Monday, October 29, 2012

Cranberry Banana Bread

I saw cranberries on sale for the first time last week, and I couldn't resist bringing a bag home, even though I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them.  I've been craving banana bread, so I baked up this cranberry banana bread recipe from Joy the Baker. 

I love that this recipe is so easy to make.  I didn't even need to break out a mixer.  The banana flavor is perfect, plus there's a tart "pop" from the cranberries. I highly recommend this recipe if you're like me and can't resist those cute little cranberries in the produce aisle.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Touring Washington, D.C.

I went on an overnighter to Washington, D.C., last week to take part in the White House kitchen garden tour.  I took the direct flight from Des Moines to D.C., which left at 6 a.m.  I arrived in D.C. before 10 a.m., which gave me plenty of time to check out a few museums.

I wasn't allowed to take photos at a lot of places, but I did visit the National Archives to see the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  I especially enjoyed the temporary exhibit on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's Cuban Missile Crisis showdown.  The exhibit included his hand-written notes and recordings from the events.

My next stop was the Newseum, a museum celebrating the history of the U.S. press.  I loved this place!  I learned so much about milestones in American history, as told through the news.  The top floor featured an archive of newspapers dating back to the 1600s!  I also spent a full hour just watching old TV clips of important news moments, including the Challenger disaster, Hurricane Katrina, D-Day, and on and on.  I could have spent another afternoon there and not seen everything. It was amazing.

And the Newseum had a balcony for taking photos of the D.C. skyline.

Rain clouds were moving in, and the museums closed at 5 p.m., so I walked around the National Mall and took in the sights.  My feet were too sore to walk all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, but I did stop in the Smithsonian sculpture garden and got a closer look at the Washington monument.

The next day, after the White House garden tour, I walked more than 2 miles just so I could eat lunch at the Smithsonian American Indian Museum. I heard great things about the cafeteria there, and it did not disappoint. I ordered the orange-glazed salmon, the wild rice salad with dried cranberries (amazing!) and roasted parsnips.  It was a welcome change from the diet of fast-food I'd been eating while on the road.

Have you ever visited Washington, D.C.?  What's your favorite D.C. spot to visit?  If I had a little more time, I would have liked to tour the International Spy Museum and the National Holocaust Museum.

Monday, October 22, 2012

White House fall garden tour

I can't believe I'm writing this, but I have exciting news to share. Last week, I was invited to attend the White House fall garden tour for social media!  I learned about the opportunity on Twitter (which I'm on everyday for work).  I applied and was accepted to join the tour of the White House kitchen and rose gardens with 40 other social meeting guests.

I arrived at the White House at 7:30 a.m. to go through security.  The sun still wasn't up yet, and it started pouring rain when I got to the gate.  I didn't bring an umbrella, because I wasn't sure it was allowed through security.  So I ended up walking around the White House gardens with wet hair and clothes the entire time!  I'm still embarrassed about it, but sometimes you just need to laugh and get over it.

After waiting 40 minutes outside (in the rain), they finally let us into the White House gardens.  Check out my favorite photos from the day.

Guests were invited to take photos and "tweet" as they walked through the White House gardens.

My primary motivation for signing up for the White House tour was to see the famous kitchen garden.  I've been a huge fan of the White House kitchen garden from the beginning.  I've even downloaded the garden plan to see if I could replicate it at home.  I was really excited to see the famous White House beehive! We learned from the White House pastry chef that the bees produced 175 pounds of honey last year.  The honey is used as a natural sweetener in desserts at the White House, as well as in the famous White House beer.

I was a little disappointed that we weren't allowed to walk through the kitchen garden; they kept us roped off just a few feet away.  I didn't get the greatest photos, because I was stuck behind the other photographers who got there first. But as you can see in the photos, the White House kitchen garden is planted in raised garden beds. The fall crops include carrots, kale, a few peppers and tomatoes (there hasn't been a hard freeze in D.C. yet). There are beautiful hyacinth beans climbing up posts, and there's even a papaya tree planted in a pot, just to see how it grows.  The produce is served at White House dinners, including the Obama's family meals, and the extras are given to a local food pantry.

Not sure if you can tell, but the purple and green lettuces are planted in a checkerboard style in the back.  We learned that the National Park Service tends the White House gardens, and there's someone out in the kitchen garden everyday, pulling weeds and checking for insects.  I wish I had that kind of help in my little backyard garden!

We were quickly "shooed" out of the kitchen garden so we could visit the Rose Garden before the public tours.  We saw the White House swing set and putting green.

We got so close to the Oval Office, we could look through the windows!

And then finally, we visited the famous White House rose garden.

We only got to take a few photos before we were told to leave the garden immediately.  We heard a rumor the President Obama would make an appearance, so we waited around for a few minutes just outside the edges of the Rose Garden.  About 10 minutes later, I heard a yell from the gathering crowd, and I looked up and saw the president and his dog, Bo, walking through the Rose Garden!  I was too far back in the crowd to get a decent photo, but I'll have that memory etched into my mind forever!

It was an amazing day, and I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to share it all with you.  Are you a fan of the White House Kitchen Garden?  I think no matter what your politics are, it's still a great project to support healthy eating among American families, especially kids.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Molly's Cupcakes, Iowa City

Last week, I traveled to Iowa City for work.  I didn't realize it until I reached my destination, but I ended up on the University of Iowa campus.

Across the street from the old Iowa capitol, I discovered Molly's Cupcakes.  I'm not an University of Iowa fan, but I couldn't resist buying the "Game Day" cupcake picture above.  It was so cute!  I'm really loving the cupcake shop trend here in Iowa.  It seems like I keep finding a new cupcake shop every time I'm on a road trip. Do you have a favorite cupcake shop?  So far, my favorite is still the Ames Cupcake Emporium.  But like I said, I'm an Iowa State Cyclone fan :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garden update: October 2012

The first freeze of the fall arrived two weeks ago.  I took a few photos of my garden before the freeze.  The garden looks a little shaggy because of the dry weather, but it was still a pretty successful growing season.

I picked lots of green tomatoes to save them from the frost.  They are ripening pretty quick in my kitchen right now.  We've been slicing the ripe tomatoes and drying them in our food dehydrator to use in pastas, soups and casseroles.

How did your garden do this year?  Did the drought impact the garden yields?  I didn't end up with as many tomatoes as I would have liked, but as you can see, I still had quite a few to work with.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Autumn leaves on the High Trestle Trail

I took a few days off work and spent an afternoon on the High Trestle Trail in central Iowa.  The leaves were just starting to change color, and the milkweed seeds were out. They look like little cotton balls.

I passed a couple of corn fields as the combines were harvesting the crop.  They were kicking up a lot of dust in this dry weather.  This farmer waved at me when I rode by on my bike.

I love the contrast of blue sky and golden fall colors.  It was a gorgeous day, and I'm glad I took some time off from work to enjoy it.

Did you take a road trip to see the fall leaves?  What's your favorite place to see the autumn colors?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nutella banana snack cake from Two Peas and their Pod

A few weeks ago, I saw this recipe for Nutella banana snack cake from Two Peas and their Pod and knew I had to try to right away.  I love easy baking recipes, and I couldn't resist the combo of chocolate and banana.  It turned out to be really fun to make. 

I swirled the Nutella into the cake batter, which looked so fancy.  Then I topped it with the Nutella frosting, which was as smooth as fudge. 

This recipe is a keeper!  If you give it a try, tell me what you think.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weekend Odds & Ends: Oct. 6

Hey everyone!  Thought I'd try something new and give a round-up of what I've been up to (and obsessing about) this week.  Here it goes:

1) Tonight we're expecting the first hard freeze of the fall.  I picked the last of the green tomatoes from my backyard garden last night.  Always a little sad to see the summer gardening season end, but I'm actually glad that I don't have to pick tomatoes every night anymore.  I've had an odd fruit fly infestation in my garden this year, and the little buggers are digging holes in most of my tomatoes, even before the fruit turns red! I'm hoping it's not the new species of fruit fly that I heard was recently discovered in Story County.

2) Oh yeah, did I mention it's cold outside?  Only supposed to reach 48 degrees tomorrow.  I'm moving my fitness routine indoors for the season.  I took a bootcamp class this week, and my arms are so sore from all those tricep dips!  Guess I need a little strength training in my life.

3) And speaking of creepy crawlies, I came home from my road trip last weekend to find that my husband had placed mousetraps all over the kitchen and living room.  He discovered that a mouse had crawled into his backpack and eaten his bag of trail mix.  Then he saw a mouse hiding in the living room.  My husband's secret weapon for catching mice? Peanut butter. And it worked again. The mouse is now out of my house :)

And here's a round-up of fall squash recipes I hope to try very soon. I plan to stop by the farmer's market tomorrow to load up my car with squash.

Autumn Vegetable Soup from Recipe Girl

Pumpkin coffee cake from Recipe Girl

Baked spaghetti squash with creamy roasted red pepper sauce from Two Peas and their Pod

Pumpkin cinnamon rolls from Smitten Kitchen

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Grey's Lake Park, Des Moines

Hope you all don't mind, but I'm taking a mini-break from the blog after a short vacation from work.  But I'll be back next week with a re-cap of all my vacation fun (and kitchen experiments!).  Please follow my lead and get outside to enjoy this beautiful fall weather!
Related Posts with Thumbnails