Cooking in a Barn

Hmmm. . . not a headline I ever envisioned writing. And yet there I was, cooking in a barn.

Last week my younger daughter was invited to ride a horse she loves at the Pinto World Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We only live about two hours from Tulsa, and after much deliberation, we decided to let her have this adventure.

As we drove down the Oklahoma turnpike with hardly another car in sight, we wondered what the “Worlds” experience would be like. Truthfully, we couldn’t even picture the scene we would encounter. The event is held on the grounds of Tulsa’s Expo Square, their fairgrounds, and there are several huge barns, all named after Chevy trucks.  In addition to the giant pavilions filled with stalls for horses (and humans, but I’m getting to that), there are three performance arenas, which hold competitions from 7:30 am to 5 pm every day for two weeks!

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Caroline and I pulled into the first “gate” we saw and somehow got past the security booths to wander from pavilion to pavilion looking for the familiar faces of her trainers or horse. It took a while, but we finally found them . . . happily ensconced in stalls with all the comforts of home.

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They showed us around “our stall area” — the food stall — full size refrigerator, microwave, drinks, and snacks. The tack stall (it’s a double-wide), the dressing rooms, waiting area, and the horse stalls. I didn’t realize that we would be in this area from sun-up to midnight most days. No wonder they rent furniture and electronics! Caroline immediately scooted off to bathe a horse, and I settled in to one of the leather couches. Our riders, trainers, and horses came and went as they were called to compete in a variety of classes, both Western and English. Costume changes were de rigeur for horses and humans. I watched Analisa polish the silver trim on a $30,000 saddle for most of a day. Tack was used, wiped down, and hung in its proper spot. One night Caroline washed Zipper and his tail extension at 11:30 pm! No one had time to run out for food. As I know nothing about horse care, I realized that I could best help by stocking the fridge with cold drinks and providing food to the busy riders.  Our new best friend and trainer from Louisiana, Stoney, got a crockpot from his horse trailer, and I ran to the market. That’s how I found myself cooking in a barn. We had barbequed chicken, Italian Beef sandwiches, soft chicken tacos, and pulled pork. The tricky part was cleaning up. Sweet Penny usually hosed out the crock at the end of the stalls at night. The kids were happy to have some hot food to go with the usual fare of cheese sticks, potato chips, veggie trays, and other snack foods. One day I cut up a watermelon and was delighted to see that the horses thought the leftover rinds were a tasty treat!

The downside: our stalls were right next to a practice arena which meant that everything was constantly coated in a thick layer of dust. And I’m pretty sure there was “fly spray” in most of what we ingested. But finding a way to be part of the horse team at Pinto Worlds was priceless, and I’d do it again, dust and all.

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Our 10 Favorite Things

Organized bloggers might have written this post before Christmas, but before Christmas we are crazy busy, so now we have time to share some of our favorite things with you! Mind you, we love PEOPLE before THINGS, but we could never list all of the folks and all of the reasons we love them, so here, in no particular order, are some cool things we like, too!  By the way we get NO kick back on these items…..truly just things we LOVE!

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1. Coconut Bliss Tempur-Pedic Pillow from Mattress Firm. When hubby gave me this coconutty-smelling pillow for Christmas a few years ago, I thought he had gone nutty. But it is HEAVEN. Truly blissful. The coconut smell is very mild and wears off as time goes on, but the perfect level of head/neck support just stays and stays. Not too flat, not fluffy, not hard. Just right. You gotta try it.

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2. Organizing STUFF in clear bins with 8 1/2″ x 11″ “labels” printed from my computer. My #1 organization tip? Only use clear bins. If you can’t SEE the stuff, you will never find it or even remember that you own it. And the giant labels just make you feel organized. Plus they’re cheap to make and easy to replace when you reorganize. Love.

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3.  NARS lip gloss.  We LOVE Chihuahua, but all colors are beautiful.  It’s expensive at $26.00 a bottle but worth it for a winter pick-me-up.  Throw all of those $8.00 lip glosses in the bottom of your purse away.  Once you use this you will never go back.

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4.  Organic coconut oil.  This stuff is amazing.  I cook with it, use it as a hair masque and put a spoonful in my kids baths.  (Kim gives Art the WonderDog a spoonful a day to keep him from being itchy.) The list is endless for this “essential” oil at our house.  I like Trader Joe’s Organic Coconut Oil.

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5.  Cast iron grill pan.  I am not sure how I ever lived without this.  This is perfect for grilling meats and veggies when it’s cold outside and makes the most amazing paninis EVER.  Great wedding gift!

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6.  The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Luis – This book is a game changer and a must read.  We post the four Agreements in our homes.  Principles to live by for sure.

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7.  Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum.  I’m not sure if it’s the “turning 40” or what but my skin is not as smooth as it once was.  This product changes that.  It literally feels like silk on your skin.  It’s worth every penny as far as I am concerned.  Perfect stocking stuffer for yourself!

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8.  Monogram necklace from Lubella’s. Who doesn’t love something with their monogram?  We both have them and get so many compliments on this necklace you can wear with anything from tank top and shorts to a pretty dress.  Our essential accessory!

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9. Michaels Kors time piece.  I adore his watches.  I wear my silver one everyday.  This year my husband surprised me with a gold watch and I just think this pink face makes it so fun.

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10. Two Leaves and a Bud Tea.  We love our tea….iced or hot.  This tea is the best out there.  We order in bulk off of Amazon.  My favorite is Organic Tropical Green and Kim’s favorite is Organic Tamayokucha.  Both are refreshing and good for you!

Pasta Con Broccoli — PINK, please!

St. Louis has a strong Italian heritage and a thriving Italian neighborhood and restaurant scene. And, boy, do I miss it! I think the whole family does, because they keep asking for pasta.

In St. Louis we love our “pink” sauce– a combination of white sauce and tomato sauce. That way we don’t have to choose one or the other.

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I’ve been tweaking my Pasta Con Broccoli recipe for years and finally have an easy one that makes a ton and satisfies my family’s craving for pasta. It also reheats beautifully. Here you go!

1 lb box of uncooked large shell pasta

2 cups cream (heavy or whatever you find in the store)

2-4 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

1 head of broccoli, chopped

8 oz sliced fresh button mushrooms

salt and pepper

fresh grated parmesan cheese (I usually use a whole wedge or whatever I have.)

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Cook pasta until it’s about halfway done (5 or 6 minutes); drain and return it to the pot.

Add cream, butter, garlic, tomato sauce, broccoli, salt, and pepper. Bring to a hard boil.

When noodles are fully cooked and sauce is starting to thicken, add mushrooms and stir to combine.

Remove from the heat; add cheese.

Toss and serve.

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No More Jarred Spaghetti Sauce

I used to make pretty good weeknight spaghetti using Prego as a base and adding sauteed onions and ground beef. I would also doctor it up a bit with some Italian seasoning, garlic, a dash of cloves, and a bay leaf or two. But now that I’ve greatly reduced the amount of ground beef we eat and am trying to eliminate processed foods, no more Prego/jarred sauce! I needed a quick red sauce for those weeknights when I crave pasta. Sometimes I have a good sauce in the freezer from a weekend “all day in the pot” adventure, but not always. Last night I tried this easy variation, and Tim pronounced it “the best sauce you’ve ever made.” He might have just been really hungry. Anyway, here it is. If you Italians have a better one, I’d love to try it (30 min. or less, please!). 

1 (15 oz) can petite diced tomatoes

15 oz tomato sauce (I try to buy this in the carton as the cans can leach yucky stuff into the tomatoes.)

6 oz tomato paste

1-2 tablespoons sugar (adjust to your taste)

1/2 teaspoon basil 

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I always use too much; it was spicy!) Adjust to your taste. 

Can substitute a teaspoon of Italian seasoning for herbs. 

Simmer in a pot for 20-30 minutes. Season again to taste.