Monthly Archives: June 2006

The tour is rocked!!

Big news about the Tour De France. Ullrich and Basso have been suspended along with 50 others. Wow!! I haven’t heard if Hincapie, Lanids or the Crazy Kazak (sp??) are included but if they aren’t they have to be the hands down favorites now. More than they already were I mean.

Summer eat local challenge-meal #1.

Liz over at Pocket Farm put forth a challenge to eat one completely local meal a week for the whole summer. I figured I would give it a shot so I signed up to be part of the group. (Free prizes for eating more healthy? OK) Check out the details here. This is coming on the heels of the eat local challenge for the month of May.

I hereby put forth a snapshot of my first completely local meal.


I used my grill pan to cook up 2 ribeyes (they’re pretty big, we only ate one) from our recent cow purchase. Then I slid the whole thing under the broiler to finish up after they had a nice “grilled” outside.

At the same time I sliced some new potatoes in half and boiled them. Then I got the cast iron skillet nice and hot, threw in a little veggie oil and browned the bottoms (flat side). Sprinkled on some salt and those were good. Since the skillet was hot I threw in some frozen corn we had cut from some sweet corn ears last summer and fried that up. I usually follow an Amish recipe for the fried corn, but since I didn’t have local butter or onions, yet, I just left those out and fried it with some salt. (Veggie oil and spices are on the exclusion list)

It was deeeliisssh.

FGLB

Post Topics

Lately I’ve been mulling the idea of starting a second blog to help differentiate subjects and focus the discussion on specific subjects.

I wanted to solicit your inputs on this. The breakdown is as follows:

Fat Guy: This blog would remain a mouthpiece for random crap that spews out of my head, not to mention biking and living a life that focuses on reducing car use in the world. I imagine that this blog would be more free ranging and less focused on specific subjects than the second blog.

Blog #2: This blog would be mostly about cooking/food/eating local/eating fresh/gardening and other associated topics similar to those subjects. I imagine this blog would stay more focused on those specific subjects than FGLB would.

I know there are some bikers who read this blog and I wanted to solicit your input specifically. Would you like to have two separate blogs so you can kind of know what to expect when to visit each one? Or is it preferred to have one place that just ranges all over the place and no one cares because my writing is so witty and such compelling reading that it’s must read internet?

What about those of you who are just reading because it’s me and you want to see what I’m saying? (ie, friends and family) Do you care?

Post a comment and let me know what you think. Or feel free to drop me a note to bikingmatt at yahoo.com.

On another topic, my computer has been going haywire the past few weeks. It apparently has been taken over by about 6000 worms and viruses. I’m trying to get that cleaned up, and also get it to recognize my camera to post pictures, but the posts will be sporadic because of that. I’m about to go Luca Brasi on it.

FGLB

Holy Cow!

Ever wonder what 209 lbs of pure American cow looks like? Check this out.


Here is a pic of our oldest son, he’s 4 and 40 inches long. This is so you can compare the size of the cooler to him and know how big it is. The cooler is huge.

The locker had our cow ready last Friday. I spent the afternoon in the car going to pick it up. (It’s within the foodshed at 55 miles away.)

Total Cost: $2.15 per pound.

You can save money by eating local.

Had one of the roasts in the crock pot the other day and I’m fairly sure that it was the best roast I’ve ever had. The meat was crazy tender. I haven’t had a roast that tender before.

FGLB

Eat Local, Eat Well

This is a post to help explain to all my friends and family why I became interested in gardening this year and last year I could just as easily have said it was a huge waste of time, and most likely did.

Since I became really interested in Peak Oil, living sustainably and local food (and frankly, very worried about our unsustainable life style here in America) I made a couple of goals for myself for the future, and the future of the family, even if they weren’t aware that I had done this to them. My two main goals are listed below, but also part of this package is the desire to eat more seasonally, and by that I mean, not expecting foods to be available year round. That means I enjoy them when they are available, stock up when they are available and then use them later when they aren’t. This has forced me to expand my palette and cooking skills in order to be able to take advantage of produce as it arrives on our tables. This is a good thing. I’m not so sure the fam likes all the experimentation, but no one is starving yet. No more expecting to go to the store and get tomatoes or melons year round whenever I want.

The first goal was to get a garden started so that I can grow my own food.
This was a relatively simple thing to get going because there is plenty of information available about gardening in books and on the web, and living in Iowa I have plenty of resources to learn about gardening, so this was a natural first step. My family has a pretty long history of farming/gardening too so there is a lot of knowledge stored up in the family tree. Both my grandparents lived in rural areas and had gardens. My great-grandparents on my dad’s side were actual farmers. My parents use to garden until my brother and I got old enough to destroy the garden and then they got out of it. We’ve got the skills, so to speak.

I decided I was going to go the raised bed approach and have used square foot gardening as my main guide. Really, I went this way because I didn’t really want a huge bed of dirt to take care of. I didn’t see that as being productive, and with kids, it would be too inviting to them to get into it. Square foot gardening is also less tool and labor intensive, not to mention extremely productive from small spaces. I’m pressed for time like everyone and didn’t want to spend all my time working soil and pulling weeds and such. I also wanted to be as organic as possible and thought this would be easier than a big traditional garden. I’ve been able to build 5 separate beds for my “garden” and fit them into our yard in a way that is fairly pleasing to the eye (except for all the chicken wire to keep out the rabbits) and it doesn’t take over the yard like a traditional garden. I plan to build more going into next year. It’s also very easy for my little ones to help me plant the seeds using the square foot methodology. This is great because it gets them involved and let’s them play with some dirt (who doesn’t want to do that when they are 4 and 2? Or 30…). I really want to make sure they grow up with all the skills and knowledge they will need about growing their own food so they will be better prepared for the world we will face in the future.

So far I’ve been able to get things to grow even though I’m learning as we go, and no garden space was ready early in the season. We’ve eaten spinach, arugula and lettuce from the garden. Lost my peas to something, not sure what, and so far rabbits have helped themselves to 2 eggplant plants, a jalapeno plant and one tomato plant (I hope you bastards get indigestion from the peppers) but the rest have survived. As the summer goes along we’ll have carrots, corn, beans, broccoli, zucchini, squash, cantaloupe, basil, parsley, oregano and tomatoes for sauce and salsa. Then the fall crops will go in and we’ll have peas and spinach, arugula and lettuce again, and probably some bok choy. (I’m not sure what else at this point) I would recommend this style to others interested. I knew that with my knowledge base and lack of garden space I wouldn’t be able to completely fulfill our food needs from the garden, and that is where goal #2 came in.

The second was to frequent the local Farmer’s Markets, or possibly join a CSA, as well as find local meat producers to replace my trips to the meat section of the grocery store.
I am pleasantly pleased by how satisfactory this has gone on both fronts. When my wife started back to work we stumbled across a local farmer (his wife worked in her building) who raises mostly grass fed cows that he sells directly to the public. It has been a lot of headaches to get this going, but right now it is about ready to come to fruition. Our cow is at the meat locker being butchered as we speak and the final price per pound is going to come in at a price that is less than we would pay per pound for ground beef from the local mega-mart. I can’t wait to see how it all tastes. This same farmer also sells free range eggs, which are flat out delicious and so nice looking it’s hard to make yourself eat them, but I’ve gotten over that. So I was able to start getting eggs there too, which is great. I’m not sure if the egg thing will work out in the future as my wife just moved to a new job, but the Farmer’s Market has egg vendors so I’ll be able to backfill that need. I also stumbled across a local pork producer who raises pastured, antibiotic free heirloom pigs. This was just a lucky chance meeting at a Farmer’s Market and it turned out good. We have his information, and even though his stuff is rather pricey, the taste is amazing. I imagine we will selectively purchase items from him as needed in the future. (I’m not sure about the freezer space with a quarter of a cow in there) There are some local people that raise and sell chickens but we haven’t gone that route yet.

I’ve been visiting the local Farmer’s Market for our produce (which requires that I rise out of bed on Saturday morning at about 5:30) for the past few weeks. Yes, even in Iowa in early spring it’s possible to obtain all your produce needs at a Farmer’s Market, if you eat seasonally. For the past few months I’ve been so eagerly anticipating the opening of the Farmer’s Markets that I could barely wait for it. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. Now it’s here and it’s better than I expected. I’ve been buying peas and green beans, basil, potatoes, spinach, asparagus, rhubarb and I’m not sure what else. I was surprised how much was available at this time of the year, and even more surprised by how it tastes. It’s amazing. The market has too much artsy fartsy stuff and way, way too many people selling baked goods, but I don’t spend any time at those tables.

I’ve been shocked at how reasonable the prices have been for the produce I’ve bought. I didn’t expect to be actually buying things for less than at the stores, but in most cases I have been, and even the ones that were more expensive had so much more flavor and taste that they were worth the price difference. Right now I can’t wait to go back to the Market and get more peas to cook for the next week. Even better, I’m going to start buying twice as much of everything and freezing half of it for the future. Then we’ll be eating from that in the winter. Oh yeah!

And I’ve learned to cook new things. Last Sunday we had creamed new potatoes with peas. I’ve seen this a million times and never really thought to make it, but when I looked at my fridge and saw 2 pounds of peas (unshelled) and a big sack of new potatoes I thought I’d give it a try. Turned out amazing. None of us could get enough and I ate it the next day too, and wished I had more leftovers. I’ve also figured out that you can bake slices of new potatoes in the oven and get a fairly good chip replacement (I learned this by accident when I overcooked them, but they were pretty good, and that isn’t a bad way to learn). If I had kept cooking the old way using the old standard stuff I wouldn’t have learned these two things. Or how about learning how to wilt spinach into dishes for a nice colorful tasty addition to a vegetable serving? When my garden was producing spinach and arugula I had to figure out how to use it so I cooked up a frittata with broccoli, spinach and arugula. It was great. If I hadn’t made a garden, planted early crops and then forced myself to use them I probably wouldn’t have cooked a frittata, even though I’ve seen them made on the Food Network a million times, and I wouldn’t have realized how good something like that could be because I wouldn’t have been pushed out of my comfort zone to do it. I’m now mulling over making a quiche. Isn’t it great to force yourself out of your box?

I’m not perfect by a long ways. I still eat at restaurants without worrying about the local content of their food. I still use spices and things that aren’t local. I still have prepackaged foods and store bought veggies in the freezer. I still use sweetener in my iced tea, neither are local. But I’m taking baby steps here. That’s really the thing, take baby steps, make a goal and move towards it. Don’t you want locally raised fresh and great tasting food? Then go to your local Farmer’s Market. I’m sure there is at least one in your town (my city, 120K, has one every day of the week, I’m not kidding, and sometimes two a day) and support those local farmers. When you buy your food look the grower in the eye, ask how he/she is doing, learn about how they grow the food. It’s great. They will even let you touch it in the containers and bag it yourself. Nothing is prepackaged. They know great ways to prepare it, how to store it, and how to treat it. It sure beats asking the pimply faced kid at the mega-mart a question, to which he responds “Uh, I don’t know”, or most likely, just ignores you.

FGLB

What’s in a day?

Well, the day has finally arrived. Yes, today is the day. I’ve finally reached a milestone today. Today is my 30th birthday. Yes, it’s official, I’m officially getting older. No wait, I am old. Soon I’ll be joining AARP, asking for discounts when I eat and prepaying my funeral services. Oh yes, today is the beginning of the end for me. How much longer before I start forgetting things or watching PBS? Wait a tick… Or how much longer before I decide to !!GASP!! get a recumbant?? The times they are a changing.

When you age aren’t you supposed to become wiser? Where is that at? When do I get some of this wisdom? If anything, it seems like life is more confusing now than it’s ever been. Aren’t I supposed to have this thing figured out at some point? How long do I have to stumble along like a freshman on his first day on campus? The freaky thing is that I have kids of my own and I still haven’t figured life out? How are they going to grow up not screwed up?

And what happened to the birthday parties? This year we went out for pizza (I had a gift certificate and we splurged for cheese bread and drinks), came home and had some cake, opened my present (a cast iron grill pan, yeah!!), and then did some work, put kids to bed and wrote this blog. 5 years ago I’d still be out at the bar downing drinks and not even wondering what time I will get up tomorrow (6 by the way, I get to sleep in tomorrow). Actually, a lot has happened in the past 5 years. I moved to a different state, bought 2 personal houses (remodeling both extensively), about 5-6 rental places (remodeling most of those too), sold about 4 rental places, had 2 kids (well my wife did but I did the important stuff like buy the taco bell after the delivery and feed the cravings during pregnancy) and who knows what else that I’ve forgotten.

Man it’s been a crazy ride. It’s been a good 30 years though. Let’s hope the next 30 are as good, and the 30 after that…and hopefully the ones after that…

FGLB

Say it ain’t so

If you have any small inkling of baseball fandom in your gut you need to fight this with all your might. If you grew up watching Cubs games on WGN in the summers (in the days before night games) then you need to fight this even harder.

Sir! Thy name is stupidity!

FGLB