Sunday, May 22, 2016

Onward Through South Dakota - Black Hills


One of our most favorite parts of our South Dakota trip was driving Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park.

Even though we were visiting in an off season, we saw lots of wildlife!

Bison were everywhere.

The famed Wild Burros were few, but at least one friendly 'guy' made his way up to greet us!

This was a new animal to us. It is called a Pronghorn.
I do wish the visitor centers in this park had been open for us to learn more about the area and wildlife.

From there, we traveled onto the Needles Highway. 
Truckin' Man LOVED this road. The twist's and turns, and tunnels were so fun for him.

I did not remember the altitude being so high. I guess when I traveled here back in the day with my parents, I did not have my fear of heights so it didn't mean anything to me back then.

If we aren't driving of the edge of a cliff, the height doesn't bother me as much 
and this overlook was absolutely breath taking!

 Of course, we had to take a peak at Mt. Rushmore. 

Just how I remembered it.

Until next time!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Italian Cream Cake

Last year I shared with you a new cookbook, The Crown of Southern Cooking. This cookbook has yet to get any dust, and continues to impress me!  This post has been a long time coming, because I absolutely love this recipe. Italian Cream Cake. O.M.G. It's so good!

I tried researching the history of this cake because I wasn't sure what was "Italian" about this recipe. Despite the time I put into researching this, I did not get an answer. And, it's a question other people have too. It has more of a "Southern" history than Italian. And from the cookbooks and blogs it shows up in, I agree with that. And, you know how I love my southern foods!

This cake has some coconut in it, but it's sooo good, that even those that don't like coconut are asking for another slice! Seriously. I served this cake to one of the biggest anti-coconut people I have ever known. Yup... Wanted more cake!

I kept the cake true to the original recipe, but did tinker with the frosting a bit. Just added some toasted coconut and pecans. Man oh man, that frosting was so good, I am surprised I had enough left to get on the cake, because it was so good on my spoon :)

Italian Cream Cake

6 large eggs, separated
2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour tube pan; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Slowly beat in 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently pour eggs whites into another bowl; set aside.

In large mixing bowl, cream butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Beat in egg yolks, one at a time.  In small bowl, add baking soda to buttermilk. Add buttermilk mixture to batter, alternating with flour. Mix well after each addition. Fold in egg whites until completely incorporated with batter. Gently fold in coconut and pecans.

Pour batter into prepared tube pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until cake golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Invert pan until cool, then remove cake from pan.

Italian Cream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 pound powdered sugar
1/3 cup coconut, toasted (optional)
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

Once cake is cooled, combine butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Slowly add sugar, beating until smooth and creamy.

Cut cake in half, horizontally.  Add layer of frosting to the bottom of cake, place top of cake on top of frosting.  To remaining frosting, add coconut and pecans mixing until evenly distributed. Frost remainder of cake.

Store covered in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Source: The Crown of Southern Cooking

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Monday, May 16, 2016

November or May?

The garden was doing fabulous! Everything was growing well, except for the potatoes. We are giving up on them.  I had given up on them last year, but Truckin' Man wanted to try one more time. They just don't like it here, and I can accept that!

Chickens were even released from day time restrictions, being allowed full free range permissions again.

Then the weather changed. On Friday the 13th (coincidence?) the hype started to warn us of the upcoming chance for frost for Saturday night/ Sunday morning. Plenty of notice, even though we weren't happy, we were warned. The predictions kept getting stronger and closer. When we were out shopping Saturday afternoon, I got the text update from our local weather station that we were now under a Freeze Warning?! What? It's the middle of May!

Like everyone else, we started covering all our plants that night. Every spare sheet, 5 gallon bucket, tupperware, you name it... If it could cover a plant, we were using it. 

And we failed. It took all of our tomatoes, and most of our peppers. Even though they were covered.
  I have yet to hear of anyone who had a tomato make it through.  Greenhouses lost as well. 

My town isn't listed on here, but these were the temps in our area.

But, in the end, our strawberries survived which is what we were most worried about,
 since those we can't just replant and still harvest this year. 

This is what a frost killed baby sweet corn plant looks like.

But, other things are still happy. Like our lettuce! 
I just noticed how our lettuce is not in any form of a straight line? 
Guess I must have stopped for a cookie break in the middle of planting?


How are the temps in your area?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Big Rig

Ever since I renamed the blog, I haven't shared much on the truckin' end of things.  That is primarily due to Truckin' Mans new job. Not that it's new anymore. 

He sold off the Peterbilt a while back and went to work for a heavy haul company. When he started there, it was through a hiring agency, and I couldn't be in the truck. After he was fully on with the company, I just never had the opportunity to ride with. This job is a Monday - Friday job, and home nights! Awesome, right? It is unless you want to go for a ride with your husband!

Well, I finally had a chance. There was a short local run to pick up one piece of equipment, so away we went.

I see this truck in the driveway everyday, and never realized how much bigger the Mack is compared to the Peterbilt we knew for so many years. Dang, that was a jump getting in there.

I finally made it in!

You set really high up in this rig!

For the equipment we were picking up this time, the trailer has to come off the truck, so that the equipment can be driven up on. Interesting!

If the workers have already left the job site, Truckin' Man gets to drive the equipment himself.
His dream job!

Once the equipment is loaded, the trailer is hooked back up, and we are ready to roll again. 

 Fun, right?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Morel & Asparagus Frittata

If you've been reading here for a while now, you must remember my love of morel mushrooms. I've enjoyed the spring time hunts for this mushroom as far back as I can remember. Thankfully, every where I have lived, morels grow. There have been years where I just didn't make it out to get any. And, when we lived in the Twin Cities, you had to fight to get to the spots before the bazillion other morel hunters got there. In certain stores you are able to buy them, but they cost more than a pretty penny!

This year our weather is not ideal for morels. They are growing, and we are finding them, but they definitely are not as plentiful as other years. I still have enough though, especially since Truckin' Man does not enjoy them with me. 

As soon as my friend Anne, from A Salad For All Seasons, had posted her recipe for Herbed Ricotta, Spring Pea & Mushroom Frittata, I knew I would have to twist her recipe to fit what we were picking fresh on the farm, and this would be what I would make when my parents came over for Mother's Day.

This was my first time ever making a frittata. It was so delicious and easy to prepare! 
A perfect way to enjoy what's in season.

Morel & Asparagus Frittata

8 eggs (farm fresh if you can)
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
8 ounces fresh asparagus, cut into 1" - 2" pieces
8 ounces fresh morel mushroom, cut in half lengthwise
3 Tbsp shallots, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper
Additional chives for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In medium bowl, whisk eggs and half and half. Season with salt and pepper; set aside. In separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, chives, and salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat 10 inch ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Heat olive oil and butter. Add shallots, stirring often until softened.  Add mushrooms, saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add asparagus, saute another 5 minutes until all liquid is evaporated from mushrooms and asparagus is crisp-tender. 

Add egg mixture to skillet, and lower heat to medium. Spoon 6 dollops of the seasoned ricotta evenly around the frittata.  Cook without stirring for about 5 minutes. Once edges of frittata are set, transfer skillet to oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes until center is set.

Garnish with additional chives.


Adapted from: A Salad For All Seasons

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What's Blooming

I should have an update on the veggie garden later this week. 
In the mean time, here is a look at the pretty blooms we are enjoying!

Miniature Bleeding Hearts

White Bleeding Hearts

Pink Bleeding Hearts

Creeping Phlox

Not sure what this plant is. Do you?
It didn't grow at my parents, so we moved it here a couple years ago, and it's finally happy!

The only annuals I have managed to get planted. Some Pansies.

And of course, our lilacs.

A brief appearance by Hazel during the photo shoot.
Queen of the Hill is near by, so Hazel has her ears back and is ready to dart :)

What's in bloom in your yard?

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Other Rice Krispie Bar

I try to keep the amount of sweets and carbs I eat to a minimum. But, sometimes things get out of control and my "minimum" just goes flying out the door. That's what's been happening lately with anything Rice Krispie based. 

When I had half a box or so of Rice Krispies left, I wanted to make something different where I wouldn't devour the whole pan. I remembered those "Other Rice Krispie Bars" my mom, or grandmother's would make once in a great while, back in the day. 
BUT, only make a small pan, that way things won't get out of control!

If you are feeding a family, you can definitely double this recipe and make it in a 9x13, or if you just want to indulge yourself, go ahead and do it that way too! 

These are a great chewy no-bake treat, that will satisfy your chocolate and peanut butter cravings!

The Other Rice Krispie Bar

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups Rice Krispies
12 oz. milk chocolate chips (use half butterscotch chips if you like)

Butter 9x9 baking pan. Set aside.

In medium saucepan, combine sugar, light corn syrup, and peanut butter.  Heat over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in Rice Krispies until completely mixed.  Lightly press into prepared pan.

In microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips following package instructions.  Pour melted chocolate over top bars.  Let cool. Cut into bars.

Store in airtight container.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Road Tripping Through South Dakota

Just about 4 hours into South Dakota from the Minnesota border, the scenery changes. It changes from the flat prairies, into scenic hills with more buttes, then you arrive at the Badlands.  I visited the Badlands many years ago when my parents took us there on a family vacation, but this was Truckin' Mans first visit. 

You can see a little from the interstate, but if you have the time to go through the national park, it is well worth your time! On our first trip through we toured 25 miles of the park. Beautiful and stunning. Lots of walking trails if you want to go for a hike. We did not go for any walks since wind gusts were about 50 mph while we were there.  It was all Truckin' Man could do to keep his hat on when we did get out of our vehicle.

 Even though it was cold, and crazy windy, we did have beautiful skies!

 Our visit was very much "off" season, and lots of places were closed for the season. I was thrilled to find that the Ben Reifel Visit Center was open. We were able to learn lots of interesting information and history about this area, and how the badlands were formed.

Truckin' Man was really hoping to see lots of wildlife, but we only saw a few deer. 

Being the great sport that he is, Truckin' Man strolled a ways out for this great photo!

"Yellow Mounds" were another neat part within the park.

One of the few bits of color we saw.

Have you ever visited the Badlands?