What's Cooking With Kim O'Donnel

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Kim O'Donnel
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, August 12, 2008; 12:00 PM

Calling all foodies! Join us Tuesdays at noon for What's Cooking, our live online culinary hour with Kim O'Donnel.

Today Kim checks in from the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines to see how things are there after the recent floods, reviews the first week of A Mighty Appetite On The Road and looks at what's ahead on her Americana itinerary.

A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education (formerly known as Peter Kump's New York Cooking School), Kim spends much of her time in front of the stove or with her nose in a cookbook.

You may submit a question before or during the show.

For daily dispatches from Kim's kitchen, check out her blog, A Mighty Appetite. You may catch up on previous transcripts with the What's Cooking archive page.

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Kim O'Donnel: Greetings from Des Moines, Iowa! It is raining here at the moment, and I'm hoping that the skies will clear so my road companion Madge and I can check out the Iowa State Fair this afternoon. I'm on Day Eight of my 19-day road trip across the country, and so far it's been a blast. Every day is a brand new adventure. Aside from Chicago, the Midwest is a new experience for me, and it's downright lovely here. The weather has been kind until this morning, so I've been enjoying the enormous expanse of sunny blue skies of America's heartland. So far, I've been through Toledo, Ohio; two coastal cities of Lake Michigan, Madison, Wis and the southwestern countryside and yesterday I shimmied my way into Iowa, where I made a stop in flood-ravaged Cedar Rapids. To keep tabs on where I am, check out the cool interactive map that my wp.com colleagues continually update throughout my journey. So, let's hear what's on your minds -- and if you've got roadside tips, I'd love them, too!

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Drowning in Corn, Help!: We've had such a bounty of the sweetest, most delicious corn ever from our community garden in the country this year, that we're now...are you ready for this?...sick of it. Any thoughts from you or the nuts on what to do with it. And I mean, a LOT of it. All suggestions most welcome!

Kim O'Donnel: Hi there -- where are you writing from? Tonight, I'm teaching a cooking class at a church in Des Moines, and one of the things we'll be making is a simple corn kernel salad, with herbs, tomatoes, peppers, red onion and a little curry vinaigrette. How's that sound? Other corny ideas, folks?

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washingtonpost.com: A Mighty Appetite On the Road

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Alexandria, Va.: I've missed being able to know exactly when to expect your blog posts to go up! I'm very excited to see the chat. Hope you are having a smooth trip. Also, saw that you are going through Montana. I went last year and the "Big Sky" is even more than you can imagine. I'm jealous because I want to go back. I'll be interested to hear about your food experiences there. I went for work which took me out into the boonies of eastern Mont. which didn't offer much in the way of exciting places to eat.

Kim O'Donnel: Hi Alexandria: Because I'm driving during the day, the publication of my posts has varied widely, but we've been putting something up no later than noon each day. We thought it'd be a good idea to check in via chat, too. Yes, I am going to Montana! I'll be there next week, passing through Red Lodge, Bozeman and Missoula and am looking forward to eats, drinks and big sky.

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Random Iowa State Fair Fact...: Did you know that someone has to die for a new person to get a camping spot at the Iowa State Fair?

The people who camp out there have had their spot for years and years.

Kim O'Donnel: Holy cow!!! No, this is a new one for me. How wild.

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Alexandria, Va.: What food can you eat and close your eyes and think "I am in Iowa"?

Kim O'Donnel: I would say corn dog -- but I think I should let the Iowans speak for themselves! I would also say some kind of pulled pork. By the way, I tasted some pretty decent Iowa wine yesterday the fair -- had no idea.

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Alexandria, Va.: Awesome notes from the road! What a great experience (it's almost like a mini-vacation to read!). Cupcake help: anyone have a fail safe method to ensure MOIST cupcakes? Specifically German Chocolate; they're my husband's favorite and I need to start whipping some up (in batches, to freeze, sans icing)for his 50th bday party...Thanks tons in advance!

Kim O'Donnel: I'm so glad you're enjoying the dispatches -- they've been a lot of fun to compile. Re: cupcakes: the freezing actually is what will keep them from their moistness maximum. The latest you can make cupcakes the better for their moistness quotient and keeping an eye on the baking time as well as refraining from overbeating batter. Other cupcakey thoughts?

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Corn?: Why not freeze it? The best way would be to cut off cob and bag into individual family servings. Make cornbread and include some of the corn kernels. Johnny cakes for breakfast or for that matter for dinner.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent idea.

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Re: Drowning in Corn: You can share some of your excess with me! I'm an Iowan in D.C. with a severe lack of corn in my diet...thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: Although you can enjoy Virginia corn!!

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Iowa food..: Pork tenderloin sandwich, with mustard, onion and pickles.

I've even converted my Ohio-born husband. First thing he eats when we go and visit my parents in central Iowa.

Oh, heaven on a bun. So not healthy, but tastes awesome! Especially with a side of onion rings!

Kim O'Donnel: ok, I'm taking notes for my lunch lineup...

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RE: close your eyes and think "I am in Iowa": A thick, juicy pork chop and some buttery sweet corn.

Kim O'Donnel: Someone else said pork chop last night -- I was sitting next to a guy from Cedar Rapids who mentioned a pork chop sandwich...

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Yum! Corn Dogs and Lemonade! -- Former Iowan: Kim, have you made it up to the barn on the hill where all the pies, jellies, etc., are judged? How about the livestock barn? Did you see the size of that sow? The Butter Cow?

Just make sure you take the time to drink plenty glasses of that great lemonade!

Kim O'Donnel: Madge, my travel companion, is champing at the bit for Butter Cow, so that is def. on the to-do list, as are the judging areas. Last night bartender at Centro said to try the lemonade -- can't wait!

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Cabbage help, please!: I received The Biggest Cabbage Ever from my CSA. I used a portion of it sauteed as a side dish (with bacon and garlic), but I have a gallon plastic bag filled with the remaining shreds and no clue about what to do with the rest of this green monster! Any ideas? (By the way, I loathe mayo, so no creamy cole slaw dressings, but I'd love a vinegary/mustardy one...)

Kim O'Donnel: Here's my take on vinegar slaw (scroll down past the fried fish recipe)...it's one of my faves...

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Former Iowan: Of course you'll go see the Butter Cow. And I believe you can get a fried Snickers on a stick at the fair. If you can fry it and put it on a stick, you can usually find it at the fair.

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, the fried Snickers I must have. Thanks for the tip! Yes, I noticed lots of things on sticks...

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Organic Gal: What can you close your eyes and eat that says Iowa? That's easy...a beautiful, cripsy-on-the-outside fried pork chop. MMMMMM! Or, as they say during RAGBRAI (the annual bike ride from the Missouri to Mississippi River...or is that the other way around?), POOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRKKKK CHAWP! That's the way the guy who sells them along the bicycle rout calls out that they're available. And since Iowa is one of (if not the) leading pork producer in the nation, it really is very Iowan.

This is coming from a native Nebraskan who has stopped on a road trip within 2 hours of leaving home, just to get a good Iowa pork chop.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you so much for checking in, OG!!!! I will definitely get me a pork chop, darling.

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Drowning in Corn again: It is Virginia corn, actually. Our country/river place in the Northern Neck of Virginia. And it's the best ever.

We have been freezing a great deal of it. And eating it (along with tomatoes -- also growing weary of those)right of the cob every night. And making corn soup, etc. Just looking for some new and creative thoughts on how to keep eating what we can't freeze.

Kim O'Donnel: Some clarification from our friend with too much corn...

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Maid-Rite: You'll have to eat at Maid-Rite, a tradition since 1930-something and headquartered in Des Moines.

Kim O'Donnel: Please enlighten me and tell me what this is -- a diner, perhaps? I'm told the Latin Dining Room is a goodie, too.

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Lots of corn: I'm making the corn and lobster salad for dinner tonight that was featured in The Post last week. Now I might cheat and use shrimp or chicken in place of lobster, but it looked pretty good.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh, great idea!

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Corn: Cut it from the cob, cook it, and then puree it. It will taste so sweet. Really changing the texture like this helps when it's your 5 millionth ear of corn for the year.

Kim O'Donnel: Very nice idea... pureed corn from fresh cobs is gorgeous. Oh, what about a chowder??? Stock can be made from cobs.

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Baltimore, Md.: When you are in Missoula, please drink some Moose Drool for me! I'm so jealous.

Kim O'Donnel: I shall. Will let you know when I do. By the way, I had a bottle of a Spotted Cow, a Wisconsin ale. Nice.

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Bethesda Mom: Hey Kim! I'm really enjoying reading about your road trip -- I'm jealous!

Question: I made a simple blueberry coffee cake, using the recipe on the Trader Joe's multigrain pancake mix. It called for 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of blueberries. I dusted the blueberries with a little flour so they wouldn't sink (but they did anyhow), but the blueberries weren't that sweet. Should I have dusted them with powdered sugar? Adjusted the sugar due to less than sweet blueberries?

Kim O'Donnel: Hey Mom: Yeah, it's always a good idea to try the fruit before it goes into batters. Powdered sugar would have been okay or even a little sprinkling of granulated and the berries will macerate and sweeten a bit.

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Food from Iowa: Any time I see something on a stick and deep fried, I think of the Iowa State Fair.

Kim O'Donnel: Last night, I saw a sign for fried cheese on a stick...

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Maid-Rite: Its a loose meat sandwich, ala Rosanne, the TV show, when they opened their own loose meat sandwich shop.

Mustard, Onions, pickles, delish!

Kim O'Donnel: I see. Making a note of it, going on the list...

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Off the subject: but thank you, thank you, thank you for writing "champing at the bit"! It drives me CRAZY to hear people say "chomping at the bit". That is wrong people! It's champing. Kim, you are a genius! Happy travels!

Kim O'Donnel: I learned the hard way many years ago when someone busted my chops for saying "chomping." Thanks for checking in.

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New home in Seattle?!: Wait, back up, I've been on maternity leave -- what do you mean, "new home in Seattle"? Desson left, too! It's too sad.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes, I'm relocating to Seattle, but I am continuing the blog and chat. Here in cyberspace, everything will be the same. You'll see.

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Freising, Germany: Have you been able to track down any authentic Iowa pulled pork sandwich recipes and is there anything similar in Wisconsin? Also, do they really say "y'all" over there?

Kim O'Donnel: Recipes still to come -- hoping to rustle some up today or tomorrow. The expression I've heard most over the past several days is "you betcha" or "you bet."

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Cabbage??: Shred and serve with a balsamic vinegar with julienned slices of yellow squash, zuchini, carrots and celery with chopped broccoli and cauliflower.

Kim O'Donnel: I also love to stir fry cabbage with sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic and ginger, a chopped chile pepper.

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Cabbage Surplus: I made some colcannon last week with my CSA excess -- so, so good. Steam/saute or boil the cabbage strips, then fold them into mashed potatoes. Ideally, potatoes should be mashed with cream and butter, but that's up to you. I also like to crisp up some bacon (my cabbage strips are sauteed in the bacon after boiling to tender) and fold that in.

You mound it on a plate, dig a little well in the middle, fill the well with butter and enjoy. It's the only way my kids knowingly eat cabbage.

Kim O'Donnel: Oh nice idea! Thanks.

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Too much corn: My mother has been threatening to make corn ice cream for years now. I'm skeptical of what it would be like, but it might be a last resort for someone with too much on their hands!

Kim O'Donnel: I would love to know more about this! Tell her to make it -- and I'll share her recipe in the blog space.

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Iowa Food Suggestion: Take an hour road trip (from DSM) down HWY 163 to Pella, a neat little Dutch community with two meat markets (yum, Pella Balogna) and two bakeries (mmm... Dutch Letters).

Kim O'Donnel: I've also been told to check out Amana colonies -- but I think I've driven too far west already. Thanks for the tip!

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Me again -- Oh -- I saw the post about Moose Drool and it brought back lots of memories! Our old neighbor in Minn. moved to Mont. and she was something like the CEO of the company! Wow -- that is weird! Yes, have some!

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed strange coincidence. It has been added to the must-sip (or drool) list.

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Twinkies: You can get a fried Twinkie on a stick, too. And don't forget to the check out the Hog the size of VW. There's one every year.

Kim O'Donnel: Yikes! That is super scary. Has anyone had one? I can't wait for the hog!

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More corn: What about a sweet corn bread or muffins? Maybe with berries in it too? I don't even know how to start with fresh corn, but do you think it would work?

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely it would work. Fresh corn is just exquisite in baked goods.

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Fair Food: You can get this at a lot of fairs -- Mo.Co. included -- but if you've never tried fried Oreos, they are a must fair food. Think Oreos dipped in funnel cake batter, fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Insanely good!

Kim O'Donnel: Fried Oreos? What will they think of next? Two fun edible highlights over the past few days has been a root beer float at an A&W in Boscobel, Wis., and a blueberry sausage with blueberry mustard at the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven, Mich.

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Corn Ideas: I like omelettes with corn, goat cheese, and chives. Just saute the corn in butter for a minute before adding eggs. Goat cheese melted in the middle and topped with plenty of chives.

I would also recommend a recipe from Real Simple, which I'm sure you can search for on their site. It's corn cakes topped with yummy shredded chipotle chicken.

Kim O'Donnel: Ooh... I love the idea of corn in my omelet. And yes to corn cakes!

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Corn: Grill it. Also, my family loves a salad I make with corn, black beans, red onions, cumin, vinaigrette.

Kim O'Donnel: Thank you! Sounds great.

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Important Warning: Do NOT try to eat a deep fried Snickers bar by yourself. They are delicious, but eating an entire one will probably send you into sugar shock for the next week. I think they're best shared with one or two others. Oh, they're so good -- it's like a thin donut coating over melty snickers bar. Mmmmmm....

Kim O'Donnel: Duly noted!

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Pulled pork: Just another vote in favor of a recipe! It's one of my favorites, but the best place to get it is too far away for it to be a regular thing...

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, I'm on it...

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Arlington, Va.: For freezing fruits like peaches... Do you recommend "fruit fresh" or some other solution for keeping them at the peak of yumminess in the freezer?

Kim O'Donnel: Personally, I wouldn't, but I'm going to ask others what they suggest when freezing summer fruit.

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To our German reader: We say y'all (a contraction of YOU ALL) in the southern U.S. states such as Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia on the eastern seaborad of the Atlantic Ocean. Iowa is in the middle of the huge continent, pretty far away.

Kim O'Donnel: Yes indeed...haven't heard much "y'all"-ing in these parts...

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My other favorite cabbage dish: is to cook it down with lots of caroway seeds, some onions.

Kim O'Donnel: That sounds nice -- do you use white wine, too?

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Cabbage: Toss with Asian sesame salad dressing for a quick different low-fat cole slaw.

Kim O'Donnel: Absolutely.

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Oh, I would walk 10 miles : to taste some corn ice cream! Maybe with strawbery preserves drizzled on top!

Kim O'Donnel: Me too (I think).

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Madison, Wisc.: Speaking of corn, my family has a favorite Thanksgiving/X-mas/holiday recipe that calls for two cans of creamed corn. My boyfriend is grossed out by it, so I'd like to try to start it all from scratch, and I was thinking now was the time to start experimenting, what with all the fresh corn around. Do you have any suggestions for making creamed corn from fresh corn? I need it to turn out somewhat similar to the canned stuff so that the rest of the recipe will work (eggs, cheese, garlic, peppers, cornmeal -- it's sort of a mildy spicy corn pudding). Thanks!

Kim O'Donnel: I will work on getting you a recipe. Let me see what I can find over the course of the next few days.

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Not corn ice cream...: Some years ago, I went to a lima bean festival in West Cape May, New Jersey. I sampled lima bean ice cream. It wasn't bad, but I was told it was very time-consuming since the outside of the beans had to be removed after cooking. I don't think that would work with corn!

Kim O'Donnel: the time consuming part of corn ice cream would be removing the kernels from the cob but certainly that would take less time than peeling limas...

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Cake core?: Any baking advice? I have an 11x15x2 pan I will be using for a party cake for this weekend. Do I need to use a core for baking this size cake? Or will it bake evenly without?

Also, any pros with suggestions on storage? I plan to bake Wednesday night, frost Thursday/Friday for delivery mid-day Saturday. (In addition to the 11x15, which will comprise a "garden" and "yard" there will be a house, too. So... I need lead time to frost). I'd like to keep it fresh. Thanks for the help!

Kim O'Donnel:11x15x2. I'm trying to visualize this. You will probably need to rotate the pan midway to maintain even color (and doneness). Anyone with experience using a cake core?

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Lonely in Seattle: What sort of neat things are you picking up along the road for Mister MA?

Kim O'Donnel: Well, if he doesn't unpack enough boxes by the time I arrive, he will be receiving lots and lots of coal.

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Iowan, now in D.C.! : I have never been to the state fair, so I will be living vicariously through you.

However, I really suggest you backtrack a little to check out the Amana Colonies. It's a great little German enclave in the middle of Iowa. And the food...well, you can imagine.

Have fun at the fair. And enjoy the fried cheese curds.

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, I'm taking note. So many places, so little time...

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Ohio: RE: Freezing peaches. Yes, use Fruit Fresh or some other brand of ascorbic acid, maybe even lemon juice. Otherwise you will most likely end up with a pretty brown mess when you thaw and use them. Voice of experience here. Learned this way back when my mother froze fruits and has carried through my 47 years of homemaking.

Kim O'Donnel: Okay, now we've heard the word!

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Daughter of UW grad: Hi Kim! I can't believe someone actually knows where Red Lodge is --take some side trips down the dirt roads - beautiful! I'll be in Seattle in two weeks - do you know of any little cafe places I shouldn't miss -- ther than the Alki Cafe and Bakery? I'm staying in West Seattle and I'm on the bus. Enjoy your trip, and wait until you drive over the Columbia River --at I90 - what a view. If you have time, stop in Ellensburg - combo college/western horse town, and Roslyn --site of Northern Exposure filming. I'm jealous!

Kim O'Donnel: I can't wait for Red Lodge --I'm seeing a friend who grew up there and where his 90-year-old mother still lives. Staying at the Pollard Hotel, which apparently is across the street from the site of the famous Billy the Kid bank holdup.

Re: Seattle eats -- where do I start? You can take bus over from West Seattle -- or you can hop aboard the ferry, which would be fun. You'll want to check out downtown and Pike Plce Market, Elliott Bay books...the food is supp. to great at one of the sculpture garden in town, I believe...

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Freezing peaches: The Food and Drug Administration has a Web site with all sorts of guides to freezing just about everything.

Kim O'Donnel: Excellent. Thanks so much.

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Iowan food: Pork tenderloin sandwich. No question. If you haven't had one, go now.

-- Native Iowan, missing her sandwiches

Kim O'Donnel: AW.....I'll have one for you!

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Corn Overload: This is our favorite salad/salsa:

Mango and Roasted Corn Salsa

8 ears corn, roasted and cut off cob 3 limes, juiced 1/4 cup olive oil 1 ripe mango, diced 1 bunch green onion, whites only 1 small red onion, minced 1 cucumber, seeded and diced 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

Combine and enjoy. Better the next day after flavors have mellowed.

Just like the ISF, I live a stone's throw from the Centre County Grange Fair, an encampment fair where someone has to die to get a tent. Seriously. The tents are passed down in families and - I am not making this up - they are often the subject of pre-nup agreements in this area. Check out: www.grangefair.net This year is gearing up as I type! Happy trails, Kim!

Kim O'Donnel: Oh my goodness! And thank you for your divine-sounding corn salsa...

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Kim O'Donnel: Time to go -- and it looks like the rain has stopped in Des Moines -- which means time for the fair! Thanks for stopping by, and I do hope you'll keep tabs on my travels: A Mighty Appetite on the Road. Next stop: Lincoln, Neb. This weekend: Denver! All best.

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