Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More enchiladas

I was experimenting a couple of weeks ago and made a New Enchilada recipe.
(Well, a variant on previous enchilada recipes.)

Here is what I did.
First, I made potroast by taking about two pounds of nice roast and browning it on both sides in my dutch oven, using a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
Then I cut up about 4 onions and added 2 cloves of crushed garlic, one clove spread over each side of the potroast meat while searing.
I baked this in a 325 oven for 90 minutes.
Then I peeled and quartered about 5 carrots and 5 potatoes,
added them to the dutch oven,
and baked the whole thing for another 90 minutes.
I did not add water or flour.
There was plenty of pot liquor from the vegetables.
Flour would have been nice to thicken the juice for gravy, but I didn't want to be scraping cold gravy off the leftover potroast.

I packaged up the vegetables and just a teeny serving of potroast apiece into separate lunch containers.
Then I refrigerated the rest of the potroast hunk (which I shouldn't have done; I should have shredded it while it was still warm, it would have been easier, but cold potroast can be shredded- it just takes more effort.)

To assemble my enchiladas, I pulled out my potroast and shredded it.
Then I took a pound of Monterey Jack and shredded it.
I got a bag of Rita's flour tortillas from the freezer and thawed them,
and also thawed out a 16 oz container of New Mexican chopped mild green chile.
I got a 24 oz container of light sour cream and a family size can of cream of mushroom soup, mixed together with half the chiles for the sauce.

Then I got out my pans. I ended up using one 9x13 stoneware and one 8x8 glass.
If using stoneware, I highly recommend putting down a couple of glopping spoonfuls of sauce and spreading it on the bottom of the pan before you put the enchiladas down.
I did not do this, and in the stoneware pan especially, the bottoms of the enchiladas turned out a bit crispy.

A small handful of beef and an equal amount of shredded cheese, topped with a heaping tablespoon of green chile, fills up each tortilla nicely.

Top with the sauce and some handfuls of leftover cheese.

Bake, covered, at 350 or maybe even 325 (I did mine at 375 and it was a little too high; contributed to the crunchiness at the bottom.)

However, the bits of crisp were only minor flaws. They were wonderful enchiladas!
Emily, Dad and Mom all came over to dinner that night, and they really enjoyed the tangy blend of (lots of) sour cream with green chile!

Lone Star in South SLC

Mom and Dad have been HOLDING OUT on us.
They've known about this great place for years!
It's the Lone Star Taqueria on Fort Union Blvd in south SLC.
(Approximately 2200 East and 7000 South.)
It's delightfully tacky with the decor.

We got there at 11 am, and it was already beginning to have a stream of customers.

The house specialty is the fresh fish taco.
The fish variety depends on the day.
That day it was tilapia.
They grill or fry the fish, but do not bread it.
And they serve it with two soft homemade corn tortillas,
and fresh cabbage and tomatoes, a wedge of lime,
and a perfectly yummy jalapeno mayonnaise sauce.
All for $2.75!
You have GOT to try these!

Lizard Food!

After our Tabernacle Tour, Emily and I went to the Red Iguana!
Our pet name for it is Lizard Food.
And we got what we usually get:
Chips and salsa...

Veggie Killer Nachos...

Enchiladas with mole poblano...

and Enchiladas with mole verde.


Backstage tour of the Tabernacle on Temple Square

On Tuesday May 29th, a special backstage tour of the Tabernacle was held for family history employees and their families.
So I went with Emily.
It was quite interesting, getting to go down into the (very extensive) basement regions with the recording studios and the practice rooms and the wardrobe areas.
Here's Emily in one of the practice rooms (she used to attend rehearsals there when she was in Mormon Youth choir, I believe.)

Emily also insisted I take pictures of (nearly) Everything.
Here is the First Presidency's room.

A general view of the backstage:

The tour was followed up by a short devotional, for which Emily gave the prayer.
I took this Right Before she started the prayer (not during, thank you, in case you were wondering just how irreverent I was being.)

Camping with Mom and Dad

Near Kanab, we also went camping.
(Sequentially, this is before the reunion.)
We found a great State Park: Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
It's just a few miles from the Arizona border.
And is it ever neat!

Though the pristine scenery is somewhat marred by dune riders on golf-cart looking vehicles, they aren't allowed out between 10 pm and 9 am.
The dunes are best in the evening (above), but we had a lovely walk in the morning with some interesting views.

Lots of blooming yucca, and yellow wildflowers (as yet unidentified.)

And in the morning, the dunes were covered all over with strange little tracks!
Insects, probably.
We saw one (very small) tarantula actually making lacy pretty tracks (rather different from these).
And NO, I did not photograph it.
Are you kidding??!

Post Reunion Vacationing

We went to Bryce after the reunion, and they miraculously had space in the Sunset campground.
I persuaded Mom and Dad to go on a short hike,
down part of the Queen's Garden trail,
starting at Sunrise Point.
This is Sunrise Point, with Barney Top in the distance.

Although Bryce is an East-facing park, evening (before the shadows get too long) is still very beautiful for photographing there.

On the way home we also drove through Cedar Breaks,
so Mom could get her passport Stamp there.
It was mid day- I'd like to go back during good light
(that would be evening: Cedar Breaks faces West,
and is the other end of the colorful hoodoo-filled plateau that forms Bryce on the other end.)

Porter Reunion in Style

Escalante is a cool place.
(Below: the Dogfoot formation.
Look on the white layer of rock to see it!)

All the campgrounds (and hotels) near Escalante were full.
So we rented a motorhome!
We did find RV parks with availability.

It was pretty spacious inside, and had electric and water and a furnace to warm Dad in the morning when he felt chilled.
It was a pretty big rig, though: we needed Dad to do all the driving.
And the gas cost was pretty high.
Still, it was fun to try it out.

Here at the Porter Reunion in Escalante are all the remaining first cousins:

As you can see, they are getting on in years, and all their parents are gone.
2008 will be the 30th (and LAST) Jared Riley and Alice Porter reunion in Escalante.

Plane trip to Rainbow Bridge

Dad and Mom and I had long planned to go to Rainbow Bridge together.
There are only 2 ways to get there:
1) a 13+ mile hike overland through the Navajo Reservation
2) by boat.
We had planned to go by boat (they offer commercial tours),
but the tour takes quite a long time.
So Dad had a Brilliant Idea.
After all, we have already been to Rainbow Bridge by boat,
back in ... oh, 1982, I guess it was.
So Dad suggested we go by plane!
A scenic airplane ride does not, of course, stop at the bridge,
but we got some good views going over it.
We also circled over the dam, much of the lake, and at the foot of Navajo Mountain.
As you can see, the light was not optimal, but it was a really fun thing to do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Great Conference

Okay, so my recent roamings 'round the East/South/Midwest/Southwest states have been mostly for pleasure.
But they also served to get me out to the Kalamazoo Medieval Conference.
It was a terrific conference: great papers to listen to, a chance to connect with friends and colleagues, a chance to present my own paper and get feedback, and of course, the wonderful Book Fair.
Every evening was crammed with things to do and people to visit.
Here is our group who went out to dinner on Thursday night of the conference, for very good Indian food.
Left to Right:
Paul Bruhn, Dr. Heather McCune Bruhn, ME, Dr. M. Wendy Hennequin, Dr. Kara Morrow.
Paul and Heather I know from Penn State days.
Wendy is an old friend from UConn, now in Nashville, TN.
Kara is a new friend who will be participating with me in the York NEH program.

Stamp Collecting in Eighteen States

These are the national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, etc that I visited on my road trip, in the order that I visited them. In bold means I visited for the first time.

Colorado NM
Brown v. Board of Education NHS
Tallgrass Praire NR
Harry S. Truman NHS
Fort Scott NHS
George Washington Carver NM
Central High School, Little Rock, NHS
Hot Springs NP
Fort Smith NHS
Wilson's Creek NB
Ozark River NRA
Natchez Trace Pkwy
Tupelo NB
Brices Crossroads NB
Shiloh NB
Kennesaw Mountain NB
Martin Luther King Jr NHS
Chattahoochee River NRA
Cowpens NB
Kings Mountain NB
Bluestone/ New River Gorge/ Gauley's River NRA (3 in one)
Indiana Dunes Natl Lakeshore
Goerge Rogers Clark NHS
Jefferson Expansion Memorial (aka St. Louis Arch; I've visited before but this time I got the Stamp.)
Ulysses S. Grant NHS
Pea Ridge NB
Oklahoma City NM
Chickasaw NRA
Washita Battlefield NM
Aztec Ruins NM
Canyons of the Ancients NM, Lowry Pueblo Unit

I now have 239 stamps in my parks passport!

More flowers

When I visited Alibates Flint Quarry in Texas, they told me that 2007 had been the wettest spring in the Panhandle for two decades.
These yellow flowers, which the park ranger called Navajo Tea, stretched for literally acres and acres.
They were beautiful even in the flatlight of midday (I wish I could have stayed until evening light!)
In case you are wondering why all the dead mesquite trees (I wondered myself), the ranger told me that the local ranchers and oil digging folks have been spraying some kind of chemical to kill only the mesquite.
It gives the landscape a forlorn air, even with that incredible carpet of wildflowers.

Another thing blooming like crazy was the yuccas. Fields and fields of these were visible throughout all Northern Texas.

Spring Flowers!

May is a great time for a road trip.

Above: columbine (southwest Missouri)
Below: gaillardia (northwest Oklahoma)

Above: spiderwort (northwest Oklahoma)
Below: globe mallow (Texas panhandle)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Family and Friends!

I got to visit a lot of folks on this trip!
Above, Tristan and Catherine Jolivette, with their daughter Rebecca and their dogs Libby (left) and Vic (right.)
Below: Wendy Hennequin (at Nashville's Parthenon.)

It was great to see family!
Above: Cousin Jill Carpenter in her band Bazzania (she's the third from the left).
Below: Peter, Christie, their two younger daughters Chandra and Annalissa, and Aunt Katherine.

The Scenic Route to Michigan

The range of scenery on this trip has been incredible.
Above is Colorado National Monument, long a favorite stop of mine, where I camped my first night.

This is a rather flat and dull photo of Kansas Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
Kansas really can be quite scenic, given good light.
(This obviously is not good light.)

Tennessee was absolutely delightful.
Above, flowers bloom on part of the Old Trace on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Below, a horse farm in south/central Tennessee.

Adventures in Southern BBQ

I really enjoy barbecue, so visiting in the South, I thought it would be easy to find and always good.
My first experience with Southern BBQ this trip was in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Birthplace of Elvis. (Museums to him everywhere.)
I went to Johnny's drive-in, where "Elvis used to eat."
I don't think the food has changed much since Elvis' day.
And I feel sorry for Elvis.
The BBQ (pulled pork) wasn't bad, but there was no BBQ sauce- only KETCHUP, if you can believe that.
And the sides were abominable. The most edible of them was the wonderbread toast slices!
I was mighty disappointed.

My next BBQ attempt was at a roadside stand just past Shiloh, Tennessee.
The BBQ wasn't bad and the sauce was ok (but there wasn't much of it.) The cole slaw was inedible and the bun boring and flabby. The baked beans were Van Kamp's pork & beans, which I like from childhood, but hardly High Cuisine.

This is the BBQ plate from the Bell Buckle Cafe in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
This was GOOD barbecue and Real Southern Food.
Not only was the pulled pork excellent and the sauce (served on the side) plentiful,
the dish came with a corn cake (looks like a pancake, on top)
AND I got three decent sides.
They had a very long list of sides.
I did not want the okra, but I was happy to try the greens (turnip tops.)
Not bad.
They eat them with vinegar rather than lemon. I think I prefer lemon.
The mac & cheese (only in the South is mac & cheese a vegetable!) was homemade. It wasn't the best, but it was tolerable.
The boiled new potatoes were very good.
Many thanks to Jill and Ronn who knew where to go for good barbecue!