Dutch Oven Jamabalaya

Aug 30, 2010 by

IMG_1302 I grew up in Washington state but now live in sunny southern California.   A few of my WA friends also live down here now as well.  So each year, those that live south drive north, and all my friends up north drive south and we meet somewhere in the middle and do some great family camping.

This year we met up in the redwoods of northern California in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park.   I love camping of all kinds, but car camping affords you do some awesome cooking.  We did big family style meals this year and we ate very well.   One thing I’ve wanted for a while now is a dutch oven.  Those are the big cast iron pots that you cook right over the fire with.

I bought a big 8 quart dutch oven at REI and cooked up some awesome meals.  One of the meals I made was a Jambalaya and it was so delicious and easy to make.

Here’s how I did it…

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Growing Food – What’s working what’s not

Aug 19, 2010 by

Pro urban farming graffitti LA

Found this picture via Xeni Jardin and I love it.

I also love growing food.  Its a truly awesome feeling to be able to walk out of your front door to pick a couple tomatoes for dinner or to walk around your garden and plan what you will eat based on whats ready to eat.

But it has not all gone as planned.  Its a learning experience as I go, and I’m learning a lot.


As you can see from the above picture, my garden is growing like crazy.  The tomatoes have attacked and are quickly taking over.  I obviously planted way too many way too close together and as they get ripe I’m going to have a hard time just being able to pick them let alone eat all the tomatoes.


The zucchini has been growing good, but some strange mold has been growing on some of the leaves and some of the zucchini’s themselves.


My peppers and chilis are starting to come in and those are just awesome.


here is the attack of the tomatoes (not killer as far as I know).   I started out by adding a couple of tomato baskets I had around.  Then I added a couple more as they were outgrowing those.  Then I added 3 more.  Then some string to help hold them in the planter box.  Then 2 more tomato baskets.   Its getting nuts.


And this is just a sad sight.  My beans and peas have died.  I’m not sure what went wrong here.  I suspect I didn’t water enough.  They were growing great and I was snacking on the snap peas while I worked out in the garden one day and the next day, they were all dead.  Very sad.


And my corn is stunted.  I think these are done as well.  They just stopped growing and are turning brown.   Very sad on this one as I LOVE corn on the cob.


My broccoli came in quick and then I went away for a week and came back to find it had all flowered.   Very sad.  I still have a few that are almost ready to eat, so I didn’t loose them all.


My cantaloupes are kicking ass.  Check those out!


And so far my watermelons are looking good as well.


And i’m really just not sure whats going on with my lettuces.  They are all growing in tree-like configurations now.


And the carrots are coming in nice.  My wife grabbed these to throw in something she was cooking.  I’m going to start harvesting the rest soon.  I think those are growing well, but who knows, they grow underground. Crazy carrots.

Beyond the learning experience of starting a garden and the joy of being able to walk out to my front yard to grab something to eat, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to inspire others to start a garden.  I have many friends who have started gardens and I’ve heard from many readers that they are now starting gardens as well and that makes me smile.

I love that I can share the awesome feelings that come with growing your own food.

Our food system is broken.  Our food grown and covered with chemicals that we have no idea how they impact our body or our environment.  It is then shipped halfway around the world before it reaches our stores.  Its wasteful and not that good for us.  And thats the food that grows!  You don’t even want to think about the mass produced chemical laden processed food we eat every day.

But you have a choice here.  You can buy local at farmers markets. You can join a CSA.  You can grow some of your own food.  Even if its planting a small lemon tree in your yard or creating a small garden box and throw in a tomato plant and a few herbs.   Grow something.  You will love it, and you get to eat it!


If you’ve got a garden project send me some pics and tell me how its going.  You can email me at Ben@TrulySimple.com

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Why we don’t work

Aug 7, 2010 by

Opportunity is missed by most people because
it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
–Thomas Edison

I recently went on vacation to Mexico.  It wasn’t my first choice of places to go, but my wife wanted to get away and “just lay by a pool”.  So we did.   We went to Cabo,  we stayed at a beautiful resort, and we laid by a pool.

I hated it.


OK, I didn’t “hate it” hate it, but I was bored out of my mind immediately.  I made the conscious decision to not bring my laptop and not work while I as there.  I decided I would be present in the moment, and take the time to do nothing and just recharge my batteries.  Turns out my batteries don’t recharge when I’m doing nothing.

My batteries charge up when I am doing what I love, and I love to work.  I love building things.  I love fixing things.  I love finding simple solutions to complicated problems.  I love working with smart creative passionate people all day and then coming home getting my hands greasy tearing apart an engine in my garage.  I love remodeling my house.  I love taking something old and restoring it to new. I love growing food in my garden. And  I love being inspired by others doing great work.

Work and our view of work has gotten a bad name in our culture.  A lot of people don’t want to work.  There’s a thousand get rich schemes out there, and lately the “start your own business and work from anywhere” fad has caught on and promises freedoms to travel the world and work only 4 hours a week.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Tim Ferriss and I love the idea of ROWE.  Our 2010 idea of work needs to catch up and move past the old industrialized history it still holds on to, but we still need to do great work.

We should want to work hard.  We should take pride in the work we are doing.   We should try to do the best job we could in every job we do.  How and where we do this work is negotiable and its not the point. The point is the ethic of work.  Its the satisfaction of knowing you gave your all into the project.  Its the pride of seeing the job completed and enjoying the fruits of your labor.  No where in our culture is that message being said or taught.

We need to get back to the idea that work is good.  Everyone should take pride in working hard at something and then should also enjoy the results of that work.

What I’m not saying is that everyone should work 100 hours a week, sacrificing time with family and friends to make more money. You’ll notice that nowhere above did I mention making money.  Work isn’t about money.   Work is about creating something great.  You may be a farmer, a CEO of some high tech company or someone who makes candles out of their garage.  The point is to make the best product you can and enjoy the work you are doing.

This wonderful TED video of Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs inspired this post.  I highly recommend watching it.  Mike knows how to tell a story.

What do you think of work?  Love it, hate it?  Let me know in the comments


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No room for a garden?

Aug 5, 2010 by

Try hanging your plants with some string.

I don’t understand how these work, but they are beautiful.  Check out String  Gardens for more amazing photos of the creations that artist Fedor van der Valk is able to create.

You can even grow grass on these things.   Amazing.


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Amazing Fish Tacos with 3 types of peppers

Aug 4, 2010 by

What do you make with cabbage?

One of the things I love about having a garden is figuring out what i will make with whats ready to eat.  I planted some cabbage and its ready to eat, but what do you make with cabbage?

The first thing that came to mind was fish tacos, and that sounded great, so that’s what I made.



  • Tilapia – grabbed some from Trader Joes
  • Tortillas
  • Olive Oil
  • Lime
  • Jalapeno – from garden (first pepper)
  • Chili – from garden (second pepper)
  • Tomatoes – from garden
  • Cabbage – from garden
  • Mango
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Chipotle pepper flakes (third pepper)


My peppers and chilies are coming in like crazy in the garden so I’ve been cooking a lot with these.


Simple slice them into long strips like so


cut the little cute baby tomatoes in half


cut the mango into little chunks


I finally got to use my new mandolin slicer on the cabbage


it rocks.  Look at that awesomely sliced cabbage


it works maybe a little too well.   Be Careful when cleaning those things.


heat up some olive oil in a pan at medium heat


Take your fish fillets and coat with seasoning.  I used a seasoning from Outback Steakhouse, and its just awesome.  If you don’t have a good hookup to get the seasoning, you can use any cajun type of seasoning. I also sprinkled with the chipotle flakes here too.


throw it in the pan with season side down and season the top


cook for a couple minutes then flip


after you flip add some of the chili and jalapeno slices and cook for another couple minutes


I like to throw the tortillas over the burner for a few seconds each side to warm them up and give them a nice color


now to make the taco.  add the fish and peppers


throw on some tomatoes


and the mango


and the perfectly sliced cabbage


Cut a lime in half


squeeze juice over top to finish it off


Oh wow, was that an amazing taco.  The tangy tomatoes and the flavor of the mango jump out against the heat of the peppers and the fish.  Its so good and super easy to make.


Here were my two puppy helpers who sat at my feed while I made dinner.  They were a big help.

These tacos were so good.  I’m definitely making these again soon.


If you’ve got a good recipe that involves cabbage email me at ben@trulysimple.com

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