Shroomage II

This is a long-awaited followup post to this one, chronicling the growth of my diy fungus colony. The oyster mushrooms were slow growing for the first week or so, then suddenly sprang up over a few days. Here they are nearing full bloom. Creepy alien lifeform…yet so tasty.

Mushroom kit home mushroom kit

Eugeneward ho!

 

It has been quite a few months since the wife and I both had a day off – a weekend day specifically – together. And on these rare occasions we sometimes don’t realize it until nearly the last minute. Of course, the first thing we ask eachother when such a situation arises… is “so what should we do?”

 

Sure enough, we found ourselves in such a situation this past weekend. There wasn’t enough time for an overnighter, and she wanted to at least sleep in a ‘bit’. So the options for a destination narrowed down to something less than 3 hours away and – because we po’ – ideally something on the cheap. Portland and Hood River were ruled out early on, and since the dog’s been sore lately, so was any sort of adventurous hiking expedition. It took only a few moments before Eugene was suggested, and immediately all combined eyebrows raised without objection.

 

Highway 20 towards SistersOur destination was now set and in no time we were jumping in and out of the shower, delightedly clicking through Beer Advocate, and perusing events and attractions in the Eugene area.

 

With a cursory agenda set, we saddled up the Fitty, corralled the exuberant dog, and hit the road. Rolling out of Bend northward, we stop quickly for a huge iced tea and some greezy breakfast items at Sonic Drive-In, before striking Hwy 20 towards Sisters. We ended up leaving town by 10 and aside from getting stuck behind a house being moved, we enjoy the wide open road.

 

There are several routes to consider, when driving from Bend to Eugene. All of them pretty, but the McKenzie Pass takes the prize as the most awesome. It’s a scenic byway only open and snow-free for a few months, lined with stunning viewpoints, remote trailheads, waterfalls and all sorts of Oregon’y goodness. We make a couple brief viewpoint stops on the eastern (dry side) before eventually passing westward down the winding narrow road towards Eugene.

North and Middle Sister MountainsMount Washington from McKenzie hwyMcKenzie pass, near proxy falls

The McKenzie Pass is one of my old haunts from years ago, and is featured prominently in my book. We discuss pulling off and taking a stroll. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s a shady cool forest on a bright sunny day, and just around noon. My first thought goes to Proxy Falls. It’s easily in the top 3 falls in Oregon and is a staple in everything from calendars to advertising…very picturesque. The hike in is 3/4 of a mile, through both forested and rocky/sunny outcrops, before the whisper of the falls meets us. I coax the wife down the rocky scramble to the base of the falls, where we take our time wading out and exploring the crystal clear pools and eddies. I neglect to mention all the little craydads (my own term for crayfish/crawdads) that are surely dancing about our wiggling toes.

jaeda dog jumps from the creek up onto a logcuuuuutest everproxy falls (photo taken in 2009)

 

The falls canyon is cool and relaxing, but with the thought of delicious craft beer, we scamper back up to the trail and enjoy the stroll back to camp, chatting with some other visitors, making recommendations about nearby attractions. I don’t think we told them I wrote an entire book about said attractions, haha.

 

The landscape has already transformed into a lush forest of ferns and mosses, primeval almost in its vibrancy. We cruise slowly down the road until it finally levels and straightens into rolling timber hillsides and farmland.Around Blue River or Vida we spot a farm advertising produce and turn around to investigate. We are not disappointed. In addition to you-pick and hand-picked blueberries, they’ve got a little petting zoo, homemade blueberry popsicles, and enough tasty organic produce to make us squee with delight.

We polish off almost the whole pint of blueberries in ten minutes, and were soon seeing signs of civilization and are fast approaching Eugene.

 

Eugene- Whitaker neighborhoodIt had been more than two years since either of us had spent any time in Eugene. It was basically just as we remembered. There’s a lot that I can say about the place, and a lot that I can’t quite articulate. It’s unique in a number of ways, specifically a rare and powerful sense of community and diversity. On one hand, it’s a city that seems old and worn…soggy and dirty. Yet there’s no trash, tons of development, and a young population. It’s a haven for the homeless and destitute, yet a vibrant college town. Home to anarchists, hippies and environmental protesters…but also the birthplace of Nike and a mecca for track running and outdoor recreation. It’s a beautifully green town, tree-lined and gardened, with a burgeoning craft-beer scene. This last fact did not escape us, and for this specifically we decided to visit Eugene on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Hop Valley Brewing was our first stop. A nifty little brewpub restaurant, technically in the adjacent Springfield, not far from I-5. Their beers are great, their branding and atmosphere just as spot-on. It’s got a decent food menu and the staff knew the beers well. We shared a sampler and a special limited-edition ‘saison’ that was tart and tasted more like a fruit beer – just look at how neon red it is! We also destroyed a sausage plate, which featured their own meats and three different sauces/mustards.On the way out, we also bought a pair of can koozies for home…because well…it keeps cans cold, perfect for camping, and sometimes you just need to hide the shame of that PBR or Rainier.

hop valley brewing sampler trayHop valley brewing saisonSasquatchi

Ninkasi Quantum PANinkasi sampler flight
– Stop number two was the amazing Ninkasi Brewing Company. These fellows don’t mess around and are already brewing multiple-award-winning elixirs, while also supporting tons of awesome events, charities and earning a place in my list of all-around great breweries (tied somewhere in top 5!). We shared an epic flight of their best stuff.

 

 

Kulmbacher PilsBier Stein...one of many coolers

– Our third stop was the venerable Bier Stein. We wanted to pace ourselves (I did have to drive afterall) so we sipped and relaxed, browsing their huge bottle selection like kids in a candystore. I went with a light Kulmbacher, a german pils I hadn’t had in maybe five years. It was delish. The Misses went with an IPA.

 

falling Sky Brewing samplerOur final stop was the new Falling Sky Brewing. This was the surprise underdog stop, as we hadn’t had their stuff really and had just looked it up on the fly before the trip. What we did know, was that their menu seemed the most impressive…so we wanted to save them for dinner. The clock was creeping past 6, so we pulled down the alley and were glad to see this vibrant outdoor patio and a bright modern gastro/brewpub. We went with a cloud-shaped flight of their very tasty brews. We also split a BLT with a side of their delicious poutine…which I have a craving for again…being a cheese n’ gravy aficionado as I am.

 

Jaeda; patio vacuum and part-time dog, joined us for our long relaxing meal at Falling Sky and we spooned at delicious homemade ice cream as a band setup for the evening. The sun was quite low however, and being a Sunday night, we reluctantly groaned to our feet and made our way to the car. We topped off the gas, and hit the road, back east over the pass.

 

TwilightCascades Sunset w/full moon

Aside from a stop to water some trees, we also somehow timed some perfectly serene and beautiful sunset views all along the way. We rolled into Bend around 9, unlocking the front door of our house with just a hint of fading twilight to guide the key in.

 

What a day!

 

 

Grunions vs Scunions

Wanted to share a nice little trick that the wife found online and had me try. Basically this:

Green onions (scallions) will thrive in a glass of water.

 

Not like scallions are expensive, merely $1 (or I believe $.69 here at Hy-Vee) for a bunch, so allow me share some great reasons to try this yourself:

 

Scallion in water

  • Leaving them in a glass of water will keep them fresh perpetually. Scallions only last a couple weeks in the fridge before getting wilted and slimy. You can start now! Cut off the nasty parts and submerge the roots, it’ll come back to life. I’ve been growing the same bunch for over a month now.

 

  • They will re-grow, fast! You can cut from the plant often, and it will send up new green shoots if given lots of sun. I’ve noticed a couple inches of growth in a day for some of the larger stalks. They grow taller than you see at the stores too, have a few getting close to three-feet tall!

 

  • They’re clean and organic. No soil, no bugs, no chemicals. Even if they were not organic when you bought at store, i’d assume they will become ‘organic’ – free of chemicals – after a few weeks.  (though some may argue otherwise). I don’t even wash them…except a good rinse before the ‘planting’.

 

  • Scallions make great houseplants. They are a vivid spring-green, are incredibly easy to care for (just add water), and look stylish in a mason jar or vase. They are perfect in a kitchen window or table – being food themed – but honestly look good anywhere from an office cube to a patio. Also, they’re cheap.

 

Couple quick tips:

-Change the water at least once a week.

-Only keep an inch or two of water.

-Peel away any dead pieces or husk.

-I’d recommend filtered water if you’ve got highly chlorinated tap water.

-Sometimes the stalks fill with goo, just like aloe vera. Squeeze-out before visiting the cuttingboard.

-Most people, me included, prefer to the green parts of the plant… more flavor, color, texture (in my opinion). If you primarily eat the white end first, chopping off the root nub will likely kill the plant and not re-grow the roots.

 

Oh, also please feel free to vote for either Grunion vs Scunion in the comments, ha.

 

Homemade dog food gruel

Anyone would agree that dogfood can get pricy, especially if you go for anything other than cheap-o name brand.The fact is, dog bodies aren’t meant to eat corn byproducts (nor are livestock for that matter), which is what most big-brand dog food is these days. This stuff causes myriad health effects; everything from digestion problems, tumors, and shorter lifespans. Corn’s (the cheapest) filler material, which is why big brand dog food has a ton of it in there.

We generally feed our dog a mix of dry kibble and some sort of wetter food mixed in. This wet addition has been everything from pureed pumpkin, leftover people food, canned dog food, or occasionally a raw egg.The dry kibble we use is decent, from Nutro. It’s middle-of-the-road. It’s still got lots of grains, but no corn. It’s not organic, but it’s cheap. We’ll occasionally mix up the flavor, but it’s generally the same brand.

 

One thing we also started recently, is to make our own dog food.This is something that anyone can do, and if you follow these quick suggestions, you might even enjoy doing it, as well as justify the time and cost. I’ll list my tips first, and our exact recipe will follow:

  • Leftovers! Most dogs will eat everything including the kitchen sponge. If you have dinner leftovers, institutionalized canned food in the pantry, barely overripe produce… throw it all in. Obviously be conscious about dog allergies/toxicity. Avoid chocolate, avocados, and all those no-no food items. If you’re curious, just google the food to see what vet’s say.
  • Shop in bulk. Rolled oats, rice, and other stuff is incredibly cheap from bulk bins.
  • Plan to make the food in a single pot; easy to clean up

 

Now for our recipe, and price breakdown. Obviously your exact concoction can be anything you want. This is what we put together for the most recent batch:

  • 2 cups of rolled oats (these puff up like 4 times their volume when cooked) bulk: $.40
  • Broth and water. (our broth was made from a chicken carcass weeks ago, and frozen. I don’t recommend canned/boxed broth, as it’s often very salty) broth/water: $free
  • 2 russet potatoes, 1 big sweet potato, 1 butternut squash. These were are from cupboard, starting to spud-out and get rubbery. The butternut squash had been hiding for like 3 months. $1
  • Bacon grease…so tasty. This was the drippings from a pack of bacon, maybe 3-4 tablespoons. $free
  • 1 cup of apple sauce. Again, old fridge leftover. $.50
  • 1 cup de-shelled spanish peanuts. These were leftover from x-mas baking $.25
  • Other ideas: rice, ground beef/pork/turkey, peanut butter, canned pumpkin, stale cereal, carrots and veggies, pasta, egg, etc.

Total cost for a huge pot of dog food: $2.15

Cut up the starchy things into 1 inch cubes. We baked/roasted them in the oven, as we were making some seasoned taters for ourselves too. You can also boil. Roasting will make the texture less slimy though.

Make the rolled oats per instructions in a large pot. You can also do rice instead of (or in addition to) oats. I believe for either, the ratio is 2:1 liquid to grain. Once the oats are cooked and steamy, dump in all the other ingredients except the tater chunks. Cook everything for 10-15 min until it’s hot and consistent, then gently fold in the potato chunks. The idea is to maintain some texture…otherwise everything can quickly turn into just a pureed paste. I like to think Jaeda enjoys the chunks, heh. In the end, it should be thick grey gruel. Go ahead and try it. It won’t taste terribly appetizing by people standards…but have you ever tried to eat dog food? 😉

 

Let it cool, then portion out into either freezer containers or ziplock bags to store. We keep one pack in the fridge to use, and pull one from the freezer when it gets low. We mix a few spoonfulls of the gruel in with half a cup of her dry kibble, and she looooves it, nosing around and eating the gruel bites out first.

 

Cleanup is a breeze: one pot, one mixing spoon, one cutting board (and a cookie sheet if we decided to roast the taters).

homemade dog food
Frozen and stocked up for the next month. The orange chunks are squash and sweet per-tater.

 

 

 

Food-buying tips

My wife and I are fairly good grocery shoppers, or so we assume. There are criteria we obey when shopping, and we are conscious of purchasing foods that are preferably 1)local and/or responsibly grown 2)chemical and hormone free 3)minimally processed. This isn’t too hard, mostly involves just shopping around the periphery of the supermarket, avoiding the center aisles where all the big brand processed food dwells. Aside from those few rules, here’s 5 things that the average person should keep in mind…deceptions that we’ve fallen prey to.

 

1. Products with olive oil. Whether it’s mayonnaise, salad dressing, crackers, or frozen food, generally people will pay more for something with ‘olive oil’ emblazoned across the label. Truth is, most of these things could have 2% of the oil, with the 98% of other oils…canola, corn, cottonseed, hydrogenated oils, etc. Check the label. Even if olive oil is #1 on the ingredient list, there’s all sorts of issues with olive oil out there. Basically, be skeptical when paying more for something with olive oil as a selling point.

 

2. “Light”. This one has slowly become a no-brainer. For years now, things are branded as ‘light’ or ‘low fat’. In all honesty, how different is a light wheat thin compared to a regular one? You’re still eating a whole box of carbs, who cares if it’s got a bit less grease. For many products, the manufacturer exchanges fat for sugar (usually HFCS). A lowfat ice cream or salad dressing may be less fat, but it’ll be pure sugar. In the whole low calorie battle, it’s more about quality. A potato will always be a healthier purchase than a bag of Ore-Ida fries, a pack of preservative-free bacon is better than a box of low-fat JimmyDean frozen ‘sausages’.

 

3. Vanilla. This spice is damn-expensive, and nearly any big-brand processed product uses only something called vanillin, a synthetic compound used from everything from food to that car air freshener. This is not vanilla, and the jury is still out as to it’s health effects, as the majority of vanillin is now made synthetically, mostly in China. This fake vanilla can even have ‘all natural’ or ‘naturally flavored’ on its label, as those words are not regulated…which brings us onto the next issue.

 

4. “Natural”. This doesn’t mean shit. The term “Organic” does have quite a few federal guidelines, but ‘natural’ means nothing, only somewhat regulated in the meat and poultry industry. Even for meat, ‘natural’ just means that it has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. This has nothing to do with hormones, genetically modification, living conditions, or any other chemicals or ingredients…and has no bearing in the non-meat industry. Long story short, if it’s not meat, and it says ‘natural’, there’s likely no difference between it and any other product on the shelf, don’t waste the extra money.

 

5. Vitamin C. Here’s the thing…pasteurization destroys vitamin C molecules. To compensate for this, juice companies that advertise ‘vitamin C’ prominently add ascorbic acid or other synthesized chemicals to the drink to bring the C back up to 100%. You might as well just buy vitamins, because that’s all this is. If you like juice or fruit snacks a lot, buy them, but the big flashy “Vitamin C” graphic on the label is crap. Don’t buy OJ or sugar-water just because you think you need vitamin C… If you want to fight scurvy, go grab yourself a grapefruit or something.

 

Bendward Ho

Update: Had a gooood time in Bend. Managed to pack every day with all sorts of activities, focused around beer, food, and catching up with friends.

Oh, and also the mountains!

Original Post:

Having a great time in Bend, so far I’ve hit up the following attractions…in less than 3 days:

GoodLife Brewing

Silvermoon Brewing

Dudley’s Bookshop

REI

McMenamins (Fireside bar)

Parilla grill

McMenamins (O’kanes)

Mt Bachelor

Cascade Lakes Brewing Lodge

Platypus Bar

Pizza Mondo

Pho Viet Cafe

Rockin’ Dave’s

 

 

MOYP Night

We haven’t had a make-your-own-pizza night for a while, but we had a lot of fixins, so last night we made it happen!

I make the crust following this easy recipe:

  • 3 cups of unbleached flour
  • half a packet of yeast
  • tbsp of olive oil
  • tbsp of salt
  • water (about 1.5 cups)

Put the flour, yeast, salt and oil in a bowl. Add water a bit at a time, stirring constantly. I use a large dinner fork to stir, anything else just becomes too gooey. As far as consistency, I always eyeball it. The dough should keep its shape (for a little while), but still be very sticky to allow for perfect air bubbles.

Cover the bowl loosely with a damp cloth and leave it on the count. Let sit for as long as 4-5 hours. The yeast will do its thing, making the dough bubbly and perfect.

Preheat oven to 450. When ready, roll dough out on a well-floured counter (or toss in the air if you’ve got mad skills and want a round pizza). I also dust my pan with cornmeal, so the pizza doesn’t stick and has crisp morsels. Dry flour works as well, or get a non-stick pizza pan/stone. Put on toppings. You can also brush butter or olive oil on the crust. I personally put some garlic powder, paprika, and salt together, to make a buttery crust glaze, then brush it on. Bake on 450 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Mine (right): Homemade Pesto sauce, Mozz, marble jack and parm cheeses, fresh spinach, sliced tomato, mushrooms, artichoke hearts.

Wifes: Homemade Pesto sauce, Mozz and parm cheeses, fresh spinach, fresh zucchini, roasted butternut squash, ham.

 

holy coke

There’s a supermarrket here in Omaha that has easily become our favorite. They’ve got a lot of good things going for them, including their own tortillaria and smokehouse, as well as an impressive deli, meat, produce and beer department. Lots of strange hard-to-find items and local stuff.

As we walked in, we were greeted by this: the biggest wall of coke products i’ve ever seen. It’s like 20 feet tall. The diet boxs spell out “Super Saver Boystown” (plus i think thats a football on the far wall). I’d say that they have too many employees with free time on their hands, but the rest of the store was so impressive that I don’t know what to think now.

 

Another thing we saw was an entire section of vegetarian TVP (textured vegetable protein) canned ‘meat’. They appeared to be in the form of either soild masses that can be cut for burgers, or cans of hotdog-like things. They all had interesting names, like “Skallops”, “Choplets”, and “Prime Stake”. We had already bought a million-dollars worth of stuff by this point, so decided to give their veggie stake loaf a go next visit 😉 Here’s the company website that makes these canned meatish foods.