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Winter Update!

Hello friends!  Whew!  Is December really almost gone?  I feel like we say it all the time, but time really does fly.  I wanted to update you all on our December happenings, so today you get a compilation post of everything from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  We’ll leave New Years for a separate post since we have a fun night planned on New Years Eve with some new events we haven’t tried before and will want to fill you in on how they went.  Let’s just say, country line dancing in high heels may be in my near future! Not sure if you’ll get a photo of that….Eek!

 

Anyway, we kicked off Thanksgiving with a drive through the Jolly Holiday Lights.  We had a feeling it would be pretty busy this season with it being at the new location at Adventureland in Altoona and we wanted to make sure we got it in, so we went early in the season.  This turned out to be a good plan because there were upwards of 2 hour waits closer to Christmas! So awesome to see such a great charity event doing well!  Hope you made it to Altoona to see them this year!  If you didn’t, get there early next year!

 

We spent a lovely Thanksgiving here at home with lots of family.  Cooking a turkey with all the fixins’ makes me not want to cook ever again.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally satisfying to occasionally cook a meal that everyone enjoys, but, there is a reason I blog about restaurants.

Anywho, we also got in another annual tradition of going to the Festival of Trees.  The kids love the scavenger hunt and I love me a good silent auction.

 

 

The kids did a super fun painting class with El Arte Uncorked at Cupcake Addict in Johnston (yummy cupcakes) where they got to paint a holiday penguin and eat a cupcake.  One woman even brought wine and cheese for the adults to snack on while the kids painted!  So fun. Check out their future classes at www.elarteuncorked.com.  As you can see, Nathan nailed his painting.  Just kidding….sort of.  The instructors do such a good job of walking the kids (and adults for the adult classes) through the steps that it’s ALMOST foolproof that you’ll walk away with a masterpiece…..unless you are related to me apparently.

 

 

The next week brought the opening of the much anticipated Hurts Donuts in West Glen Town Center in West Des Moines. This place is awesome!  You can watch them making donuts and they are definitely the most unique donuts around since the closing of Djonuts. The prices were reasonable and the donuts are huge!  You can also get donut milkshakes which we will try on our next visit.

 

 

We also had a great time hosting our annual Ugly Sweater Party!  Maybe some day I’ll dedicate a post to all things Ugly Sweater Party and give you some tips for hosting your own.  But for now, I’ll leave you with some hints…Don’t forget the candy cane shots, photographer (so you can be in the photos. Hiring a family member who wants to earn $50 will do the trick.), prizes for sweater categories, and tacky food.  Fun times.

 
We were able to get in a couple of our favorite restaurants when we didn’t feel like cooking.  I dream about Woody’s ribs often, so I was happy to get my fill.  We celebrated my Mom’s birthday this month with some Hu Hot. And we made sure to get a few Winter White Cosmos from Bonefish Grill.

 

We also can’t forget to give a shout out to our Christmas Eve tradition of eating Chinese food and having a flaming volcano at Shanghai in Waukee.

 

Our month of holiday bliss was only thwarted with one unfortunate ER trip for Nathan.  Note to self: 9 year olds who
are working on their whittling badge for cub scouts shouldn’t be given a knife after 9pm.  And that’s all we’ll say about that. Whomp whomp.

 

So!  I think that about sums up our holiday season. All-in-all, a successful year.  Lots of life changes changes for us, but we are all happy and healthy (aside from the 4 stitches in the thumb) and looking forward to 2017.

 

Thanks for reading! Wishing you a wonderful New Year!

La MONA Panaderia

IMG_3900IMG_3899So our plan the other night was to finally get to the Sunday Soul Food buffet at Patton’s restaurant on East Grand Ave (not far from the State Capitol), but sadly it was closed.  The sign on the door said that the owner was ill with pneumonia, which is so sad because I just met her when she was on the radio show with Michael Libbie last week before my Friday segment.  Hope she is feeling better quick!

So we decided to stop in to the Mexican bakery next door on our way over to Los Laureles for dinner instead. (More on Los Laureles in a later post.) But, I’m so glad we stopped in!  The sign on the door said 12 for $6.50 and I couldn’t believe how many fresh items there were at 5pm!  The owner (who didn’t speak a lick of English) was so sweet.  I love this place!

IMG_3898 IMG_3896We took the hint from other customers that we were supposed to grab a tray and some tongs and fill er’ up.  You could mix and match from well over 30 different baked goods.  We piled high and grabbed a coke and tres leches cake to go.  Boy are Josh’s coworkers going to love him tomorrow.

I know there are some other bakeries like this in town and I’m on a mission to try them all now.  There was actually one right across the street from this one that we’ll make it over to soon, but we were so excited to try our goods from this one that we didn’t make to over this visit.

IMG_3910Let us know if you’ve tried it and what your favorite pastry  is!

Right now I’m digging this here tres leches cake!

Baking Experience Camp at Creme Cupcake

Today’s guest post is by my friend Janel who loves to try new things in and around Des Moines with her kiddos.  Her sons attended the Baking Experience Camp at Creme Cupcake in Des Moines this week and had a great time!  The camp is three days long and is for kids ages 9 and up.  She was nice enough to share her experience with us.  While it may be too late to get in on this camp this summer, definitely keep it in mind for next because it looks like a blast!  Thanks, Janel!

get-attachment-28.aspxMy sons attended The Bakery Experience Camp at Crème Cupcakes.  It was  three days of amazing baking fun. The first day they learned how to make cinnamon rolls and cake balls. This was probably my favorite day, these are my favorite kind of treats.

“These cinnamon rolls are as big as my head” my son exclaimed!

 

get-attachment-33.aspxThe second day was lemon bars, brownies and cookies. My youngest son (9) said this was his favorite day.

The final day was all about decorating cupcakes! The eldest boy (11) enjoyed this day the most.

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Holly Evans, who ran the camp was absolutely wonderful with the kids.   She encouraged each of their creative talents by teaching them how to roll and shape the fondant into whatever their imaginations desired.

 

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Also by quickly whipping up the personally customized frosting color choices for lessons on how to pipe like a PRO!

After presenting their creations they were awarded a certificate for excellence in all things baking!

Pho 515

get-attachment-22.aspxget-attachment-20.aspxI used to drive by a huge empty market on University in Des Moines near the Urban DMACC campus (801 University Ave to be exact) on my way to Drake often and wondered if they’d ever do anything with the building.  Well, I recently found out they made it into an Asian grocery store/beauty salon/restaurant!  Yes!  C Fresh Market is all of those things, and more…They opened a little over a year ago and people are saying great things about it, so we went to check it out.

 

 

get-attachment-25.aspxThe restaurant inside of the store is named Pho 515 and with 20 different kinds of Pho on the menu, they do it justice! They also have other menu items like spring rolls, bun, mi quang, other noodle dishes, bubble teas, etc. and the prices are great. Our Pho was only $5.99 for a small and of course it wasn’t “small” at all.  The restaurant part isn’t huge, but it is clean and wasn’t busy at all at 12:15 on a Tuesday.  You order at the counter and they bring the food to your seats.  It was delivered very quickly and very hot on our visit.

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The whole store is quite an experience with aisles and aisles of Asian grocery items, fresh baked goods, fresh produce, to-go meals and more. You will definitely find what you are looking for here.

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The staff was very friendly and more than willing to help me look for hard-to-find grocery items.  And heck, you can get an eye-brow wax and hair color all while you’re here!

 

 

 

 

get-attachment-32.aspxYou’ll have to check it out for yourself, but our Pho was tasty we left with some nicely packaged to-go items as well as some of the cheapest packaged rice-noodles in town.  I love this place!

Fun at The Farmer’s Market

The Farmer’s Markets in town kick off their seasons this week!  It might be a chilly start, but better weather is in sight and it’s worth it to brave the weather anyway!  If you want the freshest local produce, prepared food and specialty items, the Farmer’s Market is where to get them.

How awesome is it that we have such great Farmer’s Markets in Iowa.  Where else can you find such a wide variety of ethnic delicacies alongside the best of Iowa.  The Downtown Des Moines market is the largest one, followed by the Valley Junction one.  It’s wonderful because Downtown includes Breakfast burritos, breakfast pizza, pasties along with BBQ, Indian, Moroccan, Bosnian (and many more!) delights for lunch.  Valley Junction will take care of your dinner and you can buy the baked goods and pastries to take him for breakfast the next day!  Of course don’t forget all of your produce and local meat!

A few of my “must haves” at the market are 1. A cutlet form Saloo’s India (a potato cake filled with meat or veggies-gluten free) 2. A breakfast burrito or bowl from Farm Boys. YUM! 3. A gluten-free crepe from Sweet Treat Without Wheat.  4. A burger from Local Yocals.

Oh, and of course it’s not all about the food.  Vendors also have handmade items of all kinds like clothing, jewelry, soap, decorations and much more.

Here is a list and info from their websites for some of the larger local ones.  Check your town to see if they host one too. I know Waukee, Johnston and many others have them too!  Merle Hay Mall is startign an Indor Farmer’s Market…Here are the dates for those:  The Green Wood Market (Merle Hay Mall) is from 4:30pm-8:30pm on dates listed below.

  • Wednesday, May 28
  • Wednesday, June 4
  • Wednesday, June 11
  • Wednesday, June 18
  • Wednesday, June 25

Ames: Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 12 noon Starting May 3

Fresh fruits, veggies, meats & breads. Hand crafted goods. Family entertainment. The Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market has it all!  www.amesmainstreetfarmersmarket.com

Ankeny: 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Uptown Ankeny. The Uptown Ankeny Farmer’s Market vendors provide a wide variety of products to the public. In the past, the market has seen everything from fresh seasonal produce, home-made baked goods, specialty food items, BBQ cooked on-site, perennial plants, hand-made items, and much more.www.uptownankeny.org.

Downtown Des Moines:   7am-noon (8am-noon in Oct.) Support local agriculture and buy direct from Iowa farmers while shopping the Downtown Farmers’ Market – presented by UnityPoint Health – Des Moines. The Downtown Farmers’ Market presents Iowa producers from 51 counties across Iowa, offering fresh fruit, vegetables and so much more. You’ll find fresh herbs, beautiful flowers, farm fresh eggs, local wineries, a delicious assortment of goat cheese, an endless selection of baked goods, and many varieties of Iowa raised meat such as beef, pork, chicken, lamb, buffalo, ostrich, and tilapia. http://desmoinesfarmersmarket.com

Southridge Mall: Mondays 3:30 to 6:30pm, Meet us in the parking lot North of Sears every Monday for fresh produce, yummy treats and MUCH MORE! http://www.shopsouthridgemall.com/events/Details/164417?startDate=4%2F13%2F2013

West Des Moines: 4-8 p.m. Thursdays, Valley Junction. Farmers Market is home to over 100 weekly vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, plants and flowers, arts and crafts and prepared foods. Join your friends and neighbors. www.valleyjunction.com.

Cache Bake Shoppe

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Cookies and cupcakes and cake balls, oh my!

I stopped into Cache Bake Shoppe the other day to check out the store after enjoying some delicious Cache desserts at the Mommy & Me Sweetheart dance and just falling in love with the cheesecake shot-type desserts they were offering that evening.  I don’t remember what they were called exactly, but the were so cute.  Tall shot-glassses, full of chocolate mouse and cheesecake served with mini spoons.  So good.

 

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Anyway, the store isn’t huge, but it’s fun to look through the tall glass windows right into where all of the action is happening.

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You can see eight into the baker’s workspace and watch them work.  The main things in the store are the cake ball display to your right when you enter with at least 20 different flavors, the cupcake menu, which is very cool because you can choose your cupcake flavor and frosting flavor and they frost your cake upon ordering and a cookie display.

 

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I was also impressed to see that they had some gluten-free offerings.  I tried the gf almond cake balls and they were delicious.

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If you’re just needing a pick-me-up or have a special event coming up, check out Cache Bake Shoppe.

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Uncle Wendell’s BBQ

 

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It’s been a while since we’ve strayed from our “regular rib joint” in town which is Woody Smoke Shack.  So, we thought we should be fair and check out Uncle Wendell’s again since we hadn’t been by in a while and wanted to show them some love  as they are still recovering from their fire.

You might recognize them from their stand at the downtown Farmer’s Market, but they’ve been at their location on Ingersol in DSM for quite a while as well.

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They offer pork, brisket, chicken, ribs and more and an impressive selection of sides

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along with really good bakery items.  So it was no surprise that one of our favorite sides was the jalapeno corn bread which was moist and sweet with a kick at the end of the bite.  Really good. You might also have seen some of their photos of giant cinnamon rolls that they offer at the Farmer’s market.

There was only one other family in the restaurant on a Saturday evening, but they do a lot of business through take-out and

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catering so I wasn’t surprised.  The restaurant has about 12 or so tables for dining in.

As far as food, we had the ribs this evening.  They were good.  The sauce was rich and tangy and the ribs were tender but not “fall off the bone”.  The highlight of the meal for me was the baked beans which had huge chunks of chicken and meat mixed in.  A meal in itself really.  You can see in the first photo the chunk of chicken in the middle.  It was really good.

The vegetable special of the day was candied carrots which were also really good. We also tried the potato salad and cucumber salad.

Overall, it was a great meal.  The prices were very reasonable.  Our half slab of ribs plus all of these sides you see here and a can of soda was right around $20.  Service was quick and friendly and the cornbread and baked beans left me craving more.  Good job Uncle Wendell’s.  We’ll be back!

The Bake Shoppe

There’s still time to get the Groupon (ends Jan 24th, 2014) for 50% off at The Bake Shoppe in Windsor Heights.
This tasty spot offers fresh bakery items like cake, pastries, bread, etc.  It’s a nice addition on this side of town and a great place to stop in for a treat.  It’s in the same plaza as Mustards and Grounds For Celebration.

The Shoppe is open every day and I highly suggest a petit four for a pick-me-up.

This sugary bit of heaven will definitely give you a
burst of energy when that 3pm “I need a nap” time hits.
Everything in the store is beautiful and they do special orders for weddings and other parties.
Stop by for a cookie or a pastry or use them for your next big event.  The staff is friendly and the treats are tasty.
Check them out and don’t forget to buy the Groupon for 50% off your next visit!

I love this plaza on University Ave in WIndsor Heights filled with locally owned businesses.

Hours:
Monday – Saturday 7-5
Sunday- 8-2

 

You Deserve a Sweet Reward…

get-attachment-19.aspxGluten-avoiders rejoice!  There’s a new bakery in town (well, in Waukee) that offers get-attachment-20.aspxall gluten-free and dairy free products, all the time.  The new Bakery is called Sweet Rewards and they have been around for a while selling treats at Farmer’s Markets, Gusto Pizza, Dahls and the popular Scratch Cupcakery in West Des Moines as an option for customers that can’t eat the traditional cupcakes or desserts offered at these places.  But now they have their own storefront at 85 NE Dartmoor Drive in Waukee and they are open M-F 10:00am-5:30pm

get-attachment-21.aspxand Saturdays from 9:00am-12:00pm for all of your gf/df baked goods.

They really have a nice selection of cupcakes, cookies, pumpkin/banana bars and more!  When we stopped in they even had gf/df cream cheese mints made with soy cream cheese.  yummy!

They make cookie cakes for birthdays like the one shown above and it a great resource in the area.

While their selection of cupcakes changes daily, I really enjoyed the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting!  If you “like” them on facebook, they often post the flavors of the day there =)  Check it out…

Ugly Sweater Par-tay

So….You might think we are out and about ALL the time….Not true!!  We love to host parties at our house too.  Our latest swaray was our Second Annual Ugly Sweater Party.  And it was a blast if we might say so ourselves!

Just because it was so fun, I thought I’d share a few photos with you and some of the things we did to make out party a blast.  I’d love to hear your ideas too because we are always trying to make our parties more awesome!

We ordered some food from Hy-vee and I made a few things.  Red and green deviled eggs are always a must for our sweater parties to add to the tackiness.

We hired Brianna Dawson Photography to set up a photo booth this year because I wanted to enjoy the party and not worry about the most important of the party…taking pictures to document the tackiness!  She was fantastic and I’d highly recommend her for your party.  She brought in a 10 foot backdrop and even had silly pose ideas for everyone.  Check out her Facebook page and more photos from our party here.

Our cocktail of the evening was candy cane shots.  So easy and so good!  Just white chocolate liquor and peppermint vodka.  We also had cheesecakes from Sugar Creek Baking (My favorite cheesecake EVER).  If you love cheesecake or are in the market for the most fantastic pecan pie ever, check them out.  Here is our past review of Sugar Creek.  And don’t forget about the Ugly Sweater cookies made by Three Chicks Bakery.  These awesome cookies exceeded my expectations when I told them I wanted Ugly Sweater cookies.  I loved them.

And to round out the unhealthy food smorgasbord, we did a chocolate fountain this year.  We of course had tacky prizes like leg lamps and fruit cakes for the winners of each Ugly Sweater Category.

Did you have an awesome Ugly Sweater Party this year?!  Share your tips!