Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats: July 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

CSN Stores Gift Card GIVEAWAY!

Do you need something new in your life?

How about new place mats for your dining room furniture or even a new wooden cutting board to prep ingredients in your kitchen. What do you think?


Well, the lovely folks over at CSN Stores contacted me about hosting a giveaway for my readers. Of course I said yes!

Here is your chance to win a $40 gift card to their website. It may be tricky, there is so much to choose from!

You have 5 chances to win. You read that right, each chance is a separate entry, so get cracking!

1. Visit the CSN Store website and tell me what product you'd like to use your gift card towards.
2. Become a follower of Sweet & Savory on Google Reader.
3. Became a fan of Sweet & Savory on Facebook.
4. Post this giveaway on your blog or tweet this giveaway and leave a comment telling me you did so.
5. Or for fun, tell me what you'd like to be doing in 5 years.
*This contest ends Monday, August 2nd at 8:00 a.m. CST, at which point I'll choose one random winner. Shipping charges or international fees may be charged for Canadian deliveries.*

My fun in 5 years?

I'd like to be a successful cookbook author, have another child, and live in a log cabin on an acreage, with a lake, a pontoon boat, and a gourmet kitchen.

How's that for a dream?

And as always to leave you with a cute picture, here's the little man (on the left) at his pool play date a few days ago:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Homemade Garlic Bread Sticks


Who doesn't want to take a bite of these?

Okay, maybe those of you who are afraid of carbs. In my opinion, carbs in bits and pieces are okay, especially when they are homemade and not store bought. So delight in eating one of these.

Every once in awhile, I'll pick up some delicious garlic bread sticks from the Hy-Vee bakery if I know we are having a pasta dinner. Lately, I've thought, I can surely make a replica of those, it can't be too hard. So after browsing some internet sites I found one that caught my eye.

We had these last night with fresh green beans and my last (boo) million dollar spaghetti from the freezer. Do you double dishes and freeze one? Genius, in my opinion.

Homemade Garlic Bread Sticks
2 3/4 c. flour
1 pkg yeast (follow direction on pkg to dissolve)
1 1/2 t. salt
1 T. sugar or agave nectar
1 c. water
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 T. parsley
garlic powder

In a large bowl combine 1/2 of the flour, half of the melted butter, yeast mixture, sugar, salt, parsley and water - mix. Add remaining flour and mix well. Remove dough to floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until elastic (this took me about 8 minutes). Return to the bowl and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Return dough to floured surface and roll into a long loaf about 1 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, slice into strips of equal size. Take strip and twist, then lay on greased baking sheet. Using a brush, spread on remaining butter and sprinkle with garlic powder. Cover with towel, place in warm area and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until just golden brown, do not over bake, you want these to be soft. Eat immediately, or store in an airtight container and they will keep for 3-5 days, simply reheat before eating.


This may sound like a long, tedious recipe, but trust me it's not! Much easier than you think, and so very worth the rewards!

Guess what tomorrow is? GIVEAWAY time! The lovely folks over at CSN Stores contacted me about hosting a giveaway for a $40 gift card to any of their online sites. This can go towards anything.
What do you need? A new mixer? Some new baking sheets? Heck, a new dining room centerpiece? You name it, they have it.

Stay tuned!
And on a final note - did anyone watch The Little Couple last night on TLC? Well, Bill (the husband) was at my former place of work speaking at their annual conference. Did you see it? I really miss that place!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Best Ever Zucchini Bread

Remember how I bake The Best Ever Banana Bread? Well, I've found it's cousin. But, more on that in a minute.

First up some housekeeping issues. You will notice on the bottom of all my posts, near the comments icon, you will now see the icons for Facebook, Twitter, Email, Blogger, and Google Buzz. That means you can easily click on one of these icons and send my post on! Want to Tweet about it? Hit the Twitter button. Want to share with a friend via email? Hit the Email button.

Easy as pie.

I also want to thank Foodbuzz for sending me two boxes of Kellogg's Fiber Plus cereal - Berry Yogurt Crunch and Cinnamon Oat Crunch. I have yet to try the berry kind, but the cinnamon kind is yummy! Reminds me of Cheerios, but with a touch of cinnamon.


Cheerios, why haven't you thought of this?

And secondly, I want to thank Buitoni and Foodbuzz for sending me a coupon for a complimentary frozen meal for two. I'm excited to try and lobster and shrimp ravioli!


So, the only suggestion I got for jobs yesterday that would allow me to stay at home would be daycare. Hmm....just don't think I could handle that. Let me remind you our house is about 950 sq. ft. Yes, you heard me right. Feel sorry for me! Any other ideas?

Zucchini time! Who is on overload in their garden with zucchini? If so, make loaves of this bread, throw them in the deep freeze and enjoy all year long.

You can thank me later.


The Best Ever Zucchini Bread
adapted from Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood (love her!)

1 1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. honey
2 large eggs
2 cups shredded zucchini, drained
1 t. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. buttermilk (or regular milk)
1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans. With an electric mixer or stand alone mixer, cream butter, sugar and honey together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in the zucchini and vanilla. Sift flour together with the baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and add to the mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in nuts.

Pour the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 50 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan before turning the loaves out onto wire racks to cool completely.

These loaves have shown up at the farmer's market almost every week now...but guess what? I'm out of zucchini!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grilled Spinach, Artichoke and Cheese Chicken

Another Monday is upon us. Little man and I have already been to Walmart. Am I the only mother that seems to not get diapers until there is only one left?
Side note, shop at big stores early in the morning - NO ONE is there. It was great.

Today we'll be spending some time outside, going for a long walk, and I'll probably be browsing the job market. Yes, you heard me right, we've decided I need to get back to work, at least part time. Too bad this blogging gig doesn't pay well!

I'm pretty heartbroken about it actually. I love staying home with the little guy and I just can't imagine leaving him in daycare. With that being said, I am only going to take a job if it is the right fit and makes sense to pay for daycare.

Anyone have any gigs out there? Ha! As you know in an ideal world, I'd love to work from home, maybe some freelance writing, or of course anything cooking related!

Enough about my soapbox. On to food!

Last night we grilled a delicious stuffed chicken breast. A huge stuffed chicken breast. It looked more like a pork loin.

Grilled Spinach, Artichoke and Cheese Chicken
2 large chicken breasts (still connected), pounded thin
2 c. spinach artichoke dip (I used my homemade version)
1 t. pepper
1 T. garlic powder


On a large cutting board, between plastic wrap, pound chicken to 1/2 in. thickness. Season with pepper and garlic powder. Spoon dip into the middle of the breasts. Roll tightly and secure with toothpicks. (In my case, a zillion toothpicks).

Season outside of breast again with pepper and garlic powder. Grill on medium high heat for 40 minutes, turning every 15 minutes. Once done, let rest for 10 minutes. Slice into strips and enjoy!

I served this with some roasted green beans and brown rice. Yum!

What else do you guys stuff into chicken? I also thought of these combos:

Swiss cheese/mushrooms - OR - Cheddar cheese/jalapenos

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Baby Shower Brunch

Whew! Long day. But, fun day!

My girlfriends and I threw a baby shower for the next gal out of our group to have a baby. Here we are all ready to go (minus baby mama, I'm sure she was busy!)


The five of us have been through it all, dating back to elementary school, and when we get together every few months, it's like nothing has changed. We pick up right where we left off.

Do you still keep in touch with school friends? If not, I challenge you too - friends make the world go round.

We opted for a buffet style brunch baby shower and lets just say I walked, or better yet, rolled out, stuffed.

Missy (to the right of me, above) works at a fabulous chocolate shop, Lillie Mae's, and she definitely knows how to cover her strawberries and pretzels. I only had one, or two, or really whose counting?


We also feasted on three different egg casseroles (veggie, ham and sausage). And just because I knew you'd ask for it, I included the recipe below. So easy! Jenelle also brought melt-in-your-mouth zucchini muffins and caramel pecan biscuits (or at least that is what I'm calling them until she sends me the recipe).


I ate enough for both lunch and dinner combined.

Holding this little newborn today made me think back - was little man really this little? He's such a husky guy these days, it's easy to forget.

And, about the little man - he is starting to walk! Yes, I have an early walker on my hands. He can now take about 5 steps unassisted. Along with getting his front teeth in, this could just be a hell of a week.


Basic Egg Casserole
8 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 t. ground mustard
2-3 c. shredded cheese
3 c. hash browns
2 slices of cubed bread
toppings of choice (veggies, ham, sausage, etc.)
salt/pepper

Spray a 9x13 casserole dish. Lay hash browns in bottom of the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Next layer in cubed bread and toppings. Whisk eggs, milk and mustard and pour into pan. Top with shredded cheese.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour.

*For veggies casserole, I sauteed onion, green pepper, jalapeno, garlic and mushrooms over medium heat until tender*

Everyone enjoy the rest of their weekend! I plan on doing NOTHING.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Turkey & Tomato Panini's with Garlic Basil Aioli

I'm not sure why, but I woke up in a great mood this morning. I think it is because I have nothing planned today and I'm headed to my hometown tomorrow to see many friends - it's baby shower time!

Remember my friend Biff? Well, us girls (5 of us who have been close since elementary school) are throwing her a baby shower on Saturday. Who doesn't love babies?

My mood got even better when I saw Biz was holding a giveaway today for a generous load of gifts - cheese, homemade salsa, and two, count them 2 cookbooks! If one of my readers wins, I expect all of this to be shared:)

On to my eats - you all know my LOVE for the panini. I could eat one everyday if allowed. The crisp bread, melty cheese...yum. I usually just throw some meat, cheese, veggies between two slices of bread and call it a day, but this time I got a little more creative.

Do you know what aioli is? If not, it is a flavored mayonnaise, usually with garlic. Healthy? No. Delicious? Yes.

Turkey & Tomato Panini with Garlic Basil Aioli
2 slices whole wheat bread (I use Earthgrains)
3-4 slices mesquite turkey
1 slice muenster cheese
2 slices tomato
1-2 T. garlic basil aioli (recipe below)

Garlic Basil Aioli
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 T. parmesan cheese
1 T. grainy mustard (I used Annie's horseradish mustard)
1 t. minced garlic or one clove
4-5 leaves of fresh basil if large, more if small (like mine)

In food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse. Once they've come together, blend on high until incorporated. Makes about a 1/2 cup. Will keep in fridge for up to one week.


Spread aioli on bread, layer with turkey, tomato and cheese. Press in panini press until melted and crispy.


I have just enough of the above ingredients left for one last sandwich for lunch. Exciting. In my next life I'm either opening up a panini deli or a bakery. Or better yet, a place that sells panini's and cupcakes on the side.
Yes, that's the right combo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jalapeno Popper Dip

It's Wednesday!

Week = 1/2 done.

Before I go into my new dip (that I know many of you were waiting for...), you need to check out my guest post over at Angie's Healthy Living Blog. Angie asked me to write a post for her awhile back, and I finally managed to get something together.

It's features my Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and my Roasted Garlic Asparagus. Have you tried these two recipes yet?

So, I told you the other night I had a dream about this jalapeno popper dip. I have no idea why. We've got crazy dreams going on in this house. The husband woke me up last night talking about using parachutes to get down from his tree stand.

At least my dreams are silent...he talks during his, letting the whole house hear about his flying abilities.

I'm testing this dip out at the market today - and of course will label it "HOT", as it is filled with jalapenos!


Jalapeno Popper Dip
2 8 oz. blocks cream cheese
1/2 c. mayo or plain yogurt
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 T. bacon bits or 2 strips bacon cooked, drained and diced
2 jalapenos, de-seeded and diced

Let cream cheese come to room temperature, then mix with all other ingredients. Put in fridge to chill for at least an hour. When ready to serve, place in greased baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.


Serve with pita chips, toasted baguettes, crackers or veggies.

Think you can handle the heat?

Thank you for all the Chicago eatery suggestions yesterday, keep 'em coming! I am going to make a list of all the places you've recommended and do a little research on them. That way we can narrow down where we want to go!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Creamy & Crunchy Broccoli Slaw

Well, today is supposed to be a "pool" day, but so far it's rainy and mucky outside. We'll see if it clears up!

Do you ever wonder what the little man is doing while I type this? Well, currently out of the corner of my eye I see that he is sucking on the handle of the toilet. Excuse me...

Why do babies do these kind of things?

Food blog, Ally, food blog.

Yesterday at the store, if you read yesterday's post, I picked up a bag of broccoli slaw. Shockingly, I've never had this before? I'm thinking I'll put it into a lot of things...I got recommendations for both tacos and stir fry. But, last night I went the traditional slaw route.


Creamy & Crunchy Broccoli Slaw
3-4 cups shredded broccoli slaw
1 c. prepared/bottled coleslaw dressing
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. sliced almonds
salt
pepper

Mix all ingredients together and put in the fridge to chill, for at least an hour before eating. This will let all the flavors soak together!

Again, I went the traditional route and did a somewhat BBQ themed dinner - barbecue baked chicken, roasted garlic potatoes and slaw!


Later today, I'll be making some things for the farmer's market tomorrow, including a new dip I dreamed up. Literally dreamed up, I woke up thinking about it this morning - Jalapeno Popper Cheese Spread.

Oh - and lastly, my sister, mom and sister-in-law are headed to the Windy City of Chi-town for a girls trip in a couple weeks. I think we'll be staying downtown...what eats should we hit up?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Boating pics, grocery deals and more...

Happy Monday!

How was everyone's weekend? Ours was filled with boating, sun, food and travel. Fun times, but so very glad to be back home!
Here's little man in his boating gear. Thanks for your recommendations for a life jacket - this was found at Walmart for $8!
I think he is still POOPED from this weekend...nothing like getting him off his "schedule" to mess up his internal time clock:)
The rest of this post is a hodge podge of various things. Bare with me! First off, I finally picked some of my onions from my container garden. Not to shabby!

I also got a great tip from a customer at the farmer's market last week. She has been buying my english muffin bread. She slices it, then freezes the slices in plastic baggies. That way, she can just grab an individual slice when needed! Genius. I copied her below:

This morning little man and I ventured out to do our annual bi-weekly shopping trip. Holy cow - the deals were amazing! If you live in the Midwest, or around a Hy-Vee, you need to check out their deals through July 27th.

At the end, I saved $20.37 in coupons! I know that probably doesn't excite many, but it does me.

I had a coupon for a FREE Seventh Generation product. I picked up some dishwasher detergent as we were about out. Anyone else tried this?

Iceberg lettuce - .49 cents!

Broccoli slaw - I've never tried this, but I love broccoli and I love coleslaw, so I figured one in the same? I'm thinking of tossing it with some coleslaw dressing, sliced almonds, diced cheese?


And lastly, blueberries - .88 cents! These won't last long in our house.


I hope everyone has a great day!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spinach Herb Cheese Spread

Currently I am sitting at my in-laws, little man is napping and the boys (i.e. husband and friends) have headed to the lake for the afternoon. I think all boys need a day with their buddies, no wives, no kids, no nagging, so that is what I gave them.

Thankfully, tomorrow all of us are headed to the lake - babies, kids, ladies and all. So, I'm looking forward to that. Until then, I'll sit in a quiet house and enjoy it.

Since I'm not at home, I cannot just run over to the kitchen and whip something up, but I thought I would share a cheese spread I created last week for the farmer's market. It's simple and easy, and can be eaten on crackers, with relishes, and my favorite as a spread on sandwiches.


Spinach Herb Cheese Spread
8 oz. cream cheese
4 T. Tastefully Simple Spinach & Herb Seasoning (dried spinach flakes, dried onion, dill, parsley, dried garlic)
1 T. garlic salt
1/2 c. parmesan cheese

Let cream cheese come to room temperature. Mix all seasonings into cream cheese and chill for at least an hour.

*If you don't have access to this seasoning mix, simply add the above mentioned seasonings until desired taste*

I'd like nothing better right now than a hot panini slathered with this stuff. Yum!

What are everyone's weekend plans? Tomorrow and Sunday are lake days for us. I need to head to Walmart and see if they carry life jackets for the little man....anyone know if they do? I'm in a small town, so unfortunately Walmart is my only option.

If not, we'll play on the beach:)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Slow Cooker Taco Chicken

Can I first just say, how hot it was yesterday at the farmer's market? When I got home my babysitter was watching the news and she said the heat index was 120 degrees! No wonder, I looked like a drowned rat. I had sweat in places I didn't even know existed.

I felt much better after a cold shower, but then came the splitting headache. I seem to get those when I've been in the hot sun too long? Hmm...

Anyway, enough about my aches and pains - really, I promise you I'm only 28, not 80.

Since the heat was in full force and there was NO way I was even walking by my oven yesterday, I pulled out the crock pot. Love that little guy. I make this dish when I can't think of anything for dinner, or when it's hot, or when I'm lazy, or simply whenever I want to.


Slow Cooker Taco Chicken
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups of your favorite salsa (I used my fresh salsa)
1 t. cumin
1 T. chili powder

Layer 1/2 of the salsa, chicken breasts, seasonings and reminder of the salsa into a sprayed crockpot. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Shred chicken with a fork and devore.

We only had two flour tortillas left, so the husband had tacos and I had a taco salad. Nothing tastes better on a really hot day than a salad. This hit the spot!

Oh, and here are some of the goodies I whipped up in the last few days...it was a good day at the market, despite the heat, and I have just a few items left. Taking all orders for my peeps in Manchester! (I'll be there tomorrow...)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cupcake Winner!


Congrats to Connie Phillis! You are the winner of a FREE cupcake at Scratch Bakery in Cedar Falls.

Connie I will notify Natalie at the bakery and you are welcome to go anytime to pick it up. Enjoy!

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In other news is it going to be Sahara desert hot here today. And of course it is market day. Luckily I got a babysitter for the little man so he doesn't have to sit out in it....high of 97, with high humidity! I'm sure I'll look just lovely when I get home:)

I did all my baking/cooking last night and this morning while it was still semi-cool outside.

Strawberry Freezer Jam
Cappuccino Scones
The Best Ever Banana Bread
Zucchini Bread
Cinnamon Almond Granola
English Muffin Bread
Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Whew! I'm exhausted. See ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

If I Had a Million Dollars

I'd be rich.

Remember this song? Let's see...I'd renovate our current house, go on a much needed warm, tropical vacation, do a MAJOR Target run, buy a pontoon boat, and finally build a huge pantry off my kitchen and stock it full of goodies.

What would you do?

Since I don't have a million dollars, I guess Million Dollar Spaghetti will have to do. I've made this before, do you remember? But, it's been awhile, so I thought I'd share again.

What I love best about this recipe is, that is makes a lot. So, I divide it up and put half in a dish to freeze for later. To all you moms out there, this dish is a crowd pleaser, and who just doesn't love pulling something out of the freezer in the morning and then throwing it in the oven when you get home? All the prep work is done.


Million Dollar Spaghetti
1 1/2 boxes spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/4 c. sour cream
1/3 c. chopped onion (opt.)
3 T. melted butter (I omitted this time, and it worked fine!)
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. cottage cheese
1 t. garlic salt
pepper

Cook spaghetti and drain, set aside. Saute ground meat and onion, drain and add spaghetti sauce. Combine cheeses, sour cream and garlic salt, set aside. In two 8x8 baking pans, greased, spread half off the spaghetti noodles, cover with cheese mixture, and add remaining spaghetti.

It should look like this:

Pour melted butter over spaghetti (I omitted this), and then spread meat sauce over top.


Chill and remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. I covered my freezer batch with tight saran wrap and then foil. It will stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months. But, I doubt it will last that long in our house:)

Today, I'm off for my walk with the little man and a friend. Then back to the kitchen to prepare for tomorrows farmer's market.

Speaking of the little man, he's 10 months old today! Hard to believe. He's such a ham, just look how he feel asleep the other night...
.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pan Roasted Greens & Shooms...and other eats

How was everyone's weekend? Fast? Not long enough? You know, how they usually feel:)

Before I dive into this post too much, all my LOCAL readers need to enter my cupcake giveaway! Click on this post to enter, you have until Wednesday.

So, last week I traveled and visited some friends, but so far I've only shown you the bakery pics. My good friend and I also visited a prime lunch and dinner spot, Soho. When I go here, I pick between sushi, a panini or a tapa. Since we were there for lunch, I went sandwich style.

They have the best paninis - my fave is the turkey, ham, provolone, bacon, tomato with their sassy soho sauce, which I believe is a combo of grainy mustard, spices and a little mayo? I'd dip my fingers in it for an appetizer if they let me.

We also visited the Kitchen Essentials store. I could probably spent hours in here, and if money grew on trees, I'd also give them a LOT of business, but instead I browsed.

Look at how they decorate their exposed brick! Many, many aprons...love it! I may just start collecting aprons, along with my cookbooks. Just an idea.


After awhile, life was calling and it was time to go home - but I had a great time!

My mom had given us fresh green beans out of her garden when I was there, so those made the menu two nights in a row over the weekend. I also had some mushrooms to use up, so it became pan roasted greens and shrooms!

Pan Roasted Green & Shrooms
3-4 cups fresh greens beans
1-2 cups button mushrooms
olive oil
garlic salt
pepper

On an indoor grill pan (or outdoor grill rack), turn on to medium high heat. Toss green beans, mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil and seasonings in a bowl. Place in hot pan. With tongs flip every so often, until green beans have grill marks and mushrooms are starting to brown.



This is a great side dish and very simple!

Everyone enjoy their Monday - and my local readers and friends in Eastern Iowa don't forget about my cupcake giveaway!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Scratch Bakery

Prepare yourself. You are about to read and see some delectable desserts, and see me eating them, without any guilt.



Here's my opinion on desserts - you can either go big, or go home. I have no problem trying, tasting, or sampling a delicious dessert, just as long as I do not eat the entire pan.

A few weeks ago, a friend posted on facebook that she just had the best cupcake she had ever eaten at a new bakery in my former college town, Cedar Falls, Iowa. A town that I love, and still miss to this day. Of course, me, being me, asked her about it.



After doing some digging on Scratch Bakery, I contacted the owner, Natalie, and she graciously answered many of my questions regarding her new business. For any of you that have a "dream", just read what Natalie has to say about her bakery...you just might get inspired!

1. When did you dream up the idea for Scratch Bakery?
I've been dreaming about Scratch for a long time in different capacities. Since I was a child baking in the kitchen, I've known I wanted to work with food. Sometimes it took the form of opening my own restaurant, sometimes opening a Bed & Breakfast, sometimes a bakery. As I grew up, I knew I wanted to work in desserts, and that just sort of evolved into Scratch!

2. From the time you thought of this idea to opening day, how long did it take?
Well since I've been thinking about it since childhood, a super long time. :-) But really, it all happened very quickly. I got a call on a Friday about a building coming available, I looked at it that afternoon, and signed the lease on the following Monday. I opened two months later after a full floor-to-ceiling renovation of the building.

3. What is Scratch Bakery's philosophy?
I don't really have a "philosophy" for the bakery, but my goal is to make people happy with awesome desserts. My favorite thing to do is listen to people eat my cupcakes or cookies for the first time and hear the "wow, this is the best cupcake I've ever eaten!"

4. What types of desserts do you offer?
Scratch specializes in a wide variety of cupcakes, giant cookies, bars, and cakes.

5. Is everything, literally from "scratch"?
Sure is! I really try hard to ensure everything that comes out of my kitchen is of the highest quality I can produce. For me, that means using actual flour and sugar - not just opening a box.

6. How do you accommodate customers with dairy or gluten free allergies?
I've been working to develop recipes for gluten-free, diabetic, vegetarian, and vegan diets for some time. Not being any of those things myself, it's hard to decide what's "good" versus, well, not good. So far, I've managed to accommodate lunch options for vegetarian eaters, but I'm still working on dessert. I really want the recipes at Scratch to be my own, and everything takes time!

7. How many employees do you have working at Scratch?
I have 10 part-time gals working for me right now.

8. Do you plan on offering a delivery/internet mail order service?
I've actually shipped my cookies all over the country for a long time, but as far as an internet mail order focus, that may come when I've got more time and more helpers! We don't deliver for a number of reasons, but customers pick up orders all day long!

9. What is your number #1 seller?
I'm not sure we've been open long enough to say I have a #1 seller necessarily...but I can't keep cupcakes in the case regardless of the flavor...and if I'm baking Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies...they're gone gone gone!

10. What has surprised you the most about opening your own business? The least? Surprised me the most: there is always someone willing to spend your money for you. Surprised me the least: Sleep is a privilege, not a right. :-)

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I ended up meeting two very close friends at this bakery on Thursday afternoon. Neither of them had been there yet, so all three of us enjoyed a treat. Vanilla cupcake with milk chocolate frosting and sprinkles for me, and gelato for my ladies. I secretly wanted to get gelato AND a cupcake, stir it all together and curl up in a ball, but I didn't want to look like the pig that I really am.

Just look how cute this place is!



Now, if only the small town I live in could support a bakery, and Mr. Trump would give me a business loan, I'd be set.

Unfortunately, I'll live through Scratch, visiting often and eating my way through their desserts. I love supporting local food businesses that are striving to use the best ingredients and of course please the palate.

***GIVEAWAY***

Now, to all my LOCAL READERS! This means you that live in Iowa or will be visiting (ha, who visits Iowa?). Natalie has extended her cupcake love to you. I will pick one random winner to receive a FREE cupcake of their choice at Scratch Bakery. All you need to do is leave a comment and tell me your FAVORITE cupcake flavor. That's it!

The winner will be chosen randomly on Wednesday, July 14th at 8:00 a.m, so start commenting!

And until then, visit Scratch, and become their friend on Facebook, you'll be happy you did!