Friday, August 14, 2009

Other Fair Photos

Brian and I had a really nice time at the fair with Aunt Jean (even if I didn't win the cinnamon roll competition). Here are a few pictures from the day.

Hanging out with Aunt Jean was a big highlight! Brian's priority was food. Here he is with a gyro. And a "walking taco". This fair food is made by taking a small bag of Doritos, crushing the chips, opening the bag, adding taco meat, nacho cheese sauce, lettuce, and salsa. You eat it with a folk right of the the bag. And Aunt Jean introduced us to "ribbon fries." Yum-o! One of my favorite things to see was a life size cow made out of butter!
Seeing the animals is always fun too . I like the little goats and the chickens best. This goat is only a few days old. He was born at the fair!
After saying goodbye to Aunt Jean, Brian and I rode the skytram back closer to where we parked. (How's that for lazy?) It did offer a nice view of the fair. Now, where did we park?
A fun (and tiring day)!

Tone's Cinnamon Roll Competition

Yesterday was the big day- the Tone's Cinnamon Rolls competition at the Iowa State Fair! I've been perfecting my cinnamon rolls for months and was excited to enter...especially with the $3,000 grand prize! My morning started at 4:00am. I got up and immediately started baking. After burning my initial batch (figures...I was too concerned about having perfect tops and forgot about the bottoms) I quickly made a second that turned out just fine. Brian and I hopped into the car and headed to the state fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Here I am frosting the rolls and attaching my entry tags right before entering the fairgrounds. Then we scurried to the Elwell Family Food Center where the competition was to be held at 3:00pm.After meeting Aunt Jean (who was so patient with Brian and me...we were very late arriving), I checked in my cinnamon rolls. I was pretty nervous.
There were 167 entries into the competition....that's a lot of competition!

Thanks to Aunt Jean, Brian, and my co-worker Deb (who also came to see the competition) I had a great seat to watch the judging. As you can imagine, it was standing room only. Here's one of the judges sampling my rolls for the first time. She looked like she enjoyed them and mouthed the words "good texture" and "my favorite so far." I was pretty excited. Unfortunately, I didn't place. The judges do make comments, which will be mailed to me at a later date. That's okay, though. We had a great time and competing was a lot of fun. I still think my cinnamon rolls are kicker. For anyone who is interested, here's a photo of the grand champion.Also, here's my recipe. Enjoy! As for me, I'm pretty sick of making cinnamon rolls, but I've started thinking about what I might want to make next year...

Hope’s 2009 State Fair Cinnamon Rolls

Prep Time: 4 Hours
Serves: 12

1 ½ C light brown sugar
3 Tbls ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt

(2) .25 oz pkts active dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 C 110 degree milk
1 C warm milk
2/3 C granulated sugar
2/3 C melted butter
2 tsp salt
3 eggs (slightly beaten)
½ C cornstarch
7-8 C flour
½ C softened butter
½ C melted butter

1 pkt (8 oz) cream cheese
½ C softened butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. When oven reaches temperature, turn off.
In small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 110 degree milk; set aside
In large bowl, mix together warm milk, 2/3 C sugar, 2/3 C melted butter, 2 tsp salt, and eggs; add yeast mixture and stir until combined.
In separate bowl, combine 4 C flour and cornstarch; add to yeast mixture and beat until smooth with electric mixer; using bread attachment for electric mixer, stir in enough remaining flour to form a slightly stiff dough.
Turn dough out onto well-floured surface and knead for 8 minutes.
Place dough into large greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in warm oven and allow dough to rise until double in size (1- 1 ½ hours).
Punch down dough and let rest for 5 minutes.
In small bowl combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and ½ tsp salt.
Roll dough out onto floured surface into a 15” x 20” rectangle.
Spread ½ cup softened butter over dough; sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over dough.
Tightly roll up dough and pinch edges together to seal; cut the roll into 12 slices using dental floss or thread.
Coat the bottom of a 13” x 9” x 2” baking pan (or two smaller pans) with ½ C melted butter. (Glass pans work best.)
Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the prepared pan; cover pan with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap and replace with aluminum foil right before baking.
Bake rolls in a 350 degree over for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove foil with 10-15 minutes of bake time left.

Beat cream cheese and butter with electric mixer until smooth. Add confectionery sugar and vanilla; beat until light and creamy. Spread over cinnamon rolls when rolls are still slightly warm.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When not to scratch your nose

So, today while Hope was at work, a buddy of mine from work and I went to the annual Pocahontas Machine Auction. There were many things to bid on, but somehow I ended up bidding and winning this.
Its a 1986 Nissan Hardbody Pickup with a four cylender engine and a five speed transmission. I have been looking for a truck that is #1, cheap, and #2 gets good gas milage. (edit: Hope says reliable should be #3 so she doesn't have to rescue me from the side of the road at 5:30 in the morning!)
Now I haven't been to too many auctions, so I am not sure on bidding etiquette, but here is what happened. My buddy Jason and I, after standing in the sun for 6 hours, are ready to bid on this truck. We looked it over pretty good, checked the oil and coolent, shifted it through all its gears, and started it. The motor didn't sound to bad. So, when the bidding began, the price went up to what sounded like $300. I thought I'll jump in here, the bidding will continue, and most likly go for more than I wanted to pay for it. Well when I bidded, two other people did also. They somehow counted me last. The price was up to $375 so I turned to Jason and asked if he thought it was worth going any more. Little did I know I was the last bidder and no one else bid. Jason turned to me and said I think you just bought it. So, I now have a $375 Nissan that I drove 20 miles home without any major problems.

Sure, its not pretty and doesn't have AC, and pretty much goes against every bit of advice and knowledge my father taught me about buying used vehicals, but heck after an oil change and a tune-up it might turn into a pretty good deal.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Garden Update

I've been down and out for the past week with bronchitis (a chronic condition for me thanks to a Girl Scout camping trip when I was eight). Thus, my garden has gotten little to no attention. The good Lord, however, has been keeping things growing during my absence. I decided it was high time to post some new pictures and show of His handiwork. Please excuse any weeds and refer to the excuse in my opening sentence of this post.

The garden is below (overrun with yellow squash, zucchini, and pumpkins). My mom may have been right when she said the squash needed more space. Cucumbers are on the far left, the dark green plants are zucchini with yellow, acorn, and Hubbard squash behind them, tomatillos and butternut squash to the right. Tomatoes are farther down, then the cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and pumpkins.
Here's Brian admiring the squash from the opposite side. I may have gotten carried away...
On a sad note, this past weekend I entered my garden to discover that ALL of my beets were gone- vanished into thin air (all 3 rows!). All that was left were a few hoof prints. We're surrounded by thousands of acres of corns and beans and the deer find their way to my beet patch. Alas. I hope they enjoyed all three varieties (which would have made a delightful and colorful beet salad). Check out the damage:
I thought that I had lost all of my cabbages to worms early in the season, but I have eight that pulled through! I don't know that they'll look like when I cut into them, but they are beautiful on the outside. Cucumbers are doing especially well. I harvested 22 pounds on Sunday and made lots of pickles. There are plenty more that I haven't yet picked. Not sure what I'm going to do with the rest of them, but I think this coming weekend I'll make relish. Here's the cucumber patch. The pumpkins look AWESOME. I am having a few tomato issues. The plants (all 30) look really good (well, except for the ones too close to the squash that are kinda getting overrun), except I have very few tomatoes actually forming. Maybe the hot weather we're having this week will encourage them along. And finally, the dogs enjoying a snack of over-grown cucumbers. They're very helpful pups (just not very good at keeping deer away).

Cinnamon Rolls- Perfected!

As some of you already know, I'm entering the Iowa State Fair Cinnamon Roll competition next week (8/13 @ 3:30pm is the judging). The grand-prize is $3,000! I've been perfecting my cinnamon roll recipe for months (I think at this point Brian and his crew are sick of cinnamon rolls). I finally have my recipe down pat! Here was my latest batch...


Here's a rainbow that I caught earlier this week. Could it be that we live at the end of the rainbow...or in the middle of tornado alley?

Dogs at the Pond

Here are some happy dog photos from this past weekend. We had some chilly weather last week, but this week seems to be making up for it with 90 degree days. These are the days that the dogs love swimming trips. Per usual, Dawson watching from the shoreline as Mattie does all the work. Oh yeah, and here's a (very unflattering) photo of Brian showing off his farmer's tan. (He's at work tonight, bit I figure I'll hear about this post tomorrow.)