Friday, November 23, 2012

All Aboard part 2

Our tour bus was the first group to pull into the little train station.  In fact we were an hour and a half early.  Imagine our joy in 100 degree weather.  Thankfully the bus driver left the air on and we were free to sit and visit or wander around the field surrounding us.  Finally we were allowed to board the train.  We excitedly clutched our tickets and promptly got into the wrong line...  the VIP line.  When we realized our error, there was nothing more to do but make no eye contact and stand aside while those with reserved seating were ushered inside.  At last we were able to enter the train and troup to the back of the train where our party was assigned.  Naturally, we had to trudge through the VIP cars where champagne was flowing freely.  We, on the other hand had to wait for our waiters to come and take our orders.  When the train lurched foward with a jerk, it was surprising how much it swayed from side to side.  People walking around to the gift car had to struggle to stay on their feet. 
The tour was an hour and a half of gazing out the windows, hoping to see some wildlife as promised in the brochure.  Mostly it was miles and miles of sagebrush with occassional antelope and prairie fowl.  We passed through several Ghost towns and heard the history of those little towns who were once so important to Eastern Montana.  During this time we enjoyed a wonderful Prime Rib dinner with green salad and yummy desserts. 
The first trestle came out of nowhere.  I heard someone gasp on the other side of the train and leaned over to look out my window.  The ground immediately dropped out of sight and my stomach literally hit the floor.  I went instantly into panic mode and gripped the skinny little dinner table like it was a lifesaver.  Everyone else was enjoying the trip, but all I could focus on was the Trestle is a hundred years old and 1,884 feet long.  The cows grazing below looked like ants.  I tried to hide my terror, but other passengers noticed and had a lot of fun at my expense.  In retrospect it was embassingly funny to remember yelling at someone to stay on her side of the train so we didn't tip over.  Or telling my friend to stop talking because she was using up oxygen and I needed it.  sigh.
When we finally got back on land, I actually gulped in air and began laughing at my own silliness.  That is, until I noticed the second much longer and much high trestle approaching at an alarming pace.  I had lots of time to panic while I watched it grow closer and closer.  I found myself staring at some cowboy's boots, trying to ignore what was looming in front of me.  When we crossed that trestle reasonably safe and sound, I began to relax.  I do have to admit the Judith River Valley and rolling prairieland were spectacular (when I wasn't yelling at people) and the mountain ranges in the distances were beautiful.  Next came the Hoosac tunnel.  It was so eerie going along.  They turned the lights on in the train but I still began to suspect I am uncomfortable with enclosed spaces as well as heights.  The tunnel is an impressive 2,014 feet long.   When we reached the town of Denton, Montana, the train came to a stop and the engine unhooked and went to a roundabout to reattach to the other side of the train.  It was at this moment when I realized I would now be going backwards through that tunnel amd over those historic trestles...but to my surprise I handled the trestles reasonably well and even leaned over to take a couple of pictures.  The tunnel was another story- this time they left the lights of the train off and I hurtled through space...  enclosed space... in total darkness.  It was an eerie feeling.  2,014 feet of eeriness.
When we emerged into daylight we approached the Ghost Town of Ware, Montana there was a sudden burst of gunfire as cowboy bandits raced along the train, forcing it to stop. The bandits came aboard collecting the fake money we were given and any other treat we chose to give them.  Dance Hall girls also boarded the train, and left bright red lipstick prints on bald heads and cheeks.  They posed for pictures and then took off with their loot.  Outside the train, we were treated to a fun drama as the cowboys began fighting over the money and the girls.  Finally one cowboy was left and he swooped in with the money and the girl and they rode into the saloon. It was a great day - one we will remember for a long time. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

All Aboard!

Recently, I had the opportunity to go on the Charlie Russell Premier Dinner Train.  My friends were all excited about going and after agreeing and canceling several times, I finally decided to go.  It was pouring rain when we packed up and headed out to the local college, which is forty minutes away.  From there we were going to board a bus and drive four hours to the train stop.  Four hours.  On a bus.  Four hours.  Luckily it was a team bus and was very comfy.  We traveled through hundreds of miles of Sage Brush country, saw a huge Golden Eagle and not much else.  There was lots of conversation though and a few stretching stops, so that made the time go much quicker than I thought.  Finally we arrived at Lewistown and had to go through someone's pasture for a detour around part of the highway that washed away in the flooding last year.  The Dinner Train is a five car 1950s design that travels through Charlie Russell Country.  When the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1883, a small stretch of railroad was needed in this remote area of Montana, which included the Judith Basin area.  Thus the need for the huge trestles which then linked eastern Montana to Helena and Great Falls.  The trestles were completed in 1912.  Passenger trains were eventually phased out and a few years ago, the people of Lewistown decided to create a magical dinner tour through their beautiful part of Montana.  I'm glad they did.  It was an interesting (and terrifying) experience!  more to come... 

Charlie Russell was born in 1864 and  came to Montana with a friend when he was 16 years old to work on a ranch for the summer and ended up staying for the next 46 years.  He became an artist and his paintings of the American West can be seen in Art Galleries all over Montana.  They are amazing.  So to celebrate the American West, here's a recipe for Montana Wildfire Chili.  I credit Taste of Home for this recipe.  Enjoy!


Montana Wildfire Chili

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sweet yellow pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) chili beans, undrained
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) stewed tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion and peppers over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink; drain.
  • Transfer to a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, tomato juice, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until heated through. Yield: 8 servings (2-1/2 quarts).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My dad was a fisherman at heart.  I can remember many evenings during the summer when he would go out to Green Lake with his friend and fish for hours.  Sometimes we would go with and Mom would pack a picnic.  My sisters and I would play on the rocks or try our hand at fishing.  My line would always get caught in the weeds.  I don't remember ever catching a single fish. (But I do remember a fish trying to catch my sister!)   Our mother would often sit on the rocks and think or dream.  I still wonder what she was dreaming about all these years later.  We would run around and make up games and scream to our heart's content...  until our dad would tell us that we were scaring the fish.  We always had fish in the freezer.  Walleye mostly, I think.  There was usually smelt and other kinds of bait lurking in there as well.  We learned to eat fish, but it wasn't easy.  There were no lovely fillets at that time.  Eating fish was a long drawn out process and inevitably someone would get a fish bone caught in her throat.  A piece of bread usually did the trick, but it was painful and scary.  I've since come to appreciate a good piece of fish - beautifully and properly filleted, of course.  Tonight, in honor of my father, we are having fish for supper.  If I only had some sweet potatoes, I would try sweet potato fries as well. 

Crispy Baked Fish


cooking spray
1 pound white fish fillet, cut into 2" strips
1/2 c brown rice cereal, crushed  (I have no idea what this is, or what I'm going to substitute for it, but that's how the recipe reads)
1/2 c panko bread crumbs (how I love this product)
1/4 c nutritional yeast (adds a cheesy flavor.  hmmmmm  I say sprinkle on some cheese...)
salt & pepper to taste
1 egg white
1 egg
2 T milk
1/2 c all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 475.  Place a wire rack on a baking sheet and spray with the cooking spray.  In a shallow dish, combine the cereal, pank, nutritional yeast and salt/pepper.  In a second shallow dish, whisk the egg white, the egg and milk.  In a third shallow dish, add flour.

Bread the fish strips by dredging in flour, then egg mixture and press into panko.  Coat all the sides.  Place on the rack and spray with cooking spray.  Bake 10 or 15 minutes until breading is crunchy and the fish is opaque.

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cut into fries
cooking spray
1 T cornstarch
2 T olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 475.  Spray the baking sheet with the cooking spray.  In a large zip lock bag, add cornstarch and sweet potatoes.  Seal and toss to coat.   Drizzle olive oil over potatoes and use your hands to really coat them.  Sprinkle with salt/pepper.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through. 

All that's missing from this meal is the wilted lettuce salad.  My garden lettuce is ready to cut, so I am super excited about the first salad.  My mother had what seemed like a huge garden.  Lots of radishes, lettuce and cucumbers.  They were busy people, my parents.  They worked hard and played hard and were such good role models.   I miss them...

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Just a blink

So last night I went to a sweet little retirement party for a friend's husband and today going to a retirement luncheon for a co-worker. How did I suddenly get to this point? I've watched family members thoroughly enjoying their new lives. I have giggled with a friend when she admitted to secretly joining the group at her Senior Citizen's Center and am now watching another friend wonder how she and her husband will adjust to his new life as a retired person. How did we get here so fast? Just a blink ago, it was a blur of concert tickets and the wind in my hair. Then there were fuzzy memories of diapers and permission slips and learners' permits. Yesterday in the middle of our impromptu party, we noticed a group of older ladies who meet daily for coffee. That will be us in another quick blink. sigh. I ran across this yummy sounding salad recipe and can't wait to try it. It will be awhile before my basil is ready to pick. So I wait, fork in hand.

Peach Mozzarella & Basil Salad

3 ripe peaches 1c fresh basil 8 oz fresh mozzarella 2t olive oil 1/4 t kosher salt 1/8 t pepper Cut the peaches (peel if you prefer) into wedges. Cut the wedges into pretty little bites. Tear the basil, or chiffonade into elegant strips. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Add cut mozzarella, toss and enjoy. Oh, I cannot wait to try this. maybe on the first Porch Party of the season, if my friend's husband forgets about the very long Honey-Do list he is happily making.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Celebrating summer, blogs and coffee

Oh summer, how I love thee. Baseball and long lazy summer days... ahhh. After a busy and stressful school year, I am so glad to make a glass of iced coffee and get on the computer and browse blogs. It's my favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. This one delighted me for some reason. Please go check it out, especially if you have little ones in your life! Today the skies are gray and another welcome spring rain is approaching. This recipe I'm sharing is one of my favorites for a hot summer day.

Mocha Smoothie Base
1 c sugar or Splenda
1 c non-dairy creamer
1 c non-fat dry powdered milk
1/4 c instant coffee granules
1/3 c cocoa
1/4 t salt

Mix well. Store in a closed container or zip type plastic bag.

To serve: Blend 1/2 c base, 1 1/2 c ice 3/4 to 1 c low fat milk. blend until smooth and enjoy!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We're halfway through Lent already and the promise of Spring is here.  We were truly fortunate to have a mild winter this year, although mild doesn't even really express it.  People are already mowing lawns and doing all kinds of spring work.  I can't wait for the first lilac blossoms, but I must say I do miss the little crocuses that bravely poked up through the snow.  I tried to think of my favorite Celebrate Spring recipe and am having a hard time narrowing it down.  In the mean time, enjoy this yummy and pretty salad.

 Romaine Spring Salad

1 head, Romaine, torn
4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup cashews
¼ C sweetened, dried cranberries (Craisins)
1 apple cubed (red)
1 pear cubed (Anjov or Bosc)

½ C. sugar
1/3 C. lemon juice (fresh preferred)
2 tsp. finely chopped onions
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
2/3 C oil
1 T. poppy seeds

Monday, February 27, 2012

We've had a blast of winter, so here is a wonderful soup recipe.  Early in the winter I spent the day with friends and this soup was served with green salad and crusty bread.  Great conversation, good wine, amazing friends and the best soup ever! Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken Rice Soup


  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked long-grain rice
  • 1 cup cubed cooked chicken
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine


  1. In a large saucepan, saute the carrot, onion and celery in butter until tender. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually stir in broth. Add the rice, chicken, salt, pepper and garlic powder; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the milk, lemon juice and wine if desired. Cook and stir for 5 minutes or until heated through.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!

Here's a good recipe for you if you're celebrating Mardi Gras this week! 

Crab Cakes with Lime Sauce Recipe

rab Cakes with Lime Sauce Recipe 


  • In a large bowl, combine the crab, onion, mustard, dressing mix, 1 cup cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Shape into six patties; coat with remaining cracker crumbs.
  • In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook crab cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
  • For lime sauce, in a small bowl, combine the sour cream, lime peel, and remaining mayonnaise and lime juice until blended. Serve with crab cakes. Yield: 3 servings.
25 Ingredients
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) lump crabmeat, drained
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Italian salad dressing mix
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed butter-flavored crackers (about 37), divided
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lime peel

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Snow Days

Wow, I can't believe I didn't write anything in January!  I really was super busy and distracted.  It was a beautiful month though, with only one week of cold weather.  The children at my school were so excited for snow and were busy for quite a while making snow forts and snowmen.  One little sweet pea was extra happy that the snow was sticky.  She kept saying it was just what she was hoping for!  I can remember the huge snowstorm in North Dakota in the mid sixties.  I can't actually remember the storm, but the after effects through the eyes of a child were magical.  I loved snow days as a kid.  We would huddle around the radio in the mornings, hoping and hoping they would call our school as closed.  When they finally did, there were whoops of joy and we immediately bundled into our red snowsuits and spent HOURS playing in the snow.  There's just something wonderful about snow days.  That particular year it snowed so much that the banks were often as high as roofs.  I remember watching our dad through the window rocking his old pickup back and forth until he gained purchase and was able to get unstuck and to work.  We would stay snug and warm sitting by the heating registers watching cartoons in the afternoon and waiting to see if there would be school the next day.  One clear memory was my sister and I burrowing tunnels all over the yard that winter.  In retrospect it was a stupid and dangerous thing to do, but we had tunnels dug all over under that huge snowpile.  We didn't have to drag our sleds very far to do some fun sledding, either.  Ah, those were the days.