Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tailgate Bonfire with Ranch Hand Chowder

Since moving to our family ranch in 2107, we've tried to do things that we didn't or couldn't do in the city. So when you're blessed with a nice post-Christmas day AND you happen to have a dozen or more people in your house, it's time to take mealtime outdoors and have a little fun.

There's a lake (okay, so it's really a cow pond, but we still call it a lake) about a hundred and fifty yards from our house. In recent months, Big Daddy has spent countless hours on his tractor, clearing brush piles, mowing and, generally, grooming the area around the lake. So when we took a walk down there just before Christmas, I told him it would make a great place for a tailgate party and bonfire. He already had the big brush pile and there was a wide open area for folks to gather. 

So, the Friday after Christmas, that's just what we did.
As sunset approached, we hauled chairs, a work table, a gas burner and food, down to the lake, along with a couple of tailgates.
Of course, it's not a party until somebody gets stuck in the mud.
The younger cousins played at the water's edge.
Until it was finally time to light the bonfire.
Even the smallest members of the family were mesmerized.
While others just wanted to eat.
Since it was cool, soup seemed both easy and logical for this event. So I made up a batch of Taco Soup (you can find that recipe here).
And some Ranch Hand Chowder.
Like Taco Soup, Ranch Hand Chowder is quick and easy to throw together. 
Here's what you'll need:
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup (one stick) butter (I prefer unsalted)
  • 1 10 oz can condensed cream of potato soup (yep, good ol' Campbells or store equivalant)
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chicken flavored stock base (I used Better Than Bouillon)
  • 1 lb breakfast sausage, browned
  • 2 - 17 oz cans creamed corn
  • ½ - 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Melt butter in large Dutch oven. Add onion and peppers and sauté over medium-high heat until tender.
Add remaining ingredients, except cheese.
Stir to combine.

Now add your cheese.
Stir and simmer until melted.

That’s it! Hot and ready in no time at all.

Both soups were a hit, even with the hollow-legged teenage grandboys. We ate, we talked, roasted marshmallows for s'mores... Then capped it all off with fireworks over the lake. Sorry, I wasn't able to get a picture of those, but they sure were pretty. 

Now I'm thinking we might need to do it all over again for the Fourth of July. 

So how were your holidays? Calm or chaotic? Bustling or relaxed? And how's the new year treating you so far? Any big goals for 2019?

Three-time Carol Award finalist, Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com 


  1. Mindy, what an amazing party!! I love it! You're so creative and energetic.

    I definitely want to make that chowder! I've never heard of Ranch Hand Chowder before. Sounds so yummy!

    1. Creative and energetic? Missy, all I can say is that it definitely comes in spurts. And this chowder is yummy. Between the sausage, the creamed corn and the cheese, the blend of flavors is really good.

  2. That chowder sounds delicious!

    Our holidays were blizzardy. One the day after Christmas, then another one on New Year's Eve/Day. But since New Years, the days have been sunny and warm (for us!). We're spending as much time as possible up in the Hills, because we know the snow will be returning!

    1. Jan, I would happily trade our spring-like temperatures for some snow. Just a few inches would be fine. But a blizzard would be AWESOME!

  3. Mindy would the Texans know what to do with a few inches of snow let alone a blizzard! We are trying to rid our kitchen of most processed foods so we can start our Paleo style diet, but this really does look good. We will have to try it on an occasional cheat day!

    1. Katie, Texans are beside themselves whenever the slightest bit of wintry precip is in the forecast. But I'm originally from Michigan, so I get to make fun of them. And, occasionally, show them how folks do things up north. ;)

  4. Oh, I have to try that chowder!!!! That looks wonderful, Mindy! And I love the bonfire traditions. Gosh, that's sweet.

    Hey my youngest is liking the Texas weather, although we loved having him home for six days.... and our weather here was fairly mild for upstate, but cold for my new Texan!!!!!

    I can't wait to try this.

    1. Ruthy, you will love this chowder. Especially since it's one of those things you can throw together when you're short on time. And I know that boy of yours is loving our milder weather. Just wait until they get some snow or ice, though. Then he'll really think Texans are crazy.