Monday, September 30, 2013

Osage artisan festival

Last weekend, I drove up to my hometown in northern Iowa to visit my mom and stepdad.  My mom suggested that we drive to nearby Osage and check out the town's fall artisan festival.  We didn't know what to expect.  We thought we'd find a few food booths and a couple pumpkins to buy.  But boy, were we surprised by what we saw!  The main street was lined with food and craft vendors. Visitors were walking up and down the street, in and out of stores, wearing their knee-high leather boots and drinking pumpkin lattes. My mom and I had no idea it was such a big event!

I wish I would have taken more pictures, but I've been told it's kind of a "no-no" to take photos at a craft fair. The vendors don't want other people stealing their project ideas -- although maybe that's not as big of an issue nowadays with Pinterest and all.

Anyhow, I took a photo of the "Autumn" sign above, because I wanted to buy it but didn't have the cash.  (Again, we had no idea that it was a craft fair, so I didn't budget for it. If I go again next year, I'll save up some spending money!)  I also thought this jack o' latern chair was adorable.

Here's one of the parking lots full of vendors.  There were four of these vendor lots, if I recall correctly.

There was a taco truck that had a huge line of people, and the food looked wonderful.  But my stepdad wanted to stop at one of his favorite Osage restaurants, Teluwat.  The place was packed, but we managed to snag a table by sharing it with a group of really nice women, one of whom told us that she had more than 30 grandkids and four great-grandkids! She was adorable!

My stepdad and I ordered the special of the day: the breaded pork tenderloin.  It was huge, but so good!

Everyone told us that we had to stop at the new Unc's Cheesecake bakery in town.  We were so full after lunch, we didn't sample the cheesecake.  But my mom and I did order a couple of carrot cake balls for the ride home. Actually, I thought they were pumpkin cake balls, but when I ate mine the next day, it turned out to be carrot cake.  Still very good, although I really wanted pumpkin!

Sugar cookies decorated for fall.

Carrot cake balls for the ride home.

Have you been to any fun fall festivals this year?  I'm always looking for a new one to visit.  I just love this time of year!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Homemade salsa

I'm happy to say that despite the dry weather, my garden tomatoes and peppers have been plentiful this year.  I planted jalapenos earlier in the summer (I found a three-pack of jalapeno seedlings for 99 cents at Fareway!)  So I thought it would be fun to try to make salsa at home.

I've never made salsa before, mostly because my husband is super picky about salsa.  Like the three little bears, he doesn't like his salsa too watery, or too hot, or too thin. I asked him what he thought the perfect salsa recipe would look like.  He said the salsa had to be thick, like the Pace picante sauce we get at the grocery store. The recipe has to have vinegar in it, he says, and a little bit of heat, but not too much.

I searched and searched for a recipe that meets his requirements, and finally landed on the Rockin' Salsa recipe from Allrecipes. (Click here for the recipe.)  I modified the recipe a bit, because all I had were jalapenos, not banana peppers and such.  I was a little worried about all the sugar in the recipe, but it really didn't taste overly sweet, and it makes a huge batch. I also didn't can the recipe; I froze the extra salsa instead.  I don't feel comfortable canning recipes that aren't USDA approved to ensure food safety.

Do you have a favorite salsa recipe?  How do you like your salsa?  I'm glad I found something that my super picky husband really likes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grandma's refrigerator pickles

I've been holding out on you guys. I've been meaning to share my grandma's refrigerator pickle recipe, but kept putting it off.

This is my go-to recipe when the cucumbers are plentiful in my garden. My grandma shared it with me after I just graduated from college and was learning to cook on my own. She used the giant cucumbers that my grandpa grew from an old hog lot he turned into a garden. Old hog manure turned out to be excellent fertilizer!

Here's the recipe, if you want to give it a try. Enjoy!


Grandma's refrigerator pickles

4 cups sugar
4 cups vinegar
1/2 cups salt
1-1/3 tsp. mustard seed
3 onions, sliced
Cucumbers to fill a gallon jar

Mix all ingredients together. This syrup is cold. Keep in refrigerator for five days, then they are ready to eat.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Iowa recipes: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

So this is probably my third or fourth attempt at trying to find the perfect oatmeal raisin cookie recipe.  But I think I've finally found my favorite.  I found this recipe after digging through my old Iowa State Fair blue-ribbon cookbooks.  I love everything about this cookie: the cinnamon flavor, the plump raisins, the chewy texture.

Here's the recipe, if you want to give it a try at home.  Enjoy!


Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • Hot water
  • 1-1/2 C. raisins
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 C. brown sugar
  • 1 C. butter or margarine
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 C. quick cooking rolled oats

Pour just enough hot water over raisins to cover; set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream sugars and butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Add flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon; mix well. Stir in oats and drained raisins by hand. Drop by teaspoonsful onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What I've been up to: August 2013

I haven't done one of these monthly recaps in a while, but we've been super busy this summer. I always plant my garden a few weeks later than I should, so my zinnias just started blooming in August. For some reason, only the pink ones bloomed at first!

I bought my first Iowa-grown apples of the year in early August. These "Pristine" apples are from Wills Family Orchard in Adel.  I also ordered 10 pounds of peaches, grown at Wills Family Orchard, for canning. The Iowa peaches are a little smaller than the grocery store variety, but very sweet and juicy.

I won a free entry to the Sweet Corn 5K in Adel in mid-August. I've never signed up for the race before, because it's in the hottest part of the summer and it's during State Fair week, when I usually have to work. It was a fun race, and we got to run on the Adel's brick streets, which felt a little strange under my feet.  I tried not to twist an ankle on the cracks between the bricks! But the weather was perfect, and I ended up finishing with a pretty decent time (for me).  Plus, it was neat to see all the costumed runners.

This summer was my first attempt at growing "White Beauty" tomatoes.  I'm a little disappointed in them. They take forever to ripen, the plants don't bear much fruit, and the tomatoes are a little mealy, for some reason. 

 Just a random photo from my iPod: I liked the painted ornamental gourds at the Iowa State Fair's Discovery Garden this year.

I'm having way too much fun with my garden tomatoes this year.

With the late-August heatwave, my peppers are finally turning color.  I started these mini orange lunchbox peppers from seed way back in February!  The peppers are a little bigger than the mini sweet peppers at the grocery store, but they have a better flavor, I think.  I like to dip the sweet peppers in Anderson-Erickson lite party dip for an afternoon snack.

One more random photo:  I bought a new pair of running shoes after I ran 300 miles in my old shoes!  I downloaded the Shoedometer app on my iPod to keep track of my running shoe mileage. You're supposed to buy new running shoes every 300 to 400 miles.  I'm going to rotate between the old and new shoes until I hit 400 miles with the older pair.

I buy my running shoes at Fitness Sports in Windsor Heights.  They fitted me with Asics running shoes several years ago, after I complained about getting blisters on the big-toe side of my feet. The Asics are designed to keep my feet from rolling inward.  Fitness Sports has my name and shoe type in its database, so whenever I need a new pair of shoes, the salesperson just looks my name up and gives me the latest model of Asics. The shoe colors keep getting wilder every year!

Hope you enjoyed your Labor Day holiday!  Can't believe it's fall already!
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