Saturday, June 14, 2014

Race Day Recipes: Seasoned Beef and Bean Burritos

Another one skillet meal, full of flavor and easy to bring together.  With rice & beans it turns into a classic Tex-Mex meal, but stand alone burritos can make a hearty lunch.  Built with lots of protein, it'll keep you fueled all race long.

Prep time: 5 Minutes
Cook time: 20-30 Minutes

Total time: 25-35 Minutes

Ingredients:  (Makes 6 wraps)

1/2 lb. 85/15 ground beef
1 medium onion--chopped
1 tblsp. Chili Powder
1 jalapeno--chopped
1 large green chile--chopped
1/2 cup cooked corn
1 can no-salt diced tomatoes
1 can no fat refried beans
2 cloves garlic--minced
Black pepper to taste
2 oz Monterey Pepper Jack cheese--sliced or shredded
Tabasco to taste
Salsa to taste
Sour Cream to taste
6 Fajita-sized flour tortillas


  • Chop onions, toss into skillet with ground beef on med-high heat.  Add garlic, chili powder and black pepper.  Break beef apart and brown.
  • While beef browns and onions turn glassy, chop peppers and add to mix. Let peppers begin to sweat.
  • Add corn. Continue to mix everything together.  Corn should begin to sweat. Chili powder gives the blend a nice rusty color.
  • Add tomatoes.  Mix through. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.  Let's the flavors blend while the tomatoes heat through. 
  • Add beans and stir. Add Tabasco if more heat is desired. Once beans break down and mix into the blend, reduce heat to med-low. Stir occasionally. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, until flavors have thoroughly blended.
  • While the pot bubbles, shred or slice cheese. Place salsa and sour cream on table.
  • Warm tortillas according to directions on package.  15 seconds in the microwave does it for me, but warming them in the oven will garner better results.
  • Build your burritos!  On tortilla, place cheese on the bottom, so the warm beef & bean blend will melt it. Spoon desired amount of beef & bean over the cheese. Roll burrito.  Top with generous amount of salsa and sour cream.
  • Serve and enjoy!
As always, you'll notice a minimum of salt added to the recipe. Your fresh veggies always give lots of flavor.  Salt arrives in the beans, tortillas, cheese and prepared salsa.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

On the Road: Hidden Lake Gardens

Every vacation we have to find a scenic "brown sign" in which to spend a little time. Today was Hidden Lake Gardens.  A nice distraction.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

On the Road: The Henry Ford and The Ford Rouge Factory Tour

 Somehow NASCAR knew we had chosen Michigan as our destination this year. Beginning in April, Pure Michigan ads kept appearing during race coverage.  Then it came to planning our day trips and we realized Brooklyn, MI is literally in the middle of farms. What to do? That's when we saw an ad for The Henry Ford--millions of artifacts. Acres and acres of museum. AND a factory tour where they build F150's. We were all in.

We'll start with Dearborn, the city Ford owns/runs/built/what have you. The bridge on I94 is a Blue Oval, for goodness sake. There's a manmade lake with the corporate name on it. Block after block loom research facilities, massive testing tracks, hotels clearly built solely for the Ford offices.  This isn't just about the car in your garage, but Ford runs a humungous part of Michigan. It's then that I actually began to understand why our government felt that car manufacturers had to be bailed out. Ford wasn't part of the handouts, but my point is that for the first time I got it. This was about the men and women who punch the clock creating cars--not just corporate greed.   If Dearborn had fallen, we were looking at an entire city in shambles.  What the rest of Michigan looks like, having greatly suffered through the economic collapse, I can only imagine. the factory tour:  We are both fascinated by "How Things Are Made." The intricacies of robotics, line work, logistics, etc. Yes, Ford has set up the tour to impress you with their Eco-friendly approach to factory life and it offers the opportunity for them to sing the praises of the latest model rolling off the line. But for me, that's all beside the point. We pretty much by-passed the propaganda films and headed to the factory floor. 

I'll be recalling the images of the flawless ballet being executed by the 1,000 person team for years to come. My respect for their labor increased ten-fold as they wired tailgates, installed moon roofs and bolted the truck beds to the frame rails. While modern technology has improved quality, consistency and speed, it is startling to realize where 100,000 people used to work this factory, only 3,000 do in this current day. How America can continue to employee its millions is a question posed to the tourist, even while we marvel at the trucks honking horns in the final inspection bay. 

Note: I have no pictures of the factory, not due to corporate secrets, but because the workers don't want their pictures plastered over the internet. The tourist in me grumbled--the caddies carrying car parts around were worthy of documenting. But I can't blame the employees for protecting their privacy in this day and ago.

Ronald Reagan's Presidential Limo--you can see where they fixed the ding the bullet left.
 The Henry Ford Museum:  The museum itself is built around innovation. Yes, transportation works into it significantly. But not only are you presented with the first Toyota Prius, but why it meant something to the American consumer.  Add to that Kennedy's limo--yes, where he was fatally shot--and THE bus where the Civil Rights Movement began and it is not merely a building with a collection of old things.  It all means something.

There's innovation in comfort, economy, technology and beauty. Even now, you cannot deny the glamour of the Bugati, but also understand that in the midst of the Great Depression, only the exceedingly rich could drive one. Sometimes creativity cannot be stymied by the exigencies of poverty.

I can't truly expound on the depth of the Henry Ford collection, as we only had a few hours to wander about before our feet gave out.  Days could be spent here.  We only scratched the surface of the complex, leaving the village for another year perhaps.

We found Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 car--still covered in sticky soda and confetti.  His front and rear bumper were rubbed raw from his dance with Jeff Gordon that propelled him to an unfounded victory.  Fun stuff.  Next to him say Bill Elliot's 212 mph Talladega car (too fast! Much too fast!) and Bobby Unser's Pike's Peak Hill Climb machine. Salt flat rockets and IndyCar samples.  Accompanies with the random RV.

But let's not forget the trains.  Yes, trains. Fullsize engines, passenger cars, snow plows and even horse-drawn carriage conversions for the earliest attempts.  I pondered how the Allegheny Steam Locomotive got in the door, until we discovered the giant gates carved into the rear of the gallery.  And yes, the trains still sit on tracks.

To finish off the day we grabbed the requisite souvenirs:  a squashed penny, magnet for the fridge and a injection molded plastic car--made right before my eyes.  A pair of German gentleman kept shaking their heads. "We have nothing like that in Germany," they said as I pulled the warm, blue truck from the dispenser.

Quite clearly we are still crazy Americans.  But at the Henry Ford, you experience a multitude of ways that our enjoyment of the new and possible has created the world we live in.  Right down to the campy, plastic F150 I just bought.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On the Road: Travel Days to Michigan International Speedway

Once again, we packed up the RV and headed out in search of a NASCAR track we had not yet visited. This time the destination was Michigan International Speedway, departing from the Megalopolis of Massachusetts. 

Why do we drive instead of flying and taking a hotel? Well, yes NASCAR fans have the corner pocket on tailgating, but we've found that rolling on our own schedule suits our busy lives better. There's no panic about getting to the airport, stripping down in security, missing flights or making do with a week's worth of food at hotel restaurants.  The RV life allows us to slow down when we want, explore culinary adventures and best of all, park in a wide open field under star filled skies.

Anyway, as usual, as soon as we leave the rolling hills of Connecticut behind and cross over the Hudson River, something wonderful happens. Traffic jams vanish and the expanse of our huge nation unfolds before us. We've gotten pretty used to Day 1--the trees of Pennsylvania. However, when you keep driving for hours and hours with nothing but the forest of Northern USA appearing in all directions, I can understand why the pioneers back in the Great Expansion felt a compulsion to fill the Prairie with more trees.

Dense, lush vegetation is something we become accustomed to in our daily lives. It's why we adore Spring, when brown gives way to the soft whispering of green followed by the rush of Mother Nature to replenish our oxygen supply. Imagine leaving that for an unending sky interrupted only by the rolling waves of grass on relatively flat ground.  Something must be wrong.

Well, we didn't reach the prairie this time.  Only upper Ohio. But the flatness of the world in this state is...odd to those whose homes perch upon a hill.  In fact, the vast majority of houses in my hometown rest on some kind of incline. On I80 West, we drove past acre upon acre of flat farmland and perfectly mowed lawns devoid of any other ornamentation and it starts to bother you.

Then you realize all this farmland feeds our nation and much of the world.  Did I hear that even with this seemingly unending supply of vegetables, we are still scheduled to run out of food in another 50 years or so? It boggles the mind that this much food cannot feed those in need. And then there's the realization that there is not a farmhouse to be seen for miles in some cases. Gone are the days of single families raising food and their own children on private parcels. Ah, times do change.

We did pass the Lordstown Chevy factory, where the Chevy Cruze is made.  Impressive building. Here in Michigan we must've entered via the non-factory world. For more than 40 miles off the interstate, we passed nothing but farms, empty houses and tiny hamlets that sported nothing more than a gas station and a church. We've yet to hit the grocery store, let alone find one. That might be 20 miles back that away.

And yet, in the middle of all this beautiful farmland, here sits yet another monument to auto racing. The stands gleam, the signs are big and stamped with lots of logos. The t-shirt haulers are here with a smattering of summer vacationers.

We'll be heading out to the Henry Ford museum either today or tomorrow--after locating the elusive grocery store.

We live in an amazing country.  I love leaving my little corner of it once a year and seeing its glory for myself.  One more reason to avoid the airports.

Pictures and such to come later. Enjoy the day!