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Tasty Tuesday: The Versatile Wreath that Lasts Beyond December

Surprisingly ,  these days you will almost always find crescent rolls in my refrigerator.  This ingredient is essential to my new go-to recipe: the savory ring/wreath.  I have eaten these before – Pampered Chef parties used to feature them often.  (You can find a few variations on food.com)  Once I realized that this was a quick dinner and was a great way to use up leftover meat and vegetables, I have made this often.  Another good reason: they are always a hit around here!

First, you unroll two packages of crescent rolls.  Overlapping them around a pizza pan or baking stone, you will create the beginnings of a wreath shape. (The wider ends of the triangle overlap as a circle in the middle.)

Wreath 1

Press the edges together.  Then add your filling.  You will need 3-4 cups of filling.  This time I used leftover sausage, roasted red peppers and alfredo sauce.

Wreath 2

This was almost too much filling as some did spill over the edges.  (A good excuse to clean my oven!)  Then you fold the narrow part of the triangle to the center, tucking it under.

Wreath 3

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  Basically you are browning the rolls and heating the filling.  You always want to use cooked meat – raw would not cook up well at all, plus would not be good with the dough.

Wreath 4

Suggested combinations: ham & broccoli; pepperoni with pizza sauce; taco meat/cheese (a variation known as the Taco Ring in Pampered Chef circles).  Options are almost endless!  This is a wreath you can enjoy year round.  A great idea for ringing in the new year if your plans involve staying home as opposed to going out!

Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delicious Delice: European Dining in Omaha

Delice sign

To be honest, my kids were a bit skeptical. In fact they complained a  bit at my choice of restaurant.  But I knew it was a place that my Mom and I would definitely enjoy.  And I knew the kids would like it also if they gave it half a chance .  And I was right – they are clamoring to return to Delice: The European Bakery and Cafe that is located in Midtown Crossing in  Omaha.

Delice Christmas

Their decor is already warm and welcoming.  Add in Christmas decorations, and one could not help but feel at home.  The day was brisk outside and dining near a fireplace was a treat.

I always forget until I am halfway through to take a picture of my meal.  I think I was hungry.  I took the server’s recommendation and ordered the Italian quiche.  I was a bit skeptical because I am not always an olive fan.  Glad I gave it a try – so very good!  My Mom  had the healthier turkey sandwich which she definitely liked also.  My three boys had chicken sandwiches – 2 spicy and Parmesan to be precise.  I managed to sneak a bite of each – definitely a big step above your typical sandwich -delicious bread!  My daughter had the chicken noodle soup – as close to homemade as I have ever had at a restaurant.  (Yes, I managed to take a bite of this too – I definitely had enough lunch that day!)

Delice Food

As you can almost see from the pictures, they have many different quiche combinations, pastry puffs and sandwiches.  They also have a full coffee/drink bar.  And their desserts all looked so luscious.  To leave without trying one would have been a bit sad.  So, I picked a “seasonal” limited time concoction.  We shared their eggnog creme brulee for dessert.  That alone was worth the trip.  Loved the flavor combinations.  II no longer have to convince my kids of the merits of eating at a bakery.  Especially this one.  We will be back again someday!

P.S. Thanks, Kim, of OhMy! Omaha for suggesting that we try dining at Midtown Crossing.  We are so glad that we did!  And the free three hour parking was a definite bonus -we could take our time!  I love that feature of public parking in Omaha!

Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Eating Establishments | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lauritzen Gardens: Omaha’s Hidden Paradise

Lauritzen Gardens entrance

Our trip to Lauritzen Gardens was like visiting paradise, especially in the midst of a very chilly day.  Located on the edge of Omaha, a nature reserve in the midst of a city is unexpected.  And quite beautiful, inside and out!

Lauritzen Gardens Poinsettia Triptech

Right now the Garden has their annual poinsettia display – over 29 varieties.  (And yes, those are pictures that I took while there – aren’t the flowers simply breathtaking!)

Lauritzen Gardens Christmas Building Collage

Nestled among the flowers are natural wood sculptures representing many of Omaha’s buildings.  (I think my son counted 34 of them!)  These are also quite the sight to see!

Lauritzen Gardens trains

My youngest definitely loved seeing the trains that ran throughout the flowers.  Actually, I think we all really liked that part!

Lauritzen Gardens floral displays

Their displays made you want to wander about, finding secret places of beauty!

Lauritzen Gardens Hallway Gallery

This is the hallway the connects the main gallery with the education wing.  A work of art in itself, plus they rotate displays of artwork.  (The shadows made it challenging to capture the artist’s painting well, but they were lovely!)

Lauritzen Gardens Winter

Despite the chilling weather, the kids and I took a short hike.  This would be a great area to explore in warmer weather, although we enjoyed looking around even in the cold.  My son and I also saw a hawk perched on a tree out front.

Lauritzen Gardens tropical edition

They are in the middle of expanding their facility to include a tropical gardens area.  This will add a wonderful element to all that they have to offer.

Lauritzen Gardens for Children

Our favorite part was making natural ornaments for the birds.  My kids loved stringing fruit loops, cranberries and peanut shells onto wire.  Evidently these ornaments are quite popular with the wildlife – they only last a day or two!

In the summer, they have a children’s garden.  They also have backpacks that you can check out to enrich your experience.  Lauritzen Gardens has a done a wonderful job of making the place friendly, warm and welcoming for the whole family.  We are excited to go back again in the future!

A big thank you to the Omaha Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for providing the tickets for us to visit this lovely place!

Categories: Metro, Photography, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesday: Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Chip Cookies

I think that cookie dough might be my kryptonite.  In fact I have been known to make a small batch that never makes it into actual cookies.  Besides me, in my family growing up, the guys were the ones mostly likely to make cookies.  (One disclaimer: my Mom has always been a great cook, and my sister learned how to make pies like my Grandma.  Delicious!)  But Dad and brother often made the cookies – I think because they also liked the dough!

Pumpkin Cookies 2

One other family tradition was to leave a spoon of dough on the counter for the ones who were not around when they made cookies.  Since I knew I was going to be seeing my Dad, I continued the tradition.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies dough

The recipe that I use is pretty basic.  I have determined one thing – while butter makes the best dough, using shortening seems to make the best cookie.  But two ingredients that made this batch of cookies unique: pumpkin spice pudding and cinnamon chips.  (I decided that pumpkin spice pudding was not quite pumpkin enough to be a part of yesterday’s pumpkin post! 🙂  )

Pumpkin Cookies 6

Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Chip Cookies
1 pkg pudding mix (I used pumpkin spice)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
6 oz chips (I used cinnamon chips)
1 In a large bowl, cream together the pudding mix and sugar with the shortening. Add the vanilla and eggs. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (or at the least, mix in the soda and salt with some of the flour before adding). Gradually add the dry ingredients to the other ingredients. Mix well.
2 Using a cookie scoop, measure out 12 cookies per sheet. Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes. (The cookies may be soft at first, but they firm up. I think they taste better if you remove them slightly early from baking).
 Cooking Tips
You could substitute another flavor of pudding mix or type of chips. If using white chocolate pudding mix/vanilla chips, I would use 1 cup of white sugar, instead of 1 cup of brown sugar.
 Recipe Source
Author: based on Toll House cookie original recipeSource: Odyssey through Nebraska

Pumpkin Spice Cookies dough 2

Using a Kitchen Aide mixer definitely makes cookie making a breeze!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies scoop

This cookie scoop even went with me to college.  I love how uniform cookies always result. 

Pumpkin Spice baked cookies

Even though the cookies look slightly doughy, they continue to taste delicious for days if they are not overbaked.  (That is if they last that long!)

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

We ended up with quite a few cookies.  (And yes, I did eat some of the dough.  So did my kids – I trained them well!)

If you have allergies in your family …

To make these cookies gluten free:

Most pudding mixes are actually gluten free – certain flavors may vary, so you need to consult the packaging.  You can try to simply substitute a gluten free flour blend (that contains xantham gum).  You may need to play with the amounts of the dry ingredients, so that the dough is the right consistency.  Sometime I plan to try to do just this.  My brother-in-law cannot have wheat, so I have gotten better at cooking gluten free.

As far as adopting this particular recipe to dairy free or milk free – the pudding mix would make that harder.  But, recently I needed to make this type of cookie for my homeschool co-op preschool class.  I made them airy free by using 1/4 c. shortening and 1/4 c. Blue Bonnet light margarine (dairy free, although not soy free).  I did not add the chocolate chips until the end, and kept a few cookies without any chips.  Then I added a few mini chocolate chips to those cookies.  The little ones needed just a touch of chocolate to not notice the different.  For older ones, I would just make the cookies without the chips or buy a special dairy free chips that is available at certain stores.

Egg Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.
-Barbara Jordan-
Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Huskers at the Corners: Where to Watch Football in Northeast Nebraska: The Pizza Ranch in West Point

Growing up, we went to Northeast Nebraska often.  To the town of Laurel to be precise.  Visiting my grandparents was an enjoyable experience – miss them both very much!  Usually my Grandma would cook for us.  Sunday dinners.  Sandwich suppers.  But every once in awhile, we talked them into taking us to the Pizza Ranch.  Really it was close enough to walk.  But we needed to cross the busy highway to get there – not always a great combination.  Eating there was fun – they had good pizza.

In honor of those outings, I thought I would feature that place today.  Sadly, I discovered that Laurel no longer has a Pizza Ranch.  Since I would rather recommend a place that I have actually visited, I will recommend their location in West Point.  Another Northeast Nebraska town.  When I called to ask if they would be showing the game, they said they would as long as they knew which channel.  (Maybe no Husker fans were working today?)  Anyway, the game is a strong possibility there.

Buffet

Photo courtesy of the Pizza Ranch website

They do feature more than just pizza – chicken, vegetables, mashed potatoes.  I always really enjoyed their potato wedges.  Plus they have dessert.  My husband would approve of their soft-serve ice cream machine – that is always his favorite way to end a meal.  They supposedly have a gluten free menu, but you may need to confirm that the food is prepared in a separate area (otherwise you have cross contamination issues!)

Not making it to the Northeast Nebraska area anytime soon?  They have several locations in the Omaha area. Plus the Pizza Ranch happens to be opening their new location in Lincoln on November 18th.  I know our family will visit sometime soon to satisfy my long ago memories.  🙂

Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Eating Establishments, Lewis and Clark, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

@ Lincoln’s New Railyard: Lunch at the Normandy

Normandy Husker

We ended up stopping over at The Normandy (a French bistro) after our doughnuts on my son’s birthday.  Their desserts were irresistible, and I was not very sad when they let us sample a bite.  Delicious!  In fact, this end up being a great birthday gift to take my sister.  (Yes, I loaded her up with sugary treats!)

Normandy fondant au chocolat

I knew at that point I would definitely be back.  And not just for dessert.  The owners, Lawrence De Villiers and his wife, Renee Clark, are equally as appealing.  Renee happens to have family from my husband’s hometown, and that was a great starting point to a warm conversation.  Lawrence is from France originally and adds his own family influence to his formal chef  repertoire of recipes.

Normandy Sign

The mouthwatering pictures of food on their sign are their own creations and can all be purchased at their restaurant.  Unless they sell out, which also happens on occasion.  Yesterday we headed down there, so I could sample their lunch.  (My kids got to eat sack lunches – not sure that worked out as well for them.  But I did share as many bites as they wanted and bought them dessert.  So maybe they are not too deprived.)

Normandy meal

I ordered their Bouef Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy) meal which came with a side (puff pastry roll – no ordinary garden salad for me!)  Their meal option also features your choice of dessert – I had the mini pound cake (see the picture on their sign above – I forgot to take a picture of the dessert.  That seems to be a common trend for me.  Guess that must be my favorite part!)  We took home meringues and the chocolate mini cakes to enjoy later.  Delicious!  I hope to try one of their “croc” sandwiches on our next dining visit.

Normandy menu

My  pickiest child’s conclusion (after several bites): maybe I do like French food after all.  I think we all could have eaten several of the rolls.  And the meat and vegetables were incredibly tender.  The only thing a bit surprising to me is how they serve the food – on disposable plates.  But since it is more of a casual setting, that is probably to be expected.  And maybe that will change as they become more established.  Regardless, definitely the best “fast food” that I have had at a food court!

Normandy Umbrella Sign

If you would rather have your dinner in a more formal setting, they just started serving Wednesday dinner events that feature a 4 course meal along with accompanying wine.  Just like last week, they will even have a strolling accordion player again.  On Wednesday November 20th at 7:00, they will be featuring a French style Thanksgiving.

  1. First course: sweet potato soup
  2. Second course:turkey a la creme and sauteed green beans with a French biscuit
  3. Third course: cranberry surprise salad
  4. Fourth course: pumpkin apple pie

The price for these events is $35 per person, with wine being sold by the glass, so that you can purchase exactly what you desire to drink. This event features a full table setting.  This could be a great date night for mom & dad!  (My son may have decided that he likes French food, but I am pretty sure that he is not quite up to that much of it! 🙂  To check out future Wednesday night dinners and other events at the Normandy, please check out their Facebook page.  (Note: they will not be having a Wednesday night dinner the week of Thanksgiving).  To see a menu, click on my picture above.  One is also available as a part of their Facebook pictures.  This is the best way to keep up with Lincoln’s celebration of French cooking: The Normandy.

Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Eating Establishments, Lincoln, Metro | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grandma Michels: My Family Quilting Heritage Part 2

Slightly less than a year ago, we said our earthly good-byes to my grandmother.  She survived a few months past the century mark, and she was ready to go Home.  I am so glad all of our children were able to meet her.

Grandma and the kids

She adored her great grandchildren.  I think that was a surprise to her.  After all, on the way to the hospital to meet my oldest son, she had this conversation with my sister.

Sheila: “Grandma, are you excited to meet your first great-grandchild?”

Grandma: “I don’t know.  I wasn’t that excited about meeting you kids for the first time.”

Gee, thanks, Grandma.  My Grandma was definitely honest.  Maybe a bit much so at times, especially in her later years.  Thankfully we could usually laugh at her comments.  She was in her 60’s when I first met her.  Much more active and into lots of projects.  Including a beautiful flower garden.  And into making quilts.  Lots of them!

Grandma star quilt

When I was around 12, I decided that I wanted to make a quilt with her.  So, she let me pick out fabric scraps.   I started sewing and sewing and sewing.  For a few hours I kept at it.  Then suddenly having my own homemade quilt no longer mattered.  That was hard work.  Below is pictured my one and only quilt.  Yes, the small sorry looking squares that would have looked even more pathetic if my Grandma had not kindly sewed on backing.  I did not exactly inherit her sewing skills.

DSCN6547_3025October13

I managed to “quilt” 16 whole squares before quitting.

Thankfully my Grandma kept on with her quilts.  We have a wonderful collection of family heirlooms.  A quilt is truly a work of art.

Grandma's Quilts

When we were teenagers, we requested that Grandma make each of a quilt for a wedding present someday.  She lived long enough to personally present each of us with that gift.  My butterfly quilt is hanging on a special quilt rack in our daughter’s room,so I see the masterpiece often.  (And I have already had to explain to my daughter that the quilt is not going with her someday, at least not right away! 🙂

Grandma's Quilt Gifts

I am thankful that my Grandma invested her time into leaving pieces of herself and the past into gifts that will last.  I am even more thankful that she invested her lives in us.  And her prayers – that is really what has kept us from unraveling over the years.  I miss her!

thankful tree

Categories: Lewis and Clark, Nebraska History, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tuesday: Thoughts on Traveling

This week in our homeschool, we have been delighting in Robert McCloskey’s books.  With two Caldecott honor books and two Caldecott medal titles, you can be assured that he is an amazing illustrator and writer.  He did not write a long list of titles, but the ones he wrote are wonderful.  And if you have ever read Blueberries for Sal or Make Way for Ducklings, you have read McCloskey.

(Book cover courtesy of Amazon).

One of his lesser known titles (that also won a Caldecott Medal) is Time of Wonder.  His books are set in New England, the area near his home, but I think McCloskey also manages to convey how I feel about Nebraska.  Several nights  in September I was gone from home – some of them with my family, some with friends.  I could have stayed longer at both places, yet I know that I would have longed to come home soon.  The ending lines of Time of Wonder capture my thoughts on traveling.

A little bit sad about the place you are leaving …

Fort Robinson towers

A little bit glad about the place you are going …

little boys on the porch

It’s a time of quiet wonder.

Mahoney path

P.S. The above porch picture features two of the five reasons I am more than just a little glad to go home!  🙂

Categories: Metro, Panhandle, Recommended Reading, Region or City, Where to Begin | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel Tips Tuesday: The Best Destination

A Family on the Go Stop

My 50th blog post – I wanted to write about something significant to me.  But I will say my topic is possibly a bit unexpected for a travel blog.  Sometimes rather than seeking out the next place to explore, only one place should be your destination.  Home.

I am beginning to see more and more how important that balance is.  Seeking out new adventures while finding time to settle in at home.  Being on the go and being on the stop.  Balancing busyness and stillness.

In the weeks to come as I continue to write about our adventures and places that we have explored, I know that some people may begin to wonder.  “How does she ever find time to homeschool?”  “How does she keep leaving and not have her house be a disaster?”  (Okay – I will be honest – I definitely am behind on that part currently – hopefully we will establish a better routine on keeping up around here.)  How can she be gone all of the time?

I actually am not.  We are home frequently.  In fact, my goal this fall is to be home three out of five school days.  We will have our cooperative day, and then we will have a field trip day.  After all, this year we are studying Nebraska.   So, when we read the short story,  Journey into Christmas, by Bess Streeter Aldrich, I want to take my kids to see her house in Elmwood, now a museum, all decorated for Christmas.  I do not want to just read about prairies but to go walk through the grasses at Prairie Creek Audubon Center.  Experiential learning.  One of the many reasons we have chosen to homeschool.

But even that will have parameters.  If we are not accomplishing our work at home, that may cancel or postpone our outings. Or if just one or two are not motivated to compete their school,  I have warned that they will be sitting off to the side finishing it, while the rest of us are taking a tour.  And if they are frequently responding unpleasantly (the way they have seemed to have been this week a bit – yucky hot weather!), we will stay home.  If their reactions to me are less than desirable in private, I am not sure I want to take them out in public.  Bad attitudes can definitely take the joy out of traveling with kids.  Theirs or mine!

The great thing about writing a blog is that I do not have to mention when we had the adventure.  Just that we went there.  So, often we were going to two or three places in day, then staying home the next.  Now that our school has started our outings will slow down, but since my blog may not slow down, that may not be apparent.    I think I am ready for routine (that is once I have finished catching up from our summer of baseball and other activities.)

July and August cell phone 069

Insert a picture of your own home here. 🙂

So, go out and explore.  But sometimes be quick to stay home – enjoy your own surroundings.  There will always be opportunities out there.  We have missed plenty.  But we have also gained much on those times spent at home just being.    Your front porch (or other cozy spot) is calling your name.  Perhaps lyricist John Howard Payne in his opera Clari (Maid of Milan) expressed the sentiment best.

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Travel Tips, Where to Begin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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