Saturday, February 25, 2012

Iowa recipes: Cornmeal rolls

I found this unusual recipe for cornmeal rolls in an Iowa farm newspaper and knew immediately that I wanted to try it.  The recipe was submitted by a grandmother who says she bakes these rolls with help from her grandkids for their family's twice-a-year "baking day."  I scribbled the recipe on a sheet of paper, then tried it a few weeks later.  Unfortunately, I realized right away that I made a mistake, because the recipe calls for margarine, but I didn't write down how much is needed.  Oops!  I tried to make a semi-educated guess and added 4 Tablespoons, which is probably a little on the heavy side, but I thought it would be better to have too much margarine than not enough.  (I actually used butter instead of margarine, by the way. I always bake with butter.)

When I added the 4-1/4 cups of flour listed in the recipe, I knew something wasn't right.  The dough was soupy and wasn't "solid" enough to knead.  So I added another 2 to 3 cups of flour until the dough was still sticky, but kneadable. I felt pretty proud of myself that I can now tell when the dough is ready just by feel. All my failed experiments are finally paying off!

The dough rose beautifully -- so well, in fact, that I ended up with more dough than I expected.  I ended up turning them into giant cinnamon rolls, but the recipe says you can shape the dough into biscuit-like rolls or doughnuts.

My husband, the taste-tester, said he really enjoyed the texture of these cornmeal rolls.  Yet he thought I made the rolls way too big.  He wants me to try this recipe again, but this time bake the dough as smaller dinner rolls.

So here's the recipe, with my guesstimation of margarine.  Next time, I think I'm just going to add 2 Tbls. margarine instead of 4 Tbls. and see how that turns out.  If anyone has any suggestions on how much margarine to add, I would appreciate it.  Enjoy!


Cornmeal rolls
  • 2 C. milk
  • 2 to 4 Tbls. margarine or butter (I used 4 Tbls, but will try next time with 2 Tbls.)
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/3 C. cornmeal 
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 C. warm water
  • 4-1/2 C. flour (I ended up using over 6 cups; just keep adding flour until the dough is kneadable)
 Cook milk, cornmeal, sugar, salt and margarine, and cool until lukewarm. Add eggs. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 C. warm water. Add to cooked mixture with beaten eggs and flour. Make into soft dough and knead for several minutes. Place in a greased bowl, put a dish towel over it, and let rise until doubled.

Punch down dough, and cover again for 10 minutes.  Then put on floured board and roll out 1-inch thick.  Cut with juice glass.  Put onto cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise again. Bake 8 to 12 minutes at 350 degree.

Can also make cinnamon rolls (8 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees) or doughnuts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chocolate chip caramel bars

OK.  Here's one last chocolate-caramel recipe for the month.  I think all the Valentine's Day chocolate recipes on the Internet were too good to not to try.  I found this recipe for chocolate chip salted caramel cookie bars from Two Peas and their Pod.  It was super easy; the hardest part was taking the wrapping off the caramel candies!  My husband said he liked these bars, but he didn't think the caramel was necessary.  But I think the caramel is what makes these bars so unique.  They're not just your ordinary blondie.  Again, these bars would be perfect for a church coffee or treat day at work.  Give them a try next time you have a chocolate craving!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival

It's been an amazing day, and I'm thrilled to share my little adventure with you all.  I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines.  The tickets sold out in 20 minutes, and I still can't believe I got one.  It was an awesome event, and all the bacon-inspired food was so good, I think I ended up eating like 2 pounds of bacon in one afternoon.  But so worth it!

There were huge lines for most of the food booths, so I often didn't know what I was going to end up eating until I got to the front of the line.  I let out a little squeal when I saw the menu at the Gusto Pizza Booth.  Bacon, peanut butter & banana pizza?  Yes please!

"The Elvis" - bacon, peanut butter & banana pizza.
Another favorite was the Maytag blue cheese paired with bacon & honey.  I could have eaten the whole tray-full.

To be honest, I wasn't all that excited to stand in line for the bacon tacos, but they turned out to be delicious.  It was a new spin on the classic BLT sandwich. I must try this at home!

My favorite bacon dish was actually a dessert -- the caramel bacon gelato from Chocolaterie Stam.  Sounds strange, but it was so good. I may never eat ice cream without bacon again :)

And I couldn't resist buying a couple slices of chocolate-covered bacon.  I was lucky I bought it when I did, because they were sold out within a few minutes.

Now I'm in a bacon-fat haze as I write this, but I'm giddy from all the new foods I tried today.  Who knew that bacon was so versatile?  I'm proud to live in the nation's top pork-producing state, and I'm glad there's a festival where we can celebrate this ultimate comfort food.  Ohhh, Bacon!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Meyer lemon bread

I always get excited when our local Hy-Vee grocery store offers its annual citrus sale in January.  I can't resist buying a bag of those cute little Meyer lemons whenever they are on sale.

This year, I baked a new recipe I found online for Meyer lemon bread.  As you can see from the photo above, I had a little trouble getting the bread out of the pan.  I used my grandma's old bread pans, which aren't non-stick, but I love baking with them anyway.  The lemon bread is topped with a lemon glaze, which soaks in to make the bread extra moist and flavorful.  My husband thought this bread was actually a lemon pound cake.  It's definitely a dessert bread.  And the Meyer lemons really shined in this recipe.  If you can find Meyer lemons, give this bread a try.  Enjoy!


Meyer Lemon Bread

  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1/3 C. butter, melted
  • 1/4 C. Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 C. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C. buttermilk
  • Zest of two large lemons (about 1 heaping Tbl.)
  • 1/2 C. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 C. Meyer lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the bread, combine the sugar, butter and juice.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the sugar-butter mixture alternately with buttermilk. Stir in zest.

Pour into a greased 8-inch loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.  While bread is still warm in pan, pierce top with a fork several times.

Mix the glaze ingredients together, then pour over bread.  Let it absorb for 1 hour.  Then remove from pan, wrap in foil and let stand overnight before serving.  Bread freezes well for up to 3 months.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Iowa eats: Hickory Park in Ames

I had a serious case of the winter blues, so I asked my sister to meet me for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Hickory Park in Ames.  We've been going to this restaurant since we were little girls.  Our parents used to take us to Iowa State University basketball games during winter break, and they would often treat us to lunch at Hickory Park or at Ruttle's.  (Does anyone else remember Ruttle's? We loved their malts and burger bar.)

I checked ahead of time to make sure there wasn't a home basketball game, when the lines at Hickory Park are especially long.  Luckily, we got seated right away.  I was in the mood for fried food, maybe because it was 10 degrees outside, so we ordered an appetizer tray of onion rings, cheese balls and sweet potato fries.  I especially loved the sweet potato fries!  I'll be ordering these again next time.

My sister loves cherry cokes, and I decided to order one, too. Hickory Park makes them the old fashioned way, with cherry flavored syrup.

For lunch, I ordered the Saucy Southerner pulled pork, beef and chicken sandwich, with a side of cole slaw.  Hickory Park has the best cole slaw.  My sister ordered the cheeseburger. (She always orders a cheeseburger wherever we eat! But the Hickory Park burgers are terrific.)

Hickory Park offers an amazing ice cream menu, but instead, we ordered a side of pickles to end our meal.  We gobbled these up quickly.  We both love pickles!

After lunch, we bundled up in our winter coats and headed over to the new bowling alley on the west side of Ames.  It was a great way to spend an afternoon. We both agreed we should bowl together more often.  My sister won the first game, but I won the second!  We were just happy to bowl a score of 100!

What does your family do to beat the winter "blahs"?  I've been doing a lot of baking, but I try to get outside as much as I can, especially on the weekends.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Iowa eats: Tastee Inn & Out, Sioux City

A few weeks ago, I drove (in the snow) to Sioux City in northwest Iowa.  I stopped at the Tastee Inn & Out, a retro drive-thru restaurant known for its "Tastee" sandwiches. The Tastee is a loose-meat sandwich, or a "tavern" as folks in northwest Iowa call them.  (I grew up calling them "maid-rites." My husband, who grew up in far northwest Iowa, calls them taverns.)

Did I mention it was snowing? So I didn't want to leave my car to take the photos.  Here's the view of the Tastee Inn & Out neon sign from my car window.

 There's a tire store right next to the Tastee Inn & Out.  Couldn't help but notice this guy.

I ordered a Tastee and fries for $2.  Pretty much can't beat that deal. 

Are loose-meat sandwiches a Midwest thing?  What does your family call them: taverns, maid-rites or sloppy joes?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Iowa sweets: Dutch Oven Bakery, Boone

When I was a kid, my mom would occasionally treat my sister and I with a trip to the bakery on Main Street on Saturday mornings.  We each got to pick out two doughnuts (oh, I wish I still had that kind of metabolism!), plus a pint of chocolate milk to wash it down with.  The bakery closed a few years later, but I still love a good doughnut. I try not to indulge too often anymore, especially now that doughnuts are sold at every gas station and grocery store.

But I still like to treat myself with a trip to the closest bakery, the Dutch Oven Bakery in Boone, a couple times a year. And since I'm treating myself, I choose the biggest pastry I can find, and don't feel guilty about it at all!

The Dutch Oven Bakery in downtown Boone.

My latest pick was a gorgeous rose-shaped pastry called a raspberry rosette.  It was a glazed doughnut with a raspberry jam-like coating to give it a pink color. My photo isn't the best, but it was a large doughnut, and it was worth every calorie!

Do you have a favorite bakery, or a favorite pastry?  Would love to learn about more bakeries here in Iowa or elsewhere.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Iowa eats: Cache Bake Shoppe, Clive

I was running a few errands over my lunch hour the other day, and I noticed a new bakery across the street from Living History Farms in Clive (next to Starbucks).  I couldn't help but check it out for myself. The new Cache Bake Shoppe specializes in cakes and cheesecakes.  Their take-out menu featured cheesecake bites and cake balls.  I bought a couple cake balls for an afternoon snack: a strawberry cake ball and a German chocolate cake ball.

This strawberry cake ball was so good!  I'm planning to buy a dozen of these for Valentine's Day for my sweetie.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Skillet chocolate chip cookie

I told you I was on a chocolate baking kick lately.  When I saw this chocolate chip skillet cookie on Eat Live Run, I knew I just had to try it.  And I have the perfect pan for the recipe -- the old cast-iron skillet my husband found for me at the annual Walnut, Iowa, antique festival.  (If you've never gone before, you must.  Such a great community event.)

I loved this recipe!  It looked so gorgeous right out of the oven.  But in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I ended up not eating more than a couple bites of this cookie. It tasted a little like onion, because my husband uses this pan to cook omelets and such.  Oh well!  At least it looked pretty for the photos!  Next time, I'll try to bake this in a pie plate.

I flipped the cookie onto a plate for easier slicing. Doesn't it look gorgeous out of the pan?

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