Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Best Peach Cobbler

Peaches are in season which means that the hubs is eating them like candy.
My favorite way to eat peaches would be in cobbler.
I have made several different cobblers before, and some peach desserts I made recently would be the Peach Cobbler Cake and the Peachy Cream Bars which were both mighty tasty. But, they were missing something.
They weren't like I wanted it to be. Although, I don't really know what I wanted it to be.
Then, alas.


I came across a peach cobbler recipe over at thefoodhussy.com and I had a feeling that *this* would be the peach cobbler recipe of my dreams. 
The way the boiling water creates a sugar crust on top is absolutely wonderful. 
I use fresh peaches, because they are in season and super cheap...and nothing beats a fresh peach.
If you haven't made anything with fresh ones before, be sure to check out my post on how to peel a peach easily. It saves you so much hassle!


And, I cannot lie. I was eating it with a spoon while it was cooling after coming out of the oven.
Yeah.
It was delicious.
The hubs even agreed.
We ended up eating half of the cobbler with a spoon. 
From the baking dish.
Before it cooled.
Yum.

The Best Peach Cobbler

4 cups peaches, sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 375.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.
Place peaches evenly in the dish.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup sugar and butter.
Add the salt, flour, baking powder, and milk.
Mix well.
Spread as evenly as you can over the peaches.
In a small bowl mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch.
Sprinkle evenly over the batter.
Pour the boiling water over the sugar top so it is all moistened.
Do not mix.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Let cool until desired warmth before serving.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad{Things to Do}

I have always had the intention to post fun things to do in my "Travel" section. I mean, I did design my blog to have a section for those posts, but I haven't utilized it...until now.
So to kick off my summer 2014 adventure blog posts I will start with the first field-trip I took my daycare kiddos on this summer.
We spent the afternoon at the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad riding the train.

If you have a kid, then the odds are that they find trains fascinating.
I mean, they are huge things that move super fast and they have that awesome whistle.
What isn't to enjoy about that?

Boone is an old train town just west of Ames and they provide multiple train rides at various times throughout the day.
They have the basic excursion, which is what we went on this time with the kids; but there are also dessert and dinner trains.
My husband and I took my Grandpa on the dinner train for his 81st birthday, I believe it was. Grandpa was a huge train buff...steam engines were his thing! He worked on M & St L many moons ago, and was an avid train watcher. The dinner train is definitely worth it if you have someone special who enjoys all things trains.
I don't have any pictures that I can find :( but we were able to sit in a private room, which is original to the train (think early 1900's train style). It was just a fun evening! I highly recommend it!

Back to the kiddos...
We took the basic excursion, which runs from the train depot in Boone, to Fraser (about a 30 minute trip both ways). The railroad started here in the late 1800's. The train cars are old, again early 1900's. The cars are not air conditioned, but the windows comes down. There is a concession car on the train and restrooms of course :)
The hubs and I got them all pumped up about the riding the choo-choo train so they were so excited to actually see the train.

They loved holding their train tickets in the station before departure:


And then we found our seats:


Of course we had to flip one of the seats around because they just thought it was so much fun:


The views on the train are pretty amazing. It does go over the high bridge; Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which has some amazing views that the kids loved:



It does go over the Des Moines River Bridge as well, which is fun to watch the river run beside the train and then cross over. The trip is narrated by a volunteer...which all the people that work for the train are volunteers. This I think is pretty amazing. It is nice to have people volunteer their time for something fun that is preserving the past.


There is a museum back at the train station that you can pay to visit without going on a train ride, or it is included in your admission when riding a train. Of course there is a gift shop, which if you visit I highly suggest picking up a copy of the book Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express which is an amazing true story of a fifteen-year-old girl that risked her life to stop incoming trains from passing over a bridge during a horrible storm that a train wreck just happened upon. When you are leaving town, you might also swing out by the bridge just to see how amazing her feat was. I wouldn't have ever climbed that bridge, let alone during a horrible storm!!

Overall the train ride is fun for everyone! During the summer there many different options like I mentioned earlier. The dessert, dinner, and even a picnic train. There are also several seating options available.
Check out their website to see what best fits your schedule!
In the early fall Thomas the Train makes an appearance, so young fans are bound to love that day!
There is also a pumpkin train during the fall that you can take out to the pumpkin patch and pick a pumpkin. Talk about more fun than just going to the farm!
And of course, close to the holidays Santa sets up a workshop nearby...

So what does it cost?
Again, we went basic coach:
For adults, it is pricier...$20 a person.
Children 3-12...$7 each
2 and under...free!

I kept reminding myself that the station runs off of volunteers and donations to justify the price. However, when we got there and saw the smiles on the kid's faces - it was totally worth the money!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies

The Fourth of July weekend went by in a flash, didn't it?
We were completely busy all weekend, some of it my own doing since I started a project...a fairly large project. But, I managed to make up a batch of these delicious little cookies yesterday:


Oh, and the large project I started? I ripped up the carpet in our living room!! Yep!
Do you ever get an itch to do something and then it consumes you?
That's me after I finally peeked under the carpet on Thursday to discover hardwood there!
WOO HOO! I knew the chances of it existing beneath the carpet were fairly decent. We have a hallway and our daughter's room that are both hardwood, I just don't know why it took me ten years of living here to finally look? I guess staring at those stains on the carpet every day and trying so hard to clean them out were getting to me!
So...I started that project, by myself. The hubs wants no part of it. I don't blame him! But, he will be the sandman when we refinish them in a few weeks. We still need to pull up the carpet in our bedroom so we can do it all at once. I am so EXCITED!
Well, that's how I spent all of my spare time on Saturday and Sunday. Toss in a bit of homework (Shakespeare and nonfiction writing to be exact) and that was my weekend!
Friday though, we did have a LOT of fun!
We of course went to the parade:



Then we went to my Uncle's for a cookout and a quick swim in his pool...and homemade ice cream!


After that we headed to Red Rock Lake to meet my brother and sister and spent the evening out on the boat!

My sister, Ann & Sophia

My brother, Levi chillaxin' while Channa captains the boat

Beautiful Red Rock

Me & my girl!
Then we came home just in time to watch the fireworks.


I was exhausted!!
I do have to note that while boating we did grill some hot dogs (Wranglers, All Beef of course since the hubs is a hot dog snob) and my sister in her quest for healthy food alternatives made herself some Carrot Dogs to toss on the grill! If you are interested in reading about them, check out her blog post here!

But in the midst of my carpet ripping yesterday I managed to whip up a batch of these cookies that I found over at Tasty Kitchen
OH EM GEE!
So freaking good!
Sophia was a bit freaked out about them at first, "please just make me regular peanut butter cookies, they are my favorite!" she kept telling me.
I reminded her that she absolutely loves Nutella and that she will love these, too.
No surprise here. She loves them.
It is just a basic peanut butter cookie recipe with a quick and easy Nutella filling slathered in between two cookies of the same size. This made 32 sandwich cookies, just as the original recipe says it would.
The filling is just enough to smoosh a small amount in between cookies, so I recommend bumping up the amount a bit. Especially if you are like me and really, really love Nutella.
Totally easy to make, stores well, came out moist and tasty.
Pretty sure you need to make these right now!



Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies
{printable recipe}

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

6oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup marshmallow creme
3/4 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixer, beat together the butter and sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Mix in the vanilla and peanut butter, combining well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Add slowly to the creamed mixture, mixing just until combined.
Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, or roll dough into even-sized 1-inch balls, place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.
Make the balls as uniform sized as possible and not too large.
You will make 64 cookies altogether.
Using a fork, or tenderizer, dip into the 2 tablespoons of sugar to prevent sticking, and make pattern on top of the cookies.
Bake for 8 minutes, or until puffed in the center.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely on baking sheet before removing.

While cookies are baking, make the filling:
In a mixer, beat together the cream cheese, marshmallow creme, and Nutella.

When the cookies are done baking and hardened a bit from cooling, using a frosting spatula or butter knife, swipe even amounts of the frosting on the flat side of one cookie, using another of about the same size and shape, make a sandwich with the cookies - the Nutella as the filling.
Repeat until all cookies are sandwiches.
Store in airtight container.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Garden Update!

We have had a fairly mild, rainy summer so far and my garden is definitely reaping the benefits of it!
I did learn that zucchini grows a lot larger than I expected...
But, it's all good!
We love watching all the plants grow and we are eagerly awaiting for the fruits of our labor to start blooming.
Our herb garden has been harvested two times now, which I am so happy about! I was a bit nervous on how they were going to do. In fact, last night I was cutting back the spearmint (which spreads like crazy) and when I walked into our kitchen after washing it all, it smelled like a pack of gum. It was a great smell!
We did have some insane winds during a storm the other day, so all my plants suffered a bit of damage (like practically being bent in half). However, with a little TLC, they are doing alright. I do have one serrano pepper plant that the stem broke almost in half. So I have propped it up and am hoping that it is able to make a full recovery!
The weeds aren't too bad anymore. I was religiously weeding, and now I can do it about every three or four days. That makes me happy because I really hate weeding!





Monday, June 30, 2014

Peanut Butter Bon-Bons

Peanut butter bon-bons (or peanut butter balls) are my absolute favorite holiday candy, hands down!
So when my daughter requested them a week ago, I couldn't say no! I haven't ever made them when it wasn't Christmastime, which I don't know why. It isn't like it is a rule they can only be made for holiday eating.


Then, after making them, I remembered why I only make them once a year...
They are addicting!! I seriously cannot eat just one!
I have changed the original recipe from my Grandma (well actually, it was my Great-Grandma's recipe) since I don't want to mix paraffin into the chocolate. 
Grandma's had a beautiful glossy sheen to them, thanks to that square of a paraffin. Instead, I just mix in about half a teaspoon of shortening, just to thin the chocolate a tad bit and it does help the chocolate coat it smoother. 
For dipping the peanut butter balls, I like to use a plastic fork with the two middle tines broken off. It works perfectly!
Store in the fridge and you will be munching on these all day...


Peanut Butter Bon-Bons
{printable recipe}

3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
4 cups powdered sugar
18oz chunky peanut butter

12oz chocolate chips
1 big Hershey milk chocolate bar
1/2-1 teaspoon shortening

Combine the cereal, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and melted butter in a large mixing bowl.
Mix well.
Form into small balls, about 1/2 inch-1 inch big.
Place on a large cookie sheet, covered with a sheet of wax paper.
Chill until they are firm.
Melt the chocolate chips and milk chocolate bar together.
Stir in 1/2-1 teaspoon of shortening and stir until it is melted. (start with less, and if it isn't as smooth as you'd like it, add a bit more of the shortening)
Drip the chilled peanut butter ball into the chocolate, tapping excess chocolate off.
Place on the wax paper lined cookie sheet.
Chill again until chocolate is set.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Opposite of Maybe


I finished reading The Opposite of Maybe in two sittings. I would have done it in one, but it was late and my eyelids wouldn't stay open any longer. Even though when I went to sleep my brain wouldn't shut off and kept rehashing everything I had just read about Rosie and her eccentric, non-exciting life - so I couldn't wait to find the free time to finish the story. Maddie Dawson writes in a way that I feel like I know the characters. Although, they are considerably older than I am, I can identify with their lifestyle, friends, jobs, relationships, family dynamics, and surprises along the way of life. I was able to picture myself as Rosie in many of the situations and there were times I was excited along with her and I couldn't turn the pages quick enough and yes, there were times I would find myself teary-eyed. 

Overall the story contains real-life problems, the thoughts we all think but do not necessarily share, and best of all it shares the complexity of relationships and how a person going down one path in their life suddenly finds it leaving a void and we are left searching. Sometimes we don't know what we are searching for and the main character in this book doesn't know what she wants until she has tried every avenue. Rosie battles her own feelings and emotions, trying to do the right thing. In the end all that matters is what makes her happy. 

The Opposite of Maybe
 is written well with characters are well-developed and has a well described setting. Everything about the book I really enjoyed. I gave it 4.5 stars because it left me hanging! I know that sometimes this is for the best, but I just wanted to know what happened at the very end. I am a sucker for a good romance story and this doesn't disappoint. It is tasteful, fun, and not like a book I have read before. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a quick, fun read that makes them think about themselves also. 

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dry-Rubbed Ribs

In my recent post on delicious Drunken Drumsticks I shared about how we are in total need of a new grill.
Well, good new my friends! 
I broke down and purchased a new grill! Woo hoo!
Well I can't really pass up a good deal when I see one and this was a really good deal. 
My sister and I went shopping the day before Father's day and I saw that Target had a charcoal grill on sale. So, I thought, heck yeah, that'll make the perfect gift
I was picking out some new skillets (I bought the ceramic ones, totally amazing), but when I took one off the rack, the entire SHELF came crashing down and a skillet landed on my toe. 
It hurt like the dickens.
So the lady offered a discount, I wasn't thinking and said "nah, I'm okay"...
We moseyed on over to the grills. They only had the display out of the grill I wanted. 
Asked if they had more. SCORE! One more in the back!
My sister then agreed to purchase the display version. They were happy to get rid of both, apologized about the shelf again and sold us each a beautiful new charcoal grill for....(drum roll, please) $85! WOOT WOOT!

Needless to say, the hubs was totally surprised by my purchase and he absolute loves it! We've used it many nights since bringing it home and I must admit, it was the best $85 spent on a grill ever. Even though my toe is still badly bruised...

Any who, the point I'm getting at is that now we have a great new grill that is perfect for grilling up my favorite rib recipe.


I started experimenting with dry rubs last summer and found I love to use them! 
I love my pulled pork recipe and knew I needed one for some ribs.
You can add as much spice as you'd like, really making them spicy, or leave it mellow. Totally up to you or who you are cooking for.
I wrap the rack of ribs up in a giant foil packet I make, toss them in the fridge to marinate all day.
Then, toss the whole foil packet on the grill to cook, (or the oven) and then remove the a few minutes before you wanting to serve dinner to let the outside crisp up some. 
The dry rub creates a delicious glaze and no BBQ sauce is necessary. It kind of makes it's own sauce and when cooked, they season just perfectly!

Dry-Rubbed Ribs

1 rack of ribs (back or spare, your choice), trim the silver membrane off the back if you'd like
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder or cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dry, ground mustard

Make a foil packet large enough to wrap up the ribs (make it double, alternating the edges so it won't leak)
In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar with all the seasonings.
Place the ribs on the foil and rub the sugar mixture liberally into the meat, covering all the sides.
Wrap the packet up, making sure it is sealed well.
Let sit in the refrigerator at least 4 hours. 
Either cook on the grill or in the oven at 300 degrees for about an hour. 
Check internal temperature, as cooking times depend on how large of a rack of ribs you have.
Remove the foil and cook over direct heat on the grill, or in the broiler if cooking in the oven, for 5-10 minutes to crisp up the glaze.
Let sit a few minutes before serving. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cinnamon Sugar Scones

I am slightly addicted to scones.
It is true.
I can't help it, they are so good.
But I am tired of paying $1.95+ for a little inch by inch morsel.
They are delicious, yes indeed. But outrageously priced.
So this morning on a whim I decided to bake up my own scones!
This was a first for me and I will admit, I was nervous I would mess them up.
I was afraid they would be too dry, or too hard to shape, etc.
Boy, I was so very wrong.
They were super easy to make, came out nice and moist and they are so easy to shape!


I was really craving a fresh blueberry scone, but since I don't have any blueberries in the house at the moment, I settled on trying out a cinnamon sugar scone recipe that I found in a cookbook from a Mrs. Thomas, whomever that may be. I love the old church cookbooks!

I mixed up the dough, rolled it into a ball and then pressed it out into a flat circle just using my hands.
I then laid it down on my awesome baking sheet I just picked up at Target, I believe it is Threshold brand.
Then using my rolling pin (I didn't even grease or flour the baking sheet, but I suggest you do that if you are using older baking sheets) and rolled it out into a larger circle.
Using the edges of the sheet pan as my guide, I let the rolling pin roll it out to the thickness of the handles resting on the edge. I hope that makes sense :)
Doing it that way left it a uniform thickness all the way around. 
Here are the photos once I added the cinnamon and sugar, then sliced it with a pizza cutter:





Cinnamon Sugar Scones

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg, separated

3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a mixing bowl add the butter, flour, baking powdered and baking soda together.
Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until a little balls of dough form.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, brown sugar and egg yolk.
Add to the flour mixture and stir until a ball of dough forms.
Using your hands, make a large disc with the dough and then on a lightly floured surface, or a greased baking sheet (if not non-stick) roll the dough out until it 1/2-3/4 inch thick and in the shape of a large circle.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl
Whisk the egg white until it becomes a bit foamy, then using a pastry brush, cover the top of the dough with an egg wash.
Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture over the dough
Slice into 8 wedges using a pizza cutter. 
Bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until icing reaches a consistency you like.
Remove the scones from the oven. 
Either leave on the sheet and drizzle with the icing, or remove to a cooling rack placed over wax or parchment paper. 
Drizzle the scones with the icing, then if wanted, scoop up the icing drippings and re-drizzle over again.
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