Celebrate May Beef Month with a burger – or two

May 4, 2012

May is Beef Month in Iowa, and we’re sharing our top five ways to celebrate like a real cowboy or cowgirl. After all, Iowa’s beef industry contributes more than $5.1 billion to the state economy and creates nearly 40,000 direct and indirectly related jobs. So pass the steak sauce and dig into these fun May Beef Month ideas:

1. Enjoy Iowa’s Best Burger. The Coon Bowl III, a bowling alley in Coon Rapids, was named the 2012 winner of Iowa’s Best Burger Contest by the Iowa Beef Industry Council. The Coon Bowl III uses an 80/20 blend of ground chuck, one of the most popular blends for tasty burgers. Customers can ask for any extras, whether that’s “running the burger through a garden” by requesting lettuce and tomato or adding cheese, bacon or mushrooms as toppings.

2. Join Team Beef. Do you plan to run a 5K, half-marathon or marathon event, or bike the RAGBRAI route this summer? Then become a member of Team Beef, a group of Iowa athletes who promote the benefits of consuming lean, nutrient-rich beef in boosting their performance. Team Beef members participate in popular events, such as the Dam to Dam race in Des Moines. They also receive a free Team Beef T-shirt to wear on race day. To sign up, visit http://www.iabeef.org/teambeef.aspx.

3. Try a new beef dish. Break out of the suppertime rut with creative, easy beef recipes. A few new favorites:
– Steakhouse pizza, http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/09/steakhouse-pizza/
– Steak carne asada tacos, http://picky-palate.com/2011/05/02/restaurant-style-carne-asada-soft-tacos-with-guacamole-and-corn/
– French onion soup sliders, http://iowagirleats.com/2012/05/02/stuffed-french-onion-soup-sliders/

4. Know your cuts of beef. One of best ways to save money on groceries is to take advantage of sales at the meat counter. Learn more about the different beef cuts and how to cook them with the Interactive Beef Case (http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/meatcase.aspx).

5. Get educated. Ever wonder about the difference between corn-fed and grass-fed beef. What about beef safety? Here’s where to find answers from the experts:
– Grass-fed vs. corn-fed, http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/main/food_for_thought/0/30
– Cow-chow, an interactive game exploring what cows eat, http://www.explorebeef.org/cowchow.aspx
– Safe handling tips for cooking beef, http://www.iabeef.org/SafeHandling.aspx

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.


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The pursuit of bacon

February 21, 2012

This past weekend, I discovered that there is no such thing as too much bacon.

I quickly lost track of how much bacon I sampled at the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival Feb. 18 in Des Moines (or to be more honest, I stopped counting after the sixth piece of bacon). Yet I kept standing in long lines waiting for more, amazed at the endless variety of bacon-inspired dishes.

In its fifth year, the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival attracted national attention and has become the must-eat event for Iowa foodies. It was my first visit to the festival, and I was lucky to get a ticket. The 4,000 available tickets were sold out in less than 20 minutes.

The fun-loving crowd arrived with hearty appetites as they gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds to celebrate all things bacon. Banners hanging from the rafters of the Varied Industries Building proudly declared, “Ohhhh, bacon!” Attendees donned plastic pig snouts, bacon costumes and humorous T-shirts, many paying homage to the actor Kevin Bacon.

The lines at the vendor booths were so long it was hard to tell where they began. Often, I didn’t know what bacon concoction the vendor was serving until I got to the front of the line.

I ended up sampling bacon sausages, bacon and blue cheese appetizers, and bacon gumbo. I gobbled up a quesadilla filled with bacon, grilled pineapple and melted mozzarella cheese. I watched while a restaurant vendor stuffed bacon inside a soft corn tortilla, then topped it with hot sauce, onions and cilantro, for a twist on the traditional BLT.

And who would have guessed that I would fall head-over-heals with “The Elvis” – a bacon, honey, peanut butter and banana pizza. The bacon cheesecake and caramel bacon gelato were life-changing. I may never eat ice cream without bacon again.

Of course, I also found plenty of vendors offering just plain ol’ bacon. Often, the farmers themselves were serving up the bacon slices, hot off the frying pan. I walked around the festival with bacon grease dripping from my fingers. Thankfully, the napkins were plentiful.

It only makes sense that Iowans celebrate their love of bacon. As the top pork-producing state in the nation, bacon is part of our heritage. Nearly every Iowan has a connection to the pork industry, either directly or indirectly.

Iowa farmers are known for raising the best pork in the world, and we should be proud of their accomplishments. After all, could you imagine a world without bacon – on your burger, your omelet or even your salad? So whenever you hear bacon sizzling in a pan, feel free to shout out: “Ohhh, bacon!” You’ll be in good company.

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.


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A toast to farmers this Thanksgiving

November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving is truly an all-American holiday. And there’s no better reflection of American agriculture and its diversity than the Thanksgiving table. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner features foods grown across the United States, from sea to shining sea.

Here’s a closer look at where your Thanksgiving favorites likely came from, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

- Turkey – Our neighbor to the north, Minnesota, is the top turkey-producing state. Iowa ranks ninth nationally in turkey production and is home to two turkey processors, Sara Lee Foods of Storm Lake and West Liberty Foods, which supply deli meats to Subway restaurants, among others.

- Cranberries – Wisconsin is number one in cranberry production. Wisconsin cranberries are grown in marshes, which are flooded at harvest so the berries can “float” for easier collection.

- Sweet potatoes – North Carolina ranks above all others in sweet potato production. Fun fact: Sweet potatoes are native to North Carolina and were grown by American Indians when Columbus discovered America.

- Pumpkin and pecans – Another neighboring state, Illinois, is the nation’s leading pumpkin producer. Prefer pecan pie over pumpkin? The pecans likely came from top-producers Texas and Georgia.

- Bread and stuffing – One-third of the country’s wheat crop, the primary ingredient in breads, stuffing and pie crust, is grown in North Dakota, Kansas and Montana.

- Green beans – It isn’t Thanksgiving without green bean casserole. Wisconsin ranks first in the nation in snap (green) bean production.

You may notice that Iowa isn’t listed as a top producer of our favorite Thanksgiving foods. But that doesn’t mean our state isn’t invited to the table.

Iowa is the nation’s leader in corn, soybean, egg and pork production. The eggs in your pumpkin pie likely came from Iowa, as did the bacon in your green bean casserole. (Everything is better with bacon.)

Iowa farmers also grow the corn and soybeans used to feed turkeys in Minnesota and across the country.
Our highly-productive farms make U.S. agriculture the envy of the world. It’s why we Americans should never take our food, and farmers, for granted.

So let’s raise a glass of wine (yes, many Iowa farmers grow grapes), or milk if you prefer (got to support those Iowa dairy farmers), to the U.S. farmers who fill our plates on Thanksgiving and year-round.

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.


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Celebrating holiday food traditions

December 21, 2010
Kringla

Kringla from Lori’s Kringla and More bakery in Rockwell City.

The other day I heard a song on the radio that brought back memories of my kindergarten holiday concert: “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.”

Even though I haven’t heard that song in years, I still could sing along to every word as if I was once again a 6-year-old girl with a Dorothy Hamill haircut and a wiggly front tooth.

That’s the funny thing about holiday memories. You never know what will trigger them. I always think of Christmas at grandma’s house when I hear sleigh bells jingling as a door opens or when I see holiday hams for sale at the grocery store.

Come to think of it, many of my earliest holiday memories are tied to the foods my grandma served while we sat at the “kid’s table” for Christmas dinner.

While I can’t remember what Santa gave me when I was 6 years old, I do remember how much I loved my grandma’s homemade Norwegian potato lefse.

My red-headed dad and uncle used to make what they called a “Norwegian taco.” They would wrap lefse, which looks like a tortilla, around lutefisk, an infamously stinky cod fish that’s preserved by soaking in lye. (There’s a reason why tourists go to Italy, and not Norway, for the food.)

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve come to appreciate my grandma’s efforts to carry on our family’s Norwegian traditions through her holiday meals.

As I’ve talked to Farm Bureau members from across the state, I’ve learned that each Iowa family has their own unique holiday food traditions.

I once met a farm family that gets together each year on the day after Thanksgiving to bake hundreds of Christmas cookies to share with friends and neighbors. The family ends the day by frying up Norwegian rosettes, a crisp pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar that’s shaped using their grandparent’s antique iron molds.

Not surprisingly, many holiday foods reflect Iowa’s immigrant heritage. Several Iowa farm families serve German stollen bread or Swedish lingonberries at Christmas. Other families bake up Dutch letters, Italian biscotti and Czech kolaches for holiday cookie plates.

Bakery owner Lori Dale learned how to make Norwegian kringla from her aunt using a recipe from her grandmother, who was born in Norway but settled in Story County, Iowa.

Now customers come to Lori’s Kringla and More bakery in Rockwell City for a taste of kringla just like their grandmothers made at Christmas.

While I’ll always miss my grandma and her Norwegian meals, I’m glad to carry on one of her Christmas traditions. A couple years ago, my dad gave me a lefse grill and a copy of my grandmother’s lefse recipe. Now I serve lefse alongside the holiday ham at Christmas.

However, my husband still won’t let me bring lutefisk into our home. Maybe I need to sing him a few Christmas carols to get him in the holiday spirit. (Santa baby, I’ve been an aw-full-y good girl…)

So tell us, what’s your family’s favorite holiday food tradition?

- If you’re looking for a unique holiday gift, Lori’s Kringla and More sells homemade authentic Norwegian kringla online at www.loriskringla.com.

- For step-by-step instructions on baking German Christmas stolen, visit the Iowa State Fair Challenge blog. (http://iowastatefairchallenge.blogspot.com/2010/12/test-kitchen-thursday-stollen.html)

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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