the new, improved Beyond Meat burger

You are, perhaps, getting tired of my reviews of plant-based meat substitutes. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t offer just one more.

Beyond Meat Burger packageEarlier this summer I received an email from the good folks at Beyond Meat saying that they were coming out with an improved burger with marbling and a meatier taste. Around that time the burger disappeared from the store shelves. Within the last week, however, the new, improved burger (as per the packaging) has been in stock both at WinCo and Stater Bros. I picked up a package on Friday and made burgers using my homemade sourdough bread for buns that evening.

It really is better. You can see the marbling in the burger, and the cooked burger has a meatier, fuller, more flavorful taste with an even more meat-like texture. And it is, in both Terry’s and my opinion, more filling.

The team at Beyond Meat is doing some excellent work.


an indulgence, but a thoroughly enjoyable one

I have a new iPhone 8. I love it.

iPhone 8My previous phone was an iPhone 5s which I have had, I want to say, for four years. I was trying to keep limping along with it, but I was getting squeezed for storage space. I was deleting both apps and photos (copying the photos to my PC) to free up space. And it was getting slower.

Terry’s iPhone 5c had flat out died, and she needs her smart phone for work. She went to the Verizon store and came home with an iPhone 8. I tried to resist, but reached the point where I was simply not productive with my 5s.

I ventured out to the Verizon store and came home with my new iPhone 8.

I’m very happy with it. I have 60 gigabytes of storage instead of 16. I can store my audiobooks and podcasts, and the screen is large enough to be able to read Kindle books as well. I was able to reinstall the apps I deleted.

Not only that, but I set up Apple Pay, which is amazingly convenient at the few places that accept it.

As part of the accessory package I got a protective case and cover and a wireless charger. I no longer have to plug my iPhone into the connector to charge it, but simply place it on the pad. And I got one for Terry as well.

It is more money on the monthly bill, but it’s such a pleasure.


the Impossible Whopper

Impossible WhopperIt has been an interesting journey in that the rise of plant-based meat substitutes corresponded with the time after my surgery in which I was not allowed red meat. I am coming up on the six month mark and so should be able to return to red meat. I’ll check with my surgeon at the beginning of next week. (I really want a Double Double from In-n-Out!)

In the interim, however, I have tried a number of plant-based products: the Beyond Meat burger, two varieties of Beyond Meat sausage, the LightLife ground, the LightLife burger, and, of course, the Carl’s Jr. Beyond Famous Star. I have been pleased with the taste and texture of all of those.

Impossible WhopperThen there’s the one I’ve been waiting for: the Impossible Whopper. It rolled out nationwide on Thursday and I tried one yesterday. Now I have long been a Whopper fan. It’s not In-n-Out, not by a long shot, but one cannot live by In-n-Out alone, and the Whopper is a pretty darn good burger as fast food burgers go. The only problem is that it doesn’t come with cheese. You have to specifically request it, which I think is silly.

So the Impossible Whopper? Marvelous. I could not tell the difference from the beef Whopper. I just need to remember to ask for cheese.

Beyond Meat. LightLife. Impossible. It’s a whole new world and I love it.


The Sun Is a Compass

The Sun is a Compass coverThe Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds
Caroline Van Hemert
Narrated by Xe Sands
Hachette Audio, March 19, 2019
$20.76 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

The author is a biologist who specializes in the study of birds, particularly species found in Alaska. She married a former college roommate of her sister, a man who loves the outdoors and who would build cabins in the wilderness with his two hands. Caroline was becoming bored with academia, research, and dissertation writing, so the two of them decided to trek across the Alaskan and Canadian arctic.

This was no small excursion. They planned a four thousand mile, six month journey across lands that were not mapped or perhaps barely mapped. Some of the of the segments on their trip many have been most recently mapped decades earlier. Everything had to be carefully planned: how much they would carry with them, where they could pick up pre-arranged re-supply packages, and all sorts of logistical details.

Van Hemert’s writing is flowing, precise, and descriptive. Much of the book reads like a novel as she describes those times when their lives were in real danger. I knew that they would make it through each perilous incident since this is a memoir, not a novel, and she survived to write the account. Nonetheless, I really felt the tension in those precarious moments.

The narrator, Xe Sands, is a skilled voice actor. You hear Caroline’s emotions in her voice and I felt as if I was actually listening to the author herself.

If you enjoy this genre, do not overlook The Sun Is a Compass.


the LightLife Burger

I had planned veggie burgers for dinner a week ago. On Tuesday I went shopping at our nearby Stater Bros. supermarket and discovered they were out of the Beyond Meat burger in the fresh meat department. I had noticed that they had been missing at WinCo recently as well. The sausages were there, but not the burger. It seems that Beyond Meat has a supply problem, which, I suppose, is a Good Thing because it means that there is demand for their product. But that didn’t help me with Wednesday dinner.

LightLife BurgerI went up the street to Sprouts, which had both the Beyond Meat burger and the LightLife burger in the meat department’s freezer case. I had recently made chili with the LightLife Ground, and it was quite good so I decided to try the burger as well. It was fine that the burgers were frozen since they would have more than twenty-four hours to thaw out in the fridge.

On Wednesday I cooked the burgers using the grill pan on our stovetop and served them with my homemade sourdough bread for the buns, which I also lightly grilled. Excellent! Both Terry and I agreed that the LightLife was really indistinguishable from they Beyond Burger. Trying the two in a blindfolded taste test would be strictly a coin flip.

That was a great discovery. And I understand that the Impossible Whopper is rolling out nationwide tomorrow, August 8. I’ll be trying it soon.


We Wanted to Be Writers

We Wanted to Be Writers coverWe Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop
Eric Olsen and Glenn Schaeffer
Skyhorse (August 16, 2011), 345 pages
Kindle edition $11.99, paperback $11.58
Purchased during an Early Bird Books sale for $1.99

When I came across this book I wanted to read it for two reasons. The first was my love of writing. The second was that this book consists of  interviews with participants in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the mid-1970’s. If you read this blog you know that I am a seventies kind of guy.

The authors interview a handful of participants in the program. They begin with the participants’ earliest love of writing, go on to the application process, spend a lot of time discussing their participation in the program, and talk about life after Iowa. Many stayed in writing and teaching; others moved on to other fields.

We hear from writers with whom you may be familiar: John Irving, T.C. Boyle, Sandra Cisneros, Joe Haldeman, and others. Some participated in the program and then came back to tech. All have a lot to offer with respect to their perspective on Iowa.

This was interesting stuff, but at over 300 pages it was a little too much interesting stuff. There was some repetition, and the book could have stood some trimming. Still, it was a lot of fun to read,


another new toaster oven – really?

I really had no desire to buy yet another kitchen appliance. I figured we were in good shape as far that went. But when I went to unplug our toaster oven the other day, I noticed that the cord was hot. I mentioned that to Terry, and she said that she had noticed the same thing. She also pointed out that the toast was burning around the edges, even on the light toast setting. I had noticed that as well, but I figured it was operator error. Guess not.

It really hasn’t been that long since we replaced our toaster oven, less than two years, but here we are again. My brother, who is a retired firefighter, told us then that when the cord is hot, to waste no time. He said, in essence, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not wait for the next sale. Replace it now.

Toaster OvenThe most recent toaster oven had a convection setting. But that was well before we got our new stove with its convection oven. This time around we opted for a smaller model without the convection capability, but with toast, bake, and broil. We’re trading in Hamilton Beach for Black and Decker. Our new toaster oven takes up considerably less counter space, which is a nice bonus, given that counter space is at a premium in our kitchen.

It’s not something we wanted to do, but when my brother speaks about fire safety we listen.