Iowa Girl Eats
IDA GROVE – For a girl who grew up in West Des Moines, Kristin Porter has been touring more of rural Iowa and is learning more about the farm-to-fork connection than most urban and rural Iowans.
This celebrated blogger isn’t going it alone, however, as she invites consumers and farmers alike to join her journey.
“The farmers I’ve met have been so open and willing to share,” said Porter, 30, a well-known Iowa food, travel and fitness blogger behind Iowa Girl Eats blog, which boasts more than 2 million followers.
Porter’s online adventures into agriculture have been coordinated by the Iowa Food & Family Project. This spring and summer, Porter has traveled to destinations across Iowa to share the stories of the people who grow and serve great food.
So far, her stops have included Rose Acre Farms, in Stuart, to learn about egg production, Iowa State University’s dairy barns, the Des Moines Farmers Market, David Ausberger’s corn and soybean farm, near Jefferson, and, on June 10, Dan Roeder’s turkey farm near Ida Grove.
“We loved the opportunity to meet with Kristin and talk about farming and food production,” said Roeder, who has farmed since 1996 and owns nine turkey barns that hold 11,000 birds each. “We want people to see how we care for our turkeys and are committed to producing safe, nutritious food.”
Iowa’s rural roots
As Porter toured Roeder’s turkey barns, which were built in 2005, she learned about the rations the birds are fed, how fast they grow and how the birds supply some of the turkey that’s served at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich restaurants.
Opportunities like this have been an eye-opening experience, Porter said.
“Even though I’ve spent most of my life in Iowa, I’m not a farm girl,” she said, who earned her degree in marketing from the University of Northern Iowa and started blogging in 2008. “I want to know more about farming and our state’s rural roots, though.”
Through the “Join my Journey” experience, Porter has learned about the science of hybridizing seed, helped sort and package eggs at an egg-laying farm, taken the wheel of a tractor to plant soybeans and met the farm families who raise and care for their poultry, hogs and cattle.
Readers who follow her blog have appreciated this opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look into Iowa agriculture, Porter said.
“I’ve received nothing but positive feedback,” she said. “Many of my readers don’t know much about farming or food production, and they want to learn more.”
Porter, who is known for featuring simple, accessible recipes made with fresh ingredients, enjoyed the opportunity to cook with the Roeder family and representatives of the Iowa Turkey Federation during her trip to Ida County in June.
She prepared a number of favorites, including easy salsa meatloaf and Thai grilled pizza with turkey.
“The farmers I’ve met have taught me a lot,” said Porter, who is expecting her first child this summer. “I’m glad I can explore Iowa agriculture in a whole new way and encourage people to join my journey through Iowa agriculture.”
To follow Porter’s blog, log onto iowafoodandfamily.com/journey.
Talkin’ ‘n’ eatin’ turkey
Porter prepared a number of turkey recipes during her tour of the Roeder turkey farm. These include:
Easy salsa meatloaf
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, minced
Dried parsley to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the ground turkey, salsa, bread crumbs, cheese, egg and garlic.
Season with parsley, salt and pepper.
Transfer to a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan.
Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Thai grilled pizza
1/4 cup fresh lime juice with pulp
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced green onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups grilled or cooked turkey, shredded
1 10-ounce tube refrigerated pizza dough
Olive oil, as needed
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1 medium carrot, cut into 2 1 / 8-inch match sticks
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
Prepare grill for indirect-heat cooking.
Combine lime juice, soy sauce, onion, cilantro, peanut butter, oil, brown sugar, gingerroot, lime zest, red pepper flakes and garlic in a large saucepan.
Stir in shredded turkey. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Unroll pizza dough and pat into a rectangle, approximately 10-by13-inches. Cut dough into 4 equal pieces.
Reduce grill heat to low. Brush grill rack with olive oil. Using the indirect grilling method, slide pizza crusts on grill and cook until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes until dough is puffy and lightly browned.
Turn pizza crusts over. Top browned side of pizza crusts with heated turkey mixture. Sprinkle with green onions, carrot sticks and cilantro.
Sprinkle pizzas with cheese.
Cover with grill lid or tent with foil. Heat pizzas about 5 minutes or until crusts are cooked on bottom, cheese melts and pizzas are hot.
NOTE: To set up a gas grill for indirect cooking, preheat all burners on high. Turn one burner off; place pizzas over non-lit burner.
Reset remaining burner(s) to medium. Close lid to cook.
To set up charcoal grill for indirect cooking, arrange hot coals around outer edge of grill; place disposable aluminum pan in open space. Place pizzas over open area and close lid to cook.
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