Tag Archive: food

Big Bear Camp to Walker Point Weekend

Trip Report:
Leader: Mark Hougardy
Group: Obsidians
Dates: September 10-11, 2016
Participants: 10
Hiking 8 miles
Type: Day Hike & Tent Camping

Visiting Big Bear Camp is like inhaling a fresh breath of forest air: it’s invigorating.

blog-2016-09-14-01That’s me with the apple. The lodge’s owners Hal and Tonia quickly welcomed us as we arrived at their retreat/garden/camp in the woods. Hal offered us delicious Honey Crisp apples directly off the tree to enjoy on our hike. [Photo by Darko]

blog-2016-09-14-02Our 8-mile hike started up a reclaimed forest road, past cedar trees used by mountain lions for scratching, across the deep ravine where a rope was needed (shown), and finally to a deceptively steep forest road.

blog-2016-09-14-03After a good heart-pounding climb, we arrived at the “Secret Spot,” the highest location within the Coast Range in Lane County. We had climbed roughly 1,600 feet from where we started but the view made up for it. Looking east we could see 130+ miles in the distance: in the north, Mt Hood, followed by Mt, Jefferson, Three-Fingered Jack, North, Middle and South Sister, Mt. Bachelor, and finally 125 miles further south, Diamond Peak.

blog-2016-09-14-04We rested, enjoyed some lunch, and then traversed back down the forest road to several turnoffs, and a forest trail that deposited us back at Big Bear. That evening we shared a potluck with neighbors; everyone’s gardens were abundant and we and enjoyed the bounty of harvest-time meals. Later that evening we enjoyed guitar folk music by the fire and enjoyed freshly picked grapes (shown below). In the morning we hung out, explored the local creek, enjoyed the garden, and planned a route for a 42-mile, 4-day backpacking trip to the coast for next spring.
blog-2016-09-14-05

Make Your Own Campground Huevos Rancheros

Campground Huevos RancherosA great meal to enjoy while car camping is Huevos Rancheros. This versatile dish can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

I love this meal because of the array of flavors, a colorful presentation, and it’s packed with energy.

Huevos Rancheros can be made many ways, this version works well for camping. The recipe was written for use with a two-burner camp stove, one small non-stick skillet, and one saucepan.

As with all ingredients I suggest that everything has a double or triple purpose. This means when you plan one meal that you can use the same ingredients in other meals or even as stand alone snacks. Refried beans could be used in multiple meals; eggs might be hard-boiled and used as a treat on the trail, an avocado can replace mayonnaise on a sandwich. Be inventive.

Ingredients:

This recipe is intended to feed 4 hungry campers; the quantity per ingredient might vary depending on which family members have a larger appetite, which is why several items show a number range.

  • 1-4 sprigs of cilantro
  • 2-8 spoons of cotija cheese (feta can be substituted)
  • 1 Avocado
  • 4-8 medium-sized fresh eggs* (optional sliced hard-cooked eggs)
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 4-8 tortillas
  • 1 pound of chorizo sausage
  • Ranchero sauce

* If you really want your Huevos Rancheros to taste amazing, use “pasture-raised” eggs.

Before your trip:

Prepare the ranchero sauce and fully cook the chorizo. Freeze the ranchero sauce in a re-sealable container; freeze the chorizo in a foil packet.

The ranchero sauce (make at home):

  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salsa ranchero (any salsa will do)
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of oil or fat
  • A handful of sliced onions and peppers (optional)

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the onions and peppers in oil. Stir in the flour, then add salsa and chicken broth. Cook until thickened. Once the sauce has cooled spoon out the desired quantity into container(s) and freeze it.

Equipment:

  • Cook stove (a 2 burner stove is suggested)
  • Small sauce pan
  • Small non-stick skillet
  • Aluminum foil

When you are ready to cook, place the desired quantity of tortillas in a section of aluminum foil, and fold over so the packet is completely sealed. Turn on your camp stove and set one burner to a very low heat. Place the foil packet over the burner so the tortillas can soften. You will need to turn these so they do not stick or burn – they will heat quickly!

On the second burner, heat the refried beans. When these are done start building your plate, using the tortillas as a foundation for your meal, add the beans and smear them over the tortillas. Cover the plate with an upside down second plate, or foil, to keep everything warm.

In the saucepan reheat the sauce. Heat the chorizo in its foil packet. When finished, pour the sauce over the beans and add the chorizo. Cook your eggs. After the eggs are added to your plate, top them off with some cotija, avocado, and/or cilantro. Enjoy your meal.

Remember: Freeze what items you can ahead of time and be diligent about keeping your cooler iced down. Always use your judgment and do what works best for you.

Enjoy.

Ditch the Packet and Discover Old-fashioned Campground Oats

Old-fashioned Campground OatsCamping is a time for discovering what is important. For me, one of the best ways to experience this concept is with a flavorful and hearty breakfast of old-fashioned oats. I’m not talking about those instant oatmeal packets that have become a convenience mainstay – I’m talking about a wholesome experience; a bowl of hot, farm-fresh oats topped off with milk, pecans, walnuts, and 3 types of fruits (shown).

Here’s how you can discover campground oats for the first time, or rediscover them again. Best of all, these oats taste amazing, and you have just one bowl (your own) to clean.

Personalize Your Oatmeal

Start with great oats. I discourage the use of most commercial oatmeal packets. They have their place, but not for every breakfast. Some of these brands sound great with farm-spun names like “Maple Pecan,” or “Blueberry-Raspberry,” yet frequently these items are absent from the ingredients lists and replaced with chemical names that cannot be pronounced. Yuk.

I like real food that has texture and taste. That is why I visit the local farmers market and seek out farmers who grow their own oats. If I cannot buy local oats, I look for regionally produced oats at a health food store. My last choice is the big-name commercial brands.

Then at home, I plan what to eat during the camping trip. This includes measuring out the oatmeal for each person (the snack sized Ziplocks are great for this). Then each person adds whatever they want, this could include a variety of healthy ingredients: pecans, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.).

Cooking Oats at the Campsite

The easiest, and least messy method involves one bowl per person and makes use of the individual Ziplocks mentioned above. All you have to do is add the dry oatmeal to your bowl and pour in boiling hot water. Cover the bowl and fully insulate it with a towel. Let it rest for about 10 minutes.

At the end of 10 minutes I might add a little more hot water to make the mix easier to stir. Then I add the milk, fruit and anything else that I want. To clean, wipe out the bowl with a paper napkin to remove any residue so washing up is a snap.

Got Milk?

When my family goes car camping we sometimes bring a quart container of milk. The milk is used in oats, to flavor a cup of coffee, and maybe a splash in an evening’s cup of hot chocolate. I keep the milk in a well-iced cooler to prevent spoilage. Other times we take powdered milk. But, finding good tasting powdered milk is not easy; for some reason the vast majority of powdered milk sold in the U.S. is nonfat. Powdered nonfat milk might have its supporters, but I am not one of them! If you want powdered whole milk in your oats there are several brands that are sold on Amazon.com. The best tasting whole milk in my opinion is a brand called, “Peak: Dry Whole Milk”. This product is imported from the Netherlands.

Fruit Will Rock Your World

Don’t add sugar; add seasonally available fruit – it will rock your oatmeal’s world. If you want an added power boost, sprinkle in some chia seeds.

Great tasting campground oats aren’t just found in a packet; they must be discovered. Start with locally produced oats or buy oats from a health food store. Add milk, fruits, and an assortment of nuts to make the breakfast that will power you through the day – create the practical, healthy, and great tasting breakfast you deserve.

Delicious, Nutritious, and Quick Campground Waffles

Campground WafflesHow about a crisp waffle for breakfast on your next car camping trip? Here are several tips for healthy, low mess, and quick to prepare waffles. These tips work for pancakes too.

The Secret

The secret is to make and freeze the waffles several days before your trip. This little step saves time, money, and headaches; you don’t need to take extra equipment camping, or buy anything new, and you will have fewer dishes to wash at the campsite.

Nutrition

Because most off-the-shelf waffle mixes are not very healthy, I supplement them with nuts and oats. Here’s how I do it:

Use the directions on the package of waffle mix as you normally would, but instead of a full amount of mix just use one-third the amount, then add a third of crushed nuts (pecans, walnuts, etc.), and a third of oats. The oats might soak up some of the liquid, if so add a little water to the batter. Cook your waffles as you normally would.

Let the waffles cool and put them in a Ziploc bag, then place the bag in the freezer. On the day of your trip add the Ziploc to your cooler and you’re ready to go.

Reheating

Remove the waffles from your cooler and set them on a plate for a few minutes so they warm up a little. Use this time to prepare some of your other food items. Then use the burner on your camp stove, turn the heat down as low as possible and place the waffle over the burner rack. Using a fork or tongs turn it as needed until the waffle is reheated and/or crispy. Be careful and watch your waffle like a hawk, as it will burn quickly.

Toppings

I add a lot of toppings. I do this for taste, and because I need a breakfast that will power me through a day of hiking. I leave the syrup at home and instead use honey and fruits to liven up my waffles. I might even add (shown in the photo above) a cooked egg, blueberries, walnuts, and avocado slices. Every topping has a double purpose, meaning every topping can be used in other meals or as snacks. I keep costs down by buying toppings that are in season.

Enjoy.

Campfire Pocket Stew

Campfire Pocket Stew

Some of the best-tasting campground meals are also the most simple.

Campfire Pocket Stew is one of my favorites. It has the benefits of being quick to prepare, easy to serve and has minimal clean up. It also tastes wonderful, is healthy and affordable.

The pocket is especially helpful if your family has special diet requirements or preferences.

Select from a variety of your favorite foods. Small or thin-sliced potatoes, chicken tenders, fish, and thin chops also work well.

The individual pockets can be assembled at home and transported in a cooler. At the campsite, they can be tossed onto campfire coals or cooked on a grill.

Below is a basic recipe for Pocket Stew that serves 4 people. Every pocket stew will be a little different depending on the ingredients you use – that is part of the fun of this meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef formed into patties.
  • 1 large portabella mushroom or 12-16 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1-2 carrots, sliced
  • ¼ pound of green beans
  • choice of seasonings
  • 1-Tb. oil

 Supplies:

  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  • Tongs or heat-resistant gloves

Using the heavy-duty aluminum foil make a 12”x14” piece of foil for each pocket. Place the foil with the reflective side facing up and lightly oil the center. Place the meat in the center of the rectangle of foil. Add seasonings. Top with vegetables.

Bring the long side up over the food and fold them together. Repeat the fold. Make a double fold on each end of the pocket. Refrigerate until ready to pack the cooler.

At camp, place the pockets onto a bed of hot coals. Tongs or heat-resistant gloves are helpful. Cook for 10 minutes and flip over for 6-10 minutes more. Remove and allow them to cool for a couple of minutes. Open carefully, hot steam will escape.

Clean up is easy, just fold up the foil.

Some of my earliest and best camping trips have always involved Pocket Stew. I hope this meal gives you your own great camping memories.

Breakfast on the Farm

When traveling in Europe ask the locals about farms that serve meals. It is a great way to eat fresh food, discover someplace new and experience the countryside. During a trip to Tirol, Austria, we found a farm that served breakfast. There are many such farms in the Alps but this particular one was in the village of Mühlau, a district of Innsbruck, Austria. Breakfast is offered to the public on select Saturday mornings, and the locals suggested we arrive - earlier the better - as it was a very popular location. We managed to catch a ride that morning. As the car drove quickly through the narrow streets of Mühlau not many people were out. Many of the houses had yards and bright and bountiful looking gardens. Several farms were in the area, but they integrated well with the houses and with other buildings in the town. A large green space weaved its way into the town and it was hard to tell where the town ended and the farms and green space began. We arrived outside a small green yard with a sturdy looking house and several large wooden barns. Attached to the house was a newer section made of wood and glass. We entered through a heavy wooden door that swung inward, the inside building was made of a light colored wood with windows near the ceiling which allowed in an abundance of natural light. The room was clean and basic in design. A crucifix hung on one wall. Inside the room were nine or ten long tables, each with accompanying wooden benches at the sides. At these tables were maybe 80 people eating with a plate of food. The breakfast assortment included traditional items: homemade fresh bread, freshly made jam, slices of thin meat, speck, yogurt, cheese, fresh milk, some fruit, hard boiled eggs and cups of coffee. A small line of folks were standing in front of a serving table that included baskets and serving plates. The line was held up because a basket of some critical food item was out. At that moment a woman, emerged from a recessed back room, scurried over and refilled the basket of bread. Then another person, this time a child, ran over with clean mugs to refill the inventory, then another child walked over with a plate of cheeses. Then an older woman came out, this was the Mom; she straightened a few things, looked around and instructed the kids to work on some other items. The atmosphere in the dinning hall was relaxed and the people eating were content. Almost everyone there were locals. A small sign with the letters ‘wc’ (water closet) hung on a large, carved wooden door. Opening the door you walked through a storage area that included a variety of farm implements and boxes of dried food, here was an inside door that opened into the family’s house! There was a hand scrawled sign on the wall, that looked like a child hurriedly wrote it, with the letters ‘wc’ and an arrow. The arrow pointed to a small guest bathroom. I could hear a TV in one room and people talking from another room. It was an odd feeling just walking into to someone’s house. I was surprised that so many guests visited this house, yet the facilities remained very clean; it was also surprising that the family allowed strangers into where they lived. Everyone visiting the small, local farm was courteous and treated the place and each other with respect. It was a refreshing experience. When we finished our breakfast we found the farm Mom and paid for our meals. The cost was €7.50 (about $10) person. She invited us to look around outside. The big barn was inhabited by 4 large brown cows and nearby we heard chickens, but they were cooped up because of all the visitors. We looked for horses, but a sign said they were up on the mountain. The kids who were visiting the farm enjoyed petting some bunnies and guinea pigs. It was great being in the city and enjoying some good fresh and locally produced food.

When traveling in Europe ask the locals about farms that serve meals. It is a great way to eat fresh food, discover someplace new and experience the countryside.

During a trip to Tirol, Austria, we found a farm that served breakfast. There are many such farms in the Alps but this particular one was in the village of Mühlau, a district of Innsbruck, Austria. Breakfast is offered to the public on select Saturday mornings, and the locals suggested we arrive – earlier the better – as it was a very popular location.

We managed to catch a ride that morning. As the car drove quickly through the narrow streets of Mühlau not many people were out. Many of the houses had yards and bright and bountiful looking gardens. Several farms were in the area, but they integrated well with the houses and with other buildings in the town. A large green space weaved its way into the town and it was hard to tell where the town ended and the farms and green space began.

We arrived outside a small green yard with a sturdy looking house and several large wooden barns. Attached to the house was a newer section made of wood and glass. We entered through a heavy wooden door that swung inward, the inside building was made of a light colored wood with windows near the ceiling which allowed in an abundance of natural light. The room was clean and basic in design. A crucifix hung on one wall. Inside the room were nine or ten long tables, each with accompanying wooden benches at the sides. At these tables were maybe 80 people eating with a plate of food. The breakfast assortment included traditional items: homemade fresh bread, freshly made jam, slices of thin meat, speck, yogurt, cheese, fresh milk, some fruit, hard boiled eggs and cups of coffee.

A small line of folks were standing in front of a serving table that included baskets and serving plates. The line was held up because a basket of some critical food item was out. At that moment a woman, emerged from a recessed back room, scurried over and refilled the basket of bread. Then another person, this time a child, ran over with clean mugs to refill the inventory, then another child walked over with a plate of cheeses. Then an older woman came out, this was the Mom; she straightened a few things, looked around and instructed the kids to work on some other items.

The atmosphere in the dinning hall was relaxed and the people eating were content. Almost everyone there were locals.

A small sign with the letters ‘wc’ (water closet) hung on a large, carved wooden door. Opening the door you walked through a storage area that included a variety of farm implements and boxes of dried food, here was an inside door that opened into the family’s house! There was a hand scrawled sign on the wall, that looked like a child hurriedly wrote it, with the letters ‘wc’ and an arrow. The arrow pointed to a small guest bathroom. I could hear a TV in one room and people talking from another room. It was an odd feeling just walking into to someone’s house.

I was surprised that so many guests visited this house, yet the facilities remained very clean; it was also surprising that the family allowed strangers into where they lived.

Everyone visiting the small, local farm was courteous and treated the place and each other with respect. It was a refreshing experience.

When we finished our breakfast we found the farm Mom and paid for our meals. The cost was €7.50 (about $10) person. She invited us to look around outside.

The big barn was inhabited by 4 large brown cows and nearby we heard chickens, but they were cooped up because of all the visitors. We looked for horses, but a sign said they were up on the mountain. The kids who were visiting the farm enjoyed petting some bunnies and guinea pigs.

It was great being in the city and enjoying some good fresh and locally produced food.

Find Fresh Food at the Markthalle in Innsbruck

Find Fresh Food at the Markthalle in Innsbruck

Eating healthy foods can be a problem when traveling. Dealing with a different schedule, an unfamiliar language, and the lack of a kitchen means that most meals come in the form of a ready-made sandwich or dining out. Often, this food may not be prepared with the healthiest of ingredients. When I explore I deliberately seek out places that offer fresh food – and places recommended by locals.

One great location for fresh food in Innsbruck, Austria, is the Markthalle. The Markthalle offers a place for farmers and small businesses to gather under one roof; it is a big warehouse packed with fresh food, colorful vegetables and fruits, recently harvested meats, fresh baked bread, decadent deserts and several places to grab a decent cup of coffee. The weekends are especially busy as both vendors and customers flock to the market.

The Markthalle Innsbruck is just a block from Altstadt (Old Town), the heart of the city. The market is located next to the river close to the Innbrücke (Bridge over the Inn) and Market Square.

The hours are:
Mon – Fri: 7:00 am – 6:30 pm
Sat: 7:00 am – 1:00 pm
Sun: closed

For more information visit their website (the site is in German):
http://www.markthalle-innsbruck.at/index.php

Tips for Dining Out in Tirol

Tips for Dining Out in Tirol

Whether you are visiting family members, on a tour, or independently exploring Tirol in Austria, you will ultimately find yourself eating at a restaurant or cafe. Here are four tips to help you have a more enjoyable meal.

Water:
In the U.S. a glass of drinking water (tap water) is always served in a restaurant and is complimentary with the meal. It is OK to have just water, and not any order social drinks, with a meal. Mineral water can appear on a menus, but is sometimes considered extravagant.

In Austria, and much of Europe, a glass of (tap) water is not a complimentary item. Asking for just tap water, and not ordering social drinks, is considered rude and cheap.

Water can be ordered but what you will receive will be mineral water. The waiter will ask, “Do you want Stilles Wasser or Prickelndes Wasser?” Prickelnd means with bubbles, the water is carbonated; Stilles Wasser means no bubbles, just mineral water. The waiter will then bring a small bottle of mineral water to you.

If you want regular tap water, you can ask for it, but request it AFTER the other drinks have been ordered or when your meal is delivered to the table. Requesting water in this way will save any locals at your table any social discomfort or embarrassment.

Tax:
The prices listed on menus have the tax included. A dinner that is advertised at €15.00 will cost you €15.00. Tipping will be extra.

What to Tip:
In the U.S. a waiter often earns a base pay (sometimes under minimum wage) and makes up the difference in pay through tips. In the EU, a waiter, as an employee is already covered by a handsome benefits package and has state run health care. So, tipping in Austria has different rules than it does in the U.S.

I checked with natives of Innsbruck to ask how they tip. Their general rule is: if you order drinks, tip up to the next Euro. If you order food, tip several Euros. So when drinks cost €6.20 you might pay €7 which includes the tip; if dinner costs €25.40 you might pay €28.00 which also includes the tip. Be careful of touristy restaurants (a place that talks to you in good English and gives you a menu in American English) because they sometimes play to the American custom of tipping at 15% – 20% and will even print this request in the English worded menu. In the end, wherever you eat, if you receive excellent service tip what you wish.

Paying the Bill:
In America, a bill is placed on your table near the end of your meal. In Austria, you must ask for the bill. This custom does allow you to stay at the table and talk sometimes for hours. When you are ready to pay identify yourself to the waiter and ask for the bill. In smaller restaurants the owner will approach with a small change purse and a copy of the bill. The owner will show you the bill and say the total amount. You reply with the amount you will pay, (following the tipping rule). Any change will be returned.

Tips for Grocery Shopping in Austria

Tips for Grocery Shopping in Austria

Grocery shopping in Austria is one of the best ways to learn the German language and discover this great culture. First-time shoppers from America will see many similarities in the grocery stores, but there are some differences. Here are some tips to better enjoy grocery shopping.

Bring a Bag
In the U.S., bags are often included as a ‘courtesy’ item when you shop. In Austria, the stores expect you to come prepared with your bags. The locals generally use cloth mesh or fabric bags that are lightweight. If you do not have a bag the store will be happy to sell you one, for a small fee. Most of the paper bags I saw for purchase were 20 cents. If you are traveling and don’t have a bag you can use a daypack. The store does not mind what you use for bagging as long as you quickly make room for the next customer.

Weigh Those Veggies
At most U.S. stores you take the fruits and vegetables to a checkout and the checker (from memory) enters a code into the register while the items are weighed. In Austria, you might need to approach a scale, weigh the food, and type in an item code. A sticker emerges from the scale and you attach it to the item or bag. Some pre-packed veggies are already weighed and marked. Be observant, don’t just grab some veggies and rush to the checkout, take a second to look to see if it needs to be weighed or it it already marked.

Bag Your Groceries…Quickly
In the U.S. the checkout person will scan/weigh the food and send it down a small chute where the food queues up and, if we’re lucky, a store employee bags the groceries. In Austria, you or another person in your group needs to be ready to bag the food immediately after it has been rung up. There is generally little space for food to queue and in some cases no area at all – as in a drop off. If you are slow with this process and food backs up, you might earn a wrathful look from the checkout person or others in line. Best to be ready to bag.

Rent a Shopping CartRent a Shopping Cart
I have seen in a few places in the U.S. where grocery carts are rented using a quarter or a dollar coin as a deposit, but it really has not caught on in the States. However, in Austria, and much of Europe, use of coins are commonplace. When you approach a grocery store you will see the shopping carts are locked together. Have a 50 cent coin or a 1 Euro coin in your pocket. Insert it into a coin area on the cart’s handle and unchain the cart. At the end of shopping, return the cart, re-chain it, and your deposit money is returned.

Tax is Included
In Austria, the food is taxed, but the tax is included in the final price. If something costs you 1 Euro, you do not have to pay additional. As a traveler I find this helpful with budgeting my daily expenses; I do not have to consider an additional 7% -10% on top of the final price. I found this to be the case with many food items in restaurants as well, taxes were included in the price.

BioKnow About Bio
Some food will have the letters B-I-O written on the packaging or signage. This food is generally more expensive than conventionally grown food. This is Bio (pronounced, be-oh), and the closest thing in the U.S. we have to this is the ‘organic’ label. Bio is part of a healthy foods movement and like the organic label has made tremendous strides to improve food quality, but (this my observation) it is possible the label often gets used when possibly it does not meet required standards – or people refer to something a Bio when it is not. I did buy some food (vegetables and walnuts) that were Bio, but found it originated from overseas at a location I would question. I asked some locals about the Bio labeling, they were comfortable with buying bio products “because it was safe.” When other locals were asked about a recent Bio food scare in Germany involving tainted sprouts, where several people contracted food poisoning and some even died, the response was, that it was a terrible accident, and to be safe, “shop from the local farmer first, then buy Bio, then look at conventional foods.”

Farmers Markets
Farmers markets are alive and well, but you might need to look for them. Innsbruck has a downtown farmers market and on Saturday such markets can be found on certain corners. The corner market near me in Innsbruck is small, with just a few farmers selling items, but they have the standards: fresh greens, fresh bread, some meet products and honey. Some items are high in price, but the in-season veggies and bread are more reasonable.

Visit at Off Times
If you are uncomfortable speaking German try to visit stores at down times when they are not packed with customers. The staff are more open to helping you find things and are more willing to speak. You might have several conversations in broken English/German with the store staff but it is always good fun.

Check the Hours
In the U.S. there is usually some store in town that is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. In Austria, the stores have more standard hours (like 9 am to 6 pm) and might be closed on Sunday. Plan ahead and take note of when your local store is open to make sure you have the food items you need.

Savoring the Experience at Eugene’s Farmers Market

The Lane County Farmers Market–

  • Traces its history back to 1915
  • Features over 85 growers and producers
  • Offers produce that is often less than 24 hours of being harvested

The market has a long history of providing jobs and locally produced food for the community.

blog-2011-05-26-img-01During a springtime road trip through Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I was offered a delicious opportunity to experience local and farm fresh food while visiting Eugene. Over the years of traveling in Oregon I had always found myself returning to the Eugene area, yet once again I was finding my time limited. I decided to make the best of those few hours and visit the local farmers market.

It was a Saturday morning and I walked about 15 minutes from my motel to the corners of 8th and Oak Streets. The evening before there had been a gentle rain giving the sidewalk and surrounding buildings a pristine sheen. The air was cool and moist but there was gentle warmth that hinted summer was near.

Ahead was a bustle of activity; there was a small city of tents, cars were being unloaded, people were milling about, and I could hear music. A woman passed me; she was carrying a large cotton bag that had been stuffed with greens, the vegetables were so abundant they appeared to be surging over the bag’s edge.

I had arrived at the downtown Farmer’s Market, officially known as the Lane County Farmers Market. As I walked up to the first grouping of booths I could not deny the abundance of colors: a color pallet of orange from the carrots, a gradient of white to green from the asparagus, and the rosy red blush of turnips. Nearby were grouping of dark leaves that sprawled across several displays, each bunch was vibrant and sturdy – it was a small forest of salad.

A man passed by, he carried a flat filled with produce and presented it to a woman behind their display. The farmers were surprisingly healthy looking with pink-cheeks, and well defined statures. Mostly, though I noticed their smiles; it was obvious they loved their work.

The time was now mid-morning and the market was just starting to kick into a higher gear. Everyone was lively and embraced the good ‘vibes’ of the morning air.

A dark-haired girl gently swayed her head to the melody she crafted with her violin. The open case at her feet welcomed donations from her milling audience.

There was a table covered with a red checkerboard cloth, upon it was a small display of eggs, each egg had a slight, yet distinct variation from the next; some were tan, others were red, some were speckled. As I observed them a woman wearing a sun hat came up, plunked down her money and spoke to the owner by name, she wanted 2 cartons. The scene reminded me of a cowboy swaggering up to the bar of an old saloon. The owner reached into one of the coolers, that was behind the table, and gave the woman 2 dozen fresh eggs.

A wood-fired pizza oven gently puffed a thin trail of smoke into the sky; it was still being warmed in preparation for lunch.

A waft of aromatic goodness and a sizzle from an iron skillet was seductively compelling. I peered over splashguard of a booth’s display; a man had just added several types of veggies and garlic to a masterful looking egg creation. It appeared as though this dish could rival a similar meal from a high-end restaurant.

Finally, my eyes and tummy got the better of me. I had to sample some of this amazing food, but I was in a quandary, of the amazing choices what should I eat? Finally, I decided, and then I ate well.

Afterwards, I stepped through a well-worn door and into the red-bricked and cozy Park St. Café; one of the neighboring locally owned businesses.

I enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee, read the paper, and watched the market unfold until it was time for me to return to my motel and grab my bags. For several minutes I had noticed a family outside the window, a curious child was at their side, the parent’s were carrying bags full of bread and vegetables. They appeared to be waiting for someone. I tipped the cup and savored the last few rich drops, both of coffee and of my time at the market. The family started to smile and they welcomed some friends who had just arrived, giving warm hugs to each other. As I sat the cup down, it was decided. This was a place where I wanted to spend my time.

The market has a long history of providing jobs, and locally produced food for the community; but look deeper, it’s the embodiment of a connection to the land, to friends, and with neighbors.

To learn more visit:
http://lanecountyfarmersmarket.org
http://www.parkstcafe.com

Standoff at the Amish Bakery

One morning Grandpa announced that he was hungry for pecan pie. His eyes doubled in size when he purred the words ‘pecan pie.’ He knew of an Amish bakery about 30 miles away that made excellent pies, cookies, breads, pancakes, eggs, grits, and of course no Oklahoma country breakfast would be complete without bacon. He looked at his watch then rubbed his hands together with enthusiasm, his eyes widened again as he exclaimed, “They are still open for breakfast!”

Driving thirty miles just for breakfast seemed extreme and a waste of gas, but Grandpa had spoken. Our morning drive took us through town and out in the eastern Oklahoma countryside of prairie and gently rolling green hills. Cows dotted many of the fields like pecans on hotcakes. Grandpa’s 30 mile drive was not so much about breakfast, as it was spending time with family while enjoying some beautiful scenery.

Within half an hour we arrived at a small and simple building located at the edge of a dusty farming town. Inside was a large sparsely furnished room filled with a dozen well-worn tables. A small wooden cross was the only item displayed on one wall, two walls featured framed pictures related to farming and cattle. On the fourth wall was the register and several racks filled with baked items. Next to the racks was an unkept bulletin board with postings of local church events, carpentry work, horses for sale, and bulletins about veterinary services. The folks eating breakfast worked in the livestock and farming industries. Sitting at one very long wooden table, which was set slightly apart from the main dining area, were several modestly dressed Amish families. They were speaking in in hushed voices.

At the far end of the dinning room, just under the cross, was a large yet utilitarian buffet cart. Inside were golden waffles, fluffy scrambled eggs, thick slabs of bacon, and medallions of freshly made sausage. Adjacent was a smaller cart containing bins of large biscuits and what looked like real gravy – not the fake stuff. At a side table was a bank of pitchers that housed milk, orange juice, coffee, honey, jams and cream. All of the food, with the exception of the juice and coffee, had been produced locally on farms and prepared fresh.

As Grandpa and I served ourselves the kitchen door quickly swung open and a thin muscular man wearing an apron came out to re-stock the food trays. He was carrying a large bin of waffles. As the door swung back it provided a glimpse into the kitchen, inside were several women hard at work, they were dressed in simple garments that harkened back to an older age. I said to the man, “Good morning.” He said nothing, only politely smiled and nodded as he took inventory of the food and restocked what he could before returning to the kitchen.

A large font hand-written sign on the buffet cart read, “Do not waste food. Take only what you can eat.”

As we found a table we passed two grizzly-sized men eating their breakfast. These men reeked of a hard days work and a no-nonsense attitude. They were dressed in dirty jeans, worn flannel shirts, and appeared to be returning from a work shift rather than starting their day. One man was using a fork as a stabbing implement rather than a utensil for eating. The other man chugged a glass of milk, the glass appeared tiny in his massive hand. Instead of speaking they used grunts and low tones. These were intimidating fellows.

After cleaning their plates they swaggered to the buffet and restocked with copious quantities of sausage, biscuits and gravy. Ten minutes later the two prepared to leave, but a good supply of food remained on their plates. As they gathered their jackets and started to stand a young Amish girl of about 12 years, who helped at the restaurant, approached and politely chided the two for taking too much food. She only said, “Food is a gift.” Then motioned with her hand to the sign posted on the buffet. One man was still chewing, and at hearing the interruption he stopped for a second then slowly continued his bite – unsure how to react.
he glanced over and read the sign. The girl crossed her arms and pinched her mouth to reinforce the point. The two giants glanced at each other. A few tense seconds passed – it was a standoff! Nobody moved. Then she slowly began to tap the tip of her foot on the floor. At that moment some unseen boundary was crossed because fear now appeared on the men’s burly faces. One man respectfully said, “Yes Ma’am.” He sat down, quickly followed by this friend. The girl thanked them and returned to her duties. The two cleaned their plates, bused their dishes, and left a respectable tip in the church donation jar.

In another part of the bakery Grandpa had scoped out the pecan pies that were on display. He had identified the pies that were still warm. Then he asked a young woman at the register for her help. She told him in great detail about the quantity of pecans in each pie, the number of eggs used, the crispiness of the crust, and density of the filling. Two pies were in the final run-off; both had been baked early that morning, each flaunted a crispy crust and were golden brown on top, they also had a wonderful aroma. He wrung his hands together over and over. The decision was too much so he bought both pies.

One of the pies was enjoyed with relatives at a family dinner. The other pie was enjoyed with Grandpa over the course of two evenings as we told stories and laughed.

Quick Campground Fajitas

Quick Campground Fajitas

After a full day of camping with the family a quick, good tasting, stick-to-your-ribs meal is always appreciated. Campground fajitas are easy to make, nutritious and take about 20 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:
• 1 pound of protein (use your favorite)
• 1 Large Onion
• 1 Bell Pepper
• Small Jar of Salsa
• Cheese of Choice
• 1 Avocado
• 2 Medium Zucchinis
• 1 Small Packet of Tortillas
• 1 Lime

Equipment:
• Cutting Board
• Cutting Knife
• Aluminum Foil
• Camp Stove
• Skillet (we prefer an iron skillet)

This meal comes together very fast. Have other family members help with the preparation: cutting onions, peppers, zucchini, avocado and preparing the table with plates, utensils etc.

Cut protein and veggies into uniform strips.

Place the sliced onion and the bell pepper in a hot skillet. Cook until the onions have almost reached the desired texture and carmelization. Add the zucchini strips and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and place in a re-useable pie tin (shown) or other container that can be covered.

Add the protein to the hot skillet and cook until it reaches your desired level of being done.

The tortillas can be wrapped in aluminum foil and heated (on a stove or over the campfire). If a camp stove is easier, place the tortilla packet in a skillet. The skillet can be placed on the stove over a low heat. Turn the foil packet over every few minutes to ensure the tortillas do not burn.

This meal is a bare-bones fajitas recipe for car camping and should be adjusted to personal taste. The veggies we used travel well and can be stored for several days without refrigeration. The meat we used was frozen prior to the trip to help it stay cold and defrost in a cooler. The leftover salsa and tortillas were used with other meals.

This meal is easy to make, yummy and nutritious. Best of all, it the economical and fed four hungry adults for about $4.00 per person.

Eat Like a King with Campfire Kabobs

Eat Like a King with Campfire Kabobs

Eat like a king on your next family camping trip with campfire kabobs. These tasty morsels are easy to prepare, healthy, and extremely flavorful.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of meat (use your favorite tender cut of meat, poultry or fish)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 small zucchinis
  • 12 button mushrooms
  • ½ pound of green beans
  • Choice of seasonings

Equipment:

  • Skewers as needed (if using wood skewers, soak in water first)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cutting knife
  • Cutting board
  • Campfire or charcoal

Cut the meat into several chunks 1 to 2 inches thick. We cut and lightly seasoned the meat with olive oil and thyme the evening before our trip. This was placed in a re-sealable container and set in the refrigerator until the next day. The next morning we packed the meat in a well-iced ice-chest and made sure the other ingredients were also well chilled.

Work on the green beans. This will allow them to cook while the kabobs are being assembled. Make an aluminum foil pocket. Place the green beans inside with some olive oil with some slices of onion for flavoring. Crimp the pocket together and place on the grate over of the coals. Turn every few minutes over the coals as needed. The packet might need a full 25 minutes to cook. The packet can be placed directly on the coals if they need to cook faster.

Next, prepare the kabobs. Cut the veggies into chunks about the same size as the button mushrooms. Use any order you wish but we generally order the kabobs with meat, onion, mushroom, peppers and zucchinis. The sturdy zucchinis and peppers make good end pieces. Four of our kabobs had an assortment of meat and veggies, the fifth kabob was mostly meat.

At dinnertime the coals from the fire were spread over a one-foot square base. The kabobs were placed on a grate about 8 inches above the coals. These were slow cooked over the heat (no flame) for about 15 minutes. We used a small grate that lays over the larger grate found on many fire pits. This helps with cleaning and to keep food from falling into the fire.

The kabobs and green beans fed 3 adults and 1 child very well and even supplied some leftovers. The total cost for the entire meal was about $12 (or $3.00 per person). This kabob dinner was affordable, delicious and practical. Best of all it was enjoyed outdoors with family.

Celebrating Food, Family and the Summer Solstice at Live Earth Farm

Where does your food come from? Farmer Tom and his family at Live Earth Farm in Watsonville, California, opened their farm during the Summer Solstice so customers, visitors and the curious could connect with the land and meet the people who grow their food.

Baby GoatThis is a great family outing. Our daughter really enjoyed the goat milking demonstration where she and other children were offered a hands-on opportunity to participate. All of us enjoyed meeting and petting goats, but the star attraction was a very cute three-week old baby goat that just loved sitting on laps.

Fresh BreadPersonally, I enjoyed the bread making demonstration in an adobe oven. I had seen the oven filled with red-hot coals earlier in the day but now the aroma of baking bread caught my attention. Several families were helping and learning about baking bread. All of us eagerly watched as a small door on the adobe oven was opened and fresh, hot bread was removed. It was quickly devoured.

That afternoon we occupied ourselves exploring the farm and picking blackberries and strawberries in several fields. We also joined in on a demonstration about cheese making. The kids soon discovered the large hay fort and a large cooler of strawberry juice (the real stuff). Then came the hayride.

Families Picking PeppersFarmer Tom led families on a tractor pulled haycart through the farm to the upper fields passing peppers, wheat, apricots and eggplants. More than a ride, this was a hands-on tour of the farm. A favorite for the kids was riding on the tractor and sampling the wheat berries from a ready to harvest field of golden colored wheat.

BonfireAfter the hayride we sat on a hill braiding garlic and enjoying the day with the longest amount of daylight of the year. The weather was pleasant. From our vantage point we could overlook several farms and beyond to the green Santa Cruz Mountains. A hawk flew low observing us before returning to higher altitudes.

In the evening there was a potluck dinner followed by a bonfire. The talented marimba band Kuzanga played well into the evening as families danced, socialized and enjoyed being outside. Several kids were amazed that one of the musicians had to stand on a three-foot tall stool just to play the largest and deepest sounding of the marimbas.

The sun had just set and the evening was cooling. Our family and our friends headed home. All of us were tired yet happy after a full day at the farm. We left with full tummies, our fresh picked berries, braids of garlic and great memories.

Learn more and continue your own explorations of the Live Earth Farm. Live Earth Farm is focused on Community Supported Agriculture were the customer agrees to buy a part of the farm’s organically grown, in-season harvest and in return the farm commits to growing high-quality veggies, fruits and herbs. The farm delivers a bountiful portion of the harvest every week to a neighborhood location for pickup by customers