May 17th, 2013
Summer in Iowa is beautiful and there are so many fun activities for families to enjoy! Planning a stay cation in Iowa is a fun way to reconnect with your family and stay within your budget. I fell in love with Iowa when I moved from Chicagoland to attend college in Dubuque, Iowa back in 2001. Since then, my husband and I have lived in the Quad City Area, Ottumwa and are about to move to Cedar Falls. We visit family often in Iowa City and Des Moines. I am turning out to be the Iowa expert:)
I have listed some really fun activities for families that are inexpensive to do in Iowa. For more information on traveling to Iowa, visit traveliowa.com.
I chose to include activities that are fun to do all over Des Moines and activities in other parts of the state. If you live in Iowa, then you know that driving an hour or two to get somewhere is ” normal”.
Exploring Des Moines
Des Moines Botanical Center - The Des Moines Botanical Center is a wonderful place to take your family. The gardening displays are just beautiful. They have fun activities for families throughout the year, and this place is truly unique.
Living Hickory Farms - Living History Farms is an outdoor interactive museum that teaches the history of Iowa’s farmland progression. This is a must if you are wanting to learn all about Iowa. Located right outside of Des Moines, this is a great place to visit!
Des Moines Library Story-time- Des Moines libraries are some of the most beautiful around. When you take your stay cation in Des Moines, you should take advantage of free story times! Click here for a list of times for different ages offered at the Des Moines library!
Cinema Under the Stars- The Science Center of Iowa holds outdoor summer movies ” on the big screen”. Click here for dates and movies available!
Pick Berries- Pick berries at The Berry Patch Farm in Nevada, Iowa. The berries cost about $1.00 per pound. What a great outdoor activity for families!
Play a family game of disc golf visit Des Moines’ disc golf courses and play a family round of disc golf! Disc golf courses are free!
Iowa Farmers Markets - Iowa is well-known for agriculture and has some of the best Farmers Markets ever! Visiting the farmers market in Des Moines, literally takes an entire day to go through! Not only is it filled with local produce, but also arts and crafts! If you feel like taking a road trip, you could also visit the farmers markets in Fairfield, Davenport, Cedar Falls, and Iowa City. You will be in for a treat!
Short Road Trips from Des Moines
Pose in front of the American Gothic House - The American Gothic house is in Wapallo County, it is actually the house that the famous painting ” American Gothic” was painted in front of. The American Gothic House Center is a neat place to visit! This center actually has costumes that you and your family can dress up in and take your picture in front of the house!
The tulip tea room in Pella, which is a short drive from Des Moines, dress up for ” high tea” Call ( 641-620-9036) for reservations.
Field of Dreams Movie Site. - Remember the 1989 movie Field of Dreams? DId you know you can visit the baseball field where the movie was filmed? Dyersville, Iowa is the home of the Field of Dreams movie site. This is worth a trip to Dyersville, Iowa.
Honey Creek State Park - Honey Creek State Park is just about an hour away from Des Moines. This state park has boats, camping bike trails and many other outdoor activities. There is also a beautiful resort within the state park that has a wonderful restaurant and an indoor water park. You can try the famous ” Iowa Cobb Salad” when you visit Honey Creek.
I hope you enjoyed my picks for having a ” Staycation” around Des Moines, Iowa. I know that there are so many other fun things to do in this great state!
May 14th, 2013
Is there anything better then caramelized onions? I can only think of a few things. I am a little embarrassed to share that I spent the first 25 years of my life hating onions. I mean HATING them. ( really I was scared to touch them). I don’t recall what changed my mind about them. I still wont eat them raw, but I Love them Grilled, Fried and LOVE them caramelized!
Dip is not something that usually enters my home. Another one of those self control issues that I have. But last month when I hosted my Bunco Group. I decided to try this recipe, since I would be sharing it with others:). I loved this recipe. The Sweet Potato Chips I purchased made this recipe even better!
Yes, I have become obsessed with the Sweet Potato Chips you can get at Aldi! OBSESSED! ( they are so good and cheap!)
The night before I hosted bunco, I made this dip, so I could easily put together my spread.
I prefer my caramelized onions brown. These take a long time, but are well worth it!
When The onions were done caramelizing, I pulsed them in my food processor for a little bit and mixed them with sour cream and let the flavors settle in the fridge overnight.
Let me tell you this turned out wonderfully. I want to make it again! I am trying to watch what I eat because I am standing up in my brother wedding next month! Maybe after that I will splurge a bit!
May 8th, 2013
Sorry I have been a little inconstant with my posts lately. I moved last week and now I am staying with my parents in the Chicago suburbs for the next three weeks before we can move into our new house. My family is moving from Ottumwa, Iowa to Cedar Falls, Iowa. I can’t wait to get to my new town. It is going to be so nice there !
The bad news is that I am off schedule and homeless. ( makes blogging harder). The good news is, that my parents have a beautiful kitchen and all different pretty plates for me to use!
My toddler’s eating schedule has been ” off” since the move happened. I thought I would make him some ” Mac and Cheese”. But instead of the ” Cheese” sauce. I made ” Cauliflower Sauce” that looks like Cheese!
Win for him. Win for me!
My little one is only 18 months old, he is easy to trick. he gobbled up his Mac and ” Cheese” like it was actually Mac and Cheese! Maybe when he gets older he will expect cauliflower in his Mac and Cheese:)
Sneaky Mom’s Cauliflower ” Cheese” Sauce.
Disclaimer. This actually has no cheese. But I am sure if you added a little bit, it would be even better than it already is!
1 Head of Cauliflower
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup of Milk.
1) Cut a head of Cauliflower. Spread out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
2) Roast Cauliflower at 400 degrees f for 30 minutes.
3) After Cauliflower is Roasted to your satisfaction, Puree it in your food processor. Add the milk at this time.
I LOve this dish. It is so hard not to eat it all myself while I am preparing it! Not only is this healthy, but it is also flavorful and salty! I promise that you don’t miss the cheese at all~
I will certainly be making this again!
April 24th, 2013
I wanted to get my son’s mothers day craft out-of-the-way early this year. We are moving, and I am not about to breakout the finger paints at my parents house while we are staying with them next month! I thought of something cute that both of Evan’s Grandmas would use! A Farmers Market Bag!
Both of Evan’s Grandma’s are organic ” Food Snobs” ( I mean that as a compliment) who like to attend farmers markets, shop local, and reuse grocery bags. Why not make them something they can use, and also show off to people that they have an awesome grandson?
I did some research on Pinterest involving ” handprints Fruits and Vegetables”. This afternoon, my 18 month old and I went to work on this project and I was really pleased with the way it turned out!
Before starting this project. I found my carrot footprint here. and The Eggplant footprint here .
I also tried to think of other things my 18 month old would be able to do that would look like items found at the farmers market.
I found these blank canvas bags at Hobby Lobby and used toddler finger paint to make these. ( just incase he wanted to eat it)
My footprints are not perfect. But remember, I was working with a rambunctious 18 month old boy. I wanted to make this as much Evan’s project as possible. After all the prints were made, I outlined them with black puffy paint to make the designs look complete.
The Peppers are actually stamped with a real bell pepper.
I actually made two of these bags. One for each Evan’s grandmas. I know they will love this mothers day present! ( Hopefully they wont see it here first. Oh well, that what they get for snooping). LOL I am just kidding:)
April 23rd, 2013
Welp! It is April 23rd and snowing outside! I can’t believe this weather! But I do hope that this will result in a mild summer! My family is moving next week and now I am attempting to clean out the pantry and freezer without buying anything new.
I have come up with some interesting meals.
Chicken with caramelized onions ( only veggie left in the house)
Tuna cakes with corn flakes instead of breadcrumbs.
AND. Black bean corn muffins!
I usually don’t buy many food items that come in a can, or many packaged goods for that matter. But two things that I often have around are canned beans and cornbread mix.
I know that it is better to use dried beans. I just don’t have the patience for it! It is important to drain canned beans though. I usually keep these around for taco night, black bean burgers, salads and to make dips with. I thought I would add them to cornbread!
I simply just added the beans to the cornbread mix and followed the directions.
I thought these would be good dipped in some salsa. The little we have left!
My 18 month old son also loved this treat!
Who knows what kind of different recipes we will try over the next few weeks!
April 18th, 2013
Have you ever played bunco? I remember as a child my mom trying to explain to me the rules of bunco. She used to ” sub” in a neighborhood bunco group. When I moved to Southeast Iowa, I joined a bunco group and was so happy I did! Joining a bunco group is such a great way to meet new friends! If you have ever played bunco, then you know that it is a dice game!
This month was my turn to host bunco. I have brainstormed something ” Dice-like” to make for a few months. You know me, If I have the opportunity to make some ” crafty food” I totally will!
I thought I would make a ” Bunco” snack mix with mini cookies that look like dice! This recipe ended up being easy peasy! I just needed to do a little brainstorming on how I would pull this off.
After doing some ” googling” on how to successfully make a square cookie. I decided on this “ simple shortbread” cookie recipe. I simple just used a butter knife to cut the cookies into squares.
next, I wanted to find a frosting recipe that ” hardens” on the cookies. After reading some boards online, I simply mixed powdered sugar with some lemon juice and a bit of water to make my frosting.
I placed mini chocolate chips on the cookies to make them look like dice and let them dry overnight!
I made a ” snack” mix by baking pretzels, popcorn and nuts wish cinnamon and sugar. I then added dried fruit and my dice cookies!
I think it was a big hit! I was thankful that I was able to host bunco one last time before I move! I have really loved living in Southeast Iowa and have made some friends I hope to keep around for a long time!
April 12th, 2013
I love snacks that CRUNCH! So much that I can’t buy chips pretty much ever. I will keep on eating handful after handful. Geesh! I pretty much have no self-control when it comes to certain things! Perhaps I need to work on this. Or perhaps, I can create a fun healthy snack where it is OK to eat more!
Take my zucchini chips . Would Dr. Oz ever tell you not to eat 2 whole zucchini for a snack? No he would not!
A few weeks ago I was scrolling through interest, and I swear, that EVERY recipe I found required a food dehydrator. So the next day I went to Target and purchased one. I am so glad I did! I have dehydrated random things in my kitchen since!
Zucchini Chips were the first thing I wanted to make. I always have and always will love zucchini! I cut up 2 small zucchini into thin pieces and sprinkled a generous amount of garlic powder on them. I then arranged them into my new food dehydrator and let them dehydrate for 24 hours.
My food dehydrator came with a guide for dehydrating different vegetables. It advised me on how long to dehydrate each food item and what the consistency was supposed to be. I was excited because my zucchini chips turned out to be brittle at the end of this process. Like a real chip.
I rotated my dehydrator tray every few hours. ( not when I was sleeping though)
The next morning I woke up to these amazingly tasty crispy zucchini chips!
I stored my chips in a mason jar. This was a great choice as you want to make sure your chips continue to stay crispy. A zip block bag would work too.
THIS was a great guilt free crunchy snack!
April 9th, 2013
Last week I was able to take a break from all the craziness going on in my life. After a 2 weeks of organizing, throwing things away, dropping off unwanted items at Goodwill, cleaning my house from top to bottom and getting ready for our big move ( to Cedar Falls, Iowa). Our house sold in less than 24 hours. Deep Breath.
Now I have a few weeks to relax ( a little) before it is time to prepare for our move. My family is going to be homeless ( staying with my parents) for the entire month of May! ( OMG).
The day after our house sold, I was able to conduct some kitchen experiments that I have thought about for the past few weeks.
If you follow my Blog’s Facebook Page. Then you receive a ” Healthy Lunch Idea” every day. One of the fun ideas I found was this Carrot Pizza Crust. And I thought. If you can make Cauliflower Pizza Crusts. And Carrot Pizza Crusts. Why not an Avocado Pizza Crust? ( Everyone LOVES avocados!)
When I tried making the pizza crust using just avocados, the consistency was really gooey. I added some cooked cornmeal to get my pizza crust just the way I wanted!
Avocado and Cornmeal Pizza Crust ( Serves 2-3)
3 RIPE avocados
1 cup of cornmeal cooked al dente in the microwave.
a pinch of salt
1) Cook 1 cup of cornmeal in a microwave safe dish until your cornmeal is cooked al dente.
2) Mix the cooked cornmeal with all the other ingredients together. Make sure that all the avocado is integrated well with the cornmeal.
3) Roll out pizza dough onto a pan that is covered with parchment paper.
4) Bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees f without the pizza toppings.
5) Add Pizza toppings and bake for another 8 minutes.
And enjoy! I must say, this was pretty tasty! I will have to make this again sometime! It is rare that we have several ripe avocados lying around our house. We usually eat them up pretty fast. I might have to save some more for another Avocado pizza crust!
April 4th, 2013
After being in blogging circles for a few years now, I notice that people are always trying to transform things to make them different, interesting and fantastic! I often wonder if all the ideas have been thought of. Remember when Pinterest was brand new? How overwhelming was that? You hopped on Pinterest and 1000 fantastic ideas popped up on your screen!
It is actually pretty amazing the new recipes people are continuously developing!
After making baby food for my son last year I learned how to make all sorts of different puree. Also, I was able to experiment with mixing different fruits and vegetables together to my son would eat them.
Getting my son to eat his vegetables can be a challenge. I don’t think that it is the taste of the vegetables he doesn’t like, but the constancy. I decided to transform carrots into a pasta sauce I thought he would enjoy. And he did enjoy this dish immensely.
I have never prepared carrots other than cutting them into carrot sticks or baking them with a bit of brown sugar. But like many of the bloggers who contribute to the fantastic ideas you all see on Pinterest, I decided to make them into something fantastic! A Carrot Garlic Pasta Sauce. A great way to switch up dinner.
Carrot-Garlic Pasta Sauce
Ingredients: 1 lb of Carrots, 1 clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of milk, 1 teaspoon of Marscapone cheese, salt and pepper to taste.
1) Peel and Cut carrots and the clove of garlic.
2) boil the carrots and garlic in water until the mixture is soft.
3) Puree the mixture in your food processor. Add milk, Marscapone Cheese, salt and pepper.
4) Serve over pasta. Add some Parmesan cheese!
This recipe is simple and delicious. Don’t you think that the simplest recipes can turn out to be the best ones? This would work for a quick weeknight meal. I usually keep a bag of carrots in my fridge, just incase I need a carrot for a salad.
My mixture actually turned out BRIGHT orange! What a fun way to throw your child for a loop. Bright orange pasta sauce! Remember that purple ketchup they used to make? ( gross). For some reason I thought of purple ketchup when I served this orange pasta to my 17 month old.
Carrots can taste very mild. I am glad I added garlic to this sauce. It was actually fabulous! I was not expecting it to be that great! What to switch up your carrot pasta sauce recipe a bit? Try adding an onion or a parsnip. This turned out garlic-ee and sweet. ( carrots are very sweet naturally) I use them as a sweetener when I make my homemade red sauce.
April 2nd, 2013
I have some really amazing friends from high school whom I am still close with even though we are all turning THIRTY this year! I already turned 30 in December, and one by one we are all reaching the big 3-0! Soon after I turned 30, my friend Sandra followed suite. It is inevitable! We might as well celebrate! I decided to make Sandra a nostalgic gift for her birthday.
I thought that this ” Saturday morning in a box” was appropriate for Sandra’s birthday, because the two of us used to spend time doing ” Cool kid” things together. Like planning “themed sleepovers “with our friends. Some of the “Themed Sleepovers” we would have were ” 80′s Movie Night”. ” Dance Movie night” and our ” Cereal” themed sleepover. Where all of our friends had to bring a box of cereal to share with the group. We were so cool:)
I feel like ” Saturday Morning” is a nostalgic time for many people. It is the one day a week you can just relax at home and watch cartoons in your Pajamas and spend time with your family. And eat cereal. Not just any cereal, but cereal that comes in your own personalized box!
I think that people my age ( around 30) have fond memories of all the wonderful sugary cereals because we were marketed to by all the fun cereal characters! ( Not so PC anymore) .
Here are all the items that I included in Sandra’s ” Saturday morning in a box” gift. ( which really could be altered for Anyone who likes to relax on a Saturday morning)
* A cereal bowl
* A Cute cereal spoon ( I mean Come ON! If you are going to eat cereal out of your own personalized box, you need to eat it with a funky spoon!)
* Pajama Pants
* An assortment of personal cereal boxes
* Hot Cocoa
You could also add
* Coffee Mug
* Saturday Morning Cartoons
* Coffee gift card
I packaged all the Cereal items up in a box and sent them off to Chicago where Sandra lives ( just a few blocks from Lake Michigan)
I hope that even though we are ( gulp) 30. We can still act young sometimes. Hopefully this ” Saturday morning in a box” will help Sandra remember the ” good ole days”. Although I have a feeling the best is yet to come.