Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pella bakery

I traveled to Pella recently for work. I'd never been to downtown Pella before, so I swung by downtown to check out the Dutch bakeries.  I stopped at Jaarsma Bakery, and I couldn't believe the wide variety of treats inside.  I thought the bakery just sold Dutch letters, but they had that and much more. Breads, cookies, cakes, pastries, chocolates -- it was hard to pick just one!

I was a little overwhelmed, so I ended up buying a few cookies and Dutch letters to take home.

After I bought the sweets, I stopped in the clothing shop next door, and the salesperson told me I had to go back to the bakery and find the chocolate almond horns in the refrigerated case.  The almond horns are baked with almond paste in the dough, so they are extra chewy, almost like a caramel candy bar, although not caramel in flavor.  My husband ended up loving these, even more so than the Dutch letters (although he ended up polishing off the Dutch letters, too!)

Before I left town, I also visited the Pella meat shop and came home with the famous Pella bologna.  We enjoyed this for supper when I got home.

I'm already trying to talk my husband into taking another road trip to Pella, just so I can show him the amazing bakeries!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hot pink flowering strawberry

A few weeks back, I stopped by the Iowa Arboreteum's spring plant sale.  I only planned to buy a couple new hostas, but I ended up buying more than a couple!  I couldn't resist the unique plant offerings, including this strawberry plant -- with hot pink flowers!  The plant tag explains that it's an ornamental and edible ever-bearing strawberry that you can plant in a regular pot; it doesn't grow runners.

Unfortunately, the tag doesn't say what the strawberry variety is called.  I did a quick Google search and found this Toscana strawberry, which looks pretty close to what I bought.  I was so thrilled to find such a new-to-me strawberry variety, but then a few days later, I found the same strawberry plant at my local Fareway greenhouse.  So maybe it's not that unusual!

I'll keep you updated on how the strawberries turn out.  Have you ever grown a pink-flowered strawberry?  Have they been around for a while and I just have never heard of them?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Baked doughnuts: Take 2

My hubby gave me a nifty baked doughnut pan for Christmas, and I've been experimenting with different doughnut recipes this winter and spring.  I've been in a bit of a baking rut lately.  Every time I try a new recipe, I make a mistake and mess it up.  The other day, I added baking soda to a cookie recipe, but when the cookies didn't spread, I figured out that I should have added baking powder. (Or maybe it was the other way around. I have a hard time keeping the two apart!)

Further proof of my baking rut: My doughnuts were missing their holes.  I filled the cups too much, but I hate wasting batter!

But even though my doughnuts were holeless, they turned out to be my favorite baked doughnut recipe so far.  I found the baked doughnut recipe on Shutterbean, if you want to check it out.  Instead of an extra large egg, I used a large egg, since that's what I have in my fridge, and it turned out terrific.

My husband requested chocolate frosting, so I used a recipe I found in an old copy of King Arthur Flour's Baking Sheet.  I'll include the recipe at the end of this post.

I had some leftover buttermilk and blueberries in my fridge, so I decided to mix up the same doughnut recipe but add blueberries.  Another good choice!  I topped the doughnuts with a lemon juice-powdered sugar glaze, which turned out a little too runny.  Next time, I'll try to mix up a thicker glaze.

And again, these doughnuts are missing the holes!  I hate wasting batter.

Here's the recipe for the chocolate glaze.  If you give these a try, let me know how they turn out for you.  Enjoy!


Chocolate glaze

  • 1/2 C. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbls. butter
  • 1 Tbls. plus 1 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Melt the ingredients together over low heat or in the microwave, stirring often. Add extra corn syrup if needed to make a smooth, shiny glaze. Yield: about 1/2 C. glaze.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Garden update: May 2013

It's an understatement to say that the weather hasn't been very cooperative this spring.  Right after I took these photos, an unseasonably late storm covered my tulips in 3 inches of snow.  I can't complain, though, because we need the moisture after last summer's drought.

We're doing a lot of yard work this spring. We finally cut down the old wisteria vine that tore the shingles off our back porch.  I'll miss the spring blooms, but I won't miss how the vine covered the back of our house every summer.  Anyhow, that's why our yard is looking a little rough in my photos. That, and the snow.

I planted a few lettuce and radish seeds back in April.  Because the temps dropped right after I planted them, it took a month before they popped out of the ground.  But they're growing a little bit every day.

To get myself in the gardening mood, I bought myself a fancy pair of gloves at the farm store.  Don't worry. They'll get dirty soon enough!

I stopped at Holub greenhouse in Ames before Mother's Day and was surprised to find a nice selection of strawberry plants.  I planted them again in Stack-a-Pots. I had good luck with the everbearing strawberries last year. As long as I kept them watered and fertilized regularly, I had strawberries to pick all summer long.  I never really get a lot of strawberries, but it's still a fun backyard project.

Just for fun, I bought two varieties of ever-bearing strawberries: Fort Laramie and Tristar.  I'm curious to see how different they will be from each other.

My tulips are about done blooming now, but they were beautiful while they lasted.  I planted yellow, orange and red tulips to match my neighbor's same-colored tulips.  I wish the tulips would bloom all year!

How's your garden growing this spring?  Did the unusually cold weather slow or alter your gardening plans?  I still haven't planted my potted flowers yet, because the temps were close to freezing this last weekend.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Arizona trip: April 2013

In February, I traveled to Arizona for a work trip.  My mom, who lives in Arizona in the winter, invited me to come back and visit at the end of April, when the weather starts to warm up again.  So I made another trip a couple weeks ago. When I got off the plane, the temps in Phoenix were 90 degrees. The cactus were also blooming, which was a treat to see.

My mom also told me if I came back to Arizona later in the spring, we could visit northern Arizona when the snow melts there.  After a windy mountain drive, climbing up to 5,000 feet in altitude, we stopped for the night in Flagstaff.  We stayed at the Comfort Inn hotel, and we were greeted by this fireplace in the lobby.

We drove another 2 hours to our next destination: the Grand Canyon!

Obviously, my photos can't really capture the view.  But it was magnificent, and we couldn't have asked for nicer weather -- 60 degrees and sunny.


My stepdad got his finger in all the photos he took!


 The next day, we drove south to Sedona to see the gorgeous red sandstone rock formations.  My mom's friends recommended we take the trolley tour to really see the sites.

See the finger in the top left corner?
 Sedona really was beautiful.  Very touristy, but worth the trip.

In downtown Sedona, we bought a couple T-shirts, then stopped at an ice cream shop.  I had to try the prickly pear cactus ice cream.  Tasted a lot like strawberries.

More cactus flowers blooming when we got back to Phoenix.

One more photo from the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction.  See the finger in the photo? I wasn't kidding when I said every photo was like this! Oh well.

This is probably my last trip for a while.  There's nothing better than Iowa weather in the summer.  If only it would warm up already!  I'm waiting for the May snow to melt.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What I've been up to: April 2013

It seems like I've been super busy this last month, and now I know why after looking at all these random photos from my iPod.  So much to share with you!

Earlier this month, I visited In the Country Garden and Gifts near Independence in northeast Iowa.  The family-owned greenhouse offers fairy garden supplies, succulents and a huge variety of hostas.  I couldn't believe all the succulent arrangements that they had on display.  Lots of good ideas for the garden.

On my way home, I swung by the Moo Roo ice cream shop in Cedar Falls.  It's one of the best stops in Iowa for homemade ice cream.  My favorite is the cake batter flavor.  And the waffle cones are homemade, too!

The crocuses started popping up in early April.  Unfortunately, the weather has been so cold, my tulips still aren't blooming yet. But soon, very soon.

For two days in a row, I left work in the evening and heard a tapping sound in the stairwell.  I looked up and saw a goose in the second story window!  This little bugger was watching all of us as we left the building.

I ran my first 5K of the year this month.  It was the Doughnut Run in Ames.  You can deduct seconds off your time by eating doughnuts along the route.  My stomach can't handle doughnuts while I'm running.  But it's fun to see the ISU frat boys try to top each other by eating way too many doughnuts.

My hubby and I stopped by the local Orschelen's farm store and saw these little chicks for sale.  Almost made me want to take one home, but then my hubby reminded me that they aren't so cute when they grow up.

Thank goodness chickens can't read.

We followed up our farm store visit with a stop at Taco John's for the tacos and potato oles.  No we didn't eat all of this food, but we tried!  My aunt, who is a retired flight attendant, says whenever she was back in Iowa, she always had to stop at Taco John's.  That means a lot coming from a woman who also loves to eat at fancy sushi restaurants whenever she's back in Japan.

I also visited Thistleberry Cottage near Oakland in southwest Iowa.  It's a gift and home decor store located on an Iowa farm.  Looking at these photos, I wish I would have bought one the bracelets to take home. 

 My husband bought me the most ridiculous gift for my birthday.  He thought it would be a good addition to my garden.

At the end of the month, I drove down to Des Moines to participate in the Solidarity Run to support the Boston Marathon bombing victims. The organizers asked runners to write chalk messages on the steps of Nollen Plaza.  It was a beautiful tribute.

Finally, I left for a one-week vacation (more on that later). When I came back home, my tomato seedlings were huge!  My hubby did a good job of taking care of them while I was gone.

Today, I'm planning to do some more gardening before the weather turns cold and rainy again.  Here's hoping for a warm May!
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