Monday, June 24, 2013

Iowa recipes: Rhubarb swirl pie

OK. So I've posted this recipe on the blog before, but I wanted to give it a try again with an easier ready-made graham cracker pie crust.  I've actually seen this recipe more often with the ready-made crust than with the homemade version.  Not only is it convenient, but it also sets up much better.  On my previous attempt, the dessert just looked like pink fluff!  Rhubarb season is pretty much finished here in central Iowa.  I froze the last of my garden rhubarb last weekend.  But I'll be making this rhubarb swirl pie again next spring.  It's very easy and very good! 

Here's my original post with the homemade graham cracker crust, if you prefer.  If you use the store-bought crust, then you probably won't have enough space inside the crust for all the filling, because I didn't.  Maybe you could use the rest to fill up one of those mini-graham cracker pie crusts.  Enjoy!


Rhubarb Swirl
From the Deer Creek Lutheran Church Cookbook (from Carpenter, Iowa -- my grandmother's home town)

  • 1 (3 oz.) box strawberry Jello
  • 3 C. diced rhubarb
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 (3.4 oz.) box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1-1/2 C. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 8 oz. Cool Whip topping 
Graham cracker crust:
  • 2 C. graham crackers, crushed
  • 1/3 C. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 C. melted margarine (I use butter)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
Pour sugar over rhubarb and set 1 hour. Put in saucepan and simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour in Jello and mix until dissolved. Set aside and cool until syrupy.  Prepare pudding with milk and vanilla. Then add topping and mix well. Pour rhubarb mix into pudding and gently swirl. Put into prepared graham cracker crust and chill overnight.

Crust:  Mix together ingredients. Press all but 1/4 C. (for topping) in a 9x13-inch pan. Chill 1 hour before pouring rhubarb filling on.  Sprinkle reserved crumbs on top.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bike Iowa: Trout Run Trail, Decorah

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to stay overnight in Decorah for work.  I woke up early the next day so I could check out the new Trout Run Trail, an 11-mile bike trail that circles Decorah.  I took the photo above at the unofficial entrance to the trail.  This gorgeous work of public art is one of many along the trail route.

I read this terrific review of the Trout Run Trail on the Bike Iowa website a few days after I visited there.  It does a great job of summing up what it's like to ride the trail.  Like the reviewer, I was surprised by how scenic, and hilly, the trail is.  (And I can say that the hills aren't any better going clockwise!)  I usually do pretty good going up steep hills, but I had to get off my bike and walk a couple of them, because I didn't know they were coming and didn't have enough "steam" to get up them.  But don't let the hills discourage you.  I met a group of kids, who looked like they were part of a summer camp group, along the trail. So it's very family-friendly.

There are several scenic outlooks and trout fishing spots along the trail.  Check out these gorgeous views!

Along the trail, you'll also pass by the DNR's fish hatchery and the former home of the Decorah eagles, which gained worldwide fame a couple years ago when their nest was filmed by web cam.

It was also neat to see that the trail cut through farmland.  At one point, the trail bumped right up next to a dairy farm.  I just had to take photos of the cows!

Another highlight of the trail is the $2 million bridge that spans over Highway 9.  The bridge is lit up in colorful LED lights at night.

 Once I crossed the bridge, I rode past the Decorah bluffs. Such a beautiful part of the state.

I'm already making plans to come back to Decorah again in the fall -- for fun, not for work!  This trail is worth the four-hour drive to northeast Iowa.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Blueberry coffee cake

 The local Hy-Vee grocery store has featured blueberries on sale several times already this spring and summer. I love baking with blueberries, and I was in the mood for coffee cake, with that wonderful brown sugar crumble topping.  I did a little online searching and found this blueberry buckle coffee cake from King Arthur Flour.  Wow, was this coffee cake good!  My hubby ended up eating almost the whole pan himself!  And it's a nice alternative to the standard blueberry muffins.  Let me know if you give this recipe a try.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Homemade vanilla ice cream

I inherited an old ice cream maker from my grandmother, a 1970s-style electric ice cream maker that's still in its original box.  I've had it stored in the closet for a couple years, but never have used it.  I wasn't sure if it would work; plus, I thought it would be hard to use, since I have to buy ice cream salt and crushed ice to freeze the ice cream mix.  

But over the Memorial Day weekend, I decided it was time to either try out the old ice cream machine, or throw it out.  So I bought ice cream salt and ice at my local Fareway grocery store, and I found a recipe for vanilla ice cream in one of  my favorite cookbooks, The Homemade Pantry.

The recipe is an egg-less, or Philadelphia-style, ice cream.  It was super easy to mix together, using just a few simple ingredients.  And to my delight, my grandma's old ice cream maker still works!  It ran perfectly, and now I can't wait to try out more ice cream recipes!

Here's the recipe, if you want to give it a try.  Also, please leave a comment if you have any advice for making ice cream at home.  I'd love to learn a few tips.


Vanilla ice cream
From The Homemade Pantry

  • 2 C. heavy cream
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 C. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine 1 C. of heavy cream, sugar and salt in medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. 

Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the pan with a paring knife. Drop the bean into the pan. Remove from the heat, add the milk, remaining 1 C. cream and vanilla extract to the pan.  Stir to combine, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove the vanilla bean. Freeze the ice cream mix according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Iowa recipe: Rhubarb Dream Bars

Wish I would have taken a better photo of these rhubarb dream bars.  But I barely remembered to take the photo before we gobbled them all up!

One of my Facebook friends, who is a farmer, posted this recipe for rhubarb dream bars. She said that she brought these bars to her husband and the guys out in the field this spring, while they were planting corn, and they ended up eating the whole pan.  With that rave review, I had to try them myself!

What's great about these bars is I had all the ingredients on hand.  I grow quite a bit of rhubarb in my backyard, so I'm always looking for new recipes to use it up. Seriously, one of the reasons we bought our house is because of the rhubarb plants growing by the garage!  I love rhubarb that much. And these bars are like a rhubarb version of lemon bars, which are my husband's favorite.

Here's the recipe if you want to give these a try at home.  As my friend said: "I'll bet you can't eat just one!"


Rhubarb Dream Bars

  • 2 C. flour
  • 3/4 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 C. butter

Mix together and press in jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 4 C. diced rhubarb

Beat together eggs, sugar and flour. Stir in rhubarb. Pour over baked crust. Bake an additional 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and cut into bars. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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