Category Archives: Nebraska

Fall: Football and Food

Warning: This will be one of those cheesy ‘Hello Fall’ blog posts.

I can’t help it. This is my favorite time of year. The broiling temperatures of summer are relieved by cooler temps, yet the wicked winds of a Nebraska winter haven’t started blowing. And the violent weather of spring (rains, tornadoes, thunderstorms, hail, etc.) have disappeared for the most part.

My favorite sport resumes in the fall. Around here, Husker football approaches the status of a state religion. Our home games have sold out for the last forty-nine years. (The 50th anniversary will be in early November 2012.) We do have four seasons, but they have different names: Post-Season, Spring Practice, Pre-Season and FOOTBALL! I not only remember where I was for the Game of the Century, I can describe the outfit I wore.

This year, we’re pretty excited about joining the Big Ten. For one thing, the Cornhuskers will be going up against new (to us) opponents, which is exciting both because we hope the team will do well, and because the competition will be tough. But you have to love a conference that has its own TV network. Yes, that’s right: the Big Ten Network. Yeah, baby! Candy bar!!

Both cooler weather and football games means I start to enjoy cooking again. When it’s over 95 F outside, my goal for dinner is ‘do not heat up the house’. Come autumn, we can go back to stews, oven-braised meats and what may be my kids’ all-time favorite dish: Roasted Rosemary Potato Slices. And then there’s baking — muffins, cookies, brownies, cakes. Life is good!

Now if only we could get Oklahoma back on the schedule.

Here are a couple of my go-to recipes: One is a great year-round appetizer and the other is the aforementioned potatoes.

Cucumber and Cream Cheese Appetizers

1 loaf of party rye or party bread

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese

1 envelope of dry Italian salad dressing mix

1 cucumber

Combine the cream cheese and dressing mix until well blended. Let it sit while you cut the  cucumber into 1/8 inch slices, or a bit thinner if you prefer. Spread the cream cheese onto slices of the party rye bread and top with a cucumber slice. Easy peasy!

Roasted Rosemary Potato Slices (serves 4)

4 Russet potatoes, scrubbed

4 T melted butter or olive oil, as you prefer

1 t salt (Sea salt or Kosher salt are also yummy)

1 t dried rosemary, crumbled

Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Pour half the butter or olive into an 8-inch baking pan and swirl it to coat the bottom. Layer the potatoes in the pan, in separate rows, arranging them so that they overlap slightly. Pour the remaining butter over them, then sprinkle them with the salt and rosemary. Add pepper to taste.

Bake in the middle of a 425 F oven for 22 minutes. Turn the potatoes over. Supposedly you can do this with a long, thin spatula. I’ve tried to and failed, so any more I use a regular spatula and don’t worry about keeping them in rows so much. They’re not as pretty, but they’re still delicious. Aaanyhoo, after you turn the taters, put them back in the oven for another 20-25 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

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Will Volunteer for Food

Sunday, I had the pleasure of working the Nebraska Writers Guild booth at the state fair in Grand Island. I freely admit that my volunteerism was influenced by a desire to eat corn dogs as well as ice cream from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Dairy Store in the FFA/4H building. The prospect of air conditioning, a roof and walls encouraged me as well.

Although NWG authors are allowed to bring their books and sell them, mostly I just wanted to meet people. And I did! I worked with fellow writers Charlene Neely (poetry), Jerri Hauser (inspirational), Dr. Jean Lukesh (Nebraska history) and Mary Maas (Nebraska and local history). I had a blast talking up the guild with these women. The Guild is a statewide organization that includes journalists, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, poets, and family historians. In the next 12 months, the guild plans to hold a Young Writers Conference in Lincoln, NE.

Charlene Neely, Jean Lukesh and Jerri Hauser

A lot of people stopped because  they love to write and didn’t know the NWG existed. A lot of others stopped because they love to read and are excited at the idea of finding Nebraska writers, particularly on subjects of state or local interest, kids’ books and fiction set in the state. I even met a young woman who specialized in historical textiles and design in college. Hello, resource!

The location provided a great view of the 4-H pet presentation, and we chatted to passers-by to the background of kids describing the history, care and quirks of various gerbils, guinea pigs, cats and one ferret. We joined the applause as the judge awarded ribbons and grand prizes. I am pleased to say that all participants earned either blue or purple ribbons for their animals’ health and well-being.

My personal favorite was Princess the Cat, whose owner has a great narrative style and should look into creative writing.

Although I did sell copies of Her Scottish Groom and To be Seduced, I spent most of my time handing out bookmarks and booklets, aka ‘free samples’. My romances were upstaged by a 4th grade history book! Jean Lukesh, a former teacher, wrote what may be the most popular textbook in the state. Used by 85% of our school districts, it drew kids like a magnet. The ‘double-take, ‘hey-I-used-that-book’ ‘ response happened over and over. A lot of the kids asked for her autograph, and at least one wanted a picture with her.

Jean and Fans

To say that Jean is a talented local historian is like saying Einstein was kind of a smart guy. Her current project is a series for kids on Noteworthy Americans. The first in the series, Lucky Ears: The True Story of Ben Kuroki, World War II Hero recently won a Bronze Medal for Multicultural Nonfiction for Children/Teens/Young Adults in the Independent Publishers’ 2011 Book Awards. And she is hilarious and outgoing in person.

Before I forget: the UNL Dairy Store ice cream is so OMG FABULOUS that I passed on the corn dog in favor of their chicken bacon ranch wrap in a tomato basil tortilla. Yum. Next year, I may have to come back an extra day to get that corn dog in.