New Years Day Comfort Food

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It’s New Year’s Day 2017. Maybe you stayed up a little too late and drank a little too much, celebrating last night. Or maybe its freezing cold out and you just want a stay-at-home family day of relaxing. No matter what, this month I’ve chosen a hearty winter comfort food for you to cook, that is sure to satisfy! (As a plus, this carb and protein packed dish gives your body a boost of healing energy!)

Carbonara is found on restaurant menus around the world and is defined as a pasta sauce denoting a sauce made with bacon, ham, egg, and cheese. My adapted recipe is full of Montana flavor, quick, easy, and makes for a beautiful presentation on your dining table.

This rich, creamy (without cream!) Italian pasta and sausage based one-dish-meal is delicious! Serve with a salad at mid-day (or even brunch!) for a new family favorite. Many cultures consider this a breakfast food, it’s so versatile and good for any meal of the day.  Garlic toast is always a nice side as well, to compliment and complete the Italian holiday menu.Read More »

Indulging

With fresh tomato and basil harvests dwindling down to weeks, I’m indulging my taste buds more frequently with one of my favorite summertime, mouth-watering, flavor satisfying meals!

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Heirloom tomato’s (no, I travel too often to raise a garden!) from Farmers Market, combined with fresh basil leaves, and Mozzarella balls marinated in herbs and spices that I buy from Costco.  {Formaggio brand}

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Add a few lightly buttered and toasted rounds of baguette bread and you’ve got a burst of springtime flavor in each bite! Close your eyes and you can easily imagine you’re on the Isle of Sicily where we used to walk to the neighbors dairy to buy the freshest Mozzarella cheese everyday!

Once the seasonal local crops are finished, I’ll eagerly be waiting for the summer of 2017 to enjoy my wonderfully fresh Caprese Salads again.

 

The Holt Ranch Heritage Museum

DSC_8118Meet Bill and Romana at the Holt Ranch, and you’ll have met friends for life!

 

With a career behind them in the Rodeo circuit as host announcer and contestant, this dynamic couple have an unexpected wonderful collection of Cowboy and Indian memorabilia in Lolo Montana. Bill describes it as “Cowboys and Indians – Rodeos and Powwows”. Rubbing shoulders with many celebrities, Bill and Ramona have been collecting artifacts of the Wild West with the help of their friends, for a lifetime.

The collection tells the story of cowboys, their equipment, and the evolution of different types of saddles and tack. No aspect of life on the frontier has been excluded. Nez Perce, Salish/Kootenai and Crow Indian memorabilia are included. The museum is on the famous Lolo Trail or the Nez Perce (Nee-me-poo) Trail, which was used by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806.

Before you visit the museum, stop by to enjoy their small herd of Longhorn cattle across the road. These world famous animals are all that remains of the once large herd the Holt’s raised on their ranch. 

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With two authentic teepees and a wonderful life size welded sculpture of an Indian mounted on his horse by Montana native artist Harry Koyama greeting you, your visit begins with the Holt’s wagon collection. Restored stage-coach, chuck wagon, buggy, and so forth.

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Step inside to lifesize dioramas of a dentist office, saloon, county registry, and all things rodeo, just to mention a few. Bill and Ramona enjoy the ‘show and tell’ as they walk with you, describing in greater detail with entertaining stories surrounding each item. Their collection is obviously a work of love and respect to Montana history.

If you’re a fan of entertaining greats like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Ronald Reagan, and so forth, you’ll be delighted by the fun memorabilia of these icons, in the various displays within the museum.

Here’s Sam Elliott’s boot, doing a little toe-to-toe dancing with me!

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6800 Lewis And Clark Trail Lolo Montana 59847  Open by appointment only.

 

Buffalo Gals are out tonight!

I’m basically a cowgirl at heart. I love the combined experience of nature with a western lifestyle. So camping really makes me happy! It’s like living on a ranch without the ranch house. {or hard work!}DSC_8241

Several years ago, I started a women’s adventure group and named it Buffalo Gals Travelers and Campers. Like minded women meet together for a few days–and nights–of western themed camping. DSC_8249

My little sister gave me this wonderful wool carpet bag and glitzy purse jewelry for my birthday–so appropriate for the leader, right? I love its big size, because there’s even room for my camera!

Buffalo Gals Camp was last week here in Montana.  It involved a lot of work but I enjoy event planning so it was fulfilling to see it come off without a snag or hitch.

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Every detail was attended to for these Western ‘cowgirl caravan’ campers who pulled into camp throughout the day. They found snacks, cool water, a vintage wash IMG_5591station, and some sweet little swag bags waiting for them as they arrived.

Imagine my excitement when I found sterling silver earrings that matched this year’s camp theme “Kick Up Yer Heels and Have a Good Time”, to add to all the local cowgirl boutique coupons in their swag bags!

Thanks to Cowgirl Corner, Crazy Horse, B.E. at Home, and Antiqueology shops for your support of Buffalo Gals Camp!

 

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Don’t my Sam Edleman boots make awesome centerpieces? I’ve stuffed them with a narrow canning jar, water, and fresh roadside wildflowers!

 

Four EZ up canopies gave us plenty of shade! I added some of my cotton bandanas for color, and bug control. (I did not realize I had so many — 27 in all — until I started gathering them from my two trailers, backpack, fishing gear, etc.

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My Buffalo Gals enjoyed a lovely, inviting venue for their four night stay in Western Montana. There were many options to fill our time, but most of us chose to stay in camp, chatting while cooling off in nearby Lolo Creek, reading in the shade, or dozing in one of the hammocks.

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Living life laid back. Oh, and maybe a couple of us danced by the light of the moon as the Pistorius Meteor Shower danced overhead through the night sky.

 

 

 

Ending July with Travel {naturally}

Two down and one to go! Months of summer that is. Here in the Rocky Mountains of Northern USA, those three precious months are all that is allocated to us.

With July ending on a weekend, I’ll start my diary of travel highlights with Friday evening. It was my dear mothers’  (“MaMa”) 90th birthday. So with the car packed full of decor, gifts, birthday dessert, and favors, plus my usual bag of overnight necessities (just in case), I headed into town. With a quick (45 minute) stop by her house to help her with some last minute primping, to look at her garden (unchanged since she’d proudly showed it off to me just 4 days earlier) and a reading of all the birthday cards she’d received, I packed MaMa into my car too.

We arrived at the restaurant of her choice, Finn and Porter at the Hilton. Our family has been celebrating special times for over 35 years at this venue, though none of the revolving staff realizes this fact. I’d reserved a private room for our party — which is ideal for us because it is a glassed in room that still allows us beautiful river views.

A few quick decoration touches of Happy Birthday banner and balloons, and my part was completed. Soon the room was brimming with the happy guests and we enjoyed a lovely time together. MaMa was pleased!

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On Saturday morning, I headed the car south toward my favorite Farmer’s Market in the Bitterroot Valley. Always a delightful mix of local artisans, growers, and vendors. The streets are filled with small town peoples that I simply love. No one is uptight or in a hurry. I search the crowd for familiar faces, and all too often the flow is stopped when a connection is made and the paths are blocked by happy voiced patrons. We gently ease our way around without a fuss.

A drive up one of my favorite canyons for some mountain breeze and rambling creek enjoyment, and I head home again.

Sunday morning dawned with a brilliant sunrise, in thanks partially to some hazy smoke from a forest fire somewhere.

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Traveling in my memory to other famous sunrises while I enjoyed my morning coffee on the back lawn. I could not linger though, as I had to travel north toward Glacier Park for a photo session with a client. A family reunion lakeside in Polson where a new baby was making its debut. Beautiful lighting but a brisk breeze that insisted hair and clothing go its own way was less than ideal. When we’d turn to pacify the wind, the sun’s light was wrong. Phooey. We made the best of it and as I assured the family, the memories are what’s important, not perfect photos. {not sure they bought it}

Taking advantage of the fact that a good friend lived nearby, we’d arranged for a light luncheon together with 2 other friends ~ all of us classmates in high school. One drove in from her lake cabin, another conveniently passing through town enroute to another destination, and of course me, who was there on assignment.

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What a great time we enjoyed sitting on the deck overlooking the Flathead River in Polson. Some reminiscing but mostly just catching up with one another’s lives. Years ago we discussed our babies. Nowadays we discuss our aging parents. And our grown kids. And of course, our grand-babies! Many laughs later, I traveled home to the high school tunes of memory lane ~ Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and other favorites.

What a lovely end to July with my daily road trips, filled with favorite places, scenery, and people!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire {cooking} {BBQ} Works

There are 50/50 odds that you will be either in the backyard barbequing or in the woods camping for the Fourth of July celebration. We’ve chosen an easy and satisfying menu for creating your own mouth-watering fireworks on a skewer!

I was camping with friends in Glacier National Park in NW Montana. Such a stunning setting that encourages first-class dining, even over a campfire and picnic table!

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Kabobs are always a tasty and pleasing meal idea. The key is choosing ingredients, which will cook for approximately the same length of time, and that list is virtually endless. Use fresh, in-season and family favorite vegetables and fruits.

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When using meat (steak, chicken, sausage) on my kabobs, I will always use a pre-cooked variety so it will char and heat the same as my vegetables. Marinating your meat for an hour or so before cooking gives you a tastier flavor. Cut the meat into approximate 1” long pieces.

If you’re cooking over a campfire, make sure you’ve got your fire going at least an hour before you need to cook, to utilize those red-hot coals. Grilling over a hot, low-flame fire is a must to keep your kabob from burning.

Start by preparing your vegetables in advance so you’ll have a quick and easy time of skewering your kabobs. Wash and cut into approx 1” size. If you will be using wooden skewers, be sure you soak these in water for at least an hour before placing them on the hot grill.

Skewer your ingredients, but don’t squeeze together too tightly because you want all sides to be exposed to the heat. Some people like to use one ingredient per skewer, which does allow you to cook specific to that food. (I.e. a skewer of peppers, a skewer of meat)

Here I’ve used cooked, spiced polish sausages, green bell peppers, sweet onions, fresh pineapple chunks, and small button mushrooms. Alternating each piece on a skewer, I placed on the grill without any seasoning. I rotate each skewer four times for good equal time grilling.

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During the last minute or so of grilling, I like to drizzle a sauce, such as my mango-jalapeño salsa, down each skewer. (I also place a bowl of the sauce on the table for anyone who wants more)

Using a hot pad, carefully remove each skewer to a baking pan or platter before serving. This allows the hot ends to start cooling down before they come near your guest’s fingers or mouths. It’s always dramatic to serve the kabobs while still skewered, but you can opt to remove the contents into a serving bowl too. Use the tongs of a fork to easily remove the cooked food from the skewer by sliding the fork down the kabob.

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Of course you’ll want some yummy side dishes to round out your menu! Watermelon is always appropriate! I’ve done some camping tradition foil packets of coal-baked potatoes to accompany my kabobs. Using Yukon Gold potatoes, I’ve washed and cut them in fourths. On a heavy 12” square of tin foil, I place the cut potato with some cut onion pieces, then drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkled with some salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary sprigs, I wrap the foil tightly and carefully place down in the ash and coals of my fire pit. (Be sure to use long BBQ tongs and a hot pad glove to avoid burning yourself) Make one foil packet of potatoes for each guest.

These need to cook while you’re making your skewers. (Approximately 15 minutes on each side) Remove with great care as not to puncture the foil or have the packet unwrap in the process. Place on a platter and serve immediately.

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Nicely seasoned, beautiful to look at, and ever so satisfying this is true fire cooked, BBQ works at its finest!

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