Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nebraska Road Trip (Part Two).

Hello! Welcome back to Tales of Three Bakers and Part Two of my family’s road trip to Omaha, Nebraska.  This segment, I’ll continue to share a few more things that you can do in Omaha, Nebraska, a city that we found very family friendly and super easy to get around.

First up, the Omaha Zoo…

Fordy requested the zoo, and we weren’t totally sold (I’m not a big zoo fan), but as we approached the large desert dome we knew it would be a fitting thing to do on such a beautiful spring-like day.  You will see the usual suspects: lions, tigers, monkeys and giraffes and a few more unexpected surprises.  The swamp exhibit is pretty impressive including a somewhat (actually scary-huge) alligator that gave us thrills and chills by swimming a few feet from us, eyeing us through a wooden fence and somewhat flimsy wire screen.  The desert and jungle exhibits organized by continents were very well thought out.  We were this close to attempting to take a pygmy hippo home…

Just a side note: It was pretty early for everything to operate; there is a tram that cuts through the zoo grounds, a passenger train, and a pretty large aquarium that we were eager to see but it was sadly closed for repairs (but reopening in early April).  As summer approaches, all those amenities will be operating at full force.  You can visit the website for dates, here.
Next up even though it was super windy, we decided to fit in a stroll across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge that crosses over the Missouri River and was built in 2008.   Although we could feel the bridge ever so slightly sway to and fro, the sweet view of the Omaha Skyline made it worthwhile. It's a popular landmark proven by the steady flow of people making their way across the bridge.  The kids thought it was fun that they could place one leg in Nebraska and one leg in Iowa on the bridge.  It's also especially stunning at night!

One of my must things to do was to visit eCreamery, a local ice cream shop which has been splashed across pages of foodie magazines, see here for proof.  With purported daily flavors like maple with chocolate covered bacon pieces, Big Mama’s sweet potato pie, and goat cheese, my curiousity was piqued and my taste buds salivating (plus, we could totally justify an ice cream pit stop after walking all day.)

I was enamored with the modern, bright and happy décor of the store; the walls are splashed with lime green tiles and in the summer you can lounge al fresco on what I guess are repro midcentury shell chairs (but you never know with a city with so many antiques).   We didn’t so much dig the grim disposition of the guy serving the ice cream (He appeared to be performing an enema than serving ice cream…Dude, you work at one of the happiest places on earth!).  Keith thought briefly about tackling the Dundee Dozen Sundae, an Adam Richman-sized monstrosity so his mug could be eternally posted on the billboard of champions (okay, so he did once successfully eat a Farrell’s Trough sundae- anyone remember those?). 


Sadly, there was only one flavor of the day which was Banana Crunch Cheesecake and completely rave worthy, but I was hoping to find more unique flavors.  Verdict: Worth the stop if you are expecting a ‘Coldstone Creamery’ experience and just a short drive from downtown.  However, if there is a future Omaha visit in store for us, next time I will try Ted and Wally’s, an old-fashioned creamery that boasts a large variety of original concoctions. If you’re not in the Omaha area (and I haven’t succeeded in persuading you to visit this fine city) and you don’t mind forking over a few dollars, $49 for 4 pints,  you can create your own custom flavors online at eCreamery.

Well, that pretty much rounds up our adventure in Omaha!  In all, it was a wonderful city to relax in with much more personality and charm than I ever expected and we had a wonderful time.  Thanks for stopping by and have a fantastic weekend!

Posted by Dawn.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nebraska Road Trip (Part One).

When you think about spring break, images of warm weather locales tickle most people's minds such as Palm Springs or the Florida Keys (at least those are the images that inhabit my brain's real estate).  So when I was approached with my hubby's prospect of going to Nebraska for a short roadtrip this past weekend, I have to admit I was a little reticent.  As a young girl I remember multiple trips cross country over the nearly flat, treeless, green land surrounding the highway that came to be known as the dreaded "long" state.  Lurking in my mind's abyss, was one question: Did Omaha have anything to offer a big city-loving girl?

With my camera in hand, I was ready to dig in a little and see what one of the biggest cities in the midwest nestled in one of the "flyover" states had to offer.  To be honest, I wasn't expecting too much, save for a few days of rest and relaxation, mostly technology free.  Curious to see how I fared?  Here are a few snapshots and a recap of some of the weekend's sights.

One of the first things we did upon getting into Omaha (btw, notables from this town: Malcolm X, Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Johnny Carson and the founder of Kool-Aid, Edwin Perkins- all hail) was to find something to eat.  Old Market, a district carved out for quirky, upscale shops, good eats and local art was our first stop.

Some blocks of Old Market were energetic-and a bit wild- in the numerous Irish bars as it was St. Patrick's Day. Horses were painted green, one dude was decked out in an all over latex green body suit (head to toe, people), and nearly everyone was wearing green in various levels of flair.  One thing for sure, Omaha's (Irish and non-Irish) folk know how to throw it down. We on the other hand decided on sushi instead of corned beef and cabbage at the district's Blue restaurant (per the kids' request) and we weren't sorry to have strayed from the mainstay.

(Hello, stacked, heavenly tuna tower salad that the waitress suggested)

(Fordy checking out the Calamari and Tempura Platter)

Bellies full and souls satisfied, we ventured out to explore the nooks and crannies of Old Market.  Old brick abounds, covering buildings and streets alike giving everything an old world charm.  We soon figured out that Old Market is a mecca for everything quirky and vintage.

One of our favorite stops was a fun vintage store called the Flying Worm.  Despite it's weird name, they house a pretty impressive array of western and Doc Marten-like boots, mod dresses, prairie chic apparel, vintage tees and these...

(Lana bought some black and rainbow ones)

(A peek in the airy, well-organized store)

Other notable stores that we spent hours leafing through the endless, sometimes overpriced vintage goodies were Second Chance Antiques and Homer's which offers old and new LP's, dvd's and cd's. Fordy found his new, favorite adventure hat- a sweet, Minnetoka suede number at Second
Chance talking the guy down using his puppydog eye maneuver (word to the wise, always haggle).  At  Homer's, we found old and new LP's  in excellent condition at reasonable prices.  We scored Duran Duran's Rio, Cheap Trick's The Dream Police and the Psychedelic Furs and I thought good and hard about snagging a Bob Dylan collection and Nina Simone LP, which I kind of now regret not buying.

1.  sweet postcards organized by state
2.  vintage typewriters from different eras
3.  Hippo hovering above Keith checking out the songs on an old jukebox
4. Elena petting Cabbage, the store mascot

Are you as surprised as I was to discover that Omaha is kind of a funky, vibrant place?  Throw in a little Midwestern friendliness and small-town-in-a-big-city charm and there you have it, Omaha in a nutshell...

(Come back tomorrow to see what other adventures there is to be had in Omaha!)

Posted by Dawn

Friday, March 2, 2012

Zucchini Leek Tartlets: Guest Baker, René LaVoie

We here at Tales of Three Bakers welcome René LaVoie of The Savory Life who brings us a glimpse into her culinary talents! For more of René's recipes, also check out her personal recipe page at GroupRecipes ~Luisa

Hello! I'm René, and Luisa graciously asked me to be a guest blogger. Her culinary creativity is an inspiration to me and my kitchen adventures, so it is truly a pleasure :)

Now on to the Zucchini Leek Tartlets!

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These babies could rival a chocolate ganache over the meaning of the word "decadent." Plus, you can feel good about eating a few veggies while indulging. Another plus: you don't have to wait for the dough to rest! But you could make it ahead of time if you must, just keep it in the fridge.

I used rich homemade ricotta by Smitten Kitchen for the filling~yum! but a good quality store-bought would work just fine.

I did have a bit of dough leftover, not quite enough to make another tart, so I flattened it into shapes with my hands and baked it into "crackers" that my son and I dipped into some extra ricotta :)


for the crust:
adapted from Paule Caillat via David Lebovitz
12 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp canola or safflower oil
6 Tbsp water (I used the whey leftover from making the ricotta)
1/4 tsp finely ground sea salt
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour

for the toppings:

about 2 cups ricotta cheese
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
freshly shredded pecorino romano
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste extra virgin olive oil


Preheat your oven to 410 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange seven 5"
spring form tart pans on a large baking tray.

Add the butter, oil, water (or whey), salt, and rosemary to a small pan and bring to a low boil.

Mix the flours in a heat-proof bowl and add the liquid mixture. Stir until the dough just comes together.

When the dough is cool enough to work with, separate it into seven equal balls, and press each ball into a tart pan. Reinforce the sides with your fingers or a fork, and poke a few holes in the bottom of each with a fork.

Reserve a small piece of dough in the bowl for patching up holes or cracks after the first bake. Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside.

While the crusts are cooling, saute the leeks in a bit of oil, then toss in a bowl with the zucchini. Add s&p.

When the crusts are cool, add a generous dollop of ricotta in each, and spread it into an even layer.

Sprinkle the garlic & rosemary over the ricotta. Arrange the leeks and zucchini on top any which way, and top it all off with the pecorino romano.

Bake for 10 minutes. If they're not as golden as you'd like, stick 'em under the broiler for a minute or two, but make sure those crusts don't burn! Serve hot and enjoy :)