Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Some favorite Fall Recipes!

Now that we have had a week of chilly temperatures and the calendar says October, I finally feel like Fall has maybe arrived here in central Iowa!  I am still hopping around my country farmhouse on my crutches but I have been fixing a few favorite Fall recipes that I want to share.

When I was a little girl, we had an apple tree in our back yard and every Fall I remember my mom making her yummy homemade apple sauce and apple crisp.  The house always smelled so wonderful when these terrific apple treats were cooking!  I hope you have gathered up some apples this Fall and can try these 3 great ideas.

Easy Apple Crisp

6 apples peeled, cored and sliced
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a second mixing bowl combine 1 c. brown sugar, 3/4 c. old fashioned oats, 3/4 c. flour, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 c. cold butter (diced into small pieces).  Mix and mash with a fork or pastry blender until a nice crumbly dry mixture is formed.  Coat a 9 x 9 glass baking dish with cooking spray and fill with apple mixture.  Sprinkle the apples with the crumbly oat mix and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

Slow Cooker Applesauce

4 pounds of tart apples  peeled, cored and diced.
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp, cinnamon
1 c. water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Mix apples (about 12 cups) with cinnamon and sugar and place into crockpot.  Pour water and lemon juice over the apples.  Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.  Makes about 6 cups of apple sauce.

Apple Stuffed Chicken Breast

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 c. chopped apple
2 Tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. dried bread crumb stuffing
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. sweet white wine
1/4 c. water
1 Tbsp. water
1 - 1/2 tsp. corn starch
Sprig of parsley & diced apple for garnish.

Combine apple, cheese and bread crumbs. Set aside. Flatten chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness between wax paper with a rolling pin.  Divide apple mixture between chicken breasts.  Roll up and secure with toothpicks.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Brown stuffed chicken breasts.  Add wine and 1/4 c. water to skillet.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.  Transfer chicken to serving platter and cover to keep warm.  Add corn starch and 1 Tbsp. water to skillet juices.  Cook and stir until thickened and serve as a sauce over chicken. Garnish with parsley and diced apple.  2-3 servings.

Just looking thru my recipe box for these 3 has unearthed a whole treasure trove of ideas for new Fall menus ... so stay tuned and I will share some other family favorites soon.

Hope the scents of cinnamon and apples fill your kitchen soon!


Monday, October 7, 2019

When we think we have a plan...I think God winks and laughs!

My late summer and early Fall have not exactly gone according to my plan.  I expected to be very busy and probably off my blogging game due to my daughter's wedding in September.  She lives out of state and a lot of the planning and coordinating for their Iowa wedding was on my To Do List.

All things wedding were rolling along quite nicely in late August when disaster struck and I took a bad fall!  Four weeks before the wedding, I broke my left tibia and had to be scheduled for surgery with an orthopedic specialist.  I know my 1st words to him were not "Hello, Dr. Meyers" but "I cannot miss my daughter's wedding!!".  Surgery 2 weeks before and attending the wedding in a wheelchair were never in the plan ... but it was a lovely, beautiful day for my daughter and son-in-law!

So this whole experience has given me a lot of time to think and to reflect on what's important and what really doesn't matter.  And to try and open myself up to God's plans and to let go of what I think is my perfect plan.

I am still recovering and on crutches but I am getting pretty good at hopping around my kitchen and I hope to share some of my favorite Fall things here on the blog soon!  Hope you are out and about enjoying the cooler Fall temps and the crunching, colorful leaves. 

Always count your blessings!
~ Connie

Thursday, July 18, 2019

DIY Gazing Ball Idea

So have I mentioned how windy it can be out here on our acres in the central Iowa farmland??  I like to garden and this house has 3 wonderful outdoor living spaces.  So I am always trying to think up cool garden art ideas, but several of the pieces that we brought from our old yard in town just did not cut it out here on the farm.  In just our 1st summer here my wind chime was a gonner, 2 wind spinners came apart and finally my gazing ball just blew off it's stand and broke!  

So last Fall when I was out at Goodwill looking for tables to paint for my "Tiny House" art space, I happened across a $5 bowling ball.  And of course I had the thought ... "Now I could use this and really have a wind resistant gazing ball!"  My daughter who was along at the time, kind of thought it was another of my crazy ideas but even she admits it looks great!  

So the DIY info on this was -  

I purchased the bowling ball at Goodwill for $5 and I purchased an all weather glue adhesive at Walmart for about $3 per tube (I found E-6000 in the crafts department and used about 3 tubes for the project).  At a crafts store I found 2 boxes of glass mirrored gems in mixed sizes for about $8/box.  I did not use 2 full boxes of gems but 1  box would not have been enough.  

I placed the ball on an old towel on my work table, squeezed about a quarter size dab of adhesive on a paper plate and used a toothpick to butter the adhesive on the back of the gems as I placed them on the ball.  I worked on this project for a few weeks.  I just randomly fit the gems on the ball and was not concerned about making a pattern.  I worked on it a section at a time and let each section dry overnight before rolling the ball onto a completed section.  To date all gems are intact and looking good, and I do plan to move the ball inside my garage for winter.  And BEST of all it has had no issues with any strong prairie winds!! 😉

Friday, July 5, 2019

Green Bean Bonanza!!!

Wow!  In the span of just a few days my green beans have really taken off! 😀😀  I had picked just a handful last week and then we were gone for a few days to visit our youngest daughter.  (She is an animal ecology major -- doing summer wildlife rehab in the Wisconsin Northwoods!)  I came home and checked the garden to find a bean bonanza!!!  So I thought I would share a recipe here for a Sweet and Sour Green Bean Casserole.  I really love a traditional green bean casserole, but this one is an awesome variation and a family favorite too!


You can make this with fresh, canned or frozen green beans.  If using fresh, I trim and clean about 3 cups of beans then saute/stream them in a large covered skillet for 3 minutes in 1/3-1/2 cup of water.

For frozen beans, I cook about the same quantity in the microwave.  For canned, use 3 cans.

Drain prepared beans.  Brown about 1/2 package of bacon with one chopped medium size white onion..  Drain well and chop bacon.  Mix together 1/2 cup of mayo, 4 1/2 Tbsp sugar and 2 1/4 Tbsp vinegar.  Mix everything together and place in a clean skillet to heat thoroughly and serve.

Hope you enjoy this one!  Share the YUM.

~ Connie

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Quick Broccoli Salad

We have finally had some lovely June weather and I thought I would post a little about how the garden is coming along.  This is our 3rd summer on the farm and my 2nd year to have a fair sized garden here in Iowa!

I had gardened back when my kids were small in our suburban backyard, but I was a busy mom of four and running my graphic design business on the side so the garden was small.  Now that I am a country girl, I have a decently sized garden and have had a lot of fun experimenting with growing, canning and freezing my own veggies! 😏

I think part of the struggle now is balancing planting enough to satisfy my canning and freezing addiction yet not going over board and making my poor hubby eat zucchini and summer squash at every meal!  Its a work in progress and I sure do miss having 6 of us around the supper table each night.  Since the broccoli plants are coming along nicely, I wanted to share my favorite broccoli salad recipe this week.  Enjoy the YUM!

Quick Broccoli Salad (serves 5-6)

1 head broccoli chopped small
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 cup raisins
8 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/3 cup shelled sunflower seeds
Combine above in a mixing bowl and stir.  

In a separate bowl combine the dressing ingredients.
1/2 cup mayo
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vinegar

Pour over veggies, stir well and chill.

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Happy Munching!


Friday, June 14, 2019

From Prairie Fires to Wildflowers ...

This was our third Spring out here in Heaven ...otherwise known as Iowa. 😏 (OK, how many of you guys actually got that "Field of Dreams" Movie line reference! ...showing my age here I am sure.)

Anyway, we have about 8 acres of tall grass prairie on our property and this year my hubs informed me that we needed to burn the grasses.  Prescribed burning in the Spring is an important part of grass management.  It releases nutrients into the soil, which help revitalize the prairie and it's an important part of brush and weed control as well.  The previous owner had advised us that he typically burned in March or April about every three years provided that weather conditions were favorable.  So based on the facts it was indeed time for our very own prairie fire!

Now this idea scared me on many levels.  1. We live out in the country and the closest town has 144 people with a very small volunteer fire department.  2. THERE ARE NO FIRE HYDRANTS IN THE COUNTRY!   3. My husband was planning that just he and I were going to light 8 acres of our property on FIRE, on purpose and manage by ourselves NOT to burn down our house, or any of our farm buildings or trees!!   4. AND there is also the fact that THE WIND ALWAYS BLOWS OUT HERE IN THE COUNTRY (if you live outside of a town or city you will understand what I mean).

Now of course my very smart husband had done his homework and research and talked to many local people about weather conditions and equipment and fire burning strategies. We accomplished our rookie season controlled burn of our acres with no issues and NO 911 calls ... we might have been rookies but we were very careful rookies and we probably had a few prayer warriors among our family and friends!

So it is amazing to me to watch what has sprung to life over these last few weeks from this scorched, black ash.  From the first tiny green shoots that poked up thru the ash, the beautiful and unique flowers of the Iowa tall grass prairies are popping to life.  It is my joy to explore each morning and see what new variety has sprung up to delight and greet me and the local butterflies.

I have been trying this week to add a few colorful blooms to the pots on my porches and patio.  Yet they don't seem to compare to the wonders that God is painting each morning on the far side of our gravel lane.

Hope you have a chance today to enjoy all the natural beauty in your neck of the woods!

~ Connie

Friday, June 7, 2019

Should we build an Ark yet??!!

Finally we have had a week of mostly sunny weather here in central Iowa. I had wanted to give you an update on my garden ... but in May, Mother Nature pounded us with continued cold temps, buckets of rain and even occasional hail! All have just been abusing my poor little garden plants.  They are bravely hanging on out there but nothing is truly flourishing at the moment!

So while the rain boots try to dry out, I thought I would share a family favorite recipe.  

These yummy  "Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins" are an easy made from scratch treat and always a big hit with my clan.  They are great as an easy breakfast, sweet dessert or brunch or coffee break item.  The ingredients are always on hand and the quick prep and bake time are a pleasant surprise too.  So Enjoy Soon!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, mix together all dry ingredients with a whisk.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add beaten egg, 1 cup water, vanilla, oil and vinegar.  Stir together until just moist.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Line a muffin tin with paper baking cups and spray with cooking spray.  Spoon muffin mix into prepared muffin tin and bake for 15 minutes.  

Enjoy the YUM!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Smelling like dirt ...

One of the things I love best about moving out to the country is playing in my garden.  This past winter seemed unusually long and brutally cold here in Iowa.  So perhaps that has made me even more anxious to get out and dig in the dirt!  Now The Old Farmers Almanac and my wise father have always advised me not to plant anything before May 9th (or about Mother's Day), as that is the predicted last Spring frost date for my area.  Mother Nature is often teasing me with a few warm days before May 9th, so this year I lived on the edge and planted my herbs in my window boxes on the back porch on May 3rd. 😏  AND of course I was draping those boxes with sheets 3 nights later when frost was predicted overnight!! 😳

But anyway, last year I discovered that I really like having fresh herbs just a few steps from the kitchen rather than all the way out in the garden.  They are handy when cooking and add an interesting bit of greenery in with the flowers that decorate my back porch.

I have 6 of these baskets along my porch railing and a good selection of common herbs that I use in my recipes.  I encourage you to try creating your own kitchen herb garden too.  Its a great way to always have fresh herbs handy for recipes and save some money at the grocery store!

8 Easy Herbs to try Growing in Containers

1. Basil
3. Rosemary
4. Cilantro
5. Chives
6. Parsley
7. Mint
8. Dill

I look for starter plants in the garden center at my local stores and pick up a bag or two of fresh potting soil.  Be sure your pots or containers have good drainage holes so excess water can drain off and prevent pooling at the roots causing root rot or fungus issues.  Transplant your new baby herbs and leave plenty of growing room per container.  My herbs have morning sun and afternoon shade.  Containers and window box soils dry out quickly so water often, especially in very hot weather!  
And I feed the plants with liquid fertilizer about once a month. 

Below is a favorite recipe for a light summer dinner - I use fresh home grown herbs and salad greens!

Rosemary & Thyme Chicken w/ Berries Salad (4 servings)

3 cups fresh spinach
3 cups fresh bib lettuce
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/3 cup grated parmesan or asiago cheese
1/4 cup butter
Season salt
Black pepper
Fresh Thyme and Rosemary
Bottled Poppy Seed salad dressing

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and melt butter in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Place chicken breasts in baking dish and turn to coat with butter.  Sprinkle with season salt and pepper.  Chop several fresh sprigs of Thyme and Rosemary and sprinkle over chicken.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Turn and season other side and add more herbs.  Return to oven and bake an additional 12-14 minutes.  While the chicken is baking wash and chop salad greens and strawberries.  Slice chicken breasts over salad greens. Sprinkle with strawberries and cheese and a few more fresh herbs.  Serve with Poppy seed salad dressing.


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Let's go get dirty!  You can find me in the garden.
~ Connie

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.  ~Margaret Atwood 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Down a gravel road ...

My name is Connie and I'd like to Welcome you to my Blog -

The "Prairie Chick" refers to myself and my return to rural life in Iowa a couple of years ago.  I grew up in Iowa (not on a farm) but as a small town/somewhat rural area girl. 😉  After college at a large mid western university, I was excited to move to my "big girl" life in Chicago!  I worked in both the city and the suburbs as an interior and graphic designer for over 28 years.  All the while, my husband and I raised our four children in the charming suburb of Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  We led your typical crazy, busy suburban lives with jobs, friends, kid sports, church activities, piano lessons, etc.  It was a great life, but as our kids headed off to their colleges and the nest started to empty ... we began to think about our next adventure.  We had long talked of moving out of suburbia and dreamed of owning some place out in the country.  

My wonderful husband works in the technology industry and is able to work from anywhere.  And over the years I have transitioned from corporate design work to freelancing from my home.  So with the kids finishing up high school and moving on to college, we began to explore the possibility of finding our dream home out in the Iowa countryside.  Within the span of four months in early 2017, we found our dream property,  sold our home in Illinois,  worked out the details of working remotely and moved 10 miles outside a small town in central Iowa.  

We still wake up every morning (almost 2 years later) and can't really believe we made such a life change.  And we still sit on our front porch most evenings and are so happy that we did it!

With this blog I will be sharing fast and easy recipes (featuring some fresh goodness from my garden), art and design projects that I am working on (and creating my "Tiny House Art Studio).  I hope you'll come along to see what's happening down our gravel road! 😉

Love & Hugs,


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