Sunday, May 29, 2011

Honey Oatmeal Bread

I've been looking to experiment with whole-wheat bread recipes, and I came across this honey oatmeal bread on the Tasty Kitchen website.  I loved how this bread turned out.  It looked just like whole-wheat sandwich bread when I sliced it up.  My only compliant is that the bread had white "specks" in it that looked like unmixed-in flour -- although it may have been the oatmeal flakes, I'm not sure.

I thought this bread was a winner, but my husband wasn't too excited about eating anything with "buckwheat" in it -- his code for anything whole wheat.  No, this recipe doesn't have buckwheat in it. He just doesn't like whole wheat bread.  So I had the loaf all to myself, which was fine by me.  It's excellent served with butter and homemade strawberry jam.  Give it a try for yourself.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Iowa Arboretum

I stopped by the Iowa Arboretum near Madrid the other day for a spring plant sale.  I had to snap a picture of this lovely hosta garden.  I would love to recreate this in my yard (if only I had the space).

Don't you love the name of this hosta?  Almost makes me hungry :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Broccoli vs. rabbits (plus tornado story!)

Sorry everyone.  I meant to publish this post last night.  But I got a surprise phone call from my dad that went something like this:

Dad: "Hi honey!  How are you doing?"

Me: "Oh, I'm fine. Just cutting up some rhubarb.  What's up?"

Dad: "Well, a tornado just went through our neighborhood?"

Say what?!!!

Yep.  A small F1 tornado barreled through the south side of La Crosse, Wis., where my dad lives.  There were roofs blown off of houses just a block away from his home.  Thankfully, he is safe, and his house suffered only minor damage -- a broken storm door window, a couple downed electric poles in his back yard, and an uprooted tree that barely missed hitting his house.  So glad that he was safe, especially with the news of the tragic tornado down in Joplin, Mo.  Scary stuff.  He said he didn't even have time to head for the basement.  He never heard the tornado sirens.

Needless to say, I was a little shook up from my dad's tale.  So I didn't get around to writing this post about my battle with our neighborhood rabbits.  But here it is:

Last month, I planted broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi.  Within a week, the plants were nibbled to the ground.  So I bought a few more broccoli and cauliflower plants and made sure to protect them with make-shift bucket "cages."  (My husband sawed buckets in half.) The plants are growing great now.

But then last week, I noticed that the sugar snap peas, which were starting to climb up the trellis, had disappeared.  The rabbits were back.  I'm pretty disappointed, because it's too late in the season to replant the seeds.

Lovely sugar snap peas, before the rabbit found them.
So apparently, I need to remember to install some type of rabbit-proof fence next year, even though I don't like the look of chicken wire around my little garden.

I just don't understand why the rabbits eat my little seedlings when there is so much green everywhere right now -- green grass, green leaves, green weeds.  It's like they are tormenting me for fun.  Or, maybe, I'm being a bit paranoid.  So now it's me vs. the rabbits. Let's hope I win.  Please cheer for me :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rhubarb apple bread

Oh dear!  I have more rhubarb than I know what to do with.

Our four rhubarb plants are growing like gang-busters this year.  Maybe it's because of the rainy, cool spring weather?  Whatever the reason, I still have a lot of rhubarb to experiement with, and plenty to freeze for winter use.

I recently baked up the absolutely best rhubarb quick bread I've ever made.  It's another recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod.  I'm completely smitten by all their recipes.  So much so that I'm trying a new recipe of theirs about every week.  And this rhubarb apple bread was so yummy!  It's got a generous amount of cinnamon, which my husband loves.  And the rhubarb in this bread wasn't very tart, so it's a good recipe for people who aren't rhubarb fans (although I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't love rhubarb).

If you have a few extra stalks of rhubarb from the farmers' market, or if you live in a rhubarb jungle like myself, then give this quick bread recipe a try.

Monday, May 16, 2011

North Central Iowa Gardens

On a trip to visit my mom, I stopped in Clear Lake to see the daffodils in bloom at the North Central Iowa Gardens.  It's a volunteer-run public garden that's planted on the site of a former school.  It's such a peaceful oasis in the middle of town. I was the only visitor at 9 a.m., and it was a quiet place to collect my thoughts before continuing on my road trip.

The daffodils and tulips were just starting to fade away.  Soon, the peonies will be blooming.

Before leaving Clear Lake, I drove downtown to check out the shops.  I loved seeing all the garden flowers at the local dime store. Another reminder that summer is just around the corner.

Friday, May 13, 2011

2011 Garden Update

Just wanted to share a few photos from my early spring garden.  The recent 80 to 90 degree temps have really boosted the little lettuce, sugar snap peas and radish seedlings.

And the strawberry plants are starting to blossom!  I'm so excited that they are growing!

I still haven't planted tomatoes or peppers yet.  My weekends have been way too busy.  But I try to remind myself that it's still early. Hope you're all enjoying your spring gardens, too!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Will drive for cheese curds

Hello everyone!  I'm back in the house after a couple minutes of power gardening in the summer-like 80 degree temps.  Tomorrow, the thermometer is supposed to top 90 degrees. That should really get my garden growing.

A few weekends ago, I drove up to visit my dad in La Crosse, Wis.  We took his girlfriend, Kim, out for a birthday lunch.  My dad had the wonderful idea to stop at Houghton's Fine Dining in La Crosse.  I'd never been there before, so I was looking forward to trying something new.

And look what greeted us at the door.  Only in Wisconsin.

I loved this fun, relaxed restaurant.  We stopped in the mid-afternoon before the weekend crowds started to arrive.  The restaurant has a large bar area that's decorated with old musical instruments on the walls.

Of course, when you're in Wisconsin, you have to splurge on the cheese.  My dad ordered up a plate of fried cheese curds.  They were absolutely perfect!  The breading wasn't too heavy, just nice and crunchy.  Served up with marinara sauce, I couldn't stop dunking and eating.

The special of the day was the reuben sandwich.  Sorry, no pictures, but it was a treat.  I always love a good reuben.  La Crosse has so many wonderful restaurants.  I'm happy to discover a new one.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cookie Friday: Mound Bars

Happy Cookie Friday, everyone!  If you're a coconut lover, you're going to want to try this recipe immediately.  I found the recipe for Mound Bars in a local farm publication.  If it's from a farm cook, it's got to be good.

But I should warn you, this treat is rich.  Plan on cutting it up into small squares, because just a couple bites will satisfy your sweet tooth.  In fact, the chocolate frosting is so rich, my husband suggested replacing the frosting with a drizzle of dark chocolate.  I'll probably try that the next time I make these. Oh yeah. I'll definitely be making these Mound Bars again.



Mound Bars
  • 1/2 C. butter
  • 3 T. cocoa
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 C. flour
Mix ingredients and put into a greased 9x13-inch pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

  • One 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 C. coconut
  • 3/4 C. nuts
Mix ingredients and spread on top of first layer when removed from oven. Return to oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes.

Frost with:
  • 6 T. butter
  • 6 T. milk
  • 1-1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. chocolate chips
Mix ingredients, except chocolate chips, and boil 30 seconds.  Add chips.  Beat with electric mixer.  Pour over bars.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

High Trestle Trail bridge

Last week was the grand opening of the new High Trestle Trail bridge, one of the longest, tallest pedestrian bridges in the country.  This beautifully designed half-mile bridge is just a 3-mile bike ride from my house.  Its design reflects the coal-mining history of the nearby Des Moines River towns.

I feel so fortunate to live so close to this amazing bridge.  On any given day, I can visit the bridge -- and I often do.  I rode my bike out on it last week, and I had the bridge to myself.

But then I discovered why.  It was so windy, my bike about tipped over!  But the bridge is actually wider than it looks in these photos, so I felt safe.  And with the open-air design of the bridge, it almost feels like I'm flying over the river on a bike.  Amazing!

If you're ever in the central Iowa area, be sure to check out the High Trestle bridge.  There's a new trail head just west of the bridge -- I believe it's the first or second gravel road traveling north, a couple miles east of Madrid on Highway 210.  The parking lot is close enough that you can walk just a quarter mile to the bridge.
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