Recipe Card: Shephard’s Pie

Shephard’s pie is one of my go-to weeknight meals during the winter. It’s classic comfort food and easy to get on the table quickly!

Ingredients

1 pound of ground beef (I think technically shephard’s pie is made with ground lamb and ground beef is called cottage pie…but used any ground meat you want)

Garlic

Onion (minced or fresh chopped)

Worcestershire

Salt and pepper to taste

3 small russet potatoes

Butter

Milk

Either a packet of brown gravy mix and water directed on package OR 3/4 C beef broth and 2T corn starch

1 can of cut green beans

Shredded cheese

*To spice it up, add green chile to the meat while cooking!

Directions

Heat oven to 350. Brown hamburger meat in skillet adding about 1 clove garlic, onion, 4 shakes Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.

While meat is cooking, boil potatoes until soft. Add milk, butter, garlic, and salt and mash. Set aside.

After meat is brown, you need to add gravy. You can either add in the gravy mix packet and follow directions on water, or you can make your own gravy. To make your own, add about 1/2C beef broth to the browned meat. Let that cook for a couple minutes and make a slurry with the cornstarch and 1/4C beef broth. Add to skillet. Stir until it thickens. If it’s too thick–add more broth.

Place meat mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Add can of green beans (drained) on top. Then place mashed potatoes on top of green beans. Top with shredded cheese.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and edges start to bubble.

Recipe Card: Beef Tips

Beef tips is one of my go-to recipes. It’s easy and delicious!

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 pounds beef stew meat cut into 1” cubes

24 oz beef broth

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons Soy sauce

1 clove garlic

¼ Teaspoon onion salt (or a couple shakes minced onion)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 green or red bell pepper sliced into strips

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

¼ cup water

Heat oil in large skillet; brown meat on all sides. Stir in broth, Worcestershire, soy sauce, garlic, onion. Season with salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover, and simmer at least 1 hour (I like it closer to 2 hours).

About 20 minutes before you want to eat, add bell pepper and return cover.

Blend cornstarch and water; stir gradually into the beef mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

Sunday Nights Make Memories

This article was published with the Progressive Farmer Our Rural Roots series.

Under quarantine, the days started to run together, and life began to feel mundane. The kids were going stir crazy locked up at home and, if I am honest, so were their parents.

So, in an attempt to find some fun and salvage our sanity, we cooked up the idea of a fancy Sunday dinner.

These days, on Sunday nights, we simply prepare a little fancier meal than normal. In reality, the affair is nothing fancy. But to my kids (ages 4 and 5), you’d think it was dinner at Tavern on the Green in New York’s Central Park.

The menu isn’t complicated. It involves a lot of steak (of course). Dessert is always on the menu.

The kids make paper placemats for each of us. Our son, who is learning to write his letters, often works to write each person’s name and decorate each masterpiece with that person’s favorite animal.

We let the kids choose their own glassware. A wine glass with a twisty straw (because it’s a party!) is nearly always the vehicle of choice. We use the “fancy dishes,” which are honestly just our regular Fiestaware plates, but they feel fancy when compared to the paper plates that often get called into service during the week.

I hope when they are older and they look back on the chaos of the year 2020, my children will not remember too much of the hard. Instead, I hope they remember steak and macaroni and cheese on turquoise plates and apple juice in a wine glass.

I hope they remember the clanking of crystal glasses at least 57 times per meal and the joyous shouts of “cheers” as we raise our glasses high in salute. I hope they remember the real recipe to making things memorable is the simple ingredient of togetherness.

The Angel

We had been praying for a family friend who was very sick with COVID. We included the kids in these prayers for weeks. When our friend passed away, we told the kids that he had gone to Heaven.

Braun responded with, “He died? We have to make an angel for his family so they can remember him.”

After some negotiating and convincing the kids that we, in fact, cannot make a nice angel sculpture out of items in our house or concrete, we agreed that he and Harper could select an angel at the store to give to our friends.

There are times where I wonder if we are doing anything right on the parenting front. Days where it just seems full of fighting and whining and refusing to obey.

And then there are days like this. And I see that the seeds we are planing in their little hearts are growing. And those days make me full of hope.

Oh, and we also included a large drawing of a euoplocephalus because what says “we are so sorry for your loss” better than a large, herbivore from the Cretaceous period?

The Gift of Gratitude

I published this article as part of the Our Rural Roots Column for Progressive Farmer Magazine.

Well…2020 has been quite a year.  A number of people have lamented about all of the negatives the last 365 days have brought and cannot wait to kiss this trip around the sun goodbye.  While I understand the sentiment, I decided to take a different route to wrap up the year.

In March, when we were knee deep in the chaos of the pandemic (which for me involved trying to work at home with two kids under the age of 4…yikes), I found myself grouchy and unhappy much of the time.  So, I started a little gratitude practice.  Every day, I took a photo and wrote a couple of little things I was grateful for.

This one act completely changed my outlook. As it turns out, when we look for things to be grateful for, we find them all around. My lists each day grew longer and longer. Instead of listing two things, I had seven or eight some days. None of the listed items were extravagant or fancy — they were as simple as a beautiful sunset or a new calf, my daughter’s laugh to a purring kitten, my son teaching me about dinosaurs and an afternoon spent on horseback.

Looking back over my daily photos, I have so much to be grateful for in 2020. I bet you do too. As we wrap up this painful year, let’s take the time to really consider the good as we look forward to 2021. Reflect on what went right, on what gifts the forced slow down offered, and where we saw the goodness in people and in the world. It is my hope that by making time to look back with gratitude on the year coming to a close, we set ourselves up to see an abundance of good in the one to come.

The Land Will Take Care of You

We bought our North Place one year ago today. It was really a dream come true. We had wanted to own ranch land for several years, but just couldn’t find the right place. The way we found it had to be God, pure and simple.

It’s been fun to watch our dreams grow on this ground. The kids swimming in the tank. Picnics in the pasture. Hours of identifying plants. Our cattle herd growing. Ty getting to shoot both an antelope and deer on our land. Caking cows. It’s been such a blessing in a year of so much hard.

Ty said last night, “If you take care of the land, it will take care of you.”

It sure has done that for us this year.

A Stack of Stones for Agnes

I heard a preacher say that it was important to stack our stones. When the Israelites escaped Egypt, survived the wilderness and crossed the parted Jordan River, they stopped on the other side and made a stack of stones. A memorial, so they could remember for generations what God had done for them. It mattered, because we so easily forget what He has done. The miracles fade and in our humanness, we move on to think about other things. But the stones would remain, and their reminder would continue.

Today, I, along with so many people across the country, spent the day begging for a miracle for a sweet baby named Agnes. Her parents my dear friends and my own baby’s Godparents.

She had a complex surgery. Her parents were told it would be difficult. That they wouldn’t be able to completely untether the extremely complex spinal cord situation she was born with.

Today, I will stack my stones. I will write it down. I will keep telling everyone. So I will never forget that our God is still a God of miracles.

He heals the lame. Parts the seas. Raises the dead. And he untethers spinal cords.

May my stones and my words help me never to forget the prayers offered, the tears cried, the tethers loosed for sweet Agnes. It’s a miracle for her, and a reminder for us.

Thanks be to God.

100 Book Challenge

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click the links and order, I will get a small referral fee. Your price will be the same, it just gives me a little $$ for pulling the links together.

Back in September, I was sick of reading the same 3 books approximately 57 times a week. So, I decided to do a 100 book challenge where we set the goal to read 100 books by December 1. We got a cool poster board and some stickers to track our progress. then, we got to reading!

I also thought it would be fun to each pick our two favorite books from our list of 100.

Mama chose A Lady Has the Floor, a great book about Belva Lockwood the first female attorney to argue before the US Supreme Court. My second book was When I Pray for You by Matthew Paul Turner. I love all of his books, but this one is especially sweet. The illustrations are beautiful, his words are sweet, and I love that his books are so inclusive–having children of different races and abilities in every one.

Braun, true to form, chose the three we read about dinosaurs: How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room, Dinosaur A to Z, and a third book I can’t seem to find.

Harper went rogue and randomly selected a book I didn’t see coming, Rescue Squad #9. Then she followed up with an old favorite, Tractor Mac Friends on the Farm. We love all of the Tractor Mac books!

If I was going to do an honorable mention, I’d add in Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, All the Way to America and the Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau (both by Dan Yaccarino–I love anything of his!), Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, and Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type.

Here’s a picture of the full list of books we read in case anyone wants to see!

Rural Redefined Feature

I was so honored to be chosen to be a featured guest on the Rural Redefined Instagram account earlier this week. Rural Redefined is an account all about empowering rural women, so I was really excited to share a little about my story.

I thought it might be fun to share those same posts here.

I’m a New Mexico farm kid turned agricultural lawyer!  I grew up super involved in 4-H and FFA, including judging and showing.  I got my ag business farm and ranch management degree at Oklahoma State (Go Pokes!) and my law degree from the University of New Mexico.  I now live in the Texas Panhandle and serve as the statewide Agriculture Law Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.  
We raise cattle, sheep, and kids here in the Panhandle of Texas! We are heavily involved in my family’s show lamb business (Dowell Show Lambs).  I have found this lifestyle to be a perfect complement to my day job as an ag lawyer for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, because let me tell you, I’ve always got some real-life examples to share!  
 I always thought being a farm kid was my favorite thing…until I got to raise farm kids of my own.  Braun and Harper are 13 months apart and our little Texas tornadoes! They love animals and tractors and anything involving water and dirt. The best parenting advice I’ve received is to “say yes more than you say no,” and I really try to live by that!  
My family has been involved in agriculture for generations.  My grandparents bought the farm I grew up on in the 1950s. When my Gran was suddenly widowed at 45 with two boys to raise a job in town, everyone told her to sell the farm.  She didn’t, and now I’m proud that my kids are the 4th generation to ride horses in these pastures.
One of my favorite things about being involved in a family farm and show lamb business is how close it has kept our family.  We talk almost daily about everything from sheep breeding plans to how much we need to feed a certain lamb.  That’s been a real gift!
My husband and I both have agriculture in our blood. Last year, we made our first land purchase and it has been such a dream to watch our cows…
…and kids in this pasture! 
 I credit 4-H and FFA with much of my career success.  I do not think there is a better way to raise successful adults.  I also don’t think there is a better champion for a kid than a good ag teacher.
One more piece of parenting advice…get one of these power wheels trucks.  My kids have put at least 200,000 miles on ours and love it!  Plus, it can be helpful in getting animals fed too. 
I love running and do most of my training on these dirt roads!  
 The lake is one of my very favorite places. Ironically, we irrigate our fields with water from this same lake! 
If you know anyone interested in ag law who wants some advice, send them my way. I am so grateful for the people who helped me learn the ropes and am happy to do the same for others.  
My husband and I went to Canada (Lake Louise) on our honeymoon…but stopped to look at cattle on the way! 
I gave the city life a try one summer in San Francisco where I worked at a major law firm. As much fun as it was and as much as I love San Francisco, I knew it wasn’t for me and headed back to rural America! 
Travel is one of my favorite things and can’t choose my favorite country, but this white water rafting experience in Costa Rica is high on the list of craziest adventures.
Getting to travel the country & speak to rural landowners and producers really is my dream job. If you’re into agricultural law, I author the Texas Agriculture Law Blog and host the Ag Law in the Field Podcast.  
To keep up with Tiffany and her family, follow @alwaysafarmkid and check out her personal blog where she writes about her life at alwaysafarmkid.com  

2020 Christmas Gift Guide

Disclaimer: This post does contain some affiliate links…which means if you will click on my links to Amazon products, I will get a small commission on the purchase. And you know…every little bit helps.

Ok before we start…if you’re shopping online and not using Rakuten (formerly called Ebates), you’re leaving money on the table. I’ve used it for 5 years and made over $1600 back. No strings. No tricks. Legit cash in my pocket. If you sign up with my link now, you will get $40 back when you make you first $40 purchase. See? Free money! Click here to get started. Okay, onward.

Has there ever been a year that we need Christmas more than the year of our Lord, 2020? No. I think not.

Anyone else feel like this picture of our heifer, Cindy, kind of sums up the year?

Here are a few fun ideas I’ve come up with…

Christmas 2019

For the kiddos

All the Colors of Christmas by Matthew Paul Turner. Every year to kick off Advent, I get the kids a Christmas book and new Christmas pjs. This year, I went with Matthew Paul Turner’s new book. We have every book he as written and they are beautiful, so I cannot wait to read this with the kids!

Dinosaur Devotions. This will be under the tree for my 5 year old dino-obsessed boy. A friend of mine highly recommended it and I know that he is going to love it. I feel like getting kids started with a devotional habit at this age will serve them well in the future.

Spirit horse set. My 4 year old girl love Spirit, so we will be super excited to have any sort of Spirit toys under the tree.

Hot wheels triple loop track. My kids have a few hot wheels vehicles, but we’ve never really had a track or anything that allows them to play with them much. My friend Bri recommended this and I’m really excited to let the kiddos play it.

Magnetic building blocks. We’ve had these several years and they are one of those toys that both of my kids play with all the time. If you have littles, you need these! They’re kind of a cheaper version of Magnatiles.

Melissa and Doug Dinosaur A to Z coloring books. Again…I’ve got a dinosaur lover. These are great coloring books because they’re big, 11 x 14, and the kids can color and learn about the different dinosaurs.

Tractor Mac books. We love, love, love Tractor Mac books. They’re probably our favorite series. Here are a few of our favorites: Tractor Mac Saves Christmas, Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm, Tractor Mac’s New Friend, Tractor Mac Learns to Fly, and Tractor Mac Family Reunion.

Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs. This is on my list for my Goddaughter, who is 8. I’m super excited about this because Annie is one of my favorite authors, so I can’t wait to introduce my Goddaughter to her.

Another cool pre-teen girl idea is this NIV Coloring Book Bible. It looks so fun!

Second hand store finds. I love me a good second hand store for kids stuff. I recently found Harper’s Halloween costume for $3. Santa spotted a rainbow sequined backpack for her for $7 and it will be arriving in the sleigh. Don’t overlook this option!

For the ladies

My favorite pajamas. These are a repeat on the list from prior years because they are for sure still my favorite pjs for sure.

Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy lotion. Okay, listen. I know that Bath and Body Works scents can be real overwhelming. But….I love their aromatherapy lotions. I keep the Sleep (lavender + vanilla) by my bed, Hot Springs Spa on my desk at work, and I’ve got my eye on the Sunrise Yoga scent.

Half Baked Harvest Super Simple cookbook. I follow Half Baked Harvest on Instagram and I’m absolutely dying to get this cookbook. It’s at the top of my Christmas list.

Kitchen Aid mixer shredding attachment. Y’all. I need this. Grated cheese is a million times better than cheese in the bag, but who has time to freaking grate cheese by hand for every dang meal? This seems like it would solve this problem and I’m here for it.

It’s a 10 leave in conditioner. This is hands down my favorite beauty product and it would be perfect stocking stuffer! It’s pretty pricy, so you might want to do the travel size, so I linked that!

RBG t-shirt. When Justice Ginsburg died, I ordered myself a t-shirt with my favorite quote on it. I love this design too!

Capri Blue volcano candle. I don’t know the back story here. Is it made from volcanoes? Allegedly smell live a volcano? I don’t really care because what I can tell you is it smells amazing and you need one. If you want to try a smaller (and cheaper) version first, click here.

For the Guys

Kuiu hunting gear. Listen. This is expensive. I got some for my husband’s birthday, but found it on sale! So…you may need to watch for black Friday sales on this one.

Cordless leaf blower. Don’t laugh….this is legit the most used tool in my husband’s shop. He’s a total clean freak, so he uses it to clean the shop out every day. It’s so much easier than a broom, and I don’t know how we’d survive without it. We’re a DeWalt family, so I linked that version, but here’s the link to Old Milwaukee if you’re into that brand.

Comfy pj pants. My husband never really wears pj pants, unless it’s super cold. You know, like the freak October snow/ice storm that left us without power for 3 days. I am going to a pair of these so we’re not caught without pants down (literally) again!

Air frier lid for the Instant Pot. I know this could go on the ladies list, but who do you think I’m cooking for all the dang time?! Him! Anyway, here’s the scoop. I have an Instant Pot and it’s fine. But once I bought the lid that turns the Instant Pot into an air frier? Game changer. I can make hands down the best jalapeno poppers I’ve ever had in there. It’s perfect for reheating anything. The kids chicken strips and nuggets are delish out of the air frier. This one is a winner for sure. Be sure you double check the size of your instant pot. The link here is for the 6qt.

Texana Olive Oil. If the guy likes to cook or grill, this is a good option. This olive oil is amazing and this sampler 6 pack lets you try all the flavors. The mesquite is so good use as a rub on any cut of beef. The herb is my go to on any roasted veggies. The Cajun has some heat and is great on eggs. Trust me on this being a gift you will all enjoy.