Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pickled! Again!

I'm very pleased to report that the Mrs. Pickler cucumbers I planted in early June have grown wonderfully in my little backyard garden. I've been busy the last few weekends picking my home-grown cucumbers to make dill pickles.

I decided to try the Best-Ever Dill Pickle recipe in the July issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  My only alteration was that I used fresh dill from my garden instead of dill seeds.  I also added a garlic bulb to a few of the jars, just to see how it would taste.

My new secret ingredient this year is Pickle Crisp, which I learned helps keep the cucumbers crunchy.  All the pickles I canned last year ended up mushy, so I'm hoping the Pickle Crisp helps.  I couldn't find it in my local grocery store, so I ordered Pickle Crisp from the website.

I'm really proud of how beautiful the jars turned out.  We'll see if they taste just as good.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cookie Friday: Rice Krispie Treats

Happy Cookie Friday!  I'm still recovering from my numerous trips to the Iowa State Fair last week.  During every visit to the fair, I tried to get my hands on the newest state fair treat -- Fair Squares -- which, in essence, were Rice Krispie Treats on a stick. But every time I tried to buy one, they were sold out.  Guess they were super popular (maybe because they were $2, when everything other treat was $5 and above).

So I decided to give into my craving and make Rice Krispie treats at home.  Yes, I know this is the easiest recipe ever.  And no, I didn't add homemade marshmallows or another foodie ingredient.  I just made Rice Krispie bars like my mom used to make them -- with generic-brand marshmallows, melted in the microwave.

I did jazz them up with the M&Ms I still had in the freezer from my earlier attempt at M&M cookies.  (Notice a pattern here.  I like simple, old-fashioned recipes.)

I'm assuming I don't need to share the recipe here.  I just followed the instructions on the box.

If you haven't given these a try for a while, make up a batch today.  It will take you back to your childhood.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

State Fair Oddities

My sister and I spent an afternoon at the Iowa State Fair last week, and we saw some of the strangest things.

The big bull.

The big boar.

The big pumpkin.

Really old tractors.

Ronald McDonald working the crowd.

A rodeo queen.

Mini pork sliders.

Pigs in space.

A working pay phone!

A wall of corn.

Six-foot-tall chicken.


Chocolate chip cookie dunked in chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Beautiful bovines.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iowa State Fair: Master Gardeners

One of my favorite exhibits at the Iowa State Fair is the Polk County Master Gardeners' showcase garden.  I talked to a few of the master gardeners who planned the garden this year, and I was surprised to learn that they start the seeds for the garden at the Des Moines Botannical Center each winter.  So there's a lot of advanced planning (and some really creative folks) that goes into this State Fair garden.

And this year, the master gardeners really outdid themselves.  Right away, a towering, exotic-looking flower captured my eye.  I went over to look at the label, which read Caster Bean Oil plant.  I love the pom-pom red flowers.

Someone on Twitter told me that caster bean plants are very easy to grow.  You can just plant the seed in the ground, and they take off.  It looks like they need to be staked, though, so they don't topple over from their height.

I was just strolling next to another flower bed and I saw another surprising garden feature -- a dill plant growing between marigolds.  Then I noticed kohlrabi growing in the patch, as well as ornamental kale.  I asked one of the master gardeners, and sure enough, it's an edible garden.  Even the marigold flowers are edible!  I so want to replicate this in my yard next year.

I was impressed by how many garden features they squeezed into such a small space around the Agriculture Building.


And look!  A rain barrel!  With a rain chain!  I've got to get me one of these!

A big thank you to the Polk County Master Gardeners for putting on such an inspiring display.  I came away with lots of garden ideas for my own home.

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