The Big Easy

I was fairly untraveled as a child and even as a young adult. Though my family took a vacation each year, we almost always went to Colorado, and mostly to Estes Park. I wouldn’t change a thing about our vacations, but suffice it to say that I was close to 20 before I ever boarded an airplane.

Back in those days, flyers dressed up for the trip, wearing a good dress or suit. The idea of blue jeans or – heaven forbid – sweat pants on a flight was absolutely unthinkable. Flight attendants – aw, heck, we can call them stewardesses because they were absolutely always young women — wore business attire, shoes with modest heels, and hats.

I remember being about 21 or 22 years old, and yearning to visit exactly three places before I died. Today we would call them my bucket list. So my bucket list cities were New York City, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

But our recent Mardis Gras party got me thinking about New Orleans, and recalling all of my visits to that interesting city. And it was the first of my three dream bucket list cities that I was able to visit. I traveled with a woman I scarcely knew, familiar with her only because she taught my brother and sister at Leadville High School. Her name was Lily, and despite the fact that I traveled 1,300 miles with her and lived in the same hotel room for probably close to a week, I recall very little else about her. Isn’t that funny? But what I do recall is that she wasn’t an ax murderer (as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t get hacked to pieces) and we had a good time together. And then never did a single thing together again.

mi0002859504We didn’t have a lot of money, so I’m certain we didn’t go to any fancy restaurants, though I’m afraid I also couldn’t tell you what restaurants we did visit. I remember that we went to Café du Monde and had beignets and café au lait and stayed in a nice hotel near the action. Other than that, the single thing I remember is that we went to a jazz show in the French Quarter and watched musician Al Hirt play from front row seats. Non-vocal jazz never really being a favorite musical genre of mine, I’m sure I must have heard of him from my dad. At the end of the show, he came down from the stage and shook the hands of a few people, INCLUDING MINE. Having not met many famous people at that time in my life, I was thrilled.

The other two times that I have visited New Orleans, Bill has been my traveling companion. The first time he and I visited, I remember being conned by an expert con artist, who bet me $10 that he could tell me where I got my shoes, and I bit. The answer, of course, was on my feet. Lesson learned.

During that trip we dined at Commander’s Palace, where Bill ate what to this day he proclaims was the best dessert he’s ever eaten (and the man knows desserts) – Commander’s Bread Pudding Souffle. We also tried Muffuletta sandwiches at Central Grocery, where they were created. Muffulettas are sandwiches made from salami, ham, mortadella, cheese and a delicious olive spread.

And, of course, beignets at Café du Monde.

The second time we visited, we ate brunch at Commander’s Palace, where we ate what I would call the best dessert I’ve ever eaten – Bananas Foster. Oh my.

But just as my primary memory of my first visit to New Orleans is seeing Al Hirt, my primary memory of that visit is ducking into a hole-in-the-wall place where we had the most delicious oysters on the half shell that I have ever eaten. The guy shucking the oysters was like a caricature of a guy shucking oysters. He had been a so-called cut man for boxers in his younger days, and as he told Bill story after story, he kept shucking oysters. He shucked way more than the dozen we had ordered, but didn’t charge us a penny more.

I’m happy to say that I’ve been to all three of the cities that I dreamed of as a young woman. Interestingly, though I enjoyed them all, out of the three, I would say that only New York City is someplace I could return to again and again, and have. I enjoyed San Francisco and certainly found New Orleans interesting and the food amazing, but neither are places that I yearn to revisit.

The sound you just heard is that of my sister Bec fainting.

But as a nod to New Orleans, here is the recipe for the Hot Crab Dip that I contributed to Sunday’s festivities…..

crab-dip

Hot Crab Dip

Ingredients
1 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onions
1 c. chopped green peppers
1 T. minced garlic
1-1/2 t. salt, divided
1 T. Cajun seasoning
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 c. mayonnaise
¼ c. fresh parsley
2 green onions, minced
1 T. fresh lemon juice
3 6-oz cans crab meat
½ c. Ritz crackers, crushed
2 T. butter, melted

Process
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, garlic, 1 t. salt, and Cajun seasoning. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft, 5 or 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the cream cheese, mayo, parsley, green onions, lemon juice, and remaining salt. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.  Fold in vegetables and crabmeat and place in an oven-safe dish.

Mix cracker crumbs with butter, and spread on top of the dip. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crackers are browned.

Kids’ Whimsical Cooking: Fresh Summer Guacamole

Addie and guacNow that it is summer time, I try to make snacks that include fresh fruits and vegetables. This time I made guacamole. Guacamole is a fast nutritious snack that can be made in less than 10 minutes. Today I made a big batch of guacamole that I will share with my family later tonight as part of dinner. I encourage you to try making guacamole sometime with your family. — Addie

 

 

guac ingredients

Homemade Guacamole

Ingredients

2-3 ripe avocados

Juice of one fresh lime

¼ c. salsa, or to taste

½-1 tsp. garlic salt

4-5 shakes of hot sauce, or to taste

Tortilla chips

Process

Cut avocados in half, remove the pit, and scoop into a bowl. Mix in all of the ingredients (except for the tortilla chips), and mash together with a fork until fairly smooth.

Enjoy with tortilla chips.

Guacamole

Nana’s Notes: Homemade guacamole can be “doctored up” any way you want. I like to add jalapeno and cilantro to mine. Look for nice ripe — but not too ripe — avocados, and enjoy this healthy snack.

A Matter of Time

20140329_192334Bill and I were driving down Brown Road in Mesa on Saturday. As we passed Red Mountain High School, we noticed they were hosting their annual Red Mountain High School Mountain Lion Carnival.

Time travel flashback, BIG TIME.

I made Bill stop the car so that we could take a look-see. It wasn’t hard to convince him, as this is the man who decided we should attend a circus in Honfleur, France, when we were there in 2008. This man likes to be entertained.

Here’s where the flashback came in. Every year at the end of July, my home town – being the county seat – hosts the Platte County Fair. When I was growing up, it was a big deal for the whole county, as there typically wasn’t a lot to do.

So every year when the fair was in town, my mom and dad would take all of their kids to the fair.

Here were the rules:

We only went at night because, well for heaven’s sake, the lights are so pretty. There’s nothing like the lights of a ferris wheel in the dark.

Mom WOULD NOT BE ACCOMPANYING US on the rides. No way, Jose. Wasn’t going to happen. If we needed an escort, it might be Dad, but more than likely would be Bec.

The only games we could play were those that were not games of chance. In other words, no tossing balls at milk cans, only picking up ducks that have numbers on their butt that correlate with some sort of prize. It didn’t matter if the prize was only a pencil. If Dad was going to fork over a quarter, his kids were going to have something to show for it.

Man we loved the Platte County Fair.

Well, most of the Gloor kids anyway. Three-fourths of them.

Now let me just tell you a bit about the Gloor kids. While Bec – then and now – would not hesitate to bungee jump from Mount Everest, the rest of us are big fat chickens. Still, Jen and I would swallow hard and ride the tilt-a-whirl or the ferris wheel, despite the apparent GRAVE danger. We were game as long as we didn’t go upside down. We trusted in God and Mom to keep us safe.

Then there was Dave. I don’t think he even rode the merry-go-round because the horses might somehow become unattached and fall off the platform. As for anything that left the ground, it was a no-go. “It’s just a matter of time,” he would say, as he still does. A matter of time to what? Why, plummet, of course.

Bill and I wandered a bit around the carnival Saturday, not chancing any of the rides ourselves. Neither Bill nor I would even consider considering riding this danger trap…

image

Much prettier in the dark (yes, we went back to see the lights at night)….

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The tilt-a-whirl always made me throw up. That, too, was a no-go….

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But the people-watching was great. In particular, I found the people staffing the booths – the carnies – to be fascinating. I can’t imagine their life. While they get to see a lot of the United States, judging from the looks of it, dental benefits aren’t part of their comprehensive benefits package.

Now that wasn’t very nice. I’m sure they don’t envy my life either. Probably never yearned to be a corporate communicator when they grew up, even if it allowed me to keep my teeth. You don’t really need teeth to eat cotton candy.

I just have to tell one more tale on my brother. He won’t mind because he tells it himself.

Once when the fair was in town, my mother somehow roped my father into taking my brother – who admittedly was fairly young at the time – to the fair during the afternoon. Hardly anyone was there so they had the rides mostly to themselves. Somehow my father was able to persuade my brother to ride the BABY roller coaster. Well, Friends, once the BABY roller coaster got going, my brother was so frightened that he screamed each time he would pass by my father, “Make them stop this this ride.” You know, the BABY roller coaster. Finally, my father gave in and talked the ride operator into stopping the ride so that his son could disembark. I’m sure the operator was thrilled. I know my dad was.

But, after all, it was just a matter of time.

Here is a picture of the baby roller coaster at this weekend’s carnival….

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Perhaps the one at our County Fair was scarier……

 

This week I’m going to show you how you can cook an entire meal — from appetizers to dessert — on the grill. Being able to cook on the grill is critical in Arizona, especially in the spring and summer when it is really too hot to fire up the oven.

We’ll start with an appetizer — one that happens to be one of my husband’s favorites.

20140330_172738Grilled Chicken Livers Wrapped in Bacon

Ingredients

12 fresh chicken livers, halved

1 t. seasoned salt

12 slices of bacon, cut in half

Process

Preheat your grill.

Sprinkle each ½ chicken liver with seasoned salt to taste. Wrap ½ slice bacon around each chicken piece and fasten with a toothpick. Place on grill. Grill for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn pieces over and grill another 5 to 7 minutes, or until livers are cooked through and no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Nana’s Notes: While these were on the grill, Bill said to me, “Chicken livers wrapped in bacon really are my favorite appetizer.” Shame on me for taking 21-1/2 years to make them for him. They were simple and so delicious. They are now my favorite appetizer too.

 

United in Orange

United in orange….that’s the apparent catch phrase encompassing all things Broncos in Colorado these days preceding the AFC Conference Championship game tomorrow.

And while I love being here in Arizona during this really nice winter weather, I am sad that I’m missing all of the Broncomania taking place over our state this week. Thank you Peyton, and all of your cohorts who clearly know what “Omaha Omaha” means. We all speculate. In fact, Peyton gave a very funny interview at which he was asked what Omaha Omaha means. With a completely straight face, he gave a roundabout answer that basically said, “Are you serious? Do you really think I’m going to tell you what it means?” Click the link to see the interview.

For my part, we both have Denver Bronco shirts that we will wear on Sunday, we have been happily displaying our little Bronco garden flag in our front yard, and, if possible, we will find a way to fly our great big Bronco flag on Sunday.

I’ve been trying to think about things I can serve to whomever shows up at our front door to watch the game with us. It must be orange and blue. That’s a given.

Here’s a couple of ideas:

Queso Dip with Blue Corn Tortilla Chips (from CHOW.com)

Ingredients
4 c. grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1-1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 T. cornstarch
¼ c. milk
1 c. minced onion
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles

Process
Place cheeses in a large bowl, sprinkle with cornstarch, and toss to coat.Transfer cheese mixture to a large saucepan and add milk. Set over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is smooth and melted, about 10-15 minutes.

Stir in onion and chilies with reserved juices until well combined. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips and various raw veggies.

Grilled Chicken Wings (from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients
2-1/2 lbs. chicken wings
Salt and pepper
2/3 c. Frank’s Hot Pepper Sauce
1/3 c. melted butter
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Process
Season chicken wings. Grill the chicken wings over medium heat for about 10 minutes on each side. In the meantime, melt the butter and mix with hot sauce and cayenne pepper. Dip wings in the sauce and serve with celery and blue cheese dip.

Blue Margarita (from About.com)

Ingredients
1-1/2 oz. tequila
1 oz. blue curacao
1 oz. fresh lime juice
Orange slice for garnish
Salt for rimming

Process
Pour all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a margarita glass rimmed with salt. Garnish with an orange slice.

In the meantime, Bill and I (and anyone else watching the game on Sunday with us) will be filled with hope. Go Broncos. Bill and I are United in Orange even though we’re 900 miles away.

Hot Stuff

I spent the first 18 years of my life playing, working, schooling, worshiping, loving and being loved, maturing, and, of course, eating in Columbus, Nebraska. Columbus is located in the eastern part of the state, smack dab in the middle if you’re looking north and south. It is a railroad town, the county seat in a richly agricultural area.

While the town is only just over an hour from Omaha, we rarely drove there. Times were different. Now 80 miles can be a commute to work; then it was a planned adventure. We went to Omaha twice each year: in the fall to buy school clothes and again at Christmas to see how the large department stores were decorated for the holidays.

When I lived there, Columbus boasted a population of somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 people. Most of the population was of European ancestry, heavy on the Irish, German, Polish and Slavic. I recall absolutely no people of color at that time. I believe there is a fairly sizeable Hispanic population these days.

I offer all of this background as a way of telling you that I ate absolutely no ethnic food and nothing spicy while growing up. The food I ate was delicious, but it tended to be meat, potatoes, and a side of vegetables. And even though we lived close to a city, when we were there, we ate spaghetti and meatballs and we thought we were worldly.

Sometime while I was in high school, a Taco John moved into our town. The only other chain restaurants at the time were a Pizza Hut and a Dairy Queen. It was the first time I ate Mexican food, and I wasn’t impressed. I think I ate there once.

In the seventies, my family moved to Leadville, Colorado. If my dad had purposely set out to find a town that was the polar opposite of Columbus, he couldn’t have done better than Leadville. High up in the Rocky Mountains, it was at that time primarily a mining community, and it really was – even then – the Wild, Wild West. The nearby molybdenum mine was the town’s biggest employer, and Leadville had a large Hispanic population.

As a result, for the first time my family tasted real Mexican food (sorry Taco John’s). And surprisingly, given our meat-and-potatoes background, each and every one of us was an immediate fan. The hotter, the better. Bring it on.

Being such big fans of spicy and delicious Mexican food, hot sauces and different spicy salsas seem to be a common condiment for my family. We all have our own versions – chunky pico de gallos, salsas, and creamy or chunky guacamoles.

My nephew Christopher has a salsa recipe that I particularly like. It can be really hot or really mild, depending on the amount of jalapeno and Serrano peppers you add. I add the full amount.

Christopher’s Salsa

Ingredients
1 small can of whole tomatoes, drained
1 can original Rotel tomatoes
2-3 green onions, roughly chopped
Handful of cilantro
1-2 jalapeno peppers
1 serrano pepper
½ t. garlic salt
1 t. salt
1 clove garlic, peeled
Juice of 1-2 limes

Process

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender. Blend until it reaches desired consistency.

Nana’s Note: The above recipe makes about a pint-and-a-half of salsa. Remember that you can make peppers less hot by removing the seeds and the membranes. Tonight I am going to make tacos using Rachael Ray’s taco seasoning: 1 T. chili powder, 1 T. ground cumin, 1 T. garlic powder, 1 T. onion powder, ¼ – ½ t. crushed red pepper. The tacos will be sassed up by my delicious salsa.