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).