Friday, January 23, 2009

A Modern Buffalo Hunt

Some time ago, I joined the social networking site, Twitter. Throughout my day, I connect with others by submitting small tidbits of my life. The tweets are only 140 characters and can include anything from what I am cooking for dinner, a question for which I am seeking an answer, excitement or outrage over an event, chit chat with another Tweep, or just a random, mundane thought. I even enrolled with TwitPic in order to submit photos when words fail me.

Through Twitter, I have come into contact with other South Dakotans with whom my path might not have crossed. One of these fellow Tweeps is TankaBar, a Native American Natural Foods producer. After several months of exchanging sporadic comments, my food curious self became interested in sampling a Tanka Bar. I checked out the website for the buffalo and cranberry energy bar, found that a store in a neighboring town carried the product, and planned to make a stop on my next trip out of town. However after the hour drive to the Main Street shop, I found it closed.

Now, this is where the story would have ended or been hit with a "to be continued" notice prior to my Twittering days. My quest for the Tanka Bar would have been put on hold until the next road trip. Not so in these technologically charged days. I fired off a Twitter text message to TankaBar asking about locations in the next town in my path. Unfortunately, while Twitter is a real-time service, few users are glued to their computer screens all the time. TankaBar did reply with 2 options in the next town, but I had already passed those suppliers on the way to my final destination.

He was not deterred. Soon, I had text messages rolling in with a variety of store locations carrying the Tanka Bar product in the city to which I was heading. As luck would have it, a couple of the businesses were even already on my list for other errands. With this generous help from a fellow Twitter user, my hunt would be over. The Tanka Bar could and would be mine. True to Twitter spirit, when I finally did make the much sought after purchase, I quickly snapped a photo with my phone and uploaded through TwitPic with the simple statement, "Mission accomplished."

Throughout all of this, other Tweeps were watching the exchange between TankaBar and myself. I was hit with requests for a review of the turkey-and-cranberry-sauce-with-a-jerky-kick snack. The outstanding customer service peaked interests, and more Tanka Bars were sold to new customers. You can't buy advertising like that. Interactive, personalized service through what is considered by many to be a highly self-centered micro-blogging source? Yes. This is the modern way to hunt buffalo.

My epic search across the prairie for the buffalo of the Tanka Bar brought ground buffalo to mind the next time I prepared my favorite meatballs for a simple spaghetti dinner. Why not use this lean meat in place of my usual ground beef? The meatballs already include spinach, and substituting the buffalo gives them another boost of healthfulness. I tried the new combination, and found it to be quite good. Actually, drenched in the Italian seasoned sauce, I don't think anyone would suspect the ground meat switch. The texture and flavor is quite similar to "normal" meatballs. I don't always have ground buffalo on hand, but believe that it is worth the pursuit for another meatball option. If you don't feel up to the chase,no worries; these meatballs never go wrong with ground beef. No Twitter necessary to land Spinach Meatballs On My Plate.

Spinach Meatballs

1 lb lean ground beef or ground buffalo
1 (10 ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (10 1/2 ounce) jar prepared spaghetti sauce (or your favorite homemade)
8 ounces uncooked pasta
grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine ground beef, spinach, egg, onion powder, garlic powder, bread crumbs, salt & pepper.
Mix all ingredients well and form into small meatballs.
Place meatballs on jelly roll pan and place into preheated oven; bake for 40-50 minutes.
While meatballs are cooking, prepare pasta according to package directions, drain and keep warm.
In a large skillet or sauce pan, heat spaghetti sauce.
When meatballs are fully cooked, remove from oven and place in sauce.
Simmer on medium heat 6-8 minutes.
Serve meatballs and sauce over cooked pasta.
Top with grated Parmesan cheese. (Serves 4)

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