Beef, Biscuits, Blessings, and Babies!

UPDATE: This giveaway is now over. The winner was chosen using Congratulations to Sally Roehr! Sally, please send your name and mailing address to to claim your magazine!

Today’s post is by a Plain Mennonite friend Sherry Gore. She’s going to share a story of some exciting recent events in her life, as well as an article and a recipe from her magazine, Cooking & Such: Adventures in Plain Living. For a chance to win a copy of Cooking & Such: Adventures in Plain Living, please leave a comment below.

~ Cindy


As editor-in-chief of Cooking & Such: Adventures in Plain Living magazine, I was delighted to introduce a new writer in the winter issue. Most of those penning articles are Old Order Amish and Beachy Amish Mennonites from various Plain communities across America. Shontele Torkelson (my daughter’s sister-in-law), a Canadian Mennonite, shares her experiences in the far northern hemisphere in her column, North of the Border. Such a different culture hers is from the life I live in Sarasota, Florida. Reading her words made me long for a visit to her home. It’s not often I get to see snow.

 How incredible to find myself here in Alberta, Canada, today, after traveling here this week for the birth of my first grandchild. Shontele fetched me from the airport, where my plane landed in the middle of a Calgary blizzard. We climbed into the heated seats of her four-wheel-drive truck and headed for the hospital. We drove through two ground blizzards and passed the world’s largest teepee during our three-hour ride to meet my baby grandson, and her nephew, Gage Ryland Torkelson.

When we arrived at the hospital room, the look on my daughter’s face was one I had never seen on her before. There could not have been a more lovely sight nor more beautiful-sounding words than when she turned a bit in the bed and said, “Do you want to see him, Mom? He’s right here.” Tears of joy immediately started flowing from my eyes and didn’t stop for quite some time.

Holding my grandson in my arms for the first time left me with the assurance that I could move heaven and earth for him. The blizzards seemed a small force in comparison to the strength of my love for him.

 When Shontele told me she would be bringing in supper after we returned to my daughter and son-in-law’s home, I knew I was in for a treat. The main course was a hearty chicken-and-gravy casserole heaped high with creamy mashed potatoes and thick layer of cheddar cheese oozing over the sides. There was also a basket of cheese biscuits cut in star shapes. A jar of her homemade cinnamon pickles, tied with a pretty little ribbon, topped it off.

I feel extremely blessed to experience firsthand the lifestyle here in Alberta, Canada. And even if you’re sitting thousands of miles away from where we are, you too can get a glimpse into the northern life through Shontele’s writings.

Below is the first article of hers featured in Cooking & Such: Adventures in Plain Living magazine. The photo is the view from the front of their ranch home. It truly is every bit as beautiful as it looks.


Winter scene

North of the Border…Beef, Biscuits, and Blessings

I stand at the kitchen window, clasping my coffee mug in both hands. Outside, the sky is leaden, and the wind moans that peculiar wail, signaling that snow is on the way from the North Country.


I hate winter. In the eleven years I’ve lived in Southern Alberta, I’ve never gotten used to the cold, the ice, the snow, or the 4:30 p.m. darkness. Worst of all is the howling, incessant wind. If we’re lucky, bad weather will hold off until December, but some years it has come as early as mid-October.

I glance at the thermometer. The mercury has fallen ten degrees.

Recently, while discussing the merits of following nature and migrating south, a friend mentioned that she thought there was a verse in the Bible that states, “The righteous shall dwell under a palm tree.”

As I watch the first flakes dance on the wind, I decide to check Strong’s Concordance to see if that verse really is in the Bible. Perhaps with a strong biblical backing, I could convince my rancher husband that a vacation to southern climes would have merit.

To Mr. Rancher, of course, going on “vacation from winter” is utterly impractical. In our cow-calf operation, we raise calves until they are ready to go to the feedlots to be fattened for slaughter. We sell most of them in the fall as weanlings, but we keep a package of heifers as replacements. Some years, we keep around seventy-five steers to fatten. These will be sold as yearlings the following year.

With three hundred beef cows, a pen full of steers, and a dozen or so horses, feeding takes up most of my husband’s morning. Dressed in layers, starting with long johns and ending with the universal cattleman’s uniform of brown Carhart coveralls, a coat, and a wool hat with earflaps, he forks hay into the bunks for the steers and carries in buckets of feed pellets.

He uses a tractor and a bale buster to grind round bales of alfalfa hay for the mother cows and chops water holes in the ice of the stock pond. Meanwhile, he watches the cattle to ensure that they are healthy. Sickness shows up in subtle signs, such as droopy ears and watery eyes, which his practiced eye can detect in a milling herd of identical black cows. I would not detect such things before rigor mortis set in.

Work aside, my husband doesn’t only tolerate winter, he actually likes it. And he has our children firmly on his side. In a conversation with my son in which we were discussing heaven, I mentioned that it will always be warm there. He was appalled. “No winter? How will we play hockey?”

I looked at him, dumbfounded. Hockey indeed. I don’t like winter sports, and while I can skate (sort of), I can’t stop. And I have managed to injure either my body or my pride every time I’ve gotten brave enough to join the children for sledding. The one time I tried to ski, it was such a disaster that I could hardly walk for days. My husband is still laughing at me. So while I hope heaven doesn’t involve winter, I trust that whatever temperature it is, it will be perfect for Northerners and Southerners alike.

To my dismay, I find no verse in the Bible that states that the righteous should dwell beneath a palm tree. However, Psalm 92:12 says, “The righteous shall flourish as the palm tree.”

Since this is the perfect, inspired Word of God, I begin to meditate on that verse. What if I could flourish as a palm tree, even in the midst of an Alberta winter? What if I could not just survive, but thrive here?

As usually happens when I open my heart to the still, small voice of God, I begin to see the beauty of winter. In the way the hoarfrost sparkles like silver diamonds on the trees. In the scent of a birch fire as it crackles in the stove. In lingering over a second cup of coffee with Mr. Rancher. In long winter evenings spent reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books to the children.

I hear the sound of the tractor. Mr. Rancher is back, and it’s time to get lunch ready. There’s a beef roast in the crock-pot, tucked in last night. Served on warm, crusty buns with flavorful broth for dipping, it is enough to chase away the deepest chill. My husband, who is a meat-and-potatoes guy, will enjoy the oven fries I’ve made to complement the beef.

After the headlong rush of summer and hectic pace of harvest, winter lunchtimes are leisurely affairs, with pots of steaming coffee to warm cold hands while hot, hearty meals to nourish body and soul.

A neighbor drops in. More coffee is brewed to go with the coffee cake left over from Sunday. Conversation flows from weather to politics to the price of beef. The fire is stoked. The snow is falling in earnest now, but the weatherman says it will blow over by morning.

This is the North. This is home.

Shontele is a rancher’s wife, a mother of four, and a child of God. She enjoys the challenge of blending her down-home, Southern-style recipes with the flavors of the West.


Beef Dip Sandwiches

1 three-pound beef roast (I like to use an inside round roast.)
1½ cups water
½ cup brewed coffee
½ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
whole-wheat crusty buns

Place roast in a slow cooker. Mix seasonings and water and pour over roast. Cook on low overnight or on high for 5–6 hours. Remove roast.

Carve into one-inch slices and shred with a fork. Strain broth. Pour over shredded beef and simmer on low until ready to serve.

To serve, remove beef with a slotted spoon. Put a generous amount onto a whole-wheat crusty bun. Divide broth into six small bowls for individual dipping. Serve immediately. Makes six cowboy-sized servings.



Sherry Gore is the author of Simply Delicious Amish Cooking and the editor-in-chief of Cooking & Such: Adventures in Plain Living magazine, which has been called “completely heartwarming and visually stunning” by Amish novelist Cindy Woodsmall. Sherry is also a weekly scribe for the national edition of the 120-year-old Amish newspaper, The Budget. The National Geographic Channel featured Sherry prominently in a 2012 documentary of the Amish. Sherry is a year-round resident of beautiful, sun-kissed Sarasota, Florida, the vacation paradise of the Plain People. She has three children and is a member of a Beachy Amish Mennonite church. She’s a caregiver to her twenty-two-year-old daughter, a Sunday school teacher, a cooking-show host, and an official pie-contest judge. As an author and longtime resident of Pinecraft, Sherry has worked with local Sarasota County government and various travel groups to generate interest for this unique and beautiful village.

 Visit Sherry Gore’s website




Last week’s winner of the embroidered wall hanging and a book of her choice is Jackie W. Congratulations, Jackie!

Cooking & Such magazine, Winter 2012 issueIf you would like to enter for a chance to win one issue of Cooking & Such magazine, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post on my website.

If you are reading this anywhere other than my website, such as on Facebook, in an email, or on Goodreads, please hop on over to my website by going to and leaving a comment at the bottom of my post to enter the giveaway.

Only comments left on my website will be entered into the giveaway. (It’s just too hard to track down all the comments left in various places, and that means it’s too easy to miss some of the comments.)

The deadline for this contest is Monday, January 21, 2013, at noon. The winner will be chosen using and will be contacted privately, as well as announced on next week’s post.


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