Prairie Home Fair, 2011

So it’s early July again here in Prairie Home, and that means it’s time for the annual Prairie Home fair.  At this time last year, we had just barely moved in and were still definitely getting settled when the fair came around.  Quite honestly, we were a little bit confused as to why a whole bunch of people and animals would make their way out to Prairie Home, when there are so many larger communities around.  Apparently, it’s been an annual event since something like 1915 though, so there’s definitely something to be said for tradition.  It began this past Wednesday night and ran through late Saturday evening.

It’s really a combination of a small fair (animals, food, and other events) and a small carnival.  This year they had a ferris wheel, a ride I used to call the ‘egg-turner’ back at the Tremont Turkey Festival (kind of like a ferris wheel, but instead of seats, there’s cages which spin upside down) and a ride that looks like a huge couch at the end of a long arm that basically swings around in a huge circle, dropping you almost straight down.  Besides this, they had the kiddie roller coaster, some take on the Berry-Go-Round, the motorcycle ride I loved when I was little, etc, and a bunch of games as well.  All in all, a nice little setup.  There’s also a small grandstand with an arena, in which there are different activities every night.  The first night was the tractor pull (we ARE in the country, after all).  We didn’t go up to see it, but it had to have been better than last year’s, which took place in about 4 inches of mud because it had rained all day.

Jessi and I signed up to work at the main (non-carnival) food stand.  We didn’t know it at the time, but this big stand, which uses all-volunteer labor, is basically the only reason that the Prairie Home fair is the only non-admission-charging fair in Missouri.  They make just enough money there to rent the grounds, make it so that people entering animals/etc into competition don’t have to pay anything, and make sure that admission is free.  We weren’t cooking (the guys in the back did an awesome job of turning out burgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, nachos, BBQ pork sandwiches, etc at an amazing rate), but we sold the stuff from 8-10 pm.  It was actually about 11:30 by the time we got out of there, and they were still going, but some of the other workers were nice enough to let us go home.  The event for the night was a horse show (barrel-racing and a whole bunch of other stuff I have no idea what it was because I don’t know squat about horses).  The barrel-racing was really pretty cool to watch though, and we had a ton of fun selling food in the (completely chaotic) food stand.

Friday night was the four-wheeler rodeo, but we decided to spend some much needed break time at home just hanging out and finishing the rest of the Carnevale miniseries on DVD.  We did go up and did our part to support the fair, however, by buying some of the delicious food we’d smelled all night on Thursday but hadn’t been able to buy.  Last night was more horses (draft, show, specialty, etc…the really fancy stuff) and the doll-buggy contest, which Jessi helped in judging (I was lucky enough to get out of it this year).  On a side note, I’ve learned that cowboy boots can be kinda hot on girls, so I’m determined to buy Jess a pair at some point; I think I might get myself some too to go w/some of my nicer jeans.  Jess’ dad says the Larry’s Boots store down here is pretty cool, so we may have to check that out :)

All in all, the fair is a really cool little local event, and tons of people actually seem to come out for it each year.  This year we didn’t actually wake up to find any cows IN our yard like we did last year, and the crazy people screaming around on their four-wheelers after the rodeo (at 12 a.m.) actually stayed out of our yard.  The worst we got was a couple of dropped beer cans from people passing through our yard.  Apparently it’s ok to take beer to the fair as long as you’re of legal drinking age and discreet about it.  That being said, I think we did just fine, and even managed to get involved this year.  Instead of something that made us kinda nervous like last year, I think we’ll be looking forward to Prairie Home Fair, v. 2012.


Aaaand we’re back :)

Wow.  It’s been almost 4 months since our last post.  Things have definitely been pretty crazy since then.  Jess and I finished what was a really hectic school year for both of us, and then immediately jetted off to England.  I’ll try to get the travel journals posted up here sometime in the future, but no promises :)  After we got back, Jess went back to working frantically at two jobs, while I focused on settling down and starting Comps readings and getting a ton of much-needed stuff done around the house.  The kittens are great, life’s pretty good, and we encountered an absolute GODSEND in getting to work 2 nights (something like 7 hours a night) at a local ragtime and early jazz festival, making a very decent chunk of change from it.  Summer (and especially early autumn, until I have a paycheck again) will still be pretty tight, but it was definitely a huge blessing to get the opportunity.  Well, Jessi’s got a really popular book blog, I’m working on what’s still a very rudimentary beer blog, as well as a food blog, and hopefully we’re going to get this one up and going as well, so hopefully there’ll be lots from us soon!


Saturday Cooking #2

I like to try new things.  Just ask my poor husband.  Lately, I’ve been on a quest to prove that there is delicious vegan food out there.  I know, crazy thing for a non-vegan to do but bear with me here.  For awhile, I was a vegetarian.  I just wanted to try it.  Now, I’m not anymore.  I generally stay away from red meat (occasionally we’ll have a steak or burgers, but I just don’t crave it too much. Give me a chicken breast any day!) and I, on the whole, just don’t eat a lot of meat.  I’ve found a lot of ways to eat delicious other things instead.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get to, really, is the delicious pasta dish that I made tonight–that happens to be vegan. And *gasp* the hubby liked it. He even said he’d eat it again!

Creamy Avocado Pasta
Adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. brown rice vermicelli
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP dried basil
  • 2 “dashes” of salt
  • 2 ripe avocados
  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, combine in the EVOO, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor. (Or, if you’re me, the 3 cup food chopper that you own) Blend until well-mixed
  3. Add the avocado and basil.  Blend again until creamy.  Add a few dashes of salt and blend some more.  Use a spatula to get some of the stuff from the bottom up and blend some more!
  4. Drain your pasta, add the sauce, and enjoy!

This was a DELICIOUS pasta dish! I doubled the recipe as provided by OSG, because the pasta was difficult to divide into servings.  Consequently, we ate a tad more than we really should have.  Nevertheless, it was quite good.  The avocado flavor was there, but not too strong, and melded well with the garlic and lemon juice.  I actually think that I’ll use less olive oil next time.  OSG also called for fresh basil leaves, which I hope to try next time I make this.  The basil flavor didn’t come through really at all, but I didn’t have access to fresh basil this time of year.  Definitely a delightful, refreshing dish that we’ll make again.

Happy weekend!


Dan Cooks Too

Dan made this delicious gyros a week or so ago, but has been too busy to blog about it.  So, I’ve given up on him “getting around to it” and decided to go ahead and post the pictures and the link myself.  All credit goes to my hubby for this delicious meal!

Homemade Gyros

Dan made the gyro meat, tzatziki sauce, and hummus all from scratch.  The picture doesn’t do the food justice.  It looks a tad bland because we didn’t have any color for the gyro (you know, lettuce or tomatoes…).  But believe me….it was delicious.  The gyro meat and tzatziki recipes were from Alton Brown.


Weekend Kitten Love

This is how they entertain themselves/each other:

And this is how we found them curled up on the couch this afternoon:


Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls

At my new job, we have a breakfast tradition that I have swiftly been incorporated into.  We rotate through the admin staff (alphabetically) and each person brings in a Monday morning breakfast.  Well, it’s my turn!  Not one to ever take the easy route (apparently) I decided weeks ago that I was going to make cinnamon rolls…from scratch.  My original plan was to make some from my Betty Crocker cookbook using the sweet roll dough that I made rolls from not too long ago for Christmas. However, in my endless blog surfing, I came across a recipe that I simply couldn’t resist trying. So, without further ado, here it is!

Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls

I got this recipe from OnSheGlows, a food website that has mostly vegan recipes.  I adapted it to use non-vegan ingredients (e.g. regular skim milk and butter), but other than that, I pretty much followed the recipe exactly.  It’s pretty complicated, so I’m not going to reproduce it all here.  Definitely check out the link! She has a ton of good looking stuff that I’m planning on trying in the (near) future!

I made her sweet dough to a “T” with three minor exceptions. I substituted skim milk for the almond milk, regular unsalted butter for the Earth Balance, and instead of using Egg Replacer, I used 1 TBSP cornstarch and 2 TBSP water.  Well, actually, those were the only things I really changed basically throughout the recipe.  Whenever she used almond milk, I used skim milk and vegan butter was always just regular butter (with the exception of the frosting….because I was out of butter!)

Also, I totally cheated with the cream cheese icing.  She has you mixing it by hand.  I gave it a go…and gave up.  I got it to the right consistency, but I couldn’t get all the butter lumps out….so I busted out my hand mixer.  Whatever. I’m lazy, so sue me! :-) This cream cheese frosting is DELICIOUS.  I’m totally going to use it again to frost cupcakes or something because YUM.  (Oh, and I suppose I should mention that I didn’t use the vegan cream cheese…just the regular stuff from a tub…light).


Lasagna without Pasta?

Yep, that’s right: lasagna WITHOUT pasta. No pasta of any kind.  I made it with this:

Yep, this officially marks my first (and more than likely not last) time I have ever used spaghetti squash. I’ve seen it a lot on food blogs that I read and on SparkPeople, so I finally decided to try it out with this recipe:

Zucchini and Spaghetti Squash “Lasagna”

(adapted from GreenLiteBites)

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup fat free ricotta
  • 14 oz can crushed Italian style tomatoes
  • Italian seasoning
  • Parsley
  • Black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Poke holes in the rind of the squash and microwave for about 10 minutes (4-5 minutes for every pound).  Allow the squash to cool for a few minutes and then cut it in half (long ways) and scoop out the seeds/pulp.  Be careful not to scoop out the squash flesh!
  3. Using a fork, remove the squash flesh.  It really does look a lot like spaghetti noodles! (see above picture)
  4. Slice the zucchini as thin as you can.
  5. Using an 8 1/2″ x 11″ pan, put a little bit of the crushed tomato sauce on the bottom (to keep the zucchini from sticking)
  6. Layer the zucchini, squash, sauce, and cheese until you run out.  Sprinkle a little Italian seasoning on top of each layer of sauce (optional). Top with crushed black pepper and parsley.
  7. Bake in the 350F oven uncovered for 45 minutes.  Because there is no pasta to soak up the water, you will want to use a turkey baster to remove the water every 10 minutes or so.

First layer:

Completed, before baking:

Done!:

This was DELICIOUS! I will totally make it again.  Hubby thinks maybe a little more sauce next time, but it might be okay as is.  We may use actually sauce instead of crushed tomatoes next time; we just used what was on had this time! I’m actually really excited to try more recipes with spaghetti squash! It was SO much easier to work with than I expected!


Saturday Night Cookin’!

It was my week to cook, again, and this time I remembered to take pictures! Woohoo! (Also, the last thing I made was NOT very…photogenic, to say the least.) Anyways, without further ado…DINNER!

Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Casserole

Ingerdients:

  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium onion, cut into strips
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 pkg Buddig Honey Roasted Turkey (could totally be left out to make vegetarian)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 TBSP crumbled blue cheese (Maytag or Gorgonzola…or whatever floats your boat)
  • 2 TBSP dry white wine
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Put the squash in a single layer on a baking sheet and mist with olive oil (or brush each piece). Put in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes, until the squash is tender
  3. While the squash is cooking, caramelize the onions.  Saute them in a saucepan/skillet with the 1 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP sugar. Cook them until they are brown and sticky. Set aside.
  4. Cut up the turkey into small pieces.
  5. Prepare a small baking dish (loaf pan size works well) by spraying with nonstick spray.
  6. When the squash is done roasting, remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 350F.
  7. Put the squash in the prepared baking dish. Add the turkey, 1/4 cup blue cheese, onions, and wine . Mix well. Top with the extra blue cheese and put back in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes. Then, turn on the broiler and bake another 5 minutes to brown the cheese on top.
  8. Serve warm!

And, we definitely suggest serving it with this:

Walnut-Cranberry Couscous

Ingerdients:

  • 2/3 cup couscous
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 TBSP walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Cinnamon
  1. Cook the couscous according to package directions.
  2. Add oil, cranberries, and walnuts; mix. Top each serving with a sprinkle of cinnamon

(*This is how I cooked it this time, but I would definitely recommend LESS couscous. I adapted from an internet recipe and I was using dry measurement, but I think the original must have meant cooked. Oh well, live and learn.)

**Both of these recipes came from Healthy Girl Cooking.

Oh, and this is how I spent my Saturday night:


Snow, Snow, Snow = BLIZZARD!

Lol, “Blizzard Warning.” That was a new one. So was having MU closed…THREE days in a row.

There are more pictures of the snow on our photo blog, so I’m just posting this one, to give an idea of what we were tirelessly shoveling today. :-) Oh yeah, and us shoveling:


Blizzard Baking

For some reason, being snowed in and off of school/work for two days gave me the urge to bake. Like, seriously bake. Actually, it took about an hour of being snowed in for the desire to hit, but a day and a half to decide what to make and to act on it. As anyone who followed on Facebook knows, I faced a serious baking dilemma: no eggs. Yep, none. No egg substitute, liquid or powdered. Nada. Hmmm…how bad did I REALLY want to bake? Well, apparently bad enough. I decided to experiment and go for it…with a1956 Betty Crocker cake recipe. So, with no further ado, here it is:

Betty Crocker’s Burnt Sugar Cake (with Burnt Sugar Frosting)

Cake Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water + extra
  • 2 1/4 Cups Softasilk floud
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 shortening, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)

Grease and flour 2-8″ or 9″ pans (or one 9″x13″ pan). Preheat the oven to 350F.

Caramelize the 1/2 cup sugar, melting over low heat until medium brown (shaking pan to keep from burning). Remove from heat. Slowly add 1/2 cup boiling water (be careful – will splatter!). Return to head and stir until all lumps are dissolved. Remove from heat and measure; add enough water for a total of 1 cup of carmel-water mixture.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the shortening and 2/3 cup of the cooled carmel-water mixture. Beat 2 minutes. Add the rest of the caramel-water mixture, eggs, and optional vanilla. Beat 2 more minutes. Pour into prepared pans and place in hot oven. Cook the cakes for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of your pan.

Frosting Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 1/2 TBSP Softasilk flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • +/- 3 TBSP water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Caramelize the sugar (same as cake) and add 1/4 cup boiling water, stirring vigorously. Set aside. (Heat further if you need to dissolve any lumps)

Melt 1/2 cup shortening in saucepan. Add 2 1/2 TBSP Softasilk flour and 1/4 tsp salt; stir. Slowly stir carmel-water mixture into shortening mixture. Return to heat and boil. Boil for one minute and remove from heat. Stir in (alternately) 3 cups confectioner’s sugar and about 3 TBSP water. Put in bowl of cold water and continue beating until spreadable consistency. Stir in vanilla.

    How I Changed It Up:

    • First off, I halved the cake recipe. We didn’t need that much cake for just the two of us, not really (we would have eaten it…but the fact remains that we didn’t need it!) Quite the adventure in math (1/6 Cup = how much? (2 TBSP + 2 tsp, in case you’re curious))
    • Second, as previously mentioned, NO EGGS! I did some research online and came across a lot of different options. I ended up going with a cornstarch water combo to make up for my lack of eggs. (1 TSBP cornstarch + 3 TBSP water)
    • Third, since I halved the recipe, I used two 6″ round cake pans. These are my new favorite! I pretty much never need to make full-size cakes so I finally made the investment in these. I used them earlier on the strawberry birthday cake as well.
    • Fourth, I added a LOT more water to the frosting recipe. It was WAY too difficult to spread. Actually, it was practically to thick to beat with my electric hand mixer, let alone spread with a knife.

    Overall, it tasted pretty good. I actually quite enjoyed the cake. The frosting was a bit…strong for me. It complimented the cake well, but it tasted just a tad too…burnt. I had some difficulty with the caramelization of the sugar (I burned it a bit too much). Woops. If it was just a little more mild, I probably would have thoroughly enjoyed it. The hubby enjoyed it, but also agreed that the frosting was a bit much. I am glad that I opted not to frost the sides of the cake.


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