Thursday, February 27, 2014

Slow Cooker Gluten Free Gumbo

Can you believe that next Tuesday, March 4, 2014, will be "Fat Tuesday" and time for Mardi Gras? The Lenten season begins the next day, with traditional fasting in preparation for Easter, but during Mardi Gras, and especially Fat Tuesday, the tradition is to indulge in festive foods.  Some of the best food I've ever eaten was in the city of New Orleans, and I've always wanted to visit again during the Mardi Gras festivities. Until that happens, I'll try to make my own little celebration at home.

In past blog posts, I've shown a festive King Cake that I prepared (click here to see that post), and I replicated the best gumbo I ever had, which was at Paul Prudhomme's restaurant in New Orleans (click here to see that post).  Since I'm now watching my active toddler granddaughter during the day, I wanted to prepare something easy, and Gluten-free, that my entire family could enjoy. I decided to try a slow cooker, gluten-free, gumbo!

I was a little concerned at first because a traditional gumbo requires a New Orleans style "roux." A roux is a mix of flour and oil, stirred and cooked until it is a rich, deep brown. This becomes the base of gumbo and also its thickener. I could try a gluten-free flour and oil mix, and add it to the crockpot, but I decided to keep the process as simple as possible and leave it out and add gumbo file powder at the end instead. Gumbo file powder is made from dried and crushed sassafras leaves, and gives a gumbo a desirable flavor, plus thickens it.  Many stores sell it in the spice section, and it is available on many online stores. You can even make your own!

The results of my experiment were superb!  This was a delicious, spicy and hearty gumbo that brought me back to New Orleans in an instant! All I had to do was add all the ingredients to my slow cooker in the morning and by dinner time make some rice, add some defrosted cooked shrimp and the gumbo file powder to the slow cooker, and give a few stirs to blend. Served over a couple scoops of the rice, the gumbo is a complete and delicious meal.

Slow Cooker Gluten-Free Gumbo


2 green peppers, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 long stalks of celery, diced
1 pound Andouille Sausage, sliced  (Andouille sausage can be found in most supermarkets or can be ordered online)
1 pound of boneless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups diced tomatoes--fresh, or one 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 package of frozen sliced okra
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried garlic powder

To add at the end:
one pound fully cooked and peeled, defrosted medium-size shrimp (optional)
two teaspoons gumbo file powder.


Dice peppers, onion, celery.  Slice chicken and Andouille sausage Add all to the slow cooker (I did this the evening before and placed all in the refrigerator so that in the morning all I had to do is add them to the slow cooker).  Add the chicken stock, frozen okra,  diced tomatoes, and all spices. Stir, cover, and let the slow cooker simmer on low for 8-9 hours, or on high 4-5 hours. Turn off the slow cooker, remove the bay leaves from the gumbo, stir in the well defrosted and drained shrimp (if desired) and the two teaspoons of gumbo file powder, and stir well until thickened and the shrimp are warm.  Serve the gumbo over two large scoops of steamed white rice. You can garnish with chopped green onions if desired.


Memories of New Orleans --"Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!"  Let the Good Times Roll!

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

History Colorado Center

When I lived in New York City, I loved to enjoy all it had to offer, and now that I am a full-time resident of a suburb of Denver, I am doing the same in this stimulating city. Denver has quite a bit of art and entertainment to offer its residents, and one of the museums my husband and I enjoyed visiting recently is the History Colorado Center, located at 1200 Broadway, Denver, Colorado, in the Golden Triangle Museum District.  As you can see by the buffalo sculpture outside the center, the football season was still in progress during our visit!

Opened in 2012, the History Colorado Center is a modern museum that presents the past history of the state of Colorado with new perspectives, and hands-on exhibits, in an award-winning building designed by and constructed by an all-Colorado team. The History Colorado Center is also a Smithsonian affiliate and was called "the first great history museum of the 21st century" by the Smithsonian Affiliations Director Harold Closter.  The building houses core and traveling exhibitions/public programs, the Office of History and Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the State Historical Fund, the Stephan H Hart Research Library, and other History Colorado functions.  Its research and historical collections are extensive.

What is really striking about this new museum is the way it makes history come alive through its interactive exhibits!

As soon as you walk into the main floor, called the Anschutz Hamilton Hall, you will see a giant topographical map of Colorado on the floor.

By manipulating rolling "steampunk style time machines," you can see information about events that happened in different locations in the state, at different times on the machine's computer screens. The 132 LED screens on the wall also show breathtaking hourly programs

You can watch this YouTube video of how the time machine works! It's pretty cool!

One of the "Colorado Stories," exhibits replicates what it was like to live in a homestead town on the Colorado high plains called Keotacirca 1918.  This 5,000 square foot exhibit portrays life in the town at the time. You can wander through the one-room schoolroom, shop at the general store, milk the cow or gather the eggs on the farm, sit on the porch swing, go inside the house and smell the pie cooling on the oven. The exhibit includes the photos and stories of some of the people of this once hardscrabble farming community. Although homesteading was part of the American Dream of the early west, the people of Keota found the extreme temperatures and lack of rainfall on the high plains too arduous to allow for profitable farming, and slowly the population dwindled until it is now a "ghost town."

Part of the Keota exhibit is an actual circa 1920 Model T Ford car to ride! As a museum guest sits in the car it rattles as if driving over a bumpy road on the plains, and a movie plays on the screen to give you the effect of being part of a family on a drive.  My husband enjoyed the ride!

Another exhibit we saw as part of "Colorado Stories," was an exhibit about the Silverton Silver Mine, circa 1880. Visitors enter an elevator that simulates going down a mine shaft and then going into the mine. As you walk around "underground," you are greeted by miners on TV screens that describe the hard work and dangers miners faced each day, and what your job would be in each section of the mine. Colorado miners also had to be mountaineers, and cope with harsh winter weather and slippery granite slopes.

A different "Colorado Stories" exhibit was the story called "Confined Citizens: The Amache-Granada Relocation Center, 1942-1945. After the attack on the US Naval Base Pearl Harbor, 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps. One in Colorado was called "Amache." Half of the imprisoned population here were children. Two-Thirds were American citizens. None were accused of a crime. In this exhibit, you can walk into a reproduction of the meager barracks the imprisoned Japanese were forced to live in--an entire family in one room which measured twenty by twenty-four feet. The barracks had one window, one single light bulb, a small coal stove for warmth, and thin mattresses on cots to sleep on. You can view a very interesting, interactive online exhibit about Amache on this link on the museum's web site.

To his credit, the Governor of Colorado at the time, Ralph L. Carr,  took an unpopular stance by inviting Japanese Americans to stay in Colorado after the war. He also publicly stated his opinion that their internment was unconstitutional.

There were many other "Colorado Stories" exhibits to see. Among them were "Tribal Paths" about Colorado's native Americans from 1500 to today, Convergence: Bent's Fort, where, between 1833 and 1849, weary Sante Fe Trail travelers would stay and trade at this marketplace like no other. In "Jumping For Joy: Steamboat Springs, 1915," we learned how skiing became the way of life for mountain men, mail carriers and miners in the Rocky Mountains. Soon, non-mountain living people came because they learned skiing was fun! Norwegian ski champion Carl Howelsen taught Steamboat's children how to ski, and there is an interactive exhibit where you can ride down a simulated ski slope. It takes some time to learn to land correctly, as you can see from my husband's failed attempts in the photos above.  "Denver A to Z," and other exhibits make for a very full and interesting museum experience.  

The History Colorado Center promises to offer many new and ongoing programs and events in the future. We enjoyed our visit so much that we paid for a year's membership, and hope to return very soon to see some of the upcoming exhibits.  I hope if you visit Denver, Colorado, you will place the History Colorado Center on your list of places you'd like to visit. It's both fun and educational!

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Draft Horse Show at the National Western Stock Show, Denver, Colorado

Last week I showed you a little about my husband and my visit to the National Western Stock Show that takes place every January in Denver, Colorado, and some scenes from a Pro Rodeo that took place at the show--click here to read that post. This week I'd like to follow up to show you some photos and video from a Draft Horse Show at the stock show that my husband and I attended the same day. It was so exciting to see these large, magnificent horses display their beauty and horsepower!

There are multiple shows during the last weekend of the National Western Stock Show that features draft horses, and the one we attended featured the Feed Team Race, 6 Horse Hitch and Ladies Team.  The show began with a very inspirational rendition of our National Anthem, with the colors being held by men and women sheriffs on horseback.

The Feed Team Race shows the power and strength of both man and beast. Teams of two draft horses or draft mules, along with two men, competed to pick up and haul hay blocks, each weighing close to 50 pounds, from one point of the arena and then re-stack them at another point and then race back to the finish line.  Draft horses were the working horses of yesteryear, and this is a demonstration that shows their powerful strength. Unfortunately, with the rise of modern machinery, the jobs of many draft horses have been eliminated and it was not for horse shows such as this many of these wonderful horses would no longer be breed.

Next up were the 6 Horse Draft Horse Hitch Demonstrations. There were 24 teams of horses in total in the show. The three most common breeds of Draft Horse: the Percheron, Clydesdale and Belgium Draft Horse were all well represented in the show.

Percheron Horses are a breed of draft horse that originated in the Huisne River Valley in Northern France, part of the former Perche Province from which the breed takes its name. Usually gray or black in color, Percherons are well muscled and known for their intelligence and willingness to work.

Clydesdale Draft Horses are a breed of draft horse derived from farm horses breed in an area along the River Clyde in Scotland, and named after that region. They were bred from the great Flemish Horse. I think most Americans are familiar with this breed of draft horse from the popular TV beer commercials of a certain brand.

The third most common breed of Draft Horse is the BelgianBelgian Draft Horses, also known as Belgian Heavy Horse, is a draft horse from the Brabant region of modern Belgium, where it is called Cheval de Trait Belge. It is one of the strongest of the heavy breeds, but also one of the most gentle, and is the most commonly found of all draft horses and prized because they also the best horse to breed to produce draft mules.

It was wonderful to watch the 24 different draft horse teams come out to the arena and circle around and show their beauty, form, and discipline, all the while being judged.

This video, taken by my husband, shows you how the 6 horse hitch teams come out in teams of 6, and parade around the arena as the judges observe them.

In this video that my husband took during the event, shows the final horse team round up of all 24 teams, which filled the entire arena!  As the announcer stated, it gave us all "goosebumps" to see it!

They were all winners in my book but the official results of the show we saw can be viewed on this link.

One of the last events was the Ladies Teams who drove two draft horse hitches.....

...and there was also a Draft Mule demonstration.

There were a few scary moments when this draft mule hitch team, carrying a woman in an antique sled, ran wild and ejected the woman from the sled!  Something frightened the mules leading her hitch and they ran wild around the arena dragging the sled behind them.   It just goes to show that anything can happen during a live show and that controlling the horses and mules can take quite a bit of effort and skill. Happily, the woman appeared OK, but the entire audience held its breath for a few moments!

We really enjoyed attending our first Draft Horse show! It was so interesting to learn so much about the different draft horses that contributed so much to the history of farming and heavy duty work in the past, and that now are magnificent show horses to be cherished and admired.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, I don't think you'll be disappointed. If you can also attend one of the special events during the show you will add to your excitement and have memories that will last a lifetime!

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Someone Had a First Birthday!

Someone had a very special birthday!

It is not every day that you turn one year old!

Momma bought special cupcakes...

...and lit your number one candle.

  Grandma and Grandpa came over to help sing "Happy Birthday," and take photos.

At first you weren't sure what a cupcake was...

..but you soon found out!

It did not take long before you were enjoying it like an old pro!

You even offered some to us!

Afterward you had lots or presents to open!  You are a very lucky girl!

A few days later your Aunt, Uncle and cousins came to brunch at a local restaurant where we all celebrated again! Your Uncle and you share the same birthday, so he had a special big birthday hug to give you!

Happy first birthday to our darling granddaughter and happy birthday to our dear son!  

February is a special month in our household, and we love you both so very much!

Happy Valentine's Day to all my readers!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The National Western Stock Show and Rodeo

My husband and I attended the 108th National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Colorado, a couple of weekends ago. This quintessential multi-day western event takes place every January at the National Western Complex, located at 4655 Humboldt Street, Denver, Colorado. The 100-acre National Western grounds and buildings consist of an Expo Hall, Hall of Education, Events Center, Stadium Arena, Stockyards, and Denver Coliseum. The stock show has a long and colorful history(All photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

The first thing we did after parking for free, in one of the event center's parking lots, was to buy tickets to two events we wanted to see: the Pro Rodeo, and the Draft Horse Show. There is so much to see and do at the National Western Stock Show that we knew we would not be able to do it all in one day, but hopefully, we will be able to return next year to see more of the shows!

We had a little time before the beginning of the rodeo, so we took a stroll through the stockyards. There are two ways to view the stock on display in the yards. You can climb up the stairs to a platform that runs along the western edge and looks down at the stock, as you can see in the photo collage above.

Or you can walk among the stock pens, for a close-up look at the animals for sale. Since we attended the Stock Show on a day during the last weekend, much of the stock had been sold, but we still saw plenty of cows, long-horned cattle, buffalo, yaks, and horses that were for sale or up for auction. The National Western Stock Show hosts nearly 20 breeds of cattle during it is 16-day run!

We visited some of the show and auction rings and grooming stables and saw the awards that many of the stock had won at prior shows. 

attended the pro rodeo in the Coliseum building. This was only the second time my husband and I attended a rodeo.  The first was at Cody, Wyoming, when we were on our way to visit Yellowstone National Park a few years ago. Click here to read that post. We were amazed at how much fun and how exciting it was to see, and we knew that the National Western Stock Show rodeo is ranked among the top five rodeos in the world, so we were looking forward to seeing this one.

The show began with a fireworks display and a prayer for the safety of all the cowboys and cowgirls who would be participating. The National Anthem was then sung, and Colorado's state flag and the flag of the rodeo sponsor were ridden around the arena

The first event was the cowboys riding the bucking broncos!

The horses did their best to try to shake off each cowboy who was riding them!

It is really a test of strength and agility for the cowboy.

I don't know how they hang on...

...and on...

...and on!

Look at the height of this horse's kick!

Unfortunately, a large majority of the Cowboys ended up falling off the horse. Saddle bronc riding evolved from the task of breaking and training horses to work the cattle ranches of the old West and involves a lot of technical skill and style. Bareback bronc riding is even more physically demanding. Being a rodeo-going novice, I do not know all the technical ways the cowboys are scored, nor did I pay attention to the scores, but I did have fun photographing them! 

Here is a photo collage of some of my favorite shots (please click on them to enlarge them).

Next, came different kinds of cattle roping-- tie-down roping, steer wrestling, and team roping. In the first and third types, the cowboy rides out after the running cattle and lassos it. The horse or team member keeps the rope taut as the cowboy goes over and picks up the cattle lays it on its side and ties up the legs to make it lay still, all the while being timed.

The Steer Wrestler cowboy, or "bulldogger," tries to throw himself off his horse onto the running cattle, grab it by its horns, and then wrestle it to the ground. Speed is the name of the game in this event and the modern world record is set at 2.4 seconds!

The steer events are skills they have developed by ranchers to catch cattle that escape from the herd or to isolate herd cattle that are sick or injured and need to be immobilized so that they can be given care.  Each style of roping or wrestling certainly looked strenuous and dangerous to me!

A couple of fun events at the rodeo were the "Mutton Busting" and Westernaires.  In the "Mutton Bustin" event,  five to seven-year-old children, under 55 pounds, ride sheep out of a chute and into the rodeo arena. The contestants cling to the back of the thickly coated sheep as long as they can for the best score. One little girl held on till her sheep reached the end of the arena! All the participants receive a trophy.

The Westernaires are a group of entertainers who are part of a nonprofit youth organization from Jefferson County, Colorado. Staffed entirely by more than 350 adult volunteers, the organization has more than 1,000 young riders ranging in age from 9 to 19, and who vary in ability from beginner to the accomplished performers we saw.  The acrobatics these young artists performed were amazing! The young man seen in the photo collage above actually ran alongside a running horse and jumped over it from side to side! We were amazed by his agility!

The rodeo also had a Barrel Racing event, clowns, and a few other attractions.

The most dangerous event in a rodeo is the bull riding event! 

The bull rider is only allowed to use one hand to hold onto the bull. If his other hand touches himself or the bull he receives no score.

It takes a lot of balance, coordination, and quick reflexes to stay on the bull as long as possible

I also thought that the "clowns" that try to distract the bull away from the fallen riders so they don't get trampled, were also pretty brave!

A photo collage of some of the bull riders (please click on to enlarge).

You can see how hard the bulls try to shake off the rider.  It is such an exciting event to see!

After the rodeo, we had another show to attend later in the day at the National Western Stock Show--the Draft Horse Show These large, strong, horses are magnificent to see in action!  Since this post is already long, I'll save those photos and descriptions for my next post.

The 2014 National Western Stock Show attracted 640,022 people to its events this year!  It was a banner year and much money was raised for its scholarship programs.  I know my husband and I will enjoy returning to see more of the special events of the National Western Stock Show next year.  It made us feel happy to be a part of this great Western heritage!

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