Thursday, August 30, 2012

Iowa eats: Bauder's Ice Cream

Last week, our boss surprised us by bringing in Bauder's ice cream as a thank you for working at the Iowa State Fair.  The Bauder's ice cream trailer is an always popular destination at the fair.  We were treated to the famous peppermint bar.  As you can see, it's peppermint ice cream sandwiched between two layers of crumbled chocolate cookies.  It was so good!  I ate my bar at my desk while editing pages.

Oh, and I should mention that there is also a layer of hot fudge in the Bauder's peppermint ice cream bar.  As if a giant ice cream treat wasn't rich enough!

Have you ever stopped for Bauder's ice cream?  What's your favorite ice cream destination?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Iowa recipes: Zucchini Cake

No, this isn't a Spam cake.  I just love the mug I got at the Spam Museum this spring :)

I've actually posted this recipe for Zucchini Cake on my blog before, but it was back before I knew that it's important to write very specific titles in order for folks to find the recipe when searching Google.

And this is a terrific recipe that I want to share with as many of you as possible!

I found this zucchini cake recipe in one of the old church cookbooks my mother-in-law gave me.  My husband remembers his mom baking this cake when he was a kid.  It's pretty much the only way I can get him to eat zucchini, although I'm trying to change that. By that's another story.

Now you can shred the zucchini before adding it to the cake batter, but my husband likes it better when the zucchini is cut up in little chucks, so it has the texture of a chopped-up apple in the cake.  It really makes the cake moist.

But the best part of this cake is the chocolate chip/brown sugar/chopped nut topping.  It's the perfect snack cake to eat with coffee (preferably in a Spam mug. LOL.)

Hope you enjoy this recipe!


Zucchini Chocolate Cake
  • - 1/4 c. butter, softened
  • - 1/2 c. oil
  • - 1-1/2 c. sugar
  • - 2 eggs
  • - 1 tsp. vanilla
  • - 1/2 c. milk
  • - 2-1/2 c. flour
  • - 4 tbsp. cocoa
  • - 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • - 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • - 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • - 1/2 tsp. salt
  • - 2 c. peeled, finely chopped zucchini
Mix all ingredients together, except zucchini. Add zucchini last and mix well. Spread in 9x13 greased pan. Mix the following and sprinkle on top:
  • - 1 c. chopped nuts
  • - 1 c. chocolate chips
  • - 1 tbsp. sugar
  • - 2 tbsp. brown sugar
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Foodie heaven: Urbandale Hy-Vee

We've had a lot of fancy grocery stores open up in the Des Moines area lately, but I was most excited about the grand opening of the new Hy-Vee in Urbandale last week. It's Hy-Vee's first concept store for testing out the latest grocery shopping trends. I visited the store on the first day it opened, and the store was packed full of shoppers. I didn't take many photos, because I was just trying to get out of the way of all the shopping carts.  But I couldn't believe the gorgeous produce section.

There were so many fruits I've never hear of before, including this gigantic "John fruit" from Mexico.  I got to sample it at the store, and it was wonderful -- like a super sweet melon.

The Urbandale Hy-Vee also has an amazing gourmet deli (you'll never have to cook again if just buy the meals from the deli!), a sushi bar, a gelato counter, a fresh seafood counter (with live lobsters!) and a huge cheese counter. But my favorite was the bulk food section. The store has a machine that processes peanuts and almonds into butters!  I came home with fresh-made almond butter, and I've been snacking on it with apple slices all week.

The new Hy-Vee store is a little out of my way, but I'm sure I'll be visiting the store at least once a month just to see what's new.  Do you have a favorite grocery store for foodie finds?  I'm also a huge fan of Trader Joe's, but it's also a little out of my way.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Odds & Ends: August 2012

Wow! Summer has gone by way too fast. The trees are already turning color in my neighborhood, another byproduct of this summer's drought.  The Iowa State Fair always seems to be the last fun getaway for the summer. My sister and I had way too much fun with all the photo cutouts at the State Fair this year ;)

I actually have to work at the state fair at least one day each year, and last weekend, we closed up the booth for the night right when a storm blew through the fairgrounds.  That's right, a storm. In the middle of a drought.  Talk about bad timing on my part!

Even though it was pouring rain, I couldn't leave the fairgrounds without my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough milk shake from the Dairy Barn.  I stood under an awning and enjoyed my shake in the rain!

The really weird thins about the rainstorm was that it was the second time I got caught in a heavy downpour in the last week. And yes, we're still in a drought!

The weekend before, I ran a 5K race at the State Capitol. When I hit the 2 mile mark, the clouds got dark, and a thunderstorm rolled in.  We all scattered for shelter under these tiny tents.  Did I mention there was lightening going off over our heads?  I haven't been that scared in a long time. Glad I wasn't up on the gold dome!

In other big news (at least for me), I partnered up with a team on to ride the cycling leg of the Hy-Vee Triathlon on Labor Day weekend.  I took my bike to the Neal Smith Trail along Saylorville Lake to test out how well I'd do at the race's 25 mile distance.  But I had no idea how hilly the trail was.  My poor legs and bike barely made it up all those hills!  I hope the Hy-Vee Tri course is a lot less hilly.  I don't have a fast bike, so I'm getting a little worried that I'm going to get in the way of all the other racers!

Now that we've got a little rain, my garden is starting to perk up.  Can you see what I found in my garden the other day?  At least it seemed to be nibbling on the weeds and not the flowers.

And after months of waiting, we finally have cucumbers!  My husband put up a cattle panel to use as a cucumber trellis.  Now our backyard looks like an edible jungle.  I love it!

After a terrible growing season for cucumbers last year, I'm so happy to finally have enough cucumbers to make pickles again.  I've been relying on a shortcut this year -- the Mrs. Wage's pickle mixes -- for canning pickles.  I've had mixed luck at making my own pickle mix from scratch, so I'm hoping the already-prepared mix will work out well.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

So how are you enjoying the last few days of summer?  Have you been canning any garden produce?  As much as I love the summer, I'm looking forward to the fall apple season so I can make pies :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 Iowa State Fair finds

My sister and I spent a day at the Iowa State Fair.  I didn't take as many pictures this year because I was trying to enjoy the moment.  But I snapped a few photos of my favorite new finds, including the chocolate covered cookie dough on a stick, pictured above.  It was by far my favorite new fair food.  My sister and I split one because it was so huge!

I snapped a photo of this dwarf sunflower display at the Iowa Discover Garden.  I really want to plant tiny sunflowers next year in my backyard garden.  I need to remember all these varieties: Teddy Bear, Sunny Smile and Little Becka.  The discovery garden wasn't as colorful this year because of the drought this summer, but it was still a nice display.

My sister and I enjoyed way too many sweets at the State Fair this year.  We couldn't resist these mini cherry crisps at the Iowa Orchard Booth in the Ag Building.  So good!  There was so much brown sugar and butter in this dessert that it tasted like caramel.  And I love the mini pie plate presentation.  I need to re-create this at home.

We also tried the new bacon corn dog at the Iowa State Fair.  I'll spare you the embarrassing photo of us trying to eat the corn dog.  It was good, but to be honest, we couldn't really taste the bacon in the batter.  We definitely indulged at the Iowa State Fair, but that's part of the fun!  Now I'll be eating salads the rest of the week :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Freezing sweet corn

Sweet corn season is wrapping up here in central Iowa. This summer's drought cut the season a little shorter than normal.  The corn was still pretty good, however.  A local farmer gave me a couple dozen ears of sweet corn, and I froze most of it so we can enjoy it later on.

I don't get too fancy when it comes to freezing sweet corn.  I just boil the ears for about three minutes to blanch them, wait for them to cool and the cut the kernels off the cob.  (I love to cut them into long strips, just like my grandma used to do.)

I put the corn in freezer bags, along with a couple tablespoons of butter and about a half-cup of milk.  The liquid helps to push out the air bubbles from the bag and prevent severe freezer burn.  My husband likes his sweet corn with a little milk and butter, so that's why I freeze them all together this way.  He can just pull a bag from the freezer and pop it in the microwave.

What's your favorite way to freeze corn?  I know a lot of recipes call for adding sugar and salt, but I'm a little hesitant to add sugar to something that's naturally sweet.  But maybe I'm missing out?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Iowa eats: Ice Cream, Bob's Dogs & Drive-Ins

I've been doing a lot of traveling the past couple weeks for work, and I've tried to stop at small-town Iowa drive-ins along the way.  It's one of the best perks of traveling in the summer!  

I stopped at the downtown Ames farmers market to try the peach ice cream from Sweet Treats.  I heard great things about this ice cream flavor, and it was amazing!  Every time I stop at Sweet Treats, I discover a new favorite flavor!  Sweet Treats also has an ice cream stand in the small town of Jewell in central Iowa.

I drove through Le Mars in northwest Iowa, so I swung by Bob's Drive-In and ordered a famous Bob's Dog for lunch.

A Bob's Dog is a locally-made hot dog with a Maid-Rite topping. My photo doesn't do it justice; it was so good!

The next day, I drove through Humboldt in central Iowa and stopped at the Backseat Dinner, a 1950s-style drive-in.  I was in the mood for something a little different, so I ordered a BBQ bacon turkey wrap, with BBQ ranch dressing.  I loved it! 


Yes, I stopped at one more drive-in this summer.  I ordered a "vegetable burger" at Stan's Drive-In in Osage. No, it's not a tofu burger.  It's a beef burger topped with tomato and lettuce.  I also ordered a root beer on the side.  My boss made fun in me for turning in the receipt -- the lunch only cost $3!

Have you stopped at a drive-in this summer? What's your favorite menu item?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My favorite carrot muffins

I love to bake muffins, and it's even better when I can use ingredients from my own backyard garden.  Last April (that sounds like so long ago!), I planted a few carrot seeds.  I finally got to harvest them this week.  How fun are these multi-colored carrots?!

I ended up with just enough carrots to make my favorite carrot muffins, a recipe from Taste of Home. It's a healthy recipe, with whole wheat flour and applesauce instead of butter or shortening.  I loved how these muffins turned out, with the different colors of shredded carrots in the mix.  Give these a try next time you see carrots on sale at the grocery store (or at the farmers market).

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