Sunday, October 31, 2010

First frost

I traveled back home to northern Iowa this week, and overnight, the temperatures dipped well below freezing.  I just had to go outside and take a few pictures of the first hard freeze of the year.  I took these pictures while on a very cold walk on the new trail that circles the Worth County Fairgrounds in Northwood.

My sister calls this the Northwood "skyline" -- the grain elevator where my dad used to deliver his corn.

The menu board was still up at the 4-H food stand, although the picnic tables were empty.

There's a barn quilt above the entrance of the Kiddie Barn.  Barn quilts are very popular in Iowa right now.

I have many happy memories of summer evenings spent watching country music acts and figure 8 races from the top row of wooden benches in the fair's historic grandstand.

A few trees are a little reluctant to give up their leaves for the season.

Couldn't resist walking through the fall leaves just to hear them crinkle under my feet.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


If you're ever in Des Moines, treat yourself to a trip to Tasty Tacos.  My sister and I stopped by their Euclid Ave. location on the northeast side of Des Moines.  We went with the classic beef taco, which is folded in a soft, bread-like shell.  For dessert, I ordered a cinnamon-sugar version of the soft taco shell (sorry, I can't remember its name, but it's on the dessert menu.)

By far my favorite taco joint in town.  Go there.  Soon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dog-gone fun

For the record, it is really, really, really hard to take photos of dogs.

These doggies didn't want to stand still.  There was way, way too much excitement at the Central Iowa Pet Expo at the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.  This pooch was sporting purple to celebrate the occassion. (I'm not sure why she was purple, by the way.)

It would be great to adopt a dog, but my hubby and I have decided against it.  We're both away from home too much, and we don't like the idea of caging a dog outside or inside while we are gone.  We both grew up on farms, so we think dogs should be free to roam.

But...maybe someday we might give in a get a little lap dog.  They can be so friendly and adorable.

The Pet Expo has become an annual tradition for my sister and I.  My sister has always loved animals.  When we were little girls growing up on the farm, she spent all her time outside playing with the cats and dogs in our farmyard. 

Now my sister has a house cat, and she loves to buy her little toys.  She bought a hand-made pet pillow for $15 at the Expo this year.  She called me as soon as she got home to tell me that her cat loved the pillow.  Best $15 she ever spent :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cookie Friday: Coconut macaroons

Happy Friday, everyone!  I'm so glad that the weekend is finally here, although I'm a little disappointed that there's rain in the forecast tomorrow.  I was hoping to go for a long, leisurely bike ride.  But I'm thankfully that we've had so many beautiful fall days this past month.  It's been a blessing!

For my favorite day of the week, Cookie Friday, I'm sharing a speedy 5-ingredient recipe that my husband went ga-ga over.  He loves anything coconut, so I clipped this recipe for coconut macaroons from the August/September issue of Taste of Home magazine.

These were so easy to make and would make a cool tailgating treat.  My husband has already requested them again, and he's pretty picky when it comes to sweets.

So without further delay, here's the recipe.  Enjoy, my friends!


Coconut Macaroons
From Taste of Home
  • 2-1/2 C. flaked coconut
  • 1/3 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 C. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a small bowl, combine the coconut, flour and salt.  Add milk and vanilla; mix well. (Batter will be stiff).

Drop by tablespoonfulls 1 inch apart onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 35 degrres for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to wire rack. Yield: 1-1/2 dozen

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My new favorite apple crisp

What's your favorite taste of the fall?  Apples? Squash? Sweet potatoes?  Personally, I love them all, but apples are by far my favorite for fall cooking and baking.  I've been taking advantage of the seasonal apple sales at the grocery store and local orchard and bringing at least one bag of apples home each week.  I mostly buy Jonathans, because they are a good all-purpose baking and sauce apple. 

But a few weeks back, I stopped at Bauer's Market in La Crescent, Minn., on my way home from visiting family, and there were several apple varieties that I had never seen in the Iowa orchards I visit.  I decided to try something new, and I brought home a bag of Fireside apples, which were reasonably priced and labeled as good baking apples. 

I was craving apple crisp the other night, so I broke out one of my favorite Iowa church cookbooks and tried a new-to-me recipe.  And talk about beginner's luck -- this apple crisp was wonderful!  It's super easy to make on a weeknight, and the Fireside apples gave the dessert a nice tart bite.

I was pretty generous with the cinnamon called for in the recipe, because my husband believes you can never add too much cinnamon.  (And he's usually right about these things.)

This recipe may not be original or fancy, but it's good.  Really good.  So I'm sharing it with all of you.  Enjoy!


Apple Crisp
From Deer Creek Lutheran Church Cookbook, Carpenter, Iowa
  • Apples, sliced (about 5 large)
  • 1/2 C. sugar & cinnamon, to taste
  • 1 C. brown sugar
  • 1/2 C. quick oatmeal
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 C. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 C. butter
Sliced apples go in bottom of an 8x8-inch pan to the depth of about 2 inches. Mix sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle over top of apples. Mix the brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, vanilla and nuts together. Cut in butter until crumbly. Put over top of apples and bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm, with either ice cream or Cool Whip.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Frost fake-out

This warm, wonderful fall weather is just too good to be true.  It's such an unbelievable blessing.  Today, I woke up for my morning spin class, and it was 45 degrees.  But by 1 p.m., the temps climbed up to 75 degrees.  Can you believe this is the middle of October? 

Last year, we had our first snow here in central Iowa around Oct. 9.

Fast-forward to today, and Iowa's landscape looks more like this.

Oh, the quiet beauty of a freshly harvested field.  Iowa farmers have been working like gang-busters to get the crops out of the field before the snow flies.  Thankfully, we've had a two-week dry spell in central Iowa, which has kept the combines rolling out in the fields.

Last week, we had a bit of a frost scare.  Temperatures were forecast to potentially drop below freezing for the first time this fall.  The average first frost date for central Iowa is around Oct. 10, so it's to be expected.  But I was disappointed that I had to pluck my little plot of green lettuce just as it was starting to take off.

I grabbed as much lettuce as I could, then gave it a bath in the sink before giving it a ride in the salad spinner and putting it in a plastic baggie.  I enjoyed lettuce salads for lunch during the week.

I also picked the green tomatoes from the vine, the ones that hadn't been eaten by insects. 

I was surprised to find a pepper on a plant that was flooded and knocked over by the wind during this summer's torrent of storms.  This plant is a survivor!

The next morning, I expected to see my lettuce and tomato plants shriveled under a layer of frost.  Instead, the frost never arrived.  And believe it or not, my remaining lettuce still looks remarkably green and is thriving in the sunny, cool weather.  I would have never guessed that I'd be growing lettuce in mid-October.  I'm loving my three-season garden.
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