Midwestern Moments: A Hike & Visions of Autumn in the Prairie Land

A few weeks ago, my best friend came into town to pay her now Midwesterner BFF a little visit. Naturally, we went to the tastiest restaurants and spent lots of time chumming it up. A favorite activity of mine–aside from the two evenings spent singing karaoke–was our trip to Neale Woods. Housed within Neale Woods are seven miles of dirt trails, surrounded by 600 miles of conserved forest and prairie land. Needless to say, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Visit the Fontonelle Forest website for more information.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the hike:

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 The Entrance to Neale Woods

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  In the background is downtown Omaha

Artists Conk

Artists Conk fungi

Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Woolly Bear Caterpillar

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Common tree algae

Dogwood Tree

Dogwood Tree

Ironwood

Ironwood Tree Seedpods

Western Wheatgrass

Western Wheatgrass

Thistle

Thistle Seeds

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 Beautiful Prairie Fauna

Smooth Sumac

Bird’s Nest Perched on a Smooth Sumac

Canada Wild Rye

Canada Wild Rye

Neale Woods Tree Tops

The Treetops of Neale Woods

The End of Harvest

This past weekend, I harvested the last bits of bounty from my garden.  I then spent the next several hours turning and preparing my plot for next year, and even marked off an additional area that I will be planting next spring.  The act solidified the coming of winter, and the rapid speed in which we are tearing through fall.  We’ve already experienced a few freezes over night, and I’ve begrudgingly had to scrape frost off of my car windows on more occasions than I am willing to admit to at this time of year.  Even so, the feeling of definite seasons is indescribable.  Frozen toes aside, I wouldn’t trade this for the world!

Coming soon: seed-saving & drying herbs

A few snapshots of the last of my bounty:

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Autumn Pumpkin Bread

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Trust me when I say that I love simplicity; especially when it comes to what I cook.  This recipe is so easy that it would take more work to mess it up than it would to actually complete it.  It makes enough for three loaves, so we intended to eat one, freeze one, and then share one with others.  Sadly, the ‘others’ never saw that third loaf.  We ended up eating the other two in one weekend, and obviously couldn’t sacrifice the third, so we kept it.  What would we eat for dessert, or a snack, or. . . breakfast?!  Ahem.

In order to make up for our transgressions, I am here to offer the recipe to the ‘others.’

Adapted from a recipe on allrecipes.com.

Makes 3 loaves.

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 3-7×3 inch loaf pans.

Combine all ingredients.  Divide batter equally among three pans.

Bake for 60 mins, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

*If you’re feeling really gung-ho about it, you can use fresh pumpkin after you carve some awesome ones to display on your stoop.  ‘Tis the season!

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Good Eats: Chimichuri

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If you have not experienced chimichuri, then friend, you are missing out on something wonderful.  This is one of those recipes that is extremely easy, but because of it’s impact seems intricate.  As you eat it you’ll just think, “where have you been all my life?!”  I say think, because you’ll likely be rendered speechless.

This specific recipe is from my Argentinian grandmother, who is by far the best chef I have ever had the privilege of meeting.  She and my grandfather owned a quaint little restaurant when I was a child, and it was here that my love affair with Argentinian food began.  I have memories of being filled to the brim with her delicacies: the very items that my culinary palette now naturally favors.

Chimichuri is great on meats, potatoes, vegetables, bread, and in my opinion everything else under the sun.  When I make it, it tops every item on my plate.

*Tip: If you like yours with some extra kick, add a couple extra cloves of garlic.

INGREDIENTS

Makes 4-6 servings

  • 2 bunches of parsley
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 shallot, peeled (optional)
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • splash of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until smooth.

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Color Trend: Blushing Pinks

I have been seeing pink ALL OVER THE PLACE recently. And not just any shade of pink: it’s blushing pinks. They’re in the mags, popping up on my pinterest feed, and one particular shade has even landed on my daughter’s dresser (photos coming soon). I’m not typically pink’s number one fan, but the blush pink craze is something I can get into, as evidenced by this photo.

Pink Hair

 Pink Locks

Roasted Radishes

 Roasted Radishes

Pink Walls

 Pink Walls

Magnolias

 Pink Petals

cotton

  Cotton Candy like woah

Pink Margaritas

 Pink party drinks

Pink Sweater

  Pink Sweaters

Pink Cake

  Pink Cake.  Hello, Gorgeous!

Pink by William Engel

 This painting needs to be all up on my wall.

Sunnies

 Sunnies

Autumnal Florals

It has finally cooled down enough for me to believe that we are entering into autumn.  Experiencing each of the changing seasons is quite different in the Midwest than it is in the South.  Different in that I’m actually experiencing them.  Texans always joke about the unreliability of the weather, and since I’ve moved to the Midwest, I appreciate the sentiment even more.  Texas weather is all over the place.  One day it’s sleeting, and the next day it’s 70 degrees.  There’s no such thing as autumn in Texas.

I must say, Texans are truly missing out.  There is nothing that can be compared to the sights, sounds, and smells of the change from summer to autumn.  Everything is just different; there’s no other word for it.  The noticeable change ushers in desires for warm soups, gourds, and blankets.  Suddenly, walking your dog isn’t a sweaty chore– instead, you’re likely to need a warm sweater and a hat.  It’s like autumn is a gradual easement into the wintery weather that will eventually ensue in the coming months.  I can actually feel the holidays.  It’s a genuinely beautiful experience.

Here are some autumnal floral combinations that are making my heart go a pitter patter:

Just Imagine | Midwestern Musing

  I love the largess of this arrangement from Just Imagine.

Martha Stewart | Midwestern Musing

  This arrangement by Martha Stewart.com

Autumnal Floral Inspiration | Midwestern Musing

  I love the contrast between the reds and white in this arrangement featured on Sarahwinward.com

Floret Flowers | Midwestern Musing

  This arrangement from Floret Flower Farm has me feeling some heart palpations.  I wish I lived in Seattle just so I could receive their deliveries.  There’s some real talent over there!