Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Joy of Rhubarb

My hubby and I picked our backyard rhubarb for the first time this year.  I ended up freezing 15 cups of rhubarb from our four rhubarb plants.  Quite a haul for so early in the spring.

I like to use my husband's Foodsaver to freeze the rhubarb.  It's such a treat to make a rhubarb dessert in the middle of winter.

We have an old variety of rhubarb growing in our garden, which is why it's green, not red.

I wouldn't dare waste any of this precious rhubarb.  I adore rhubarb.  We almost bought a house just because it had rhubarb in the backyard.  I love strawberry-rhubarb pie.  And one of my husband's favorite dessert is rhubarb custard bars, a recipe I found several years back from Cooking Light magazine.

Even people who don't think they like rhubarb love these bars.  How could you not like a recipe with butter, cream cheese and Cool Whip?  If you have rhubarb, you have to give this recipe a try.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On a gnome hunt

I heard a rumor that there was a garden gnome invasion at Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens in Ames.  So I had to stop and hunt for the elusive creature myself.

Nothing here.

Or here.

Or here.


There are 25 gnomes at Reiman Gardens, each decorated by local schools and civic organizations.

I really did feel like I was on a gnome hunt.  My grandmother, a member of the Sons and Daughters of Norway group, used to have a pop-up book about gnomes and how they like to hide in people's gardens.  I used to love that book, although it creeped me out a little. 

It was great fun to see the gnomes tucked away here and there at Reiman Gardens.

One of my personal favorites, the American Gnomic, inspired by Iowan Grant Wood's famous painting.

And the showstopper:  The largest gnome in the United States, clocking in at 15 towering feet tall.

Isn't he the cutest?  You have to stop by the gardens and check them out for yourself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring blooms

What a wonderful spring!  It's been such a blessing to enjoy unseasonably warm weather after such a rough winter.  I can't believe how fast my garden is growing!


The tulips I planted last November are starting to bloom.

The radishes I planted two weeks ago are also popping up.

And look who decided to join me in the garden: my neighbor's cat, Levi.

Now I'm off to enjoy another beautiful day!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

HBin5: Pizza

I strayed from this week's Healthy Bread in 5 assignment.  I'm not really interested in trying gluten-free recipes; thankfully, neither my husband nor I have glutten allergies. I thought this would be a good week to try the olive oil pizza crust recipes in the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" cookbook, which I bought at the same time as HBin5.

The whole reason I decided to splurge on a baking stone was so I could make restaurant-quality pizza at home.  We don't have a pizza delivery place in my town, so we have to make do with ingredients we can find in our little grocery store.

I'm happy to report that the ABin5 pizza dough turned out amazing!  I had a little trouble rolling it out to 1/4-inch thickness as was recommended in the book.  I don't have enough counter space to roll dough easily.  And when I tried to slide my first pizza off the peel onto the stone, an edge of the pizza rolled under, and then the cheese ended up sticking to the stone, so I couldn't get the pizza easily off the stone. But after some wiggling with a spatula, the pizza finally came off the stone.  And it looked beautiful!


I ended up making two medium-size pizzas - a pepperoni and a "taco" with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomato and doritos added after baking.  My husband ended up eating nearly an entire pizza by himself.

Again, I can't get over how easy these pizzas are.  The last time I made pizza dough this fall I accidentally let rise for too long, and I had to mix up another batch last minute.  It's so much easier just to mix the dough in a bucket and then let it rise in the fridge.  These no-knead recipes are terrific!

Please visit Big Black Dog to see how the other bloggers fared with their gluten-free recipes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Birthday treats!

Hello everyone!  It's an absolutely gorgeous day outside.  The birds are chirping, the neighbor's orange tabby cat is lounging in our yard and I'm basking in the glow of my birthday!

I received wonderful birthday gifts from my family.  My sister gave me a silicone pie shield, a pineapple corer, a fancy new pie server and a tube of Colgate. (She's just weeks away from getting her dental hygenist license.)

My sister said these pie servers are flying off the shelves at her mother-in-law's gift shop in Carroll.  You push the handle, and the pie slides off the server.

And my husband completely surprised me with a new food mill!  I can't wait to start using it this spring to make strawberry jam.  It will especially come in handy when I'm making apple butter in the fall.  Last year, it took me all day to peel, slice, cook, mash and strain the apples just to make 8 half pints of apple butter. 

I'd also like to make my first attempt at homemade ketchup this summer, so this food mill is a must!  I couldn't ask for a better birthday!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Norwegian treats: Kringla

When I was visiting Fort Dodge in central Iowa last week, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a little store near the mall with a sign that said, "Kringla."  It was a Norwegian bakery!  I just had to stop and check it out for myself.

I had a nice talk with the owner to find out more about how they ended up running a Norwegian bakery in the middle of Iowa.  Turns out, the family is descended from a group of Norwegians who settled in nearby Story City.  The bakery owner told me his mom made Kringla, a Norwegian flour-and-butter cookie, every day.  His dad would butter the Kringla, then dunk it in coffee, as a treat during his breaks from farm chores.

The bakery owner's mom taught his wife how to make Kringla, and she got so good at it that they started selling Kringla at the Fort Dodge farmers' market.  Eventually, they opened the bakery, although it's more of a store front.  They actually do the baking in their licenced home kitchen.  However, he told me that they are moving their store to nearby Rockwell City in May, since they had an opportunity to buy an entire bakery, equipment and all.  They hope to get a Web site up and running so they can ship out their Kringla.  They already are sending out orders to the East Coast for folks who remember eating Kringla as kids.

What I really loved about the Kringla was how soft and tender it was, not like the hard Kringla you find offered for sale at gas stations here in Iowa.  They also bake up different flavors of Kringla.  I came home with the traditional Vanilla as well as a Banana-Walnut and a Chocolate.

I'd have to say my favorite was the chocolate.  The bakery owner told me they also make seasonal Kringla varieties, including pumpkin in the fall, eggnog for Christmas and strawberry-banana in the spring. 

I also came home with an apricot pastry inspired by Chech kolache, another local favorite.  These buttery treats melt in your mouth; they are so soft and yummy!

How much fun would it be to own a little bakery like this and have time to experiment with different recipes?  They are living my dream!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Iowa road trip: Fort Dodge

I found myself in the central Iowa town of Fort Dodge this week on another road trip for work.  I took advantage of a sunny day to check out the downtown, which is pretty unique.  It's almost like a mini-city skyline, with towering main-street buildings.  Tucked away within these buildings was the gorgeous county courthouse.  It's unlike any courthouse I've seen in Iowa. Very ornate.

The Webster County Courthouse is listed in the National Historic Registry.

I found these old painted "billboards" on the side of a downtown building.  Wonder how old they are?

Loved this mural on the side of another building.  Almost looks like the oxen (or are they horses?) are plowing through the city courtyard.

Glad I took a few extra minutes out of my day to go exploring in Fort Dodge!
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