Sunday, July 29, 2012

Banana pudding

Hi everyone!  I'm having so much fun watching the Olympic games, I'm going to keep this post short.  Just wanted to recommend that you try this recipe for Banana Pudding from Confessions of a Foodie Bride. My husband and I loved the real vanilla bean in this recipe, and it gave me an excuse to buy this fun banana liquor!

I love cold desserts in the summer, so this banana pudding was an instant favorite.  Let me know if you try it sometime!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Garden love

I was in Mankato, Minn., recently to attend a funeral, and I discovered this backyard garden next to the church.  I'm assuming that the church members planted the garden.  I was amazed how much they fit into such a small space.  It was too bright outside to get great photos with my little camera, but I tried!

There was a row of raspberry bushes in the back.

Potatoes and green beans in the middle.

Onions, lettuce, carrots and kale were planted in neat little rows.

Although it was a small garden, it was still a lot bigger than my backyard garden.  I wish I had that much sun in my yard!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fresh-picked blueberry pie

I didn't have any plans this year for the July 4 holiday, and I read on Facebook that Berry Patch Farms in Nevada would be open in the morning for berry picking.  I've always wanted to pick blueberries there, so I got up early to pick berries!

It was a hot morning, but I was surprised that quite a few families were already there, even on a holiday.  I came home with two ice cream pails full of berries.

I ended up making blueberry jam (which didn't quite turn out, so I won't be sharing the recipe), and then used the leftover berries to make my favorite -- blueberry pie! (Again, my pies aren't the prettiest, but they sure taste good!)

I didn't really have a recipe when I made this blueberry pie.  I just used the chart on the back of the Minute Tapioca box that shows how many cups of fruit, sugar and tapioca to use when making different fruit pies.  (Have you ever noticed that chart on the back of the tapioca box?)  Kraft Foods, the maker of Minute Tapioca, also has this blueberry pie recipe that's very similar. The tapioca is a great pie-filling thickener -- although my picture above might not show that. My husband put an extra spoonful of pie filling next to the pie because he thought it was more photogenic. Ha!  I love that he takes an interest in my hobbies!

What's your favorite blueberry recipe? Are you a blueberry pie fan, or do you prefer another kind of pie?  Any pie is a good pie, if you ask me!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cherry cobbler

Iowa got hit by a late frost after an unusually warm spring this year. So my favorite U-Pick farm didn't have any cherries for sale this summer. ("The blossoms just fell off the trees," the farmer told me.)

I was bummed that I wouldn't be able to pick pie cherries this year.  But a few weeks ago, I found frozen tart cherries on sale at my local Fareway grocery store.  I stocked up and bought several bags.  Then I came home and made cherry cobbler.

I decided to use my favorite rhubarb crisp recipe, substituting with cherries instead.  It turned out pretty good for my first-ever attempt -- although my photos don't really show it off well.

I was trying to re-create the famous spoon and cherry outdoor sculpture in Minneapolis :)

Someday, I hope to plant a couple cherry trees on my sister's acreage, since it seems like the season is so short.  Then I won't have to "fight" the other cherry lovers at the U-Pick farm. Those cherries always go fast!  Are you a cherry fan?  Do you have a favorite cherry recipe?  I'm always looking for more ideas.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July odds & ends

I thought it would be fun to show you what I've been up to so far this summer.  I'm in love with my garden right now.  My herb pot looks amazing, and I've been harvesting ever-bearing strawberries and early tomatoes almost every day.

Last week, I visited the Des Moines farmers market and picked up the most delicious Missouri peaches.  We ended up eating a whole bag full of peaches in one day! They were that good!

We finally got rain last week!  It totaled about 0.8 inch over two separate rainstorms.  I was so excited to see rain after our two-week dry spell, I just had to take a photo while I waited in my car for the rain to stop.

I picked up this bag of Vidalia onions at the grocery store, and I was surprised to see Josh Turner, one of my favorite country singers, on the bag. It made me like Vidalia onions even more :)

My sister found this message in her fortune cookie the other day.  What does it mean?

I'm convinced that ice cream tastes even better when it's 100 degrees outside, and when it's eaten with a wood spoon.

I bought a few annual flowers and a couple tomatoes on sale to help fill out bare spots in my garden where the seeds didn't come up.  Do you ever buy plants at the end of the season?

My husband and I spent an afternoon shopping at the Bass Pro Shop in Altoona.  I loved this unique merry-go-round at the entrance.  Is this new?  I don't remember it from previous visits.

So what have you been up to this summer?  It's been a hot one, but a lot of fun!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Iowa recipe: Honey peanut butter bars

When I was at the Iowa State Fair last year, I picked up a recipe brochure from the Iowa Honey Producers Association booth.  This recipe, from the 2011 Iowa Honey Queen Ellie Johnson, is very kid-friendly and easy to make.  The Honey Queen (yes, that's her real title), says her grandma used to make these bars when she stopped to visit.

I couldn't stop eating these bars, I loved them so much.  And with the Cheerios, honey and peanut butter, I think they make a good snack for adults, too, after a work out.  My husband, however, wasn't a big fan of these bars because he doesn't like Cheerios.  (I think his mom fed him too many sugar-free cereals as a kid.)

Give this recipe a try, and be sure to use local honey, if possible.  Let's support those beekeepers out there!


Honey Peanut Butter Bars
From the 2011 Iowa Honey Queen
  • 3 C. miniature marshmallows
  • 2 T. butter or margarine

Microwave on high for one minute, then add:
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 C. peanut butter
  • 1/2 C. honey
Microwave on high 1 minute. Mix in 4 C. or more Cheerios cereal

Spread and pat lightly in an oiled 9x13-inch pan. Cut in bars when cool.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Traverse City eats

I enjoyed one night free of meetings on my recent trip to Traverse City, Michigan. When I learned that Traverse City is one of the foodie havens of the Midwest, I decided to search for the best treats that Michigan has to offer.

I got an early introduction to Michigan's bounty in the "swag bag" I received at the meeting.  How cool is the bottle of honey from Michigan State University! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take it home with me, because I couldn't carry liquids in my carry-on bag.  So I settled for taking this picture so I could remember it.

My first stop was the famous Grand Traverse Pie Company.  These restaurants are all over Michigan, but this is the original.

I ordered a slice of blueberry-cherry crumble pie to go (sorry for the lousy photo under the hotel room lighting) and a sugar cookie with the most amazing icing!

 I also didn't want to leave Michigan without some cherries. I stopped at Cherry Republic in downtown Traverse City and bought a few bags of dried cherries, including a bag of white chocolate covered cherries. This bag didn't last long when I brought it home for my husband! (Thankfully, cherries aren't a liquid and I can pack them in my carry-on. LOL!)

I also bought a bottle of cherry root beer for the road.  Don't you love the label?

As if I didn't get enough sweets, I couldn't resist stopping at this ice cream shop on Traverse Bay for a scoop of cherry-chocolate ice cream.  It was easily the best treat I found in Traverse City.  And I loved the lakeside view!

Oh, and one more treat for the road.  I heard good things about Pop-Kie's Chicago-style popcorn, so I picked up a bag of dill pickle flavor.  Sounds strange, but I loved it!

As you can see, I packed a lot of food-related sightseeing in just a short trip!  But it was all the more memorable for it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Trip to Traverse City, MI

A few weeks back, I went to a business meeting in Traverse City, MI.  My boss kept telling me that I would love visiting Northern Michigan, but to be honest, I was hesitant to go.  It's never fun to travel by myself.  And work trips are never as much fun as a real vacation.  I had only a few hours free to travel on my own, so I rented a car and drove to the famous sand dunes.

The first stop was the visitor's center to get a map.

The park ranger recommended that I take the scenic loop to see the best views of Lake Michigan.  Let me tell you, this prairie girl felt a little claustrophobic driving in the forest.  But it was gorgeous. 

 There were more than a dozen scenic outlooks to stop and explore and take photos.

I noticed one spot with a dozen cars parked, but I couldn't see what people had stopped for.  I followed the crowd and discovered this amazing view of Lake Michigan.

There was sand, sand everywhere. And it was so windy, the grains of sand were pelting our faces and bare legs!  Little kids were yelping, "Ouch, it hurts!"  Needless to say, I didn't stick around for long.  I got a few good pictures, though, and a good idea of what it would feel like in a sand storm!

I discovered one more (windy) scenic view on my way out of the park.

Then I drove to my destination - the sand climb!  It's a giant hill of sand in the middle of nowhere.  It was like a big sandbox for kids and adults alike.  And the climb was straight up!  Boy, did my calf muscles get a work out!

This guy was smart and brought poles for climbing!

This grandma was determined to climb the sand dunes -- on her hands and knees!
I keep telling all my friends that they have to take their kids to the Michigan sand dunes.  It was such a great family destination, and I hope to return someday -- but not for work :)

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