Ham Legs

Live healthy. Be happy. Eat pork chops.


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Marshalltown bike trail

  
My Mom & I biked the Linn Creek Trail in Marshalltown this weekend. The 8-mile trail winds through Marshalltown and ends at Grimes Farms nature center to the west and Riverside Park to the east.

We ended up biking the whole trail and back, over 17 miles, because we were having so much fun exploring. The stretch of trail between 6th Street (by the YMCA) and Grimes Farm was the prettiest. We rode past prairie flowers and softball fields. You can find a map of the trail on the Marshalltown website: https://ci.marshalltown.ia.us/static/departments/parks/bike_trail_info.php


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The poppin’ trend

Have you noticed that popcorn seems to be trendy again? I keep seeing popcorn recipes in my Facebook food and on the food blogs I follow.

I’ve always been a big popcorn fan. Back in my high school and college days, I used to eat a bag of microwave popcorn whenever I was studying for a big exam.  I was convinced that popcorn was “brain food.”

I still eat popcorn once a week, but I gave up the microwave bagged popcorn when my husband bought me a microwave popper as a birthday gift — because he knows I love popcorn.  I’ve tried other microwave poppers, but they haven’t worked as well as this one, which you can still buy at Amazon. I’ve probably had the popper for 10 years now, but I still use it all the time. I buy the paper refills for the popper on Amazon too.

I prefer popcorn drizzled with butter, but if you want to get a little more creative, the Food Network has a list of 50 popcorn recipes: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/articles/50-flavored-popcorn-recipes.html

Popcorn is also the perfect pairing with caramel apples in the fall — just sayin’.


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Apple pickin’

The cooler weather this past week has me itching to find an orchard to buy the early apple varieties.

Here in Iowa, you can find an apple orchard (or pumpkin patch) near you by visiting the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers website: http://www.ifvga.org/.

I stop by Center Grove Orchard near Cambridge every other week in the fall because it’s a short drive from home.  The farm has a  list of its different apple varieties, when they are in season and their best uses (baking and/or fresh eating) on its website: http://www.centergroveorchard.com/apples-more/.  It’s a nice go-to guide of common apple varieties grown in Iowa, no matter what local orchard you choose to visit.

Do you have a favorite apple orchard — or a favorite apple variety? I’m always looking for a new favorite.


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Strawberry recipes

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With the snow still flying in some parts of the state, it’s probably safe to say that we’re probably a good month or so away from strawberry season here in Iowa.

But I did notice this week that the local Hy-Vee grocery store is offering strawberries for sale, which means the first crop of strawberries from California are reaching us here in Iowa.

I’ve also noticed a bumper crop of strawberry recipes on my favorite food blogs this week.  Here are a few strawberry recipes I’d like to try at home this spring:

Look for Iowa-grown strawberries at the farmers markets starting in late May/early June, depending on when the weather starts finally warming up!


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Bike Month Iowa

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I like to daydream about moving closer to work just so I can be a bike commuter. Maybe someday I can make it happen, but for now, we’re pretty happy living in a rural town.

May is National Bike Month, and the Des Moines Bike Collective has put together a terrific schedule of events to encourage Des Moines metro residents and commuters to roll out their bikes in celebration. The Sunday events loos especially fun, including a Bike Sunday School, art tour and community bike picnic. You can find the complete schedule on the Bike Month Iowa website.

I have to admit, I haven’t gotten out on my bike yet this spring. The cold, wet weather hasn’t motivated me to get my bike out of the garage. But I keep hoping for warmer days ahead!


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Start to spring planting

The weather has turned cool and rainy here in central Iowa. But I decided to plant my first crop of radishes, carrots, lettuce and spinach because I just didn’t want to wait any longer to start gardening.

My hubby also trimmed our giant hedge, so we’ve got quite a few branches to clean up from our yard before we get the lawn mower out. With this cold snap, I think it will be a whole before we have to mow again, thank goodness.

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White House spring garden planting

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Yesterday, I enjoyed following the live tweets from the White House kitchen garden, where First Lady Michelle Obama was planting cool-season spring crops with a group of school children.  According to the news reports, the First Lady planted the first “bread wheat” in the kitchen garden this year.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the White House chefs end up baking with the homegrown wheat.

Last fall, I toured the White House Kitchen garden, and I’ve been fascinated by the garden’s progress since it was first planted four years ago.  I’m even planning to plant a few seeds this spring to replicate what I saw in the White House kitchen garden.

Here’s an interesting kitchen garden checklist from the “Let’s Move” campaign.  There are fun recipes on this website, too, and I’m thinking about trying a few of these dishes at home.  If you’re still trying to decide what to plant in your garden, Iowa State University Extension has updated its Suggested Vegetable Varieties for Home Gardens guide. You might want to carry this guide with you when picking out seeds or transplants at the garden center.

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