Friday Fry-Day: A trip to the Iowa State Fair

The motto of the Iowa State Fair is ‘Nothing Compares’.  Boy, are they right. Every August growing up, my mom would take me back to the farm where she’s from in a tiny rural town. A highlight of the trip was always our day at the famous fair. We would eat our way through the day stopping off at a multitude of kiosks and food stands offering everything from the traditional funnel cakes sprinkled with powdered sugar to Dippin’ Dots, the ‘ice cream of the future’, and my first experience with the mini frozen ice cream balls which blend into unique flavor concoctions. We’d end our day with dinner at the Iowa Pork Producers BBQ tent for fresh juicy tenderloins smoked on the grill and served up in tents on wooden picnic tables. Sometimes we’d stay late to catch a concert & fireworks at the grandstand, and a turn on the midway ferris wheel sparkling in twinkling lights. Ah, those were the days…

Fried Mac and Cheese! Fried Dough! Fried Cinnamon Rolls! Oh My!

This year, I vowed to get back to the farm and the fair. Unfortunately, we only had a couple precious hours to dedicate to galavanting around the fairgrounds AND… it was pouring rain. My mom and I were determined to re-live the old times, so we grabbed umbrellas and started pounding the pavement. We started stopping at all of the brightly colored vendors to see what each had to offer. As a general rule, there are no calories to account for on fair day, and therefore you are required to indulge in a bit of fluffy fried glory, as well as a variety of things on a stick.

Stuff -on-a-Stick!

We had heard a rumor that there was actually Fried Butter being served up, but to our dismay, we couldn’t find the holy grail. Though I wanted nothing to do with said ‘treat’, I wanted to document some brave soul who actually wanted to try it.

Deep fried Twinkies and candy bars…

Although it was 10 AM when we strolled by the pork tent, we were able make friends with some of the guys on the grill. They weren’t going to let us leave the fair without our favorite tradition: a juicy grilled pork sandwich topped with BBQ sauce and a high pile of pickles. Thank you Iowa Pork Producers! Hope to see you next year…

Strawberry Mint Fizz: Cocktail or ‘Mocktail’…


This concoction was inspired by 4 ingredients that were aligned on the top shelf of my refrigerator. It’s a beverage that is so beautifully simplistic and tasty, I had to share it. You can make this for the 5 o’clock happy hour, or try the virgin option just as a refresher on a warm summer afternoon.

Ingredients (makes 4 drinks):

  • 10 strawberries
  • 8 large mint leaves, torn into rough pieces
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 750 ml bottle San Pellegrino or other Sparkling Water
  • 5 oz. vodka (optional)

Method:

1. Muddle the strawberries, mint, lime juice, and honey until consistency is a relatively smooth juice. You will still have small chunks of mint and strawberry.

2. Fill a pitcher 1/2 full of ice. Pour in the sparkling water and vodka. Add the strawberry mixture last, and mix with a wooden spoon. Serve in chilled glasses.

* if you’d like to make a single serving of this delicious drink, simply reduce the amount of strawberry juice mixture into: 3 strawberries, 2 mint leaves, juice of 1/4 lime and a dash of honey. Combine in a glass rather than a pitcher, use 1 – 1.5 oz. of vodka and desired amount of sparkling water. Enjoy!*

Muddy Buddy Brittle Bars: Heaven in a Bite

This was the tastiest experiment I have ever tried. My mouth is salivating just thinking about the salty-sweet, chocolatey-peanut buttery, crunchy-smooth, delight. If you bring these treats to a party, your friends WILL be addicted.

Muddy Buddy Brittle Bars

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 oz. rice Chex cereal (about 1/2 box)
  • 1 c. oats
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 3 c. peanut butter (heat conner in microwave for about 30 seconds to soften)
  • 3 Tbs. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla
  • 1 Tbs. shredded coconut
  • 16 oz. candy coating chocolate

Method:

1. Mash the cereal until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the crushed cereal, oats, peanut butter, honey, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. The most effective method is to fold and knead in all the ingredients with your hands. Make sure all ingredients are incorporated.

3. Meanwhile, in a double boiler, melt the chocolate.

4. Layer a 12″ baking dish with wax paper. Pour 1/2 of the melted chocolate into the dish forming the bottom layer. Place in the refrigerator and allow layer to harden(approx 10 minutes).

5. Spread the peanut butter cereal mixture over the chocolate layer.

6. Pour the remaining chocolate over the peanut butter and cereal, and smooth so that it is covered evenly. Top with shredded coconut.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

8. Once pan is cool, refrigerate so that the chocolate can once again become firm.

9. Remove the entire batch from pan by pulling up the wax paper. Place on a cutting board and cut into squares.

Coconut Curry

Got a craving for curry? Well, I did, and so I whipped up this delicious batch. It is a combination of both the Indian and Thai styles of curry. All together, a fantastic fusion of flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey or chopped chicken breast
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, large dice
  • 1 tbs. fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 12 oz. chicken stock
  • 2 tbs. garlic chili sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1 red potato, large dice
  • 1 yukon gold potato, large dice
  • 1 sweet potato, large dice
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, bite size florets
  • 2 carrots, large dice
  • 6 oz. frozen peas
  • 2 tsp gram (garam) masala
  • 2-3 Tbs. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. hot paprika
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • white or brown rice, prepared
  • thai basil
  • bean sprouts

Method:

1. In a soup pot or dutch oven, bring garlic, ginger, and 1/2 of the onions to a simmer. Add the meat, and continue to brown.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch into coconut milk. Whisk in garlic chili sauce, sugar, cinnamon, and juice of 1 lime. Add chicken stock and mix well.

Once the meat has lightly browned, add remaining vegetables to the pot. Sprinkle curry powder, paprika, gram masala, salt and pepper over the mixture. Cover the meat and veggies with the coconut sauce, and toss with a wooden spoon to coat thoroughly. Add cloves and cover. Cook on medium heat for 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Enjoy the curry on its own, or over rice. Garnish with thai basil, and bean sprouts.