.
Pour the dry mixture into the whipped egg/sugar mixture and blend slowly until combined but do not over mix.
Fold in the grated carrot and drained crushed pineapple.
Spray the sides of an 8-inch spring form pan or a square pan with cooking spray and bake for 80 minutes. Test with a toothpick first before removing from oven – it should come out clean when the cake is done. This cake must spring back in the center or it will fall. Adding 5 or 10 minutes more doesn’t hurt this recipe.

For the Cream cheese icing
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup butter – salted or unsalted at room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream the cheese and butter together until smooth and lump free in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract. Blend well and spread all over a completely cooled carrot cake.
Top the cake with pecan pieces if desired.

horse photo by Karen Anderson, Savour it all blog

Here’s a favourite line or two from John Denver’s wonderful ode to cowboys – Christmas for Cowboys.

“Christmas for Cowboys”

Tall in the saddle, we spend Christmas Day, driving the cattle over snow covered-plains.
All of the good gifts given today, ours is the sky and the wide open range.
Back in the cities they have different ways, football and eggnog and Christmas parades.
I’ll take my saddle; I’ll take the reins, its Christmas for cowboys and wide-open plains.

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