Annual branding keeps this Anselmo cook busy

ANSELMO - - Basic country cooking, with family recipes, is how Kristi Mason describes her style. Kristi gives credit for her ability to her Grandma Peltzer, who she used to visit on the weekends as a girl. During this time, Kristi experienced the best of both worlds. She was able to help the guys outside with the animals and come back inside to assist in the kitchen as well. “It’s just normal day-to-day cooking, nothing exciting,” she said modestly. However, her children, who are now in college, must disagree as they’ve begun asking for recipes for their favorite homemade meals. This was a problem for Kristi, as she admittedly doesn’t often use measuring utensils. Lucky for her children, Kristi found some free time last weekend and sat down to measure out what she would normally toss into the mix. After recording the proper quantities of ingredients, Kristi passed the newly recorded recipes on to her son and daughter. This isn’t the first time that Kristi has gone out of her way regarding cooking, for her children’s benefit. While they were in high school, Kristi would often help with fundraisers and bake sales by submitting her creations. She even volunteered to open her home to the teens for the after prom party breakfast, where she served food and then let the kids loose upstairs. The after-prom breakfast isn’t the only time Kristi has provided meals for company. When extra hands show up to help with tasks, such as putting up hay or weaning calves, Kristi will take off from her day job to feed the workers. She explained that it saves the men from having to drive to town for lunch and lets them eat and get right back to business. Plus, this way she knows they are filled up on her home-style meat and potatoes cooking. Another time when Kristi makes a point of cooking, is for the annual spring branding. For this, neighbors around the Anselmo area come together to help get everyone’s calves identified. The branding is done the old-fashioned way of rope and drag, with fire pits still used to heat the branding irons. It’s tradition for the host family to provide the main meat dish, with the other families each bringing either a salad or dessert. The branding commences in the early morning and goes until about noon or so. By that time, the helpers have worked up an appetite and converge on the feast. Afterwards the adults sit around and play cards, while letting the kids run around and play. Of course, more eating and talking will ensue before things are wrapped up and people head home. Then, the following weekend, the event will be rotated to another family’s ranch, where it will happen all over again. This will go on from the beginning of April until mid-May, until all the participating families have had their turn. “It’s a fun time to get together for our little picnic combo,” Kristi described. She and her husband first became involved with the branding after they were married. At that time, the neighborhood group was made up of many of her husband’s former classmates. Today, the branding has become tradition with new generations participating, as families continue to raise livestock. Often times, high school students come to get in on the action and good food. They are paid for their work that day and look forward to the potluck that follows. This yearly practice helps keep the area families connected. Some of the recipes Kristi submitted are dishes that have been prepared for the annual branding, while others simply remain family favorites. FRITO SWEET AND SALTY GOO1 – 14 ounce bag of Fritos brand corn chips (dipping scoops)1 – cup sugar1 – cup while corn syrup1 – cup crunchy peanut butter Lightly grease two 9x13 inch pans and place the corn chips in the bottom of each pan. In a small saucepan cook sugar and white corn syrup until bubbly and sugar is dissolved. Add the peanut butter and stir until melted. Drizzle the mixture over the corn chips and let cool. Then enjoy!PEANUT BUTTER CREAM PIE1 – 9 inch chocolate or graham cracker crust1 – 8 ounce cream cheese, softened3/4 – cup powdered sugar1/2 to 3/4 – cup Skippy chunky peanut butter (amount based on personal flavor preference)6 – tablespoons milk1 – 8 ounce cool whip, softened Combine ingredients, mix well and pour into crust. Over the top, drizzle chocolate sundae syrup and can also sprinkle with Planters lightly salted cocktail peanuts. Chill for at least 24 hours before serving. Can also freeze but takes 20-30 minutes to thaw. LILA’S WILD RICE CASSEROLE1 1/2 – pounds seasoned sausage, cooked and drained1/2 – cup finely chopped celery1 – tablespoon onion, finely cut1 – cup rice, cook as directed1 – can cream of mushroom soup1 – can of mushrooms and juice1 – soup can full of milk Cook sausage with celery and onion, then drain. Add rice, cream of mushroom soup, mushrooms with juice and soup can of milk. Stir this all together and place in a casserole dish. Bake at least 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. If it become dry just add a little water. This casserole is even better the next day!CHEESY HAMBURGER NOODLES1 1/2 – pounds hamburger (brown, drain, & season with salt and pepper)1 – teaspoon minced onion1 – 10 3/4 ounce can of cream of mushroom soup1 1/2 – teaspoon chicken bouillon granules1/8 – teaspoon paprika2 1/4 – cup milk1 1/2 – cup shredded Velveeta cheese1/2 – teaspoon parsley flakes1 – 8 ounce bag of kluski noodles, cooked and drained Cook hamburger with minced onion until brown and drain. Add mushroom soup, chicken bouillon, paprika, milk and cheese. Cook on low heat. Next, add noodles when mixture is all melted together. Toss in parsley flakes in the last ten minutes of cooking time. Heat but do not let boil. Let set for 5-10 minutes to thicken. Serves 5-6 people.HOT HAMBURGER DIP1 1/2 – pounds ground hamburger 1/4 – cup finely chopped onion1 – small can Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup1 1/2 – pounds Velveeta cheese, cubed1 – 20 ounce jar of Pace Picante Sauce, mild or medium1 – pinch of hot red pepper flakes Brown hamburger and onion together and drain well. Place in a lightly sprayed crockpot. Put picante sauce, cream of mushroom, pepper flakes, and Velveeta cheese in on top of hamburger. Turn on high and stir often, after mostly melted can turn to low until serving. If too thick, add more picante sauce. Wonderful with chips and other condiments such as sour cream, green onion, and black olives. PEACHES AND CREAM CHEESECAKECrust:1 1/2 – cup graham crackers, crushed1/4 – cup walnuts or pecans, ground1/3 – cup margarine, meltedFilling:1 – 10 ounce jar peach preserves1/4 – cup peach nectar3 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened3/4 – cup sugar2 – tablespoons all purpose flour3 – eggs In small saucepan, over low heat, stir in one jar of peach preserves and peach nectar for five minutes, then set aside. Mix cream cheese, sugar and flour on medium speed until combined. Add eggs all at once, beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in preserve mixture and pour filling into crust. Bake on a shallow baking pan at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Using a small metal spatula, loosen crust from the sides of the pan. Cool for 30 more minutes. Remove sides and spread 1/4 cup peach preserves on top. Cool completely, then chill for at least 4 hours before serving. Can be topped with cool whip if desired.