Thursday, May 31, 2012

Iowa recipe: Rhubarb dessert

This recipe for rhubarb dessert is in many of my old church cookbooks, in one variation or another.  It's basically a "dump" dessert, just pile the ingredients on top of one another and bake.  I wasn't exactly sure how it was going to turn out, having never tried it before.  It ended up looking and tasting like a rhubarb cobbler.

First you put a layer of cut-up rhubarb on the bottom of the pan. Then a layer of sugar, another layer of strawberry gelatin and another layer of yellow cake mix. Pour water over it all, and that's it. Very easy.

I would recommend serving this dessert right away, because it starts to get a little soggy the next day.  Here's the full recipe, if you want to give it a try.


Rhubarb dessert

  • 4 C. fresh chopped rhubarb
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 (3 oz.) package red gelatin
  • 1 small size yellow cake mix (like Jiffy)
  • 1 C. cold water
  • 1/2 C. butter 

Spread rhubarb in an 8x10-inch pan or baking dish. Sprinkle the sugar over rhubarb, then gelatin, followed by the dry cake mix.  Spoon the water over the cake mix layer.  Melt butter and drizzle over all. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Serve warm or cold with whipped topping or ice cream.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Joy the Baker's blueberry muffins

I'm a big fan of the Joy the Baker food blog, so I bought her debut cookbook this spring.  I waited until blueberries went on sale before I tried her recipe for browned butter blueberry muffins

I had a little trouble making the crumbly topping (it was all flour and not a lot a butter, for some reason), and I think I may have underbaked them a bit.  But they are a nice, light muffin, and I enjoyed eating them as a quick breakfast before I left for work.  How great is it that blueberry season is almost here!

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 2012: Odds & ends

It's been another busy month, and I can't believe Memorial Day weekend is already here.  Thought I'd share a few of my latest discoveries.

The Ames Main Street farmers market opened in early May.  I bought a few herb and tomato plants from the local vendors.  It's a nice farmers market close to home, and I don't have to fight all the crowds at the Des Moines farmers market.  (Have you been to the Des Moines farmers market lately?  I hear the crowds have been crazy big this year.)

Another plus: My favorite ice cream booth from the Des Moines farmers markets, Sweet Treats, also has a stand at the Ames farmers market.  I ordered one of my favorites flavors, maple pecan.  

I was shopping for groceries at Hy-Vee in West Des Moines recently, and I found these amazing Milton Creamery cheese curds for sale at the deli counter.  The sign said that the cheese curds are only delivered to the store once a month, so I was lucky to snag them.  These cheese curds are so fresh, they squeak when you chew them!

I picked up another favorite at the local Fareway grocery store: DoBiz cookie dough. Back when I was a freshman at Iowa State, my friends and I would make regular trips to the DoBiz cookie shop in Campustown. The cookie shop is gone, but you can still find the cookie dough at Hy-Vee and Fareway stores in the Ames/Des Moines area. Sometimes it's nice to make cookies without making a mess in the kitchen!

In my garden, I picked the last of the radishes before the weather turned hot and dry.  I picked them small because the weather turned dry and hot, and the radishes were already starting to go to seed.

We've also been enjoying salads with our homegrown lettuce and spring onions. I'm so glad I bought this Oxo salad spinner last year.  The lettuce stays fresh for a really long time when left in the spinner and placed in the fridge.

The irises have stopped blooming now, but they were pretty while they lasted.

I like to get up early on the weekends and go for a long run or bike ride, then eat a big breakfast that fills me up all day.  My husband made the best breakfast the other day; I just had to take a picture.  Love the toast with my homemade Concord grape jelly.

One last garden photo:  The pink lady peonies I bought at the Iowa Arboretum last year bloomed this spring, and they were even prettier than I imagined!

Now I'm looking forward to a long Memorial Day weekend.  Hope you enjoy the holiday!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Western Iowa road trip

One of the perks of my job is that I get to escape the office occasionally and travel the state.  A few weeks ago, I took a long road trip up to northwest Iowa.  I spent about 8 hours on the road all together.  To keep from getting bored, I took a few goofy photos along the way so you could ride along.

I keep my little Iowa mascot with me in the car when I'm traveling. I call him Kernel.

I've been trying to snack a little healthier when I'm on the road, which means no chips or candy.  Lately, I've been really digging the single-serve milk bottles from Des Moines-based AE Dairy.  Chocolate milk always hits the spot.

When I swung through the town of Pocahontas,  I snapped this photo through my car window.

Pocahontas statue in Pocahontas, Iowa
Whenever I'm on the road, I don't have a lot of time to sit down and eat lunch.  My favorite places to stop are Subway, Culver's (I love butter burgers!) and Pizza Ranch.  I found this Pizza Ranch in downtown Primghar.

After four hours, I finally reached my destination -- a strawberry farm. The plants were blooming, and the strawberries should be ready to pick in early June.

Then I turned around and took the long way home, with blue sky and corn fields as far as the eye can see.

I always wish I had more time to sight-see when I travel for work.  But I like to be home by suppertime so I can catch up with my husband and get ready for another day at the office. 

Do you have any road trip essentials?  I always pack granola bars and apples whenever I'm on the road, so I don't get tempted to buy candy bars!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Garden expansion

My husband and I finally bought bags and bags of mulch to cover our perennial garden.  Actually, we put down a layer of newspaper, then covered the newspaper with the mulch.  We had quite a weed problem, so the mulch will make our garden look so much better.

However, my husband also surprised me by digging up our yard and expanding the garden space so I can plant more tomatoes this year.  We both hate to mow the yard, so we're happy to turn our yard into a vegetable garden.  Plus, it's the only sunny spot in the yard.

It's time to plant tomatoes, because our cool-season lettuces are ready to pick. The clematis vines also bloomed like crazy last week, but a strong wind has already knocked most of the blooms off.  Glad I took pictures!

First peonies in bloom!
Are you planting tomatoes this year?  What variety are you planting?  My sister wants to start a vegetable garden this year, and she wants to grow cherry tomatoes, since her husband doesn't like tomatoes.  (Can you imagine not liking BLTs?)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lincoln Highway Prairie Park: Ogden, Iowa

I live near the old Lincoln Highway in central Iowa, and I've driven past the Lincoln Prairie Park rest area west of Ogden countless times, but never have stopped -- until last week.  I'm so glad I took a few minutes to look around.  It's really a cute little place to visit.

I was surprised to find an original Lincoln Highway marker on display.  See the arrow?  It tells travelers what direction is west, back before highway signs.

I found another marker in the shadow of the Lincoln Highway post.  I think it's an elevation marker? 

 I'm not for sure, but I've heard that there's a place in between Boone and Jefferson where you can see three different bridges, built in different eras, in view of each other along the old Lincoln Highway.  One of the bridges pictured below is a pedestrian bridge, but I think I saw all three of the highway bridges when I drove out of the park.  There's a walking path to get a closer look, but I was in a hurry and didn't go exploring.

The road that looks to be the original Lincoln Highway is in pretty bad shape.  You can see the potholes if you closely in the picture.

Of course, it's also spring planting time in Iowa.  As I was driving out of the park, a tractor drove by.  I saw dozens of tractors and pick-up trucks full of seed bags on my drive in the country. 

It's a fun time of year to explore Iowa!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Crochet Nook case

I took advantage of a pre-Christmas sale last winter and bought myself a Nook e-reader.  I still check out good ol' paper books from the library, but I use the Nook when I'm traveling.  (By the way, if you're thinking about buying an e-reader, I suggest spending the extra money to buy the Nook color, because it's better for downloading cookbooks and magazines.  I wish I had known that before buying the black-and-white version...)

After buying the Nook, I didn't want to spend more money on a cover for it.  I did a quick google search and found this pattern for a crochet Nook cover.  I just used leftover yarn, and it was very quick to stitch.  The pattern calls for buttons to secure the cover flap in place, but I left the buttons off because I didn't want to mess with them.  Now when I'm done reading, I just fold the cover around the Nook like an envelope.  Very easy.

Leave the flap on top or....

...fold it inside.
Do you have an e-reader?  Have you made a cover for it yourself?  Would love more suggestions for a homemade Nook cover.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Strawberry cupcakes + a fish tale!

So I'm kind of obsessed with strawberries right now.  I buy at least 2 pints of strawberries whenever I'm in a grocery store, which usually is a couple times a week.  (Yes, I like shopping for groceries.)  I'm also obsessed with cupcakes right now.  I've been stopping at the Ames cupcake shop almost every weekend.  I'm crazy about the buttercream frosting!  My husband, always my biggest cheerleader, said I should try to make cute cupcakes at home.  It's not so hard, he said.

After googling cupcake recipes, I finally decided to try the strawberry cupcakes featured recently on Eat, Live, Run.  The recipe says to puree the strawberries in a blender before adding them to the batter, but I didn't want to break my old blender out, so I just mashed the berries up.  The cupcakes turned out terrific, but when I started to make the buttercream frosting, I realized that I was out of powdered sugar.

Just then, my husband walked in the house after an afternoon of fishing (in the rain).  He told me he was taking over the kitchen so he could start cleaning his catch.

Yes, we have been eating fish all week :)

Anyhow, I didn't want to be anywhere near the kitchen when my husband was gutting fish.  So I drove to the grocery store and bought a can of strawberry frosting.  These cupcakes are only half-finished (or semi-homemade, if you will).  The cupcake part was awesome, the canned strawberry frosting only so-so. But it tamed my cupcake frosting craving, temporarily.

Cupcakes & fish -- Probably two things that should never go together, but oh well!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

S'more bars

When I saw these s'more bars on Cookies and Cups, it immediately reminded me of the treats that moms would bring to our Girl Scout gatherings as kids.  I couldn't resist giving this recipe a try at home, and I'm so glad I did.  These bars taste just like s'mores, minus the smoky campfire.  I'm already planning to mix up another batch next weekend for a get-together.  And they are just as easy as making rice krispie bars!  Hope you give them a try.  I had to stop myself from eating the whole pan myself!
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