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Taking the rodeo home with you

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Apple pie

For dessert, you can’t beat the home-baked freshness of a fruit pie. See recipe below. (Photo: The Junior League of Houston, Inc.)

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

It’s March in Houston, and that can only mean one thing – rodeo season. As a native Houstonian, I look forward to March with as much anticipation as a child before Christmas.  A full three weeks of cowboys, carnivals and concerts. And, of course, the chow.

Some smells at the rodeo are better than others. A favorite aroma comes from the spiced pecans that fill me with an instant need for cinnamon, sugar, nuts and pure deliciousness. After the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has left town, I often break out the Junior League of Houston cookbook Stop and Smell the Rosemary and whip up the fabulous Sweet and Spicy Pecans that make my house smell like the vendor’s cart at any time of the year. 

When recreating rodeo recipes, I often wonder what the true-cowboy favorites are. There has to be chicken fried steak involved, and if there isn’t … well, there should be. One of my favorite Chicken Fried Sirloin recipes comes out of Stop and Smell the Rosemary. With its buttermilk-based coating and peppered cream gravy, it is guaranteed to please your pickiest cowboy.

Now in my 11th year as a rodeo committee member (currently the Calf Scramble Donors committee), I’ve met many volunteers who make sure the scholarship program is a success. As a member of the Junior League, which supports 36 programs in the Houston area, this act of volunteerism is especially dear to my heart. One of the best ways to thank volunteers is, of course, a tasty treat. I highly recommend the Pecan Puffs found in the Houston Junior League Cookbook. This very simple recipe needs only a few common ingredients, and they take only about 30 minutes from start to finish.

Sadly, rodeo season does not last forever, so when you are hosting friends you have met through your committee or with whom you love going to the rodeo, you can bring back that most wonderful time of year with a themed dinner-party menu. First, serve up Fried Cauliflower from the Houston Junior League Cookbook. It’s just enough grease, and the presentation of the bite-sized flowerets adds a gourmet flair that’s sure to impress your guests. Follow that with Chocolate Chili from Stop and Smell the Rosemary. The unique recipe adds just a few ounces of semi-sweet chocolate to a mixture of traditional chili ingredients and spices, making it the perfect combination of sweet and savory, and with the hour simmer time, you can get this dish going before your guests arrive.

For dessert, you can’t beat the home-baked freshness of a fruit pie, Big as Texas Brandy Apple Pie, from Peace Meals. And don’t forget to wet your whistle with a batch of the Houston Junior League Cookbook rodeo staple Freezer Milk Punch, guaranteed to inspire you to kick up your boots in the kitchen.

Editor’s note: To buy a cookbook, see www.jlh.org or call 713-871-6608.

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