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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Celebrate with Easy Hot Fudge Sauce

* This post has been compensated through the AE Dairy Blog Ambassador program.  All views and opinions shared are my own. *

Yesterday was a big day for our family, our oldest son, LP, headed off to Pre-K!  And one fun fact for you, LP's Pre-K teacher is the same Pre-K teacher that his Dad, My Farmer, had twenty-six years ago!

First Day of Pre-K Celebrations

He will have school every afternoon.  A school van picks him up at our house before noon and then one of his favorite parts - he gets to ride the school bus on the way home.  One of his friends, who is in an older grade, rides the same bus, so it sounds like they had a lot of fun playing together on the way home from school.

LP coming home from his first day of school on the bus
and our dog Bailey waiting patiently
Growing up I was always excited for the first day of school and I was happy that LP had the same feeling that I always did.  The one first day of school tradition I always remember was taking a first day of school photo, so we did a few of those.  LP even had fun taking some photos with our dog and striking some super hero poses.

Other than first day of school photos before hopping on the bus, I don't remember too much more for first day traditions.  But for our little guy I thought it'd be fun to let him to choose supper for the evening (which he chose pancakes and eggs) and to whip up some Easy Hot Fudge Sauce so we could have some ice cream sundaes for dessert.  (I know, what a meal - pancakes, eggs and ice cream...)

Celebrate with Easy Hot Fudge Sauce #AEdairy #ad

Easy Hot Fudge Sauce

1 cup AE Dairy Heavy Whipping Cream
1 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Cocoa Powder, unsweetened
1 pinch Salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring, then remove from heat.  Let sauce cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 1 cup of sauce.

This is such a simple treat to make the next time you celebrate a special occasion, like the first day of school.  It is creamy, rich, and tastes o' so good.  Warning - once you start making homemade hot fudge sauce, you're family will always ask for it when you have ice cream ;)

Celebrate with Easy Hot Fudge Sauce
What first day of school traditions did you have growing up or that you celebrate with your family?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A look at the Presidential Candidate's Favorite Iowa State Fair Food - the Pork Chop on a Stick

If you've been listening to the news over the last week you've probably noticed that every Presidential Candidate has had to get their hands on a Pork Chop on a Stick while attending the Iowa State Fair.  This is really no surprise to me.  The Pork Chop on a Stick is easy to eat (with no awkward photo opportunity - i.e. corn dogs), is a classic "stick" fair food, is one of the healthiest foods on the fairgrounds, showcases Iowa's #1 pork production in the country and it is delicious!

Iowa State Fair Pork Chop on a Stick
The Upper Chop Shop located
east of the Pork Tent
(The Lower Chop Shop is located across
the road from the Livestock Pavilion)

The Pork Chop on a Stick can be found at the Iowa Pork Producer Association's Chop Shops at the Iowa State Fair.  What is really neat is that the chops are cooked and served by pork producer volunteers from across the state.  My Farmer and I have been volunteering at the Chop Shops for the last 9 years we decided last weekend when we were volunteering at our shift this year.

Presidential Candidates and Regular Iowa State Fair Patrons alike can be served a Pork Chop on a Stick
This Iowa State Fair patron is all smiles
as she receives a Pork Chop on a Stick
So you might be asking, what is the Pork Chop on a Stick?  To simply put it, the Pork Chop on a Stick is a French Cut Pork Chop.  This pork chop is cut from the center of the pork loin and leaves the bone in, creating a stick to hold on to for eating on the go, or actually gives it an elegant look if served on a plate.  One question that I get every year serving Pork Chops on a Stick is, "where's the stick?".  It is the bone!  No additional wooden stick needed for this Iowa State Fair food staple.

The Iowa Pork Producers serve around 5,000-6,000 Pork Chops on a Stick daily at the Iowa State Fair.  The chops are put on long racks, that are then inserted into a rotisserie grill.  They cook for about an hour, or til they reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cooking Pork Chops on a Stick at the Iowa State Fair
Top Left: My Farmer and our friend Mike getting chops ready to go in the grill
Bottom Left: Pork Chops on a Stick cooking on the rotisserie grill
Right: My Farmer taking Pork Chops on a Stick off the grill and into serving pans

A look at the Presidential Candidate's (including Donalad Trump) Favorite Iowa State Fair Food - the Pork Chop on a Stick
Our friend Mike graciously let me use one of his
photos from his phone when Donald Trump stopped by
for his Chop on a Stick the day of our volunteer shift
Looking at these photos I'm getting hungry for a Pork Chop on a Stick!  It is no wonder that everyone comes by for one, including Donald Trump ;)  If you are headed to the Iowa State Fair be sure to get a Pork Chop on a Stick and check out my top Fair Food guide too (that includes the Pork Chop on a Stick).  And if you aren't able to make it to the fair, but are still hungry for a pork chop, check out this infographic on how to cook pork chops four different ways.

Our friend Mike, myself and My Farmer
during our Chop Shop volunteer shift
The Pork Tent is always a highlight for our family and friends every year, and this year it is turning out to be the place to go if you're running for President.  What are some of your favorite spots to visit at the Iowa State Fair?  What is your favorite Fair Food?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Comments for a Cause - Alzheimer's Lemonade Stand

There are sometimes things just happen.  You get inspired by a small act.  You change your plans.  You make an extra stop in your day.  Well, that happened to me yesterday.  If you have been following my blog over the last couple of years, you know that I have a Comments for a Cause program on my blog and that I announce the new monthly cause on the 1st of each month.  I know some people specifically check each month on the 1st to see what the new cause is and yesterday I didn't post anything.  I had plans to support our community's VBS mission project originally, which still might happen sometime down the road, but my plans changed by stopping at a young man's lemonade stand yesterday.  After talking to him I got inspired and decided I had to change my plans.

I'll talk about my trip to the lemonade stand more, but I don't want to go any further without paying my respect to last month's cause, the Make-A-Wish Kansas City chapter.  Last month I had 79 comments creating a $39.50 donation.  Thank you for helping me support an organization that meant so much to my cousin Jake, who we scattered his ashes in Alaska because of his wish earlier this month.

Now let's talk about yesterday.  I was driving to my Mom's house and saw a young man with a lemonade stand on the side of the road in the town she lives in.  I am a sucker for lemonade stands so I circled the block and pulled up for some lemonade and cookies for myself and my family.  But I ended up getting a lot more than that.  His family had been affected by Alzheimer's Disease.  He wanted to bring awareness to the disease and support research for the disease so he decided to set up a $0.50 lemonade stand for the Alzheimer's Association.  He contacted the organization and got some pamphlets and other support materials to pass out and decorate his lemonade stand with.  I was impressed with his passion and creativity so much that I decided I wanted to continue his efforts by supporting the Alzheimer's Association this month by making a $0.50 donation for every comment on my blog to a cause and passion I was made better aware of from simply visiting a lemonade stand.

I learned a lot from this young man.  Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.  Symptoms develop slowly and increase in severity over time, enough to interfere with daily tasks.  There are over 5 million American living with Alzheimer's today and it is estimated that 1 in 3 seniors dies with dementia, which Alzheimer's is the most common.  The number of affected people is expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050.  This young man stressed how the disease is growing, but there is still no medicine or help to slow, cure or prevent the disease.

So help me spread this young man's lemonade stand Alzheimer's awareness by sharing your experiences with Alzheimer's or dementia in the comment section below.  Because remember, Comment for a Cause!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Country Fair Blog Party: August 2015

It is August 1st and time to showcase some new blog posts through the Country Fair Blog Party, which I'm happy to be a co-host of.  Before we show this month's link-up, I'm going to share my three Blue Ribbon winners from July's Country Fair Blog Party:

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner:  Maple Bacon Ice Cream
I'm going to let all of you in on a little secret... I love BACON!  Ok, so maybe it wasn't that much of a secret for this pork producer...  So if you post a recipe that spotlights bacon, there is a pretty good chance you'll be a monthly Blue Ribbon winner, like Cooking with Carlee and her Maple Bacon Ice Cream guest post by MiMi.  Actually, this recipe may have hit my holy grail of recipes - bacon, ice cream and breakfast.  That's right, she serves this maple flavored ice cream with bacon on top of a waffle!  It makes me reminisce about my job as a waitress in high school.  As a treat on late shifts (the time of night where people can't decide if they should have a sandwich and fries, or pancakes and eggs) I'd sometimes make myself a waffle and serve it with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.  Yum!

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: All Natural Fly Spray
My next Blue Ribbon winner is Our Simple Homestead's All Natural Fly Spray.  If you live on a farm you are always in search of a good fly spray for your livestock.  A lot of fly sprays have a pretty potent smell and you're always in search of a hydrant so you can wash your hands off right away after spraying it on your animals.  Tracy didn't care for commercial fly sprays for some of the same reasons so that is why she did some research and made her own homemade recipe.  This fly spray also helps repeal ticks, mosquitoes and gnats too.  I hope this post is a big help for the rest of the summer and fair season!

Country Fair Blue Ribbon Winner:  The Day I Stopped Trying to Get Perfect Photos of My Kids
My final Blue Ribbon for July goes to Charming Farming with her post, The Day I Stopped Trying to Get Perfect Photos of My Kids.  I think with kids and photos you've got to just go with the flow at times.  I remember being disappointed when it seemed like we could never get the "perfect" photo but now I look at some of those "not so perfect" photos and find 10 things I like about them.  I then love the photo and think it is perfect.  I've even blogged about my "10 things" take on photos.  LC shares about her turning point of what a "perfect" photo really is in her post.  A good read for any Mom with small children!

I can't wait to see what great posts get linked up this month as we have our Country Fair Blog Party.  Country Fairs are all about food, family, friends, farming, animals, arts and crafts, canning, baking and more.  And that is what our our blog hop is all about too.  Feel free to join our Country Fair by linking up to 3 of your posts.  This blog hop is a great opportunity to check out new blogs, and if you blog yourself, have your posts reach a new audience.  Be sure to visit some other party goers and let them know you are stopping by through the Country Fair Blog Party.

Also, be sure to visit my fellow co-hosts:
Country LINKed
Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom
Tip Garden

We're excited to see everything you share this month!  What is your favorite link from this month's Country Fair Blog Party?  Whichever post is mentioned the most in the comments will receive my "Readers Choice" Blue Ribbon next month!  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

4 Ingredient Sunrise Smoothie

* This post has been compensated through the AE Dairy Blog Ambassador program.  All views and opinions shared are my own. *

I am a huge breakfast fan!  I have to have it in order to have any energy for the day, and I have three little kids that depend on me to have energy.  Don't you wish you could just bottle up the energy that a toddler has during a non-nap period and sell it!  I could be rich!  

Anyways, breakfast is important to me and my whole family.  I like to mix up our breakfasts throughout the week and at least once a week I try to have breakfast by myself.  Now that may sound selfish, but I need one morning to myself where I can make something extra special, just for me, and read a book or watch the news (rather than reading Corduroy or watching Curious George).  This morning was that morning.  I finished the latest book by Melanie Shankle, Nobody's Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship and I made myself a fun, refreshing and summertime Sunrise Smoothie, that also used up some ripe bananas that needed to be made into something...  What is really great about this smoothie is that it is simple, uses only 4 ingredients - most likely of which are staple foods in your house, and is a true "dump" recipe.

4 ingredient Sunrise Smoothie #AEdairy #ad

Sunrise Smoothie

1 Banana
1 - 6oz container AE Dairy Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt
6 oz AE Dairy Orange Juice (fill up empty yogurt cup with OJ)
2 handfuls of Ice (approximately 1 cup)

Dump all ingredients in blender and pulse til ice is crushed, then blend til smooth.  Makes 2 tall glasses.

For only four ingredients, this smoothie offers a lot of flavor and substance.  The Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt makes the smoothie healthy and creamy.  I have to admit, a lot of times when I have ripe bananas I go for a banana milkshake...  So this is a much healthier alternative.  And the Orange Juice gives the smoothie that added something, that added zip of energy.

What's your favorite breakfast smoothie recipe?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Friday, July 24, 2015

LEGO Creativity Tour coming to Iowa in September! Win Tickets!

Do you have a LEGO® fan in your household like I do?  Well then, you don't want to miss out on the LEGO Creativity Tour as it stops in Des Moines, Iowa September 18-20 at the Iowa Events Center.

Big Brick Pile at the LEGO Creativity Tour - Win Tickets for Des Moines, Iowa stop!
Big Brick Pile at the LEGO Creativity Tour

To tell you a little bit about how much I have two little LEGO fans in my house, there are some days walking through our play room I feel like I'm walking in a giant pile of LEGO bricks... This is not a fun experience, but the LEGO Creativity Tour's Big Brick Pile looks like fun and not painful - well maybe!  This is just one of the features that will give your children the opportunity to build, create and immerse themselves in the LEGO experience.

I'm excited to be giving away (2) tickets to the opening night on Friday, September 18th from 5:30-8:30pm.  The winner will be randomly chosen by USFG on Thursday, August 20th and announced on my blog and notified via email.  You must be 18 to enter and are allowed 1 entry per day.  ENTER HERE

I encourage you to also Like and Follow the LEGO Creativity Tour on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram for all the latest ticketing updates.  The LEGO Creativity Tour stops have been selling out, so you should buy tickets in advance online.

Do you have a LEGO fan in your house?  What would your little builder look forward to the most?  The Big Brick Pile?  The Race Ramps?  The Construction Zone?  Others?  Remember to Comment for a Cause and enter the giveaway!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Top Iowa Ice Cream Picks!

Happy National Ice Cream Day!  This just might be my favorite holiday.  I mean, who doesn't like an excuse to eat ice cream!  Every June, in honor of National Dairy Month, my family goes on an Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip.  This is a fun and sweet tradition that not only lets us see new places across the state, but we get to eat great food too.  Through our travels we've had a lot of great ice cream, and through some hard deliberation around a bowl of ice cream, we have selected our top soft serve and hard ice cream in Iowa!  Someone has to do the hard work, and for you Iowa, our family has sacrificed calories to do so. ;)

Top Iowa Soft Serve Ice Cream:  The Whippy Dip in Decorah, Iowa

Top Iowa Soft Serve Ice Cream:  The Whippy Dip in Decorah, Iowa

The Whippy Dip is a seasonal walk-up ice cream stand that serves creamy and rich soft serve ice cream in the heart of Iowa's "Dairy Country" in Northeast Iowa.  This ice cream shop even sources its milk from a local dairy - you wouldn't expect anything less would you?

Top Iowa Soft Serve Ice Cream:  The Whippy Dip in Decorah, Iowa - Cookie Dough Tornado
The Whippy Dip keeps its ice cream simple by offering vanilla or chocolate.  While the ice cream alone is good, our family thinks it is even better by adding some mix-ins and creating a Tornado (think Dairy's Queen's Blizzard - but better!).  Our top recommendation is their Cookie Dough Tornado.  They layer real cookie dough (none of that frozen cookie dough mini-ball stuff - we're talking a slab of real cookie dough you could actually bake into a cookie) in their soft serve and then mix it up.  They then add an extra scoop of cookie dough and mini chocolate chips on top!  Every bite is guaranteed to have cookie dough in it.

Top Iowa Hard Ice Cream:  Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City, Iowa

Top Iowa Hard Ice Cream:  Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City, Iowa

Heyn's Ice Cream is in the heart of Iowa City.  Their cute Holstein dairy cow decor and over 40 flavors of hard ice cream make for a fun ice cream experience!

Top Iowa Hard Ice Cream:  Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City, Iowa - Monster Mash

Their flavors of ice cream offer so much variety and rich flavor, we feel like the best way to eat it is simply served in a cone (or maybe in one of their Dream Cones which are hand dipped and rolled in sprinkles or Butterfinger crumbles).  Our pick, which is also their top seller, is their Monster Mash, a vanilla ice cream with monster cookies mixed in it.

So there you have it!  Our pick's for Iowa's top soft serve and hard ice creams!  Enjoy and celebrate National Ice Cream Day today!  What is your favorite ice cream shop?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!