October 2011

How you know vacation worked

I have kept this email in my inbox as I just love reading it. Each time I read Jason’s words, I laugh. But it also reminds me how a Vista Verde experience follows people home. While Jason was here with some friends, we talked a bit about how people take their experiences at the ranch home with them, and how that impacts their lives in different ways. Even after 15 years at this ranch, I am still amazed at how it creeps into many people’s lives when they are not here with us. It’s humbling, and exciting to know the ranch has that power. So, for your reading pleasure, I share Jason’s statement after he returned from our fall horsemanship retreat:

I got on the freeway this morning and needed to pass a car in front of me. I shifted my hips in the seat, lifted my left leg slightly, and started to move my right leg in….when I tried to pizza box my hands over the steering wheel it occurred to me that the car wouldn’t pass like I wanted….

Many thanks to the team. It’s always a good time.


Buttermilk biscuits

Makes: 4 dozen


20 oz. -all purpose flour

16 oz. – cake flour

2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. – baking powder

2 tsp. – baking soda

4 tsp. – sugar

2 tsp. – salt

1-lb. butter

3 cups- buttermilk

4- oz.- yogurt

1-    Set the oven to 350 F then medium dice the butter and break it up with your hands.

2-   Mix together all of the dry ingredients then sift; Cut in the butter with your hands until all of the butter is in small flakes.

3-    Add in the butter milk and the yogurt then mix until fully combined.

4-   Roll out the dough to about an inch thickness then punch out the biscuits with a pastry cutter of your desired thickness.

5-   Place the biscuits on an un-greased cookie sheet about a ½ inch apart and bake until the tops are golden brown, then cool for about five minutes or serve hot

Sausage gravy


3 tbsp. – bacon fat

1- finely minced shallot

3 tbsp. – all purpose flour

¾ lbs. – breakfast sausage

1 tsp. – sugar

1/8  tsp. – smoked paprika

whole milk as needed

salt and pepper to taste

1-   Heat a medium sized sauce pot on the stove then add in bacon fat, melt down then add in the sausage. Once the sausage is almost cooked and broken up add in the shallot and cook until translucent.

2-   After cooking in the shallot add in the flour a bit at a time along with the paprika and sugar until a wet sand consistency is achieved. Roux should in general be about equal parts flour and fat.

3-   Once the roux is cooked for a minute or 2 add in milk a bit at a time adjusting consistency as the gravy thickens. Cook the gravy on low heat for at least 10 minutes adding more milk as needed. I add the pepper and salt at the end so the pepper does not become too spicy and it is easier to gauge.

Grilled peach jalapeno bbq sauce

Makes: 1 cup


3- Jalapenos roasted, peeled, and seeded

½ – peach seeded quartered and grilled

2-shallot small diced

2-clove of garlic minced

½ cup- white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup- rum

2-tbsp. – honey

½ – vanilla bean split and seeded

1-cup of ketchup

1-cup of chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Sauté the roasted jalapenos, shallot, and garlic in a little olive oil until the shallots turn translucent. Deglaze with rum, flame off, then add the balsamic vinegar, honey, ketchup and stock.
  2. Cook on the stove at a low simmer until reduced by 1/3. Puree the mixture in a blender and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and vinegar if necessary.
  4. Continue to simmer if needed until the sauce reaches the right thickness and cool down for service.


Jalapeno sweet and tangy sauce

Makes: 1 cup


3- Jalapenos roasted, peeled, and seeded

1-shallot small diced

1-clove of garlic minced

1-tsp. – cilantro rough chop

½  cup.-Sherry vinegar

¼ cup- tequila

2-tbsp. – honey

1tsp. – toasted cumin

1-cup of ketchup

1-cup of chicken stock

  1. Sauté the roasted jalapenos, shallot, and garlic in a little olive oil until the shallots turn translucent. Deglaze with tequila, flame off, then add the cilantro, sherry vinegar, honey, toasted cumin, ketchup and stock.
  2. Cook on the stove at a low simmer until reduced by 1/3. Puree the mixture in a blender and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and vinegar if necessary.
  4. Continue to simmer if needed until the sauce reaches the right thickness and cool down for service.


Soy Sesame Dressing


4-shallots minced

6-cloves of garlic crushed

2inch chunk- fresh ginger

2cups- soy sauce

1cup- teriyaki

1cup- red wine vinegar

1cup- orange juice

½ cup- rice wine vinegar

½ cup- lime juice

2 tbsp- Dijon mustard

2 tbsp- honey

2tbsp- tahini

2 tbsp- sirachi

3cups- vegetable oil

4cups- sesame oil

2tsp- red pepper flakes

2tsp- granulated garlic

1cup- sesame seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. 1.     Mix together the first 13 ingredients down to the line above the vegetable oil
  2. 2.     Blend the ingredients until the mixture is homogenized, then slowly add in the vegetable oil first then the sesame oil.
  3. 3.     Add in the rest of the ingredients then adjust the seasoning.

Peanut Butter Cookies


2 ½ cups- A. p. flour

½ tsp. – Baking Soda

½ tsp- baking powder

1 tsp. – salt

½ lb. – unsalted butter

7 oz. – light brown sugar

1 cup – crunchy peanut butter

2 large – eggs

2 tsp. – vanilla

1 cup – dry roasted salted peanuts ground in a food processor to resemble bread crumbs.

  1. Heat your oven to 350 Degrees F. Line 2 baking dishes with parchment paper, and coat them with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together, and set aside.
  3. Whip the butter, and add sugar until fluffy. Add the peanut butter until fully incorporated, then add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla.
  4. Ad the dry ingredients in at slow speed, then finally the peanuts.
  5. Roll the dough into 2-in. balls, then place them on a baking sheet 2 ½ in. apart. Press each ball twice with a dinner fork, to make a crisscross design.
  6. Bake in the oven till slightly brown on the edges, about 10 min. Cool down for about 3 minutes
  7.  IF you want add 1 ½ cups of chocolate chips to the recipe.

Italian dressing & grilled romaine


1 oz.- balsamic vinegar

1 oz.- sherry vinegar

1 oz.- champagne vinegar

1 oz.- red wine vinegar

1 tbsp.- honey

1 tsp.- Dijon mustard

1 shallot- finely minced

3- cloves garlic minced

¼ – cup divina brand roasted tomatoes preserved in oil

2- tbsp- fresh basil

1- tbsp- fresh oregano

1 tsp.- Italian seasoning mix

8 oz. extra vigin olive oil

4 oz. – oil from preserved tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

  1. Mix together all of the ingredients and let set for at least 2 hours for flavors to combine. Pulsing a few times in a blender works as well.
  2. Toss the romaine lettuce with the dressing and a little salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain off excess dressing in a perforated pan, grill on a broiler cut side down, flip then remove from the grill after another 20 seconds.

I serve this salad with roman style grilled artichokes, pecorino cheese with truffles or tallegio and some sort of toasted nut. Candied pumpkin seeds have been my personal favorite and the tallegio would be my cheese of choice as well.

Empanada dough


4 ½ cups – All purpose flour

3 cups – Masa harina

1 tbsp. – baking powder

1 tbsp. – Salt

12 oz. – melted butter

1 ½ to 2 cups – water

  1. Mix together the flour, masa, baking powder and salt in a kitchen aid mixer
  2. Slowly add in the melted butter on medium speed and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Add in the water until the dough pulls together but is not sticky.
  4. Divide the dough into 3rds and let rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before shaping.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

From the bottomless cookie jar:

Makes: enough to feed a ranch


6 3/4 cups- all-purpose flour

3 tsp. – baking soda

3 tsp. – salt

1 ½ – lb. unsalted butter at room temp.

2 ¼ cups- granulated sugar

2 ¼ cups- light brown sugar

6- Eggs

3 tsp. vanilla

3 cup- semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Set an oven to 350 degrees F., and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars until well blended and lightened in color.
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and blend until fully incorporated.
  4. Mix together all the dry ingredients, and mix into the batter on low speed, then add in the chocolate chips.
  5. Make sure to cool down the batter for about an hour before scooping out and baking.
  6. To make the white chocolate chip macadamia replace the cup of chocolate with a cup of crushed macadamia and a cup of white chocolate chips.


Makes: ½ sheet tray


3 cups- all purpose flour

2 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. salt

¾ lb. butter

3 cups- brown sugar

4- Eggs

3 tsp. vanilla

2 cups- chocolate chips

1 cup- chopped pecans

  1. Let the butter set at room temperature for about a half hour, then cream it together with the sugar until it is light in color. Add in the eggs one at a time until it is fully incorporated along with the vanilla.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients into the mixture on slow speed, and then add in the chocolate chips, and pecans.
  3. Spread out the mixture on a well greased ½ sheet pan lined with parchment, and well greased.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees, until golden brown, then cool, cut, and enjoy.


Off season at the ranch

I got a laugh out of the staff room board yesterday morning (you may have to click on it to see it better).  In many ways it represented to me what off season means to many of us here.  During the guest season, we are happily totally immersed in taking care of all of our wonderful guests, and focused on what needs to be done each day.  Come off season, the pace slows down a bit for most around the ranch, and it becomes a time of projects and checking items off the to-do list.  Some of the projects are expected, some unexpected, like a water leak that interrupted Bill’s vacation plans (hence, the cussing).

The past couple weeks have been filled with beautiful weather, for the most part.  Every once in a while we would get a cruddy, rainy, snowy, sleety day.  But, other than that it was blue skies, mild temperatures and sunshine.  All of us have been soaking it up as much as we can, as we know it wont last.  Over the weekend, which most of us take off (except for a few who have to feed the horses still), and get to enjoy what it’s like for a weekend to be a weekend.  Naps were taken on the lawn in front of the bunkhouse, leaves were raked at my house, some of us squeezed in the last bike ride or hike of the season, and we all just enjoyed the beautiful days.  Now it’s gently snowing, and it’s time for a fire in the fireplace.

Speaking of fires in the fireplace, in a couple weeks, we’ll be hosting Jo and Javin’s wedding in front of the fire in the Great Room.  Whether it’s snowing or sunny, we’re excited for a wonderful day for the two of them.  Yes, photos will follow.

Dace has been busy working on finishing his hiring for the winter season.  Between all of his interviews, reference calls and my reservation calls and inquiries, yesterday the phone rang off the hook.  Both of us stopped and looked at each other at one point and laughed…..we thought off season was supposed to be relaxing!  But, it’s exciting to be putting together another great team for the winter season, and I’m excited to have so many great folks interested in joining us- whether that be this coming winter season for a Colorado winter resort experience, or next summer for a dude ranch vacation.  Both of them are filling up, so come on and join us if you haven’t made plans already!

Off to put another log on the fire.  It might be time for a hot chocolate break for the ones working outside in the snow today…..I can always be coerced into joining them for a little afternoon pick me up.

Poblano butternut squash soup


1- Bunch celery

4-small carrots

1- Yellow onion

3- cloves garlic

1- butternut squash

3tbsp. olive oil

4 shallots- rough chop

3- poblano chilies roasted

½ cup- tequila

1-cup cream

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup- fresh cilantro

1-cup Cotija or parmesan cheese

1 gal- vegetable stock or water


1- Rough chop 1/2 celery, butternut squash, 2 carrots and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast off the vegetables in a 350 degree oven until lightly browned.

2- Meanwhile take the rest of the celery, carrots, onion, garlic and shallots, and process in a food processor until it is finely chopped. Sweat off the chopped vegetables in the olive oil until the onions turn translucent; add in the roasted peppers and cook for another two minutes. Deglaze the mix with tequilla, and add in the other roasted vegetables

3- Bring the mixture to a boil, adjusting the seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes to an hour, and then puree it with an immersion blender. Add the cream to the mixture and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.

4- Add in the fresh cilantro and Cotija cheese.

5- Let the cheese melt slightly and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary. This soup can be frozen for an exrended period of time then thawed out and reheated.

Glam.com – October 2011

Bridle Party: Horsing Around at Vista Verde Ranch – Glam.com

By LAUREN BARTH 10.11.2011

I had never gotten on a horse before in my life. But after getting married in Beaver Creek, Colorado, my new husband and I started our all-American adventure in the sleepy city of Steamboat Springs, a quaint and charming town with lots of open land and a disproportionate population of horses. We had somehow wound up on very foreign territory at Vista Verde Ranch, a breathtaking and remote retreat where we were expected to ride and wrangle with the best of them. (When did I agree to this?) Good thing I’ve always had a soft spot for cowboy boots and hats. Hoist me up and let’s get saddled.

When I told friends we were honeymooning at a “luxury dude ranch,” most people were understandably skeptical. I’m not really known for my athleticism, I’m allergic to large, hairy animals (my husband aside), and I’ve never, ever expressed any interest in horseback riding – let alone dude ranching. Their concern was well justified. But luxury is something I am familiar with, and I held out hope that the two contradictory travel genres would cancel each other out and land me somewhere on middle ground.

Roughing It

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Stephanie, a genuine cowgirl training her horse and walking the grounds. She let us pet her kind-tempered companion and pointed us toward to our cottage where we’d be shacking up and playing house. “It’s our policy to leave everything unlocked around here so just walk right on in.” I laughed. Dan laughed… Oh, she was serious. Our rustic two-story home away from home was anything but rough. This country-cute cottage was cozy and inviting with an open kitchen, large living area, master bedroom, two additional bedrooms, and two bathrooms. (At least if any intruders did sneak into our lock-free cottage, they wouldn’t have to sleep in bed with us.) The wood-burning fireplace made for cuddly, warm nights and the private patio Jacuzzi was a happy surprise. There are no TVs, but since our days were packed with vigorous activities, and our nights were meant for romantic rendezvous*, the lack of television was a welcome change. (*Read: we were so whipped from riding horses, hiking, and biking, that we’d pass out cold at 8 pm sharp.)


Have I mentioned I’ve never gotten on a horse before? I’ll tell you one thing: it’s a lot higher up than it looks. I sadly swapped my straw hat for a hard helmet. Safety over style, my friends. The guests at Vista Verde – there were about 25 during our stay – generally stay at the ranch for about a week. It’s a comprehensive course, where one gradually learns the basic and not-so-basic skills of riding, and ultimately leaves an accomplished jockey. Dan and I, however, would only be there for two days. So we had to cram a week’s worth of training into 48 short hours. Thankfully, I had DB as my partner in crime. DB was the horse I was assigned to ride (not to be confused with Dan Boyce, my new husband). A sweet, gentle creature, my handsome horse was a total mush – much like my other DB (awwwww!). Dan, my Steamboat Dreamboat, riding Zip. After a few minutes atop my mild-mannered mustang, I felt completely at ease and surprisingly confident. I didn’t need to clutch the reins with all my strength or scream commands. DB and I could practically read each other’s minds; we were getting on like an old-married couple. (Apparently horses lick their lip when they feel good about mutual communication, and DB looked like a kid with an ice cream cone.) Our trainers taught us how to turn, trot, and maneuver, and in no time we were racing obstacle courses and galloping home. It was amazing. I was doing it! And if we had stuck around for the rest of the week, Dan and I would have learned to herd cattle with our fellow vacationers. (I’m still so jealous.) Guests are also encouraged to take advantage of other on-and-off property activities – like fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and hot air ballooning. It’s a pretty spectacular destination for an action-packed (but admittedly exhausting) getaway.

Chow Down

Meal time at Vista Verde is an extraordinary experience. An all-inclusive, all-you-can-eat ranch, Vista Verde doesn’t want you to worry about expense, but rather enjoy the tasty morsels being served up morning, noon, and night. And after a busy morning “ranching,” the massive buffet-style lunch is a sight for sore eyes. There’s plenty to spare for seconds, and the comfort food couldn’t be any more comforting. After a nightly happy half-hour, communal dinners are served in the deluxe dining room. Dan and I were lucky to feast on the delicious food and toast to our successful days at a table with our friends including a few incredibly cool staff members. That’s probably the best part about Vista Verde — it really is a community. You meet new people and make new friends and laugh, learn, and embrace life together. It takes you on an emotional journey on and off the horse. It’s unlike any other experience. I was definitely disappointed when we had to turn in our saddles and part ways — and even sadder to say goodbye to DB. It turns out this city slicker has developed a love for life on the range. And my new cowboy boots are proof that you can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can’t take the Colorado out of the girl.

Vista Verde Ranch Steamboat Springs, CA 80477 970-879-3858 http://www.vistaverde.com

Ranch Ramblings

We’ve officially closed out the summer dude ranch season, and the ranch has taken on a quiet mood this week.  Last week’s horsemanship clinic was wonderful.  We decided to rename it the Horsemanship retreat going forward, as it was more than just a clinic, and the quiet atmosphere of the ranch about to close down for the season gave it a retreat-like feel.  I received this great email from Jason after he returned home:

Subject: How to know vacation worked….

I got on the freeway this morning and needed to pass a car in front of me.  I shifted my hips in the seat, lifted my left leg slightly, and started to move my right leg in….when I tried to pizza box my hands over the steering wheel it occurred to me that the car wouldn’t pass like I wanted….

Many thanks to the team.  It’s always a good time.

Cheers, Jason

We also recently heard from a past guest who bought one of our mares, “Sally”, that she just won a dressage competition.  Way to go Wendy and Sally!  It’s pretty cool that we have horses that are quality enough to go from our dude ranch to the dressage arena.  It goes to show that a well put together horse with a good mind can go a lot of different directions.

Now it’s time to catch up on projects, the piles on our desks and to-do lists, as well as fit in a little time off.  Steve and Kelli are down in New Mexico camping and exploring.  The staff continue to trickle out of here, little goodbye notes left on the staff room white board one at a time.  And then there is a crew sticking around to help with chores and projects during the off season.  On Tuesday, we had a furniture moving party while there were still enough staff here to make it doable.   We cleared most of the furniture out of the Great room so we could be ready for Jo and Javin’s wedding here next month.  Hosting the wedding will put us all in the mindset of romantic winter vacations as we need to be ready for all the honeymooners coming this winter! Don’t worry, I’ve already had multiple requests for photos after the big day…we’ll share them!  I’m trying to avoid inhaling too many fumes from the Great Room today as Sarah and Melissa are in the middle of oiling the wood floor, taking  advantage of the room being empty.
The weather has been vacillating between gorgeous sunshine and snow and rain.  Today is a sunshine day, but cold this morning.  I took some photos the other day when it was snowing.  Although we’re not emotionally ready for the snow yet, it was beautiful.   I took a picture of these two aspens that day.  These trees are from Tyler and Johnny’s wedding here are the ranch years ago.  We planted them in their honor, and they remind me of the whole family every time I see them.  I took the pictures to send to them as it was just their anniversary.  Sadly, I just found out that Tyler’s step-dad Don just lost his heroic fight with cancer.  Don was an amazing person, a gentle and kind soul.  In the time I got to know him he was an inspiration for me with how he handled his disease and his love of life.  I will never forget a very memorable horseback ride we took together the last time he was here at the ranch.

Times like this make me realize how many memories this ranch holds for so many.  There have been so many people – guests and staff- who have come through the gates.  The countless life-long friendships, shared experiences, engagements and weddings, challenges and successes all make this ranch a rich place.

Ranchseeker.com – October 2011

Fun Winter Activites at a Dude Ranch

As the temperature starts to drop many of RanchSeeker’s dude ranches are gearing up for their winter season. Gone are long, hot sunny days paving the way for winter fun. There are many activities that you can still enjoy at a dude ranch during the cooler winter months. Different dude ranches offer different winter activities depending on location, ranch amenities and the size of the dude ranch. Below are just some of the fun activities that you can find on your next dude ranch vacation.

1)      Skiing & Snowboarding. Some dude ranches like, Vista Verde Guest Ranch, are located near world famous ski resorts. You can enjoy all the amenities of staying at a dude ranch and spend a few days hitting the slopes. Check with your ranch of choice, in advance, to see whether they can provide you with ski equipment and transportation to the mountain base.

Vista Verde Guest Ranch


2)      Cross Country Skiing & Snow Shoeing. At many dude ranches like, Ranch 4 Saisons, you can strap on a pair of snow shoes or cross country skis and head out to explore the snowy woods or meadows. A great way to spend the day outdoors and work up an appetite for a hearty dinner.

Ranch 4 Saisons


3)      Sleigh Rides. Various guest ranches, like Bar W, offer sleigh rides accompanied by hot chocolate and cozy blankets. It’s a special way to spend time with family and friends.


4)      Snowmobiling. Explore the back-country wilderness by snowmobile on your next winter dude ranch vacation. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch is just one guest ranch that offers a snowmobile package.


5)      Horseback riding. Winter horseback riding at a dude ranch is an unforgettable experience; one of the highlights of a winter ranch vacation when weather conditions permit.


6)      Dog-Sledding. Dog sledding is now being offered at some of the dude ranches and is a great opportunity to experience what can only be described as a truly one-of-a-kind adventure.


Bar W Guest Ranch

7)      Spa. For a truly relaxing winter-getaway many dude ranches offer spa treatments that you can enjoy in a winter setting.


Whatever you decide to do on your next dude ranch vacation RanchSeeker’s Dude Ranch Finder can help you find the ideal guest ranch.

Fall Fun at Vista Verde

We officially closed on Sunday, but do have a group of folks coming in today for a 4 day horsemanship clinic. In the days between the close of the regular season and this clinic, we took some time to regroup, process the season and have a little fun.

Sunday night the staff hosted a VVR “Prom” in the Great room to celebrate the end of the season.   Some great outfits and hairdos were center stage of the evening.

Monday was the ever popular end of season meeting. Imagine a bunch of people who’s career objectives have been to not be in an office. Give them a summer of getting outside and playing in the backyard of Vista Verde. Now, try to pin them down for a full day of sitting in a chair and having meetings. Challenging, yes. But this is how we get all our info about what worked, what didn’t and what changes we need to make for next summer’s dude ranch season.

The following day, many of the crew took off and played. We had two trailer loads of staff head up to the high country for a staff ride. The goal was to gather up the straggler cows that weren’t brought in the past weeks. The crew did get another small group, but there are still plenty out there to bring back home before the winter season arrives.

While the crew was out playing, a posse of future wranglers showed up at the ranch. My youngest daughter’s pre-school class did a field trip to the ranch for the day. It was pretty humorous watching all these little kiddos take in the ranch setting. And it pretty well confirmed to me why our program works really well for kids 6 and up, but not so well for the younger ones. The kids were met at the Lodge by the hay wagon, with Jason and Nathan lending a hand to drive the team. We took them up to the arena where Sugar and Pinky, two of our most trustworthy “old guys” were waiting for a ride. Each kid got a turn to be led around the arena. Terry entertained the little ones by teaching them how to honk their saddle horns and laughing the whole time. After riding, they had a picnic on the patio and then headed back for nap. I was jealous at that point, thinking it might be nice to have my own personal nap time in the Great room. Ahhh, if I could be a pre-schooler all over again I would enjoy naps much more!

As we await the horsemanship clinic attendees this afternoon, there seems to be some weather rolling in. Hopefully the gorgeous weather we’ve had the past couple weeks will hold on a bit longer, but there is always the indoor arena if these clouds turn into something more serious.