The Perfect Gift for the Foodie on Your List

Do you have a “foodie” in your life?

Trust me … you have all kinds of “foodies” in your life.

Whether it’s the gadget-loving chef or the tailgate-grazing sports fan or the I-don’t-turn-on-a-stove-but-I’ll-eat-anything-you-put-in-front-of-me consumer, everyone is a “foodie” at some level.

The beauty of this? It makes choosing a perfect gift simple and personal!

All year-long, we have occasions that call for a gift (birthdays, weddings, graduations, Christmas, etc.) or token of appreciation (hostess gift, party favor, etc.). Food is a universal language and can (and should) be customized for the receiver of the gift.

Since I started this blog, I have explored food-related markets, venues, restaurants, and resources and as I discovered new things, I would often think, “so-and-so would LOVE this” or “I should tell so-and-so about this.” Quickly, I started incorporating these “finds” into gifts. As long as I took into consideration the type of “foodie” the receiver was, it was not only appreciated but also unique.

At the risk of sounding like Oprah, I decided to put together a list of my favorite things from 2017. Don’t bother looking under your chair … no one’s getting a new car … but sometimes fresh ideas are just as generous. This list includes a lot of products made here in Iowa, or have a special tie to Iowa. These items are and should be customized to fit the person receiving the gift. Look for similar items that are local to them or personalized for their tastes and interests.

Let’s start shopping …

local Foodie

“Shop Local” is a key phrase these days and whether the location of the “shop” is in the country, or main street of a small town, or in the heart of a big city, people like things that have a tie to their community. Giving a community-based gift shows you care not only about the recipient but also about supporting that person’s “local” businesses. Here are some of my favorite “local” food items.


Herbs are big-time foodie news. No, they aren’t new to the foodie arena but they are being used more creatively than ever. The sweetness of desserts is balanced by the earthy and floral notes of herbs. Olive oils and balsamic vinegars are infused with flavor combinations of herbs, spices and citrus. The medicinal properties of herbs are incorporated into lotions, soaps, and fragrances.

I highly recommend the products made by Pickle Creek Herbs in Fairfield, Iowa. I am a sucker for free samples at the farmers’ market and became intrigued at the Pickle Creek tent when I saw Lavender Infused Balsamic Vinegar among many other vinegars and oils. It’s light and fresh and I later discovered it is delicious on fresh tomatoes, sliced watermelon, salads, and sandwiches.

Tim and Jocelyn also make soaps, lip balms, and skin salves. The Deep Relief Salve combines almond oil, beeswax, comfrey root, cayenne pepper, peppermint essential oil, and vitamin E to sooth and relax sore muscles. I love the light fragrance and the lack of oiliness in this product … not to mention that “soothing sore muscles” part! If you know an avid gardener or gardener-in-training, you might consider their Gardener’s Skin-Soothing Salve (and check out the Herb Garden Starter Kit below).

UNDER $20: A great gift idea from their site is the customizable Gift Box which contains 4 2-ounce bottles of olive oils and/or balsamic vinegar and you choose which four you want! They also include recipes with purchase. Shipping is free for orders over $50.


Another farmers’ market find, the Denison Mustard Company … yes, they had samples … has earned a place in my cupboard/refrigerator. These mustards are made in … nope … not Denison … Dow City, Iowa. Although the company has moved around over the years, it has called Crawford County, Iowa, home since 1885. It may be the fact that this company was founded by a German Immigrant (hint: it pays to know the heritage of the gift receiver), but I think my attraction to this product was my first taste of their Country Dill Mustard … amazing!

IDEA: Pair a couple of these mustards with a bag of pretzels and a 6-pack or growler of craft beer from a local brewery!


While we are visiting the western side of the state of Iowa, I must point you to Wall Lake, Iowa, where Cookies BBQ Sauces are produced. Although I like their BBQ sauces, I am absolutely hooked on their Wings ‘N’ Things Sauce. If you have a hot-wing-lover on your list, this is the gift that will win you a big ol’ sticky finger hug. It has perfect heat, and by that I mean the more you eat, the more your mouth burns. But don’t be deterred by this … if you want it less spicy, dilute it with one of their BBQ sauces or sweeten it with honey. We frequently mix it with Ranch dressing for a dip for chicken strips or veggies. This product is available in most Iowa grocery stores or can be ordered from their website. It must be good because you can also order it on Amazon … but only if you want quantity because it’s sold in 70 ounce bottles. That’s a lot of wings!


Moving over to Nevada (pronounced ne-vay-dah) in central Iowa, is a company making artisanal herb and spice infused seasoning blends: Saltlickers. My personal favorite is the Peter Rabbit … a salt blend with highlights of radishes and dill. Sprinkled on fresh veggies like carrots, celery, bell peppers and cauliflower … who needs dip! I am also quite infatuated with their Wassamatterhorn which is a blend of sea salt, rosemary, and juniper berries. It is a perfect blend for sweet potatoes or squash and I hope to use it to season the pheasant our bird dog better find this season.

IDEA: Check out their website for gift boxes or custom blends!


Just in time for this blog, I came across Bisschopswijn Mulling Spices on my final trip to the farmers’ market. I had never crossed paths with this company before and quickly learned that this Pella, Iowa based company has a big following. It is a Dutch tradition for “families to sip Bisschopswijn (Bishop’s Wine) as they await the arrival of the good saint”, Sinterklaas … think Miracle on 34th Street! The mulling spices can be used to spice cider or cranberry juice, mulled wine, and even desserts. There are recipes for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on their site that will warm any Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or winter celebration.

IDEA: If you are looking for a unique hostess or grab bag gift, package the mulling spices with a bottle of rum or cranberry juice and some pretty napkins. Or for a festive party favor, buy a big bag of the mulling spices and make individual steeping bags out of cheesecloth tied with kitchen-string and a small cinnamon stick!

fan-atical foodie

One of the first things we learn about another person is their allegiance to a college or professional team. It may be where they went to school or it may be a team they’ve cheered for and cried with since childhood. Maybe it’s a place they know very little about but is about to become home as they begin school or a job in a new location. Want to think outside the t-shirt box?

I’ve got you covered …


Art is not an easy thing to choose for another person; however, when you choose a simple piece  that represents something the person loves you can’t go wrong. This 12″x18″ print from Modern Map Art, placed in a simple frame, is more than something to hang on a wall or prop on a shelf. It is a map of memories or a first impression on a new adventure.

How is this a “foodie” gift? Imagine this as a graduation present for a student headed off to the best university in the world (as pictured), or any number of other schools, but with color-coded or numbers dots on the clear covering for points of interest like iconic restaurants, movie theaters, football stadiums, shopping malls, grocery stores, etc. Want to take it another step? Include a gift certificate and menu from one of the restaurants to get them acclimated quickly!

Speaking of …


A lot of people do not like giving gift certificates because they feel it’s too impersonal. They are only impersonal if personality isn’t added to the gift card. Here’s a great example of something that could easily be added to the map art shown above: a gift card to a favorite, local restaurant.

One of my all-time favorite pizza places in Ames, Iowa, Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company , has been serving amazing pizza since I was in college (now that’s longevity). What makes them unique is not only the nostalgic atmosphere of the restaurant but the variety of crusts available … the Denver (a wheat dough with hand-rolled edges that you finish off with honey like a breadstick … do NOT knock it til you try it) is my personal recommendation!

Wrap the gift card in a pizza box with a take-out menu (both of which the restaurant will almost always provide at no charge), some napkins and filler to make it colorful, and you’ve got personality.


Remember that “tailgate-grazing sports fan” I referred to earlier? Koozies keep their “beverages” cold on a hot day and Cozies keep them hot on the cold days. I found this hand-knitted cozie at The Market Place (Manning, Iowa) and thought it would make a great grab bag gift or stocking stuffer!

IDEA: Fill the cup with a bag of homemade snack mix and a little (or big) bottle of the tailgate beverage of choice (cue Florida Georgia Line please), and a small gift evokes a big feeling of good times!



Aprons are the perfect gift for that person who is equally infatuated with cooking/grilling and a team. I know a couple guys who would happily stand guard over a grill for hours making food for other people. If they can sport their team colors and keep the inevitable splatters of the grill off their clothes, it’s all good.

IDEA: Wrap up an apron with some new grilling utensils, grill seasonings or sauces, and/or a new color-coordinating cooler.



foodie with a cause

Food is inspiring. It is relatable and uplifting. We talk over coffee. Our mood can change over a scent. The gift of food can say what cannot be put into words. Receiving a gift that “gives back” is twice the gift. Here are a few ideas of how to give a gift that feeds the soul.


This book was given to me earlier this year by a good friend and I have shared it with many friends since then. It is written by Jennifer Dukes Lee, a NW Iowa Christian writer, blogger, and speaker, and provides a journey to find your personal “happiness style”. Are you a Giver, a Doer, a Thinker, a Relater, or an Experiencer? Maybe a combination of several or all of these? Jennifer helps you identify your style and helps you understand why God made you, and everyone around you, to be happy in this way. It’s a little hard to see in this picture, but the words on the cover are formed out of candy. Why? That’s for you to find out … and to share with others! It’s inspiring, it’s funny, it’s helpful on many levels, and it’s full of good reminders of just how special you, and your gift recipient, are.

IDEA: Wrap up this book with a bag of your recipient’s favorite candy, a sweet treat from a local candy store, or a few pieces of homemade fudge.


I love gifts that give back: when you buy something from an organization and the proceeds go to support that organization or another organization in need. This type of gift can be perfect for the “I don’t need anything” person. And the truth is, they probably don’t but you want them to know you care.

Over the past few years, I have become acquainted with an organization here in Des Moines called “Freedom for Youth“. This organization provides faith ministry, education assistance, job training, and a safe environment for before- and after-school and weekend activities to youth and young-adults in Des Moines and a growing number of communities across Iowa. One of their programs is the Freedom Blend Coffee shop which is operated by young adults within this organization. They sell and serve fair-trade coffee that is roasted and packaged on site, as well as breakfast and lunch items.









Can you believe this place started out as an abandoned car wash? This transformation has lifted an entire community!

IDEA: In the Des Moines area? Stop by the coffee shop and purchase some of their coffee beans, get yourself a latte, and pick up a donation form and brochure. Enjoy your latte. Wrap up the coffee beans (maybe with an inspirational or personalized mug) and a card that says you’ve made a donation to this organization in honor of the recipient. Don’t forget to include the brochure so the recipient can read all about the good efforts of the organization while they sip their coffee.

Not in the area? There are organizations like this EVERYWHERE. Check with your church or school. Google is your friend. Or seek out an organization that has a special place in the recipient’s heart and find a way to combine a donation with a small, but related, gift.


The sense of smell is a powerful thing. It evokes memories, lifts spirits, and makes stomachs growl. There are many options for gifting in this area: candles, essential oils and diffusers, lotions, and hand soaps. The trend right now is natural ingredients with a focus on herbs, spices, and citrus elements like geranium, basil, rhubarb, rosemary, grapefruit, chai or white tea, and juniper.

The ageless combination of orange and clove is popular again and my recommendation for fall and winter. This little candle came from Target for $5.

IDEA: An all-natural, inexpensive way to provide aromatherapy in your home is to add citrus peel (orange, lemon, grapefruit) and spice (whole clove, juniper, all spice, cinnamon) and herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage) to boiling water on the stove and simmer for 15 minutes at a time.  You must watch carefully as the water will evaporate over time … add more water as needed to continue the scent.

Foodie Cookbook

What would a gift giving blog for foodies be without a cookbook recommendation? Technically, this book was never meant to be a “cookbook” according to the author, Samin Nosrat. Salt Fat Acid Heat was written to be a “how to cook” book, not a recipe book. Samin discovered that no publisher wanted to get behind a cookbook without recipes. In the end, she did add recipes as a vehicle to learning to cook without recipes. This book is beautiful, funny, easy to read, and so instructive.

I have learned a great deal from this book about these elements of cooking and how to cook from instinct and senses … smell, touch, sound, and, of course, taste. It is the perfect gift for cooks of all skill levels.


HerbacEous Foodie

After mentioning several times the role of fresh herbs in the foodie scene, I want to share with you a beautiful gift idea that a good friend and fellow blogger posted on her site (Root and Bloom Forever): the DIY Herb Garden Starter Kit. Mary combines fresh herb plants, plant markers, gardening gloves, a trowel and pruning shears, seed packets, and other related items, all nestled in a pretty wicker basket or crate.

IDEA: When you put this smile-inducing basket together, make sure you add a tag with the website to Root and Bloom Forever so they too can benefit from the inspiring, motivating, and creative information she shares!


Homemade Party Favors

Remember when I said the orange and clove combination was making a comeback? These Sugar and Spice Pecans are proof. I have made these pecans over and over again since my friend, Lori (the same “good friend” who gave me the book The Happiness Dare mentioned earlier … she’s a great source of all things awesome!), gave me the recipe. Every single time I give these as a party favor in clear cellophane bags tied with twine, I am asked the same question … “are these hard to make?” The answer is “no”! They are easy and are as delicious in the summer on a spinach salad with strawberries as they are in the winter on a charcuterie platter or as a topping to sweet potato casserole. That is, if you don’t just eat them all right out of the bag.

My gift to you: the recipe!

Foodie Gift Wrapping Tips

If you’re taking the time to pick out a perfect gift for a foodie, why not wrap it appropriately?

Look closely. This package is wrapped in a paper grocery bag from Trader Joe’s. It is tied with a strip of cheesecloth and a bonus adornment gift of a small wooden serving spoon. I will often wrap gifts with the unmarked side of paper grocery bags but as I grabbed this bag, I realized these Trader Joe’s bags are beautiful! Why wouldn’t I use the pictures of fruit and vegetables to wrap a foodie gift?

Other foodie wrapping inspiration? Aluminum foil … cheesecloth … parchment paper … think outside the box (pun intended). Need a last minute filler for a basket or box? Run paper grocery bags through a shredder! Skip the ribbon and tie on a set of measuring spoons, a cheese knife, or accordion-fold a dish cloth into a bow.

Did we cover enough?

One more thing …

I want you to know that there is only one vendor on this list that approached me about featuring one of their products, and that was Modern Map Art with the Ames print. I was given the print in exchange for featuring it on one of my blogs. I agreed to this because I loved the item, it was a clear and stylish print, and I thought it was worth sharing with you. All of the other items were products that I found, use, and love. Some of these products were given to me at no cost when I told the vendor that I wanted to feature them in this post. Some of them I purchased on my own for this post.

My purpose in starting a blog was and is to share good, positive, and useful information. I have no desire to be negative about anything. If I come across something I don’t like, I won’t share it.

After all … sharing is the point of this post.

NOTE: If you’d like a chance to win some of these great products, head over to and “like” my Facebook page. Over the next 3 weeks, I’ll be giving away an Iowa Foodie box, an Iowa State Foodie box, and a Foodie with a Cause box (details in Facebook posts).

All my best to you! Happy Giving!

Cranberry Mustard Sauce

Cranberry-Mustard Sauce

This sauce is the perfect match for turkey, pork, chicken, meatloaf, and even roasted vegetables (like Brussels sprouts or carrots). It was created to compliment the sage and turkey in my Thanksgiving Meatballs.

Print Recipe
Cranberry-Mustard Sauce
Cranberry Mustard Sauce
Cranberry Mustard Sauce
  1. Bring cider to a boil in a sauce pan; add honey and cranberries. Return to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook cranberries 10-15 minutes.
  2. Cranberries will pop/break as they cook. Smash the cranberries against the side of the pan with a large spoon, if needed.
  3. Add Georgia-Mustard (or BBQ) sauce and stir to combine and heat through.
  4. Stir in a little more honey if you like a sweeter sauce.
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Stuffed Peppers Mexican Style

Last year, I introduced you to the giant poblano pepper plants that thrive in my garden. With a Scoville Scale rating that falls between a bell pepper and a mild jalapeno, poblanos provide the perfect “warmth” to Mexican dishes without threatening your taste buds.

Well … I guess that depends on the heat tolerance of your tongue.

And the inherent personality of the pepper itself, apparently.

I was struggling with what I could share with you in this post so I took a break … and looked for inspiration from one of my favorite sources: Chopped on Food Network. It came in the form of a basket ingredient. Not a poblano, but close. Hatch Chile Peppers. (Note: these peppers are from the same family but grown in different locations, they develop unique characteristics.)

As the judges were talking about the peppers, they mentioned the uncertainty of the heat levels from the pepper. This reminded me of a morning when my son’s girlfriend was visiting us and invited one of her friends over for brunch. We stuffed poblanos with an egg, cheese, and sausage mixture and I assured them the peppers would not be too spicy.

I heard a “cough” and I knew I was wrong.

Now before you picture two 20-something gals with tears running down their cheeks, gasping for air, it wasn’t that bad. I had, however unintentionally, served them something spicier than intended. The problem was quickly solved with two options:

  1. Ratio
  2. Selection

The first thing we did was to add more of the mild, egg filling to their plate. They were enjoying the overall flavor but needed to balance the ratio of the filling to the pepper. The second thing we discovered was that some of the peppers were much more spicy than others.


This was what the judges on Chopped were discussing as they watched the contestants preparing their dish. When you look up a pepper on the Scoville Scale, you will find not one number for the heat units of the pepper, but a range. Some poblano peppers are hotter than others, even if they are grown in the same garden.

You must taste the peppers before you use them … certainly before you serve them to others.


Do not let this uncertainty deter you from making this (or other) recipes with peppers. Just remember:

  1. Removing seeds and membranes from peppers reduces the severity of the heat.
  2. Taste food as you prepare it so you can make adjustments.
  3. If a dish turns out too hot/spicy, temper it with more filling or cooling condiments like sour cream or avocado.
  4. Should you encounter a pepper that is just too spicy for you, remember the filling is still good. You don’t have to eat the pepper to enjoy the meal.

Print Recipe
Stuffed Poblano Peppers
These stuffed poblano peppers add a little heat and a little spice to the traditional stuffed pepper recipe. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and lime for the perfect balance of flavors.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Preparing Peppers
  1. Wash and dry peppers. Cut in half, lengthwise, and remove seeds and membranes. Place on cookie sheet, cut side down.
  2. Drizzle peppers with olive/avocado oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Broiler Method: Place peppers about 6" below oven broiler until the outside of peppers blister and char. Remove from oven.
  4. Grill Method: Place peppers cut side up on preheated (400 degree) grill. Remove from grill when peppers blister and char.
  5. Peppers should look like this ...
Preparing Filling
  1. Cook rice in chicken broth as per package instructions. A small amount of diced, fresh cilantro and lime juice can be added to the rice after cooking for a little extra flavor. Set aside.
  2. Brown ground pork with a little salt & pepper (1/2 teaspoon of each) until fully cooked; drain. Return pan to burner and add chili powder (and other herbs spices if desired); stir to distribute. Remove from heat when thoroughly heated.
  3. In a large bowl, combine rice, ground pork mixture, beans, corn, and tomatoes. Stir in shredded cheese.
Assembly & Cooking
  1. Spoon filling mixture into each pepper half.
  2. Oven Method: Place peppers on cookie sheet and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Grill Method: Place peppers on hot grill (350 degrees) for 8-10 minutes (indirect heat is best to avoid over cooking the peppers) or until filling mixture is hot.
  4. Remove from heat to serving tray.
  5. Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream, salsa, avocado, and lime wedges.
Recipe Notes
  1. Bell peppers can also be used if poblano peppers are not available or in season.
  2. I like to add 1/2-1 teaspoon of some/all of the following to the chili powder: granulated garlic, dried herbs (cilantro, Mexican oregano, epazote), cumin, coriander, and chipotle powder.
  3. Leftover stuffed peppers freeze very well. Wrap individually (or in pairs) in plastic wrap and place in a large resealable plastic bag. When ready to use, remove from freezer and allow to defrost completely. Place peppers on a cookie sheet under the broiler (low setting) and watch carefully. Remove from broiler when filing is bubbly and heated through.
  4. Leftover peppers, topped with scrambled eggs, make a wonderful breakfast.
  5. Leftover filling can be used in tacos or soups.
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Special thanks to the Creator of this amazing pepper for working through Ted Allen and the Chopped judges to get me over writer’s block!

Farm Crawl 2017

Farm Crawl 2017

Whether you consider it a “crawl” from farm to farm because of all the gravel roads and traffic, or a “crawl” because that’s all you can do at the end of the tour, it doesn’t matter. A beautiful fall day spent touring farms showcasing Iowa agriculture, arts, people and food is a good day.

I had heard of a “Pub Crawl” before (we won’t get into that here) but never a “Farm Crawl” … and I grew up on a farm. When I saw an announcement at one of the stands at the Downtown Farmers’ Market for this event, I had to ask.

And then I had to go.

The tour included seven farms, in a loop, about an hour SE of Des Moines, near Knoxville.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but when I pulled off one of the main roads onto my first stretch of gravel and saw the pretty countryside, creek beds, and fields, I was hooked. It was a perfect, fall day in Iowa and, by that, I mean cool and rainy, followed by warm and sunny, and low winds. Everyone here knows that a fall day in Iowa without snow is good weather.

Coyote Run Farm

My first stop was at Coyote Run Farm just outside of Melcher-Dallas where I was greeted with an invitation to help myself to some homemade Vegetable Beef Borscht Soup (recipe), cookies and drinks … for free! Stomach full, I walked around the farm to see the horses and chickens, high tunnel and garden, and their rehabilitated barn.


I left the farm with my hands full of tiny potatoes, 3 types of garlic, a few heirloom tomatoes, and a jar of local honey. Hmmm … how many more stops did they say there were?

Six …


Trojan Iron Works

As I pulled up to the next stop, I realized it was the parking lot of a church, filled with so many kids! And the kids weren’t just participating, they were running the show! Trojan Iron Works, I would find out, is a student-run business at Pleasantville High School making custom metal signs. They paired up with the school’s FFA chapter and provided live music and games for the younger kids including calf roping, cheese and cracker “welding”, germination necklaces, and face painting. Again … for free. They also had a concession stand, were selling beef jerky and granola made by the Home Economics class, and were taking orders for pork and beef raised at the Pleasantville FFA Teaching Farm.

I’m sure they were present, but I didn’t see a cell phone in the hands of a single kid or student.


Heading to my car with my beef jerky, it didn’t even dawn on me that I didn’t take a single picture of the metal projects. Click on the link above to see lots of pictures of the students at work and of their art. 

White Breast Pottery and Weaving

As I get out of my car at White Breast Pottery & Weaving, I see this …

… and I hear this …


… which leads me to this …


… along with a basket weaver/maker, a group of 4-Hers selling concessions and baked goods for their club, and a rug weaving demonstration.

It just wasn’t possible for this 4-H girl to pass by the concession stand, so a hot dog in one hand and a beautiful woven rug in the other, I move on down the road toward the apples.

Schneider Orchard

Apple picking, giant slingshot apple shooting, a tree house (complete with suspended bridge and slide … sadly, no adults allowed), wagon rides, apples, and a menu of sweet treats that’s worth the long line kept Schneider Orchard buzzing with activity. (That’s a pollination joke, folks.)

Apple pie for me, and peach for my guy at home, plus a bag of Jonathan apples (my favorite baking apples), and one or two caramels rolled in pecans.

What? It’s not like I bought the fudge too!

Oh, but I wanted to!

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get full (stomach AND car)!

Blue Gate Farm

The next stop was home to the reason I was even on this tour, Blue Gate Farm. It was at their stand at the farmers’ market that I found out about the Farm Crawl. Having stopped many times before, I noticed the sign advertising the event and asked Jill about it. Her enthusiasm for the opportunity to show people their property and practices in naturally grown gardening was contagious.

I arrived too late in the day to get one of “Aunt Louise’s Cinnamon Rolls” but I was not too late to get a tour from Jill. Rotation practices, high tunnel extended seasons, 1950’s era planters and cultivators, the rabbits, alpacas, bees, and, of course, the land itself, were described with passion and pride.

Knoxville’s own Peace Tree Brewing Company was present and a “cold one” sounded really good right about then. Unfortunately, but understandably, they were sampling root beer and selling their beer (at room temperature, not cold). That “cold one” would just have to wait until I got home.

Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch

What would a Farm Crawl be without a stop at a pumpkin patch? Linus would be most content in this one. With 145 different varieties of pumpkins and gourds, your every decorating, carving, and baking need was covered. And, if feeling a little full from the other stops, the maze of giant round hay bales might just help you make room for the BBQ concessions.

Can you find the people in the maze?

Also included in this stop was a sawmill demonstration … huge tree trunks being positioned and trimmed to fit through a machine that cut them into boards … and wine sampling from Nearwood Winery. Again, I was too late to sample most of their wines. One must be very strategic in planning your tour stops … or understanding … that works too!

Crooked Gap Farm

My greatest disappointment in this whole tour? That I missed out on my very last stop … Crooked Gap Farm. I had been looking forward to this one for their hand-crafted soaps made from products of their farm (or as local as possible) and their cattle, pigs, and lambs. I was driving away from the pumpkin patch, looking for the next turn on the loop, and before I knew it, I missed it.

My only defense is exhaustion. It had been six hours since I left on my foodventure. I had absorbed as much information and consumed enough food in an effort to support the farms and organizations as I could and I was tired.

I think they’ll forgive me. As long as I start on their end of the loop next year!


How’s that for some beautiful souvenirs?

Are you like me and disappointed you didn’t know about this years ago? At least now you can make plans for next year:

  1. Follow Farm Crawl on Facebook so you don’t miss out on next year’s event.
  2. Mark your calendars in advance … this event is held the first Sunday in October.
  3. Don’t wash your car … enjoy the drive.
  4. Bring cash. Some places take credit cards and some don’t. There is no admission fee for any of the farms on this day.
  5. Bring the kids … it’s an education that feels like a vacation.
  6. Practice your parallel parking …



Kicking Up Pulled Pork

I love pulled pork as much as anyone. I don’t care if we’re talking Kansas City, Texas, Carolina … I love ’em all. But then I stumbled upon a Louisiana version and I found a whole new happy place!

Okay, so technically, I don’t know if this is authentic Louisiana cuisine but the recipe had the word “Cajun” in it and that was enough to get the attention of this Iowa girl.

Print Recipe
Cajun Pork Sandwiches
Prep Time 10-15 minutes
Cook Time 2-3 hours
Prep Time 10-15 minutes
Cook Time 2-3 hours
  1. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper (this can be done several hours before cooking for better flavor).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Place meat in a large dutch oven and add onions; cover and place in oven for 30 minutes.
  4. Add jalapenos. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, and Tabasco sauce; turn pork over and move around to combine all the ingredients. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 60 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven. Using two forks, try to pull the pork apart. If the pork shreds easily, it is ready. If it resists pulling, return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
  7. Shred the pork and combine with remaining "sauce".
  8. Serve with pepper-jack cheese and/or pickles on buns or bread of your choice. Coleslaw is one of our favorite toppings/sides for these sandwiches. Find my recipe here.
Recipe Notes

1. Cooking times will vary based on the size of the roast or number of ribs used. If using a whole roast, cutting it into four equally sized pieces will reduce overall cooking time.

2. Boneless turkey breast fillets can also be used. Again, cooking times will vary.

3. You can simplify this recipe by using a crock pot or slow cooker. Simply combine all the ingredients (except cheese, pickles and buns, of course) in the crock pot and set it on low for 6-8 hours or warm for 8-10 hours. There will be a lot more broth produced this way. Remove about half of the broth before shredding and set it aside. If after shredding, the meat needs more moisture, add broth back in a quarter of a cup at a time. The remaining broth is perfect for reheating the meat another day or to add to soups.

4. Coleslaw is one of our favorite toppings/sides for these sandwiches ... find the recipe HERE.

5. Cornbread is an excellent accompaniment for this dish. For this post, I spread the cornbread batter (with diced jalapenos added) in a thin layer (3/4-1" deep) in a rectangular glass baking dish, coated with cooking spray, and baked it according to the recipe but for a shorter amount of time since it is thin. After it cooled, I cut it into large squares to act as the top and bottom "bun" for the sandwich.

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I have made this recipe several ways over the years: slow cooker/oven; pork/turkey; adding/omitting vegetables. One thing is certain … it always turns out delicious. The texture is different if it’s made in the slow cooker instead of the oven but it tastes great. The flavor changes with the choice of meat or vegetables but it tastes great. Whether I make a single or double (or triple) recipe, it tastes great! The only disappointment is when I don’t have leftovers to use in soups or salads.

This is the salad I made with the leftover pork. One of my favorite shortcuts is the Dole Chopped Salad Kits: a crunchy combination of cabbage, romaine, kale, carrots, and green onions. The Chipotle and Cheddar version also includes some tortilla strips, shredded cheddar cheese and a chipotle-ranch dressing. I add a few kernels of corn, some red onion, and fresh cilantro along with the leftover pork and … voilà!

I mean … BAM!

Couldn’t post a Cajun recipe without a tribute to Emeril, now could I?


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Pickled Carrots?

Oh how I love to find new foods!

By that, of course, I’m not claiming to discover new foods for the culinary industry or the world. I’m just happy when I try something for the first time and realize that my world has just expanded.

Growing up, if someone said “pass the pickles”, they were referring to pickled cucumbers. The response would likely be, “Dill? Sweet? Bread-and-Butter?” The only other vegetable we pickled was beets. And, really, if you are lucky enough to have a steady supply of all of these home-grown and canned pickles, what else would you need?

About 10 years ago, my farming family discovered pickled asparagus and green beans (mostly because we are also a family who occasionally indulges in a few Bloody Marys). With the usual gusto of those who have big gardens, asparagus and green beans ended up in jars in the cold room too.

A year or two ago, I started hearing my nephews and nieces talk … well, rave is probably a better word … about a small Mexican restaurant in the neighboring town called “La Juanitas”. I was hearing about the carne asada tacos, the sandwiches (torte), the burritos, the line out the front door … and I had to get there. And I did … a few times.

That’s not just the margaritas talking either, because they “don’t have time for margaritas!”

What they do have time for? Pickled carrots on the side.

These are so popular that the first side is complimentary but if you want more, there is a charge. Worth it!

I loved these pickles so much I had to figure out how to make them. Starting with a post on Pinterest, I made a few modifications for personal preferences like heat and texture and, after a few test runs, am thrilled with this recipe. Consider my world expanded … again.


Print Recipe
Pickled Mexican Vegetables
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
half-pint jars
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
half-pint jars
  1. Combine vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, salts, mustard seed, Mexican oregano, and epazote and bring to boil.
  2. Add carrots and simmer until tender.
  3. Add onion and jalapenos; return to boil.
  4. Remove from heat, add chopped fresh cilantro and/or carrot greens. Allow to cool.
  5. Ladle into sterilized jars.
  6. Store in refrigerator.
Recipe Notes
  1. The spiciness of these pickles depends greatly on the jalapenos. If you do not want these to be spicy, remove the seeds and membranes from the inside of the jalapenos before adding to the recipe. This will greatly reduce the heat but still give the flavor and color of the jalapeno.
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Now that I think of it … these would make an excellent addition to my next Bloody Mary! 😉



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