Star-spangled holiday

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Recently I’ve occasionally heard the sound of fireworks off in the distance — a sure sign the Fourth of July — Independence Day — is upon us.

The annual fireworks display over Lake Okabena is the most vivid of my childhood memories of July 4. No matter what we did earlier in the day, my family always ended the holiday sitting on the lakeshore, watching the “rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,” come to life over the local body of water. DotMom, always eager to expand our vocabulary, challenged us to come up with a different adjective for each brilliant display. But soon the descriptive words gave way to silence as we were enraptured 

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by the lights and colors in the sky.

While we now live just a hop, skip and a jump from the lake, our tradition is to head down to the home of a friend who lives along Sailboard Beach and has a view less impeded by trees. The photos posted here were taken there

 last year, showing the people lined up in anticipation of the dusk display and the ensuing light show.

But before the fireworks, the Fourth is the perfect time to fire up the grill, so I’m keeping my promise from a few weeks back to share our favorite turkey burger recipe. Hubby Bryan and I like things spicy,  but if your tastebuds aren’t as attuned to heat, use less chipotle in the meat mixture.

Chipotle Turkey Burgers

1½ pounds ground turkey breast

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¾ cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 or 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (from a can), stems and seeds removed, finely chopped

1½ teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

 

In a bowl, mix all ingredients lightly, just until everything is incorporated. Divide mixture into four equally-sized balls; form into patties. Sprinkle patties with salt and pepper.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Place patties on grill and cook until seared on both sides and meat is cooked through,

Serve on whole wheat buns with sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and lettuce. (We often mix some of the adobo sauce into the mayo extra heat.)

 

The rituals of summer

I’m starting to write this blog while sitting on my deck and listening to the “Amazing” Worthington City Band concert going on across the street in Chautauqua Park. I’m sure the concert will be over long before I’m done writing, as I likely won’t finish this until tomorrow.

But the concert on the first official day of summer sparked some thoughts about summer rituals, and I wanted to get them down before I lose the train of thought.

The weekly Wednesday night band concerts were always a summer ritual for my parents, and consequently we Rickers siblings. As a youngster, I would play in the park and ponder what candy to purchase from the popcorn wagon while the music was background noise. Both my sister and brother played in the city band during their teenage years; I did not follow through with that tradition, as I did not like the clarinet, the instrument I inherited from my sister and thus gave up before I made the transition from junior high to high school.

My parents, Don and Dorthy, usually made the trek to the band concert on their bicycle built for two — another summer ritual. In fact, I pretty much learned to ride a bike by pedaling from the back seat, Daddon at the helm.

As a kid, perhaps my favorite summer ritual was stopping for ice cream at one of the local drive-ins. I know that a recent post on the “Growing Up in Worthington” Facebook site sparked a debate about which establishment, the Dairy Queen or the Dairy Freeze, was the most frequented.

However, the place I remember best is Karley’s Drive-In, an easy stop for those circumnavigating Lake Okabena back in the 1970s. I particularly remember the twist cones — not just the classic vanilla/chocolate variety, but a different flavor offered every few days. My favorite was vanilla/lime. Yum.
(BTW — the band is now playing the Star-Spangled Banner, so the concert is at an end, but not so this blog.)

A few weeks ago, a similarly tart-sweet frozen concoction tickled my fancy. On one of our Jeep forays through the Iowa Great Lakes, Hubby Bryan and I stopped at a food truck, and I couldn’t resist sampling the strawberry-rhubarb ice cream. It got me thinking: Could I concoct something similar?

The thought stuck with me for a few days, and finally I bought some strawberries. Alas, my rhubarb patch was buried by a concrete driveway a number of years ago, and I could not come up with a source for some tart stalks. So I decided to settle for fresh strawberry ice cream. As the base, I used a longtime favorite concoction from DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook” and altered it for berries instead of citrusy flavors in the original. My only regret is that I used half and half instead of whipping cream. If you’re going to make this, go for the full-blown indulgence factor of the whipping cream. It does make a difference.

(Note: This ice cream recipe does contain raw eggs. If you are worried about that, seek out pasteurized eggs or utilize powdered egg whites and leave out the yolks. The beaten whites do add a fluffy texture to the ice cream.)

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

16 ounces fresh strawberries, caps removed and slicedFullSizeRender (15)

1 cup sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla.

2 eggs, separated

1 pint whipping cream (not whipped!)

Whole milk (about 2 cups)

In a food processor or blender, puree the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice. Add the vanilla and egg yolks, stirring thoroughly to combine.

Beat egg whites until stiff.

In a large bowl, combine the strawberry mixture and whipping cream. Carefully fold in the egg whites.

Pour mixture into the bowl of the ice cream maker, adding enough whole milk so it’s two-thirds full or to the fill line. (My ice cream maker is a small model, so I processed it in 2 batches.)

Once processed, transfer ice cream to a freezer container and chill until fully frozen.,

 

Slaw on the side

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It’s been about a month since we took our first long-distance Jeep trek of the season. It’s become something of a tradition for Hubby Bryan and me to head south in late spring in search of warmer temps to test out the topless mode of the Wrangler. Most often, our destination has been Omaha, but this time around we decided to go a bit farther south and decided on Kansas City as the locale for a long weekend adventure.

We have often passed through — or more aptly around — KC on our way to other places. So we figured it was time we checked out the local brewery scene and dig into some barbecue. That meant a stop at Boulevard Brewing Co., the largest of the “craft” breweries there, as well as a couple of the smaller establishments that produce beer.

Boulevard met our expectations, with a delightful tour led by a charming young lady, concluding with a sampling of some of their products. Since we’ve been on more than a few such brewery tours, we really didn’t learn anything new, but we especially enjoyed the view from a rooftop deck and sampling some of their experimental beverages.

We also got a recommendation for KC BBQ, and headed just down the street to Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ, one of the more “hole-in-the-wall”-type barbecue places, as opposed to the slicker sit-down restaurants. The service was fast, the burnt ends were fabulous and the atmosphere was casual and homey. We would certainly go back again.

Accompanying our barbecue selections was a side dish of slaw, of course. Coleslaw is a regular supper side dish at our house, so I like to try the various regional versions. Over the years, I’ve developed my own throw-together version that I think combines the best qualities of those I’ve enjoyed.

So a couple of blogs ago, when I posted a photo of a burger, there was slaw on the side, and one of you readers asked me for the recipe. That meant I had to actually stop and measure what I put in my slaw dressing, and that took a little doing, since I usually  mix up just enough for Bryan and me. Even when I make a bigger batch for a gathering, I add a little bit of this and a little bit of that until I get the flavor right. But I did manage to get a reasonable facsimile down on paper. 

I’m not sure if this would qualify as Kansas City slaw. It’s my own version — not too creamy, not too sweet, not too vinegary, with a hint of heat for my spice-loving hubby. Because it’s convenient, I use the bagged cole-slaw mixture, available in the produce section at the grocery store, although I’ve also thrown in some kohlrabi, broccoli or other crunchy veggie for a change of pace. Most often, I add some chopped red bell pepper for both color and flavor.

So, as requested, here is my slaw recipe. It’s what’s for a supper side dish at our house at least a couple of times a week during the summer months.

 

Slaw on the Side

1 tablespoon sugar (honey or agave syrup may be substituted to taste)FullSizeRender (13)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon bottled ranch dressing

Several dashes (or to taste) hot sauce

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon seasoned salt

½ cup finely chopped onion

⅓ cup chopped red bell pepper

 

In a bowl, dissolve the sugar in the red wine vinegar and lime juice. Add the mustard, ranch, hot sauce, mayonnaise and salt, whisking to combine. Fold in the chopped onion and red bell pepper. Combine dressing with one bag prepared coleslaw mix.

 

Waves & wind, sun and fun

Hubby Bryan and I just got home after a Jeep ride around Lake Okabena. Well, we couldn’t go all the way around the lake tonight, because part of the road is blocked off in preparation for the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival, which gets under way tomorrow and continues through the weekend.

Sailboard Beach (which, for those who once lived in Worthington but no longer do, is the area around where the power plant once stood) already looks festive, with the stage and beer tent already in place and food vendors already arriving.

This is the 18th year for the festival, and I can say I was there for the very first one. In fact, I was the reporter on duty for the Daily Globe the year that visionaries Bill Keitel and Jeff Hegwer realized that Lake Okabena could possibly become a mecca for windsurfers with its windy conditions and low profile and threw together a small festival. That year, I both photographed and wrote about the event and met some wonderful people who make the journey to Worthington to test the windsurfing waters.

Over the years, the Regatta has grown and evolved into a unique and very special event. It has served as the venue for several National Windsurfing Championships. I was involved with it for a number of years, helping with various aspects and organizing coverage for the newspaper, and I’ve made some wonderful friends in the process. Now I just sit back and enjoy it and am always glad to reconnect with the people I have met at past events.

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The photo featured here is from the 2016 Regatta. Taken at dusk, it’s not the most colorful view of the festival, but I was struck by the sense of community as boats and people lined up along the shoreline to enjoy the evening’s musical offerings and be part of the event.

 

If you are in the vicinity of Worthington this weekend, I suggest you come down to Sailboard Beach and check out the sights, sounds, food and other offerings to be found there. (Yes, it’s going to be hot, but having volunteered for the event when the temp was barely in the 50s, I can tell you the heat is definitely preferable!)

Topless grilling

burger for blogOK — topless grilling is not really a thing. Or maybe it is, and if so, I don’t really want to know about it.

But when summertime rolls around (yes, I know that summer doesn’t officially start until the solstice on June 20, but summer-like weather has finally arrived), there are two sure signs of it at our house. The tops come off the Jeeps, and grilling becomes the preferred means of cookery

Both those things happened today, with the second consecutive day of warm weather.

The panels on the four-door Jeep that I drive come off quite easily, so they have been removed for the sporadic nice days we’ve experienced thus far, but have been quickly been put back when showers and cooler days have threatened. Hubby Bryan’s Jeep, however, is the standard model, and takes a bit more time and effort to remove the lid. But today the top came off and will likely stay off for the duration. (There is a smaller top that can be deployed in the case of sprinkles and a full cover for when harsher weather hits.)

Like the removal of the panels on the four-door Jeep, the cover has come off the grill sporadically over the last couple of months, but we hadn’t gone into full-on grilling-every-day mode. But I think that will change now, and tonight we had some delicious burgers for supper (see picture above). Hubby Bryan is the grill master — Burger Master, in particular — at our house.

Here are some of the techniques HB employs to get the best-tasting burger.

  • Don’t use extra lean ground beef. Fat is flavor, and if too lean, it is dry and tasteless when grilled.
  • Form the burgers lightly — don’t pack them — and use your thumbs to form a dimple in the middle of each patty. This will keep the meat from forming a dome while it cooks.
  • Shape the burgers to fit your bun or bread. With the burger pictured above, Bryan went for an oval to better fit the bread he used in lieu of a bun.
  • Never use the spatula to “smash” the burger while grilling. This forces out all the juices
  • Don’t over-grill your burgers. They are best left a little bit pink in the center for optimum juiciness.
  • Experiment with toppings. Tonight we had caramelized onions and mushrooms on top of our burgers, along with a dollop of beer cheese spread. Yes — the beer cheese spread that comes in a plastic tub melts quickly and makes for a really tasty burger.
  • And don’t forget that ground meats besides beef make good burgers. Watch for my favorite turkey burger recipe in an upcoming blog.