You are my bread and butter.

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The guys and I have fallen in love.
We have a family owned bakery just a few short minutes from our house and we can’t stop eating their pumpkin cookies. They are not of this world. I am pretty sure that angels deliver the baked goods to this bakery each night while we are all safely tucked into our beds. The first time Ty and I tasted one of these pumpkin cookies we found ourselves whispering to each other. We whispered things like, I can’t believe this is real, my mouth is full of happiness and sunshine. We laughed at each other while trying to describe what we were eating. We found it was impossible to detail the experience without using words and phrases often heard being used by Care Bears. The creamy icing was so thick. So rich. The cookie , I use the word cookie for lack of a better word. The cookie was a little plump pillow of perfection. Subtle flavors all joining together to make me want to throw on some leg warmers and dance the entire audition scene from Flash Dance including the break dancing sequence. Yeah. They are that good. If unicorns exist they eat pumpkin cookies for every meal.
The Homestead Bakery is just a few minutes from Arthur Illinois. It is located on the family farm best known for it’s yearly transformation into The Great Pumpkin Patch. The Bakery is tucked into beautifully tended gardens and has breathtaking views from its front porch of the surrounding farm. You can look south and see fields stretching out all the way to the horizon. It’s easy to breathe here. It’s easy to shift gears and relax. Walking up to the front door of The Bakery you are greeted with their sense of humor.IMG_3737.JPG The gardens that surround and shelter the front porch are filled with beautiful plants. Some decorative and some beautiful and edible.

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As you approach the door the smell of fresh baked goods greets you like an old friend. As people come and go the door opens releasing the scents of cinnamon rolls and warm bread. I found myself drawn inside nose first. The memories of my childhood rising up around me. I could see myself on a step stool covered in flour rolling out cookies. It’s impossible to visit here without also visiting those memories.
Stepping inside the store you are gently coaxed in by shelves neatly arranged with loaves of bread. Cinnamon rolls lovingly covered in homemade frosting. Banana bread that will make you want to smack your mama. You will become very aware after stepping the first foot into the store that this is the real deal. If you would even hold onto a tiny shred of doubt that this place is legit all you have to do is take another few steps and you can peer into the kitchen through glass windows and watch the Amish Bakers at work. Watching the Bakers work fresh dough into cinnamon swirled confections is amazing to say the least. They make it all look so easy. Effortless. It’s like watching your favorite cooking show… But it’s real, and happening right in front of your face. The best difference between the two is that when you are done watching these artisans work, you can taste their masterpieces. You can take home their work and share it with your family. An experience like that is rare and only one of the things that make this place a must visit.
In the store you will also find the most incredible selection of Angel Food cakes. These cakes are made from scratch and the Bakers pride themselves in being able to get their cakes to stand taller than any others. Anyone who has ever attempted to make an Angel Food cake knows. It’s not a simple process. It takes skill and patience. The Angel Food Cakes alone require hundreds, Hundreds of egg whites. I learned during my last visit that each egg white is separated from the yolk by hand to insure that not even the slightest bit of the yolk enters into the cake batter. Hours and hours of work go into just preparing the egg whites alone! I also found out that the yolks from the eggs are then used to create the bakery’s pumpkin noodles. Their pumpkin noodles can be used for a million different things, our favorite is to use them as a substitute for traditional noodles any time we roast a chicken or turkey and are craving a comfort food side dish and beef and noodles… Forget about it!! Your life will never be the same.

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As the guys and I sit here and talk about The Bakery we get all giddy. The baked goods are out of this world, but we can’t help but also love the fact that they are homemade. The family that owns this little slice of culinary heaven are real people. Down to earth and lovely and real. The sort of people that you wish were your neighbors. We feel good about supporting them. Good people selling a quality product. What could be better than that? Not to mention the prices are very reasonable. You can pick up a jar of homemade apple butter for around $3.50!!!! That’s right locally made for under four bucks. Don’t get me started on their pumpkin butter. Soooo good.
With pumpkin season growing close make plans to visit The Homestead Bakery while you visit The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur Illinois. If you visit in October you will most likely walk right by The Bakery as it is between the parking area and the entrance to The Great Pumpkin Patch. You can sit out on the porch of The Bakery and sample some home baked goodness and sip one of their very own ice cold glass bottles of root beer. It’s the perfect place to start your visit and a great place to unwind and enjoy a little extra time out on the farm before you head home.
Plan your visit today!! Maybe we will see you there!

Learn more The Great Pumpkin Patch

The Homestead Bakery
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http://www.timmyvalentine.com

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What a crock of…..

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Summertime can be so busy.
Here at the shop we have been putting in long hours but getting off work at 8 pm isn’t bad when the sun is still shining.
The guys and I get pretty caught up in what is happening at the store so it’s not always easy to prepare a meal after work. We have been wanting to take advantage of our crockpot recently. I have heard myths retold of crockpot meals. I have only ever used them for keeping bean dip warm at parties or the occasional ( and might I add usually sensational) roast beef and veggies. That is where the adventure into hands off counter top slow cooking usually ends for me. I know people make claims as to the amazing results they get with their crockpots, so I started poking around on the internet looking for some fail safe recipes.
Last night it became my obsession. Home alone I scrunched up in Johns favorite chair, bowl of above mentioned roast beef in hand and surfed the web for some ideas. Pinterest is full of lots of pretty pictures. Perfectly positioned and proportioned plates complete with garnish and background music. Chicken thighs staring out at you from the grocery meat cooler, not the most appetizing. With the right lighting and an out of focus but obviously well decorated background,,, Voila!!! Internet food porn. Bon Appetit!! If only real life were that easy. Seriously, let’s be honest with each other. Nothing that pretty ever crawls out of a crockpot at my house.
My surfing for answers and inspiration continues, countless pictures of scrumptiousness have given me a bit of a complex. Feelings of food inadequacy are inevitable. You look around long enough across the internet and through stacks of cook books,, where does it get you? Slightly depressed and hungry. Real cooks make it look so easy. Ina Garten god bless her, can juggle sticks of butter, sauté chicken, bake homemade croutons, stir cocktails and finish a strawberry tart simultaneously. I would even bet she could do it while riding a unicycle through a French farmers market. I once screwed up microwave Mac n Cheese. Ok. More than once. There are so many steps. I bet Ina doesn’t even really own a crockpot. I bet she has to borrow one every time she wants to make Italian Beef.
In my efforts to uncover the secret underworld of crockpot cuisine I have also found a few instances of actual human beings attempting to share their hard won success with the world. 20140626-170458-61498613.jpg

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At first glance and to the untrained eye these photos may look like failures. But to those of us fully in tune with reality, we know, this sort of thing happens. Just picture these dishes served on antique ironstone platters saddled up to some fresh out of the oven biscuits and garnished with sprigs of fresh herbs. They could totally be saved. Some mood lighting and a quirky name like ” Abe’s famous cowboy stew” or ” rib stickin finger lickin southern beef and veggies” Well that sort of thing would go viral. Every hard working family in the country would make either of those a go to meal. It’s all about the garnish my friends.
With any luck my efforts will produce an endless supply of easy recipes. I will dance around my always clean kitchen with a Gin Gimlet in hand and pretend I’ve slaved all day over the stove. The guys will say things like, how do you do it all and still look so young…or Martha Stewart has nothin on you baby.
Being slightly apprehensive about testing some of the recipes I have stumbled on online is probably a good thing? It’s sort of like the idea of internet dating. Looks good in the pictures but doesn’t live up to expectations. I don’t fully trust someone who blogs about how good a dish turned out but doesn’t provide real proof. Let’s hear from your kids lady. Did they eat it or slip it to the dog under the table when your back was turned. I want the truth. Everyone has a phone with a camera these days. Mysteriously yours went AWOL when it was time to document your “easiest chicken dish ever!” Or the guy named Tweeker touting his fine tuning of Ben’s no worry one step perfect crockpot pork chops. Where is Ben? Why can’t we talk to him, and how did you go about fixing his recipe if it was already perfect? Can you make something more perfect? Not to mention one step? Really? Just one. Because in my life one step means you open a box or call for delivery. One step does not involve the full list of chopping dicing, marinating and pre-browning in a skillet that your reincarnation of Ben’s recipe requires.
I’ve decided to reach out and ask for help. A sort of busy life,, need some easy meals intervention. If anyone has a tried and true crockpot recipe that they have tried and love. Then let’s have it! I want to try it. I’m counting on you. Don’t be shy. There are men going hungry in my house. They need your help.

Have a recipe or a link to one that you enjoy and want to share it with us?
Feel free to post it in the comments section!

The images of crockpot disasters in this blog were found on pintrest, if anyone wishes to take responsibility for them, please let us know.