The Nebraska Department of Economic Development spent some money on encouraging family travel, at least it seems that way based on their web site. They've got some fun films for kids, but I'm not sure kids are dictating where families are driving to on their free weekends. The site has this orange-haired animated kid trying to stow away in this Nebraska family's minivan.
|Tyler from the Nebraska Dept. of Economic Development's Web site.|
The nice family has room, but let's face it, this cartoon kid named Tyler shows no athletic prowess and will never be a lineman for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. So you know this isn't a "Blind Side" fairy tale here, the cartoon kid always gets discovered before the family sets out onto one of the many trips to various parts of the state for picnics, I think.
The kids' area on this site has a bunch of printable car activities including a game of counting the cows you see on either side of the road. (I think this would also be part of the Kansas landscape as well and I remember getting excited about seeing a cow figure carved out of real butter at the Kansas State Fair. Welcome to the Midwest folks!) But Nebraska's Economic Development site does have a great online game for children called Geography Jam, where you try to locate different towns throughout the state. I give it a big thumbs up, even if it featured that cartoonish Tyler with snarky bubble comments.
Speaking of towns, Omaha's Jen Shatel was able to clarify the proper way to dress a Husker Burger (available across from Memorial Stadium on football game days in Lincoln.) The Husker Burger is shaped like the state of Nebraska and depending on which you like best you run that condiment along the line where the Platte River runs. Start with ketchup (or mustard) and stream it from the lower corner on bottom of the panhandle to the middle of the "wavy" East side of the state, just south of where Omaha is. You can just guess where Omaha is or play the Geography Jam game above. Then Jen's says you can "dot" certain favorite cities with the opposite condiment. She usually adds Alliance, in the panhandle; Broken Bow, in the middle of the state; and Auburn, in the lower right corner; because she has family living in those locations. (I'm gonna fire up my Photoshop and illustrate this soon, so check back!)
I also asked John Mabry, who I worked with eons ago at The Kansas City Star Sports department, for his insight on Nebraska foods. John is the editor of L Magazine, Lincoln's Premiere Lifestyle Magazine that's part of the Lincoln Star-Journal newspaper.
"Runza sandwiches are big here (beef and cabbage stuffed in a roll)," John says. "Of course, steak and potatoes. People love their chili and cinnamon rolls here (together). I don't know if that is unique to Nebraska, but it is a pretty good combo."
I'm experimenting with a Runza recipe that I want to share this week. I've got both cabbage and sauerkraut (may opt for the later since it will be quicker) and still trying to decide on the best bread/roll recipe to use. I was going to just purchase a frozen quick bread, but I didn't see anything at the grocery store that looked like it would taste right. So my long-time friend Mary (reconnected on Facebook) directed me to our hometown's church cookbook for the roll recipe she uses frequently. I'll keep you posted on how this bread baking turns out.
John mentioned cinnamon rolls and it seems that in states with smaller towns much of the center of the community is centered around the local restaurant serving homemade cinnamon rolls and cheap coffee (read, no cream and 'don't need no Starbucks' -- that's for my daughters who are Justin Beiber and Ludacris fans; well Justin fans and they know who Ludacris is.) But Bill James, of Lawrence, Kansas, and recent special guest on the Simpsons, says not all cinnamon rolls are created equal.
Bill's wife, Susan McCarthy, gave me her cinnamon roll recipe. I've compared it to several other regional recipes and her recipe seems easier than most. So pics of this soon!
Susan McCarthy's and Bill James'
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
3 cups warm water
2 teaspoons of yeast ( 3/4 package)
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, softened
7 to 8 cups flour
About 4 or 5 in the afternoon mix the ingredients together, adding enough flour to form a sticky dough. Let rise 4 to 5 hours. Punch down the dough, divide into quarters. Roll out each quarter flat, spread with butter and a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Roll the section up and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place rolls in greased baking pan. Continue in same way with the other dough quarters. Cover baking pans and let rolls rise overnight. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes. Frost while warm and serve.
I appreciate recipes that specify the time of day to start, though it also means I'll be working with sugars near bedtime, and that's dangerous for me.
Bill writes: "A good cinnamon roll is a joy forever, or for the 20 minutes it takes you to eat it, whichever comes first. An interesting thing about cinnamon rolls is the immense variety of them. I think there is more variety in cinnamon rolls than in chile, and there are very good cinnamon rolls of all different sizes, shapes, and taste. And also terrible ones. . ."
I couldn't agree more and my extended family of Czech bakers believe frozen bread dough is a blasphemy. The roll dough has to be sweet. (I took Texas-based Kolache Factory kolaches to my hometown, a Czech base with the slogan of "Czech Us Out." The verdict: Kolache Factory's rolls weren't sweet enough. So sugar has to be a MAIN ingredient in Czech and also Midwest baking, never mind how those Texans bake!)
Coming up is my grandmother's kolache recipe, too, since this fruit-filled SWEET roll is a Czech specialty, and there's a big Czech population in Nebraska. My hometown of Cuba, where my grandmother lived two doors down, is 13 miles from the Kansas-Nebraska border.