There is something about a road trip that conjures up memories of the non-air conditioned family station wagon with windows that could only be cranked halfway down in the back seat, a map the size of the entire dash board, getting lost, and drive-thru restaurants. Last week when our family traveled from Colorado to Wisconsin, we still found ourselves ordering burgers and greasy fries on the road, but it was in a 2009 Toyota Highlander complete with air conditioning and GPS. I have made this trip so many times before that it never occurred to me to use this new map feature. It didn’t seem as though much had changed along the highway since we traveled by car two years ago. Danny had driven the shift across Nebraska and I offered to drive the rest of the way. My son Kelly and I discussed music in the front seat, taking in the Illinois landscape. I had giggled at the turn offs for Waco, Wahoo, and What Cheer, so when I glimpsed the sign for Normal, I laughed as we drove by it. When I saw the road sign for Naperville and the looming downtown Chicago skyline, I realized I had missed the exit and driven 45 miles too far. Some things never change on family road trips! After the 90 mile mistake, we arrived in at my parent’s house in Evansville, a bit later than expected, but very happy.
Both of our families love to cook and eat so I had looked forward to a week of get-togethers where we would indulge in delicious meals, picnics, and a few restaurants. We started our vacation the next day by driving to Madison where we met up with Danny’s brother’s family to water ski. The two car loads of Lindaus, drove to a tree lined dock and slid the motor boat off the trailer into the placid lake. As we loaded it with coolers and towels, rain drops began pattering on the smooth surface. Then the skies opened up and it down-poured. Instead of toughing it out in the rain, we drove to one of my old high school haunts; Schwoegler’s Bowling Alley. I smiled with relief when I realized the lanes are all computerized now and you don’t have to spend your time concentrating on your mathematical skills. After two competitive games filled with a few strikes, (two in fact which is the most I have ever had in one game!), a couple spares, and more than a few gutter balls, we drove downtown to Paisan’s Restaurant. It had moved to a location just off the Capitol square where it now overlooks Lake Monona. The alluring aroma of Italian sauces wafted out of the glass door to greet us. I thought I would pace myself since it was early in the week, so I ordered a Chicken Caesar salad sprinkled with olives and hard boiled eggs. Everyone else had the classic pizza they are famous for.
On Memorial Day we enjoyed an afternoon gathering of family and friends. My parents live in a one hundred year old Victorian home. There always seems to be a slight breeze on their classic wrap around porch no matter how hot it gets, so it was the perfect location for the party. While we chatted each of us found a white wicker chair to relax in. We feasted on fragrant Wisconsin cheeses and savory dips then washed our appetizers down with icy cold Leinenkugels beer. After snacking, we sat down to a roasted turkey, my sister-in-law Dawn’s Blue Cheese Cole Slaw, and Grandmama Mary’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I gawked at the rolls and said, “Only in Wisconsin!”
Boating is a Wisconsin pastime. Waterskiing is considered antiquated now that the popular sport of wakeboarding has taken over. A couple years ago I was delighted to still be able to get up on one ski and slalom through the cold waves. Proudly, I climbed back into the boat, but instead of receiving congratulations from my two children, I was greeted with eye rolls. “Mom. You should try wakeboarding,” Kelly said. When I tried to get up on the wakeboard, I struggled to plane over the water from the perpendicular starting point. It looked so easy when the kids and husbands did it! This year I didn’t even dip my big toe into the 55 degree water. Despite the temperature, my son Kelly and his cousin Eli had no trouble motivating themselves into the icy lake. Kelly’s blue lips and shivering hypothermic body deterred any notions I had about jumping in and trying the new sport once again. After a day of fresh air on the bright blue water, we worked up a hardy appetite. Danny’s brother Jamie and his wife Karen hosted a backyard barbecue complete with succulent steaks grilled by their son Eli who is an engineering student at Boise State University. He used a meat thermometer to check each one so they were cooked to perfection. They were served with fresh fruit, sweet corn, and salad.
One night we visited Danny’s sister Lori who lives with her husband Steve in a downtown high rise with stunning views of Lake Monona. We enjoyed their modern condo and deck while visiting with the relatives and eating tasty lasagna and salad. We lingered over her mouth-watering Bailey’s Irish Cream Brownies telling stories of college days. Danny couldn’t believe it had been 25 years already. “Danny. It was 35 years ago, not 25,” I said. Danny’s jaw dropped.
On our last day in town I met my best friend Ann, from college days, at a gym where she instructs a body sculpting and tone class. The timing of this anaerobic session couldn’t have been more perfect. It was after a week of eating fabulous dishes and the day before I would sit in a car for 15 hours. I followed the class through the crowded space into the torture chamber rooms to obtain the weights, bar, mat, bench, and balls for the next hour of grueling exercise. Wisconsin people are the friendliest in the world and they made me feel very welcome. One of the ladies said, “I enjoyed working out with you today.” Nice! After her challenging class, we drove to a nearby café. I had no trouble rationalizing the gooey sticky cinnamon roll I would dunk into a cup of steaming black coffee. After I ordered some extra scones, donuts, and rolls for the trip home, Ann and I picked up where we left off many years ago. We laughed about the old boyfriends, parties, and a trip we took to California.
After several hours of catching up with my good friend, I gave her a hug with a promise to stay in touch and drove down to the UW Memorial Union. I met my parents, children, and Danny in a crowd of people sitting on the terrace enjoying a live band and the view of Lake Mendota. I pulled up a metal chair to their turquoise table and Danny poured me a cup of beer from his college roommate’s brewery called Ale Asylum. We sat, relaxed, and enjoyed the jazz music being played as several different wedding parties walked by to have their pictures taken on the oversized orange chair in the center of the enormous patio. I gazed at several piers jutting into the lake full of young college students sunning themselves. The brave dove into the cold crystal clear water. I walked through the crowds and poked my head into the Rathskeller which is a gathering place for students. I was relieved it hadn’t changed a bit since my college years. The same murals graced the walls. A line formed at the same bar where I had ordered beer 30 years ago as a student at the UW.
We returned to Evansville and packed the car. At 5:30 AM the next morning we hit the road. This time we turned on the GPS to get back on I-85 and didn’t miss the turn!
Dawn’s Blue Cheese Cole Slaw
Low fat mayo and reconstituted lemon juice can be substituted for the ingredients below.
1 16 oz. package of shredded cole slaw mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sugar
Place the cole slaw mix in a large bowl and toss to separate. In a medium bowl mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the slaw mix. Toss well to coat completely. Let rest for 5 minutes and toss again. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Grandmama Mary’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes
8 – 10 medium potatoes
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 – 2 T of fresh chives, chopped
2 T butter
Garlic salt and pepper
(Milk to thin, if needed)
Boil potatoes until tender and drain. Peel and dice them, then blend in a large mixer. Set aside. Blend cream cheese and sour cream. Add hot potatoes and beat until light and fluffy. Add milk to thin if needed. Add chives. Add garlic salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture into a baking dish. Dot the top of potato mixture with butter and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 1 hour.
Can be made ahead covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Lori’s Bailey’s Irish Cream Brownies
1 box (10.25 oz.) fudge brownie mix
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 T Irish cream liqueur
Irish Cream Topping
1 carton (8 oz.) whipping cream (1 cup)
¼ cup milk
¼ cup instant vanilla pudding and pie filling mix. (1/2 of 3.4 oz. box)
3 T Irish cream liqueur
2 – 3 bars (1.4 oz.) chocolate covered toffee candy, crushed. (Heath bars)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of 8-inch square pan with shortening. (Can use a 9 x 13 pan for a brownie that is less thick.) In large bowl, stir brownie mix, oil, 2 tablespoons liqueur and eggs with spoon about 50 strokes or until blended. Spread batter into pan.
Bake 23 to 26 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
In medium bowl, beat whipping cream, milk, pudding mix, and 3 tablespoons liqueur with electric mixer on high speed 4 to 6 minutes or until soft peaks form. Spread mixture over cooled brownies. Sprinkle with crushed candy. Cover, refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Cut into squares. Store in refrigerator.
Enjoy your Foodie Tuesday!