Slow Cooker BBQ Brisket

As we near the end of our #beefmonth challenge, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cook one of my favorite cuts – brisket! Now, I will say that smoking is still my favorite way to cook brisket, but with a busy family and lengthy cooking time it just didn’t work for us to do that this weekend. Cue some help from the never-failing slow cooker.

I VERY roughly followed the instructions and recipe from Jen at Carlsbad Cravings. She’s a little more ambitious than I am, so we went with a trusty Cookies BBQ sauce instead of homemade…but her homemade sauce sounds amazing if you have the time!

Another quick ‘cheat’ from an expert beef eater is with the brisket itself. If most of you are like I was until we started raising our own beef I was pretty intimidated by the brisket. Briskets are HUGE and we used to only make them if we were planning to feed a small army…and then you really can’t afford to try new things and risk messing it up when you have a bunch of people coming over to eat. When we butchered our steer last Fall, we asked the locker to cut our 1/2 of the brisket in 1/2 (so really brisket quarters). This has made it so much easier to enjoy brisket outside of large, special occasions and make just enough for our family! 5 stars…I highly recommend. Here’s my version of this recipe…

Recipe:
Slow Cooker:
2-3 lb. beef brisket trimmed of excess fat
1 c. water
1 T. beef bouillon
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 c. BBQ sauce

Rub:
1 T. paprika
2 T. packed brown sugar
1 T. chili powder
2 t. garlic salt
1 t. onion powder
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with sides/jelly roll pan with parchment paper or foil for easy clean up. Set aside.
2. Spray 6 quart (or larger) slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Trim brisket of excess fat and rinse and pat dry. If your brisket is extra long then slice it in half so it will fit in your slow cooker.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together Spice Rub ingredients. Rub all remaining Spice Rub evenly all over the meat then place brisket on prepared baking sheet. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F to sear meat.
5. Transfer brisket to slow cooker. If you are using a ‘regular’ 4-5 lb. brisket you may have to squish it in. Not all of it will be under the liquid.
6. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours until brisket is very tender, flipping over half way through cooking. If your brisket is tough, it just needs to cook longer.
7. Remove brisket to a foil lined baking sheet. Brush with barbecue sauce and broil 5-10 minutes, until slightly caramelized. Meanwhile, microwave or simmer remaining barbecue sauce until warmed through.
8. Brush brisket again with barbecue sauce and slice across the grain or chop if desired. Serve with remaining barbecue sauce plain or they make delicious sandwiches.

Stovetop Beef & Noodles

#nationalbeefmonth is still going strong and today we tried another new recipe using one of my favorite, but typically underappreciated cuts – stew meat. While it may not be the most glamourous cut of beef, it’s delicious and versatile. While my family loves a great beef stew in the Winter, it’s been far too hot for soup this week. We took the Stovetop Beef & Noodles recipe from Eating on a Dime, added some fresh asparagus from my Grandpa’s asparagus patch and BOOM…a delicious dinner with enough left overs for a quick meal tomorrow!

Ingredients:
1.5 lb. stew meat
1 T. butter
1/2 onion, diced
3 c. beef broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. cold water
12 oz. egg noodles

Instructions:
1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and onion and sauté until the onion is translucent (3-4 min.)
2. Add in beef and brown the beef in the skillet with the onions (8-10 min.) over medium heat.
3. Pour 2 c. of the beef broth into the skillet and add in the seasonings. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-30 min. until the beef is tender. Watch closely and slowly add in the last cup of beef broth as the broth starts to cook off.
4. Mix the cornstarch into the 1/4 c. of cold water in a separate bowl. Stir this mixture into the skillet mixture and allow to cook for 10 min. or until the sauce has thickened. **My addition, add cut up pieces of asparagus at this time.**
5. While the sauce is thickening, cook the egg noodles in a separate pot based on package instructions.
6. Serve the beef mixture over the egg noodles and enjoy!

Sirloin Stir Fry

When it comes to steaks, sirloins are one of the most versatile cuts. They can be eaten as a steak or cut up to work in a variety of dishes. Last night, they made some delicious beef stir fry!

When it comes to stir fry I’m not much of a recipe person…more of a throw in what you have in the fridge person. Since we’re not quite to garden season in Northern Iowa, this time I took advantage of a frozen stir fry mix. Easy, quick, and delicious!

Directions:
Thinly slice your sirloin, heat oil in a pan and fry apx 1 min on each side. Set aside so your meat doesn’t get over cooked. Add a little more oil if needed then fry your veggies. Add the beef back in, and enjoy! Customize to your taste by serving over rice, or topping with a stir fry sauce.

Southwest Ground Beef & Sweet Potato Skillet

Recipe number 2 for #beefmonth was a bit outside my family’s comfort zone. Since we use ground beef ALL.THE.TIME. I wanted to make sure our challenge recipe was something new! Courtesy of RecipeRunner.com this Southwest Ground Beef & Sweet Potato Skillet checked all the boxes of a great meal!

I did hold back on some of the chili power and cumin to make sure it wasn’t too spicy for the kids to eat, but I think it would have been great with the full amounts in the recipe. Check it out for yourself and let us know what you think!

Recipe:
1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. diced onion
1 lb. ground beef
5 t. chili powder
2 t. ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste
1 t. garlic
2 c. peeled and diced sweet potatoes
14.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
4 oz. canned diced green chilies
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Instructions:
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add in the ground beef and diced onion and crumble the beef with a wooden spoon. Add in 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and season with salt and pepper. When the beef is nearly cooked through add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour it out onto a plate and wipe out the skillet.

Add the diced sweet potato, fire roasted tomatoes, green chiles, water, 2 teaspoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir everything together and cover it with a lid. Lower the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

Add the ground beef mixture in with the sweet potatoes and stir everything together. Top with shredded cheese and cover with the lid again for another minute or until the cheese is melted. Top with chopped cilantro and serve.

Beef Month Challenge

May is #nationalbeefmonth! As a challenge for our family, we’re going to attempt to use each different cut of beef (remaining in our freezer) over the course of the month. Kicking us off is the chuck roast 😍🤤 Making some delicious shredded beef to be eaten tonight with a side of veggies, on sandwiches tomorrow, and shredded beef tacos later in the week! Three easy meals in one.

Recipe:
3 lb chuck roast
1 packet dry ranch seasoning
1 packet onion soup mix
1/2 jar peperocinis
1/2 c. sliced butter

Build Your Favorite Burger

When is a burger not ‘just’ a burger? When it’s made with Highland Beef, of course! There are SO many ways to build the perfect burger, that we thought we’d kick off #nationalbeefmonth by sharing our family’s favorite burgers.

Kyle’s Favorite: Toasted bun and Highland burger topped with bacon, pickles, lettuce, ketchup, pepper jack cheese, and Ruffles potato chips.

Katie’s Favorite: Toasted bun and Highland burger topped with crispy bacon, BBQ sauce, avocado, and blue cheese.

Harper’s Favorite: Slider size bun and Highland burger topped with bacon, ketchup and ranch, pickles and cheddar cheese.

Tate’s Favorite: Unassembled bun, Highland burger, bacon, Kraft singles cheese and ketchup for dipping.

The most important part of building your perfect burger starts with the burger itself, so make sure you’re cooking your beef correctly! Since Highland beef is often leaner that what you’d find in a grocery store, take extra care to cook your burgers low and slow regardless of where you’re doing your cooking (grill, stove top, oven). Lightly season with your favorite seasoning (we prefer Cookie’s Flavor Enhancer) but don’t overpower the flavor of the beef…you purchased Highland beef for a reason!

Need a few additional ideas to build your burger? Mix and match below!

Buns

  • Slider
  • Toasted
  • Sourdough
  • Ciabatta
  • Brioche
  • Pretzel
  • Texas Toast
  • Lettuce Wrap
  • Sesame Seed
  • Potato

Toppings

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Pickles
  • Bacon
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg
  • Peppers
  • Jalapeño
  • Avocado
  • Pico
  • Sauerkraut
  • Onion Ring
  • Pineapple
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Chips

Cheese

  • Cheddar
  • American
  • Provolone
  • Blue
  • Kraft Singles
  • Velveeta
  • Brie
  • Smoked Gouda
  • Mozzarella
  • Colby
  • Muenster
  • Pepper Jack
  • Swiss

Condiments

  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Mayo
  • Ranch
  • Chipotle Ranch
  • Steak Sauce
  • BBQ
  • Honey Mustard

Highland Beef Stew

Last week my family enjoyed a delicious beef stew, recipe courtesy of Amy at Little Spoon Farm! This recipe was a HUGE hit and will definitely be included in our future recipe rotation. While many think of the stew meat as the ‘leftover’ when you purchase bulk beef, it is one of my favorite cuts to use because it is so versatile and delicious!

Ingredients:
2 T. olive oil
1.5 lbs. stew meat (cut into 1 inch pieces)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
2 lbs. potatoes (peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces)
8 medium carrots (peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces…or we used baby carrots)
1 medium onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
4 cups beef broth
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 T. tomato paste
1 t. chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
3 T. cornstarch

Instructions:
The recipe instructions are to make in an instant pot, but we cooked the stew in the crock pot. I’ll include my crock pot modified version here.
1. Sear the meat in olive oil.
2. Add a cup of beef broth and deglaze the bottom of the pan. Stir in remaining beef broth and tomato paste, then dup entire contents of the pan into the crock pot.
3. Add all remaining ingredients except the corn starch and stir.
4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
5. Remove a cup of liquid and let cool slightly. Whisk in the cornstarch until smooth, then pour back into the crock pot. Stir to thicken.
6. Enjoy!

AI,PV,D…Oh My!

Today, we received the American Highland Cattle Association registration paperwork for our lone 2021 heifer – GLO Khloe….with a couple of extra letters behind her name! (cue temporary moment of panic, because I forgot there was a new symbol recently added by AHCA).

These symbols can start to make you feel like you’re looking at the world’s most educated animals as you’re perusing through the AHCA herdbook, but they are valuable tools to make sure you have accurate information when making decisions about your herd. The newest designation (PV,D) means that the animal has been DNA Typed and both sire and dam have been verified. In order for an animal to receive this designation, both sire and dam must have been DNA Typed as well.

Here is a breakdown of the current symbols used by AHCA:
PV – Parent Verified
D – DNA Typed
AI – Artificial Insemination
ET – Embryo Transplant
t – Twin
* – Impact Dam
** – Elite Impact Dam
+ – Impact Sire

Since we strictly breed via artificial insemination (AI), all of our future offspring will carry the AI, D designations since all registered animals bred by AI are required to be DNA typed. All bulls are also required to have DNA on file with AHCA. Today, we have 2 of our cows who are already DNA typed, so all of their offspring will carry the full AI, PV, D designation like Khloe and we have the option to gather DNA from our other cows if we choose.

Purchasing from respected breeders who keep solid records has previously been a buyers only way to count on accurate representation of sire and dam. With this new designation, we have one more way to make sure all animals in the AHCA herdbook are accurately represented. While this isn’t a required designation, I’m excited to see the impact this designation will have on the quality of data gathered.

You can find more information on AHCA’s Impact Dam & Sire program and those designations here.

Working With (Not Against) Your Boss Cow

You know the one…the cow that is your best friend when things are going right. The same one that has the ability to send the entire herd running to the other end of the pasture with just one look or tilt of her horns. Whether you have a love or hate relationship with your boss cow, knowing how to work WITH her is the best way to make everything operate more smoothly.

Step 1 – Earn her trust AND her respect. If you get this right, you can do anything! The boss cow is the top of the herd and is used to getting her way. For your safety (and sanity) she needs to know you are NOT part of her herd and she can’t intimidate you or push you around like she can everyone else.

There are a few popular ways Highland owners can establish a solid report of respect with their animals. One of the easiest, and most popular is to carry a big stick…literally! On our farm, it’s a 4′ piece of PVC. Others use a cane, walking stick…really anything that can essentially act as your ‘horns’. Use your stick like you see your cattle using their horns. Example: A gentle poke or prod to get the others moving in the right direction….or simply raising it horizontally with a stern voice has worked well for us to establish that we’re not to be messed with.

To build trust, our favorite method is a simple scotch comb. I’ve seen people who attach them to the end of a broom stick or bribe with food for the more skittish animals. It may take time and patience, but there is nothing more rewarding than the day you can walk up to one of your animals in an open area and they CHOOSE to stand and let you comb them.

Once your boss cow understands you’re in charge and you’ve earned her trust, it’s time to let her do the work! She’s already a pro at controlling and moving the rest of the herd, so why not use that to your advantage? We have multiple reasons we may need to bring the herd to the barn to work them, or move from pasture to pasture. If your boss cow is halter broken, simply slip on a halter, lead her to where you need to go and the rest will follow. (Don’t try this with anyone other than your boss cow…trust me, it gets messy quickly!) Not halter broken? Try her favorite treat or a bucket of feed. Just be cautious, around food is the only time our boss cow can get pushy. Make sure you have an escape plan (fence to jump over, ATV to get behind) if she gets too close for comfort. Herding, focusing on your boss cow, can work as well…but in our experience, Highlands follow much better. We prefer leading or having them follow us with a bucket of feed over herding any day.

Whether you’re moving cattle from farm to farm or have another reason to load a group into a trailer, this is another situation where you want to make sure your boss cow doesn’t work against you. When moving the herd, we just talked about letting the boss cow lead, but when it comes to loading a trailer (or really moving them into any enclosed space) the opposite is usually true. Think about this… you load up your boss cow first (she’s the leader, right?), everyone starts to follow, she gets to the front of the trailer, realizes there isn’t anywhere else to go and decides she’s headed out. She’ll turn and take the entire herd back out of the trailer with her! In this case, load her last and she’ll help you push the others to the front of the trailer.

Last, but not least, is some other advice we’ve learned the hard way (a few times). Anytime you’re working with your cattle and need them to enter/exit through a doorway or gate, ensure your boss cow isn’t standing on the other side. Lock her up or otherwise make sure she stays away. Ours thinks it’s a really fun game to just stand immediately outside of the barn, not letting our other animals exit.

While those boss cows can seem intimidating, making sure you understand your herd dynamics and have earned your boss cows’ trust and respect will make working with your herd a more enjoyable process.

BRF Ciera – our boss cow, lovingly referred to as the ‘Big Red B’ by those closest to her.

Let me check my phone…

As a Millennial (or more specifically Geriatric Millennial…seriously, who comes up with this stuff?!?) my generation has grown up around tech. For better or worse, our phones are often an extension of our bodies and tech is a natural part of our every day life. I’m not here to brag…often it’s ‘too much’ and people need to unplug and enjoy the simpler things in life, but tech also has it’s advantages.

When it comes to life on the farm, tech (in many forms) has become helpful, and even necessary to ensuring the health, safety and overall management of our operation. Who can argue with that? Here are a few of my favorite phone apps that help our farm run more efficiently.

  • Weather Apps (yes, plural) – Think about it…have you ever had a conversation with a farmer or rancher that didn’t involved the weather? I didn’t think so! Want to know when that rain will be coming in? Check the radar in an instant. Need be on high alert for a cold snap, blizzard or strong winds? Done! Personally, I have 3 weather apps that I look at daily…The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, and Weather Bug. When they agree, you can almost count on it. When they don’t, you know things are ‘anyone’s best guess’ and can still plan accordingly.
  • Plant Identifier – Sure, I took an Ecology class in high school, and I know the basics…but there are ALWAYS random weeds, grasses, etc. that I just can’t identify. One quick photo of a plant and I know not only what it is, but in what conditions it thrives, if it’s toxic, and for those ever fruitful weeds…tips on how to eradicate it from our pastures. I use PictureThis. It’s free and does everything I need, but there are many different apps (free and paid) depending on your needs.
  • Google Drive – Many larger cattle operations could benefit from paid management apps like CattleMax, PastureMap, Ranchr, etc. For us, we’re still pretty small and I was able to build out some Google Sheets that house all of our vital cattle management records. We have a sheet per animal with all of their detailed records, a linked sheet for an ‘at a glace’ summary of our active herd, a breakdown of calves by year, summary of our standard health program, hay inventory, semen inventory, beef sale records/locker dates, notes about our pasture management and herd rotations, and a list of all important vendors like our vet, backup vet, hoof trimmer, ultrasound tech, locker, and nutritionist. With these records all in one place, they are easy to find and we can access/edit them from any computer or phone. We also use Google Drive to store marketing materials, purchase agreements and invoices, photos of our cattle and photos of dams/sires in our pedigrees for easy access.
  • Camera Monitoring – Ok, so while this isn’t JUST an app, being able to monitor our animals (particularly during calving season) right from my phone has been a HUGE benefit. We still check our animals multiple times a day, but being able to check in as often as we like from any location has given us peace of mind, helps us monitor cows in active labor without being intrusive, and allowed us to monitor newborn calves to make sure everyone is up and nursing without being a distraction in the barn. There are so many camera options to chose from and they very a lot based on budget, range and functionality so I won’t touch on that here but any WIFI enabled camera system will have a mobile app available.
  • Freezer Alarm – Last but not least is actually a ‘wish list’ item for me. When we purchased our first quarter of Highland Beef we knew the investment going into our freezer was too big to not have it protected. In Iowa we get at least one large blizzard every few years that knocks out power and there is always the possibility that a freezer could stop working anytime. We purchased a digital freezer thermometer and shows us the internal temperature of our chest freezer without opening the lid. While this is great, we’ve since come across options for a Bluetooth enabled device. For less than $50 it will not only give you the internal temperature, but track the temperature history so you can see how consistent your freezer is (essential for good meat quality), send alerts to your phone for temperatures outside of a certain range, and as a Bluetooth device it will still work even if your WIFI is down.

Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list…just a few simple, cheap and efficient apps we use to better manage our cattle operation. I’m all for working smarter, not harder and having these resources at my fingertips definitely qualifies. Have additional apps on your on your ‘must have’ list? Send them our way!