Open Enrollment Help

Since early this fall, the promotional materials for health insurance options have been flooding my mail box and likely everyone else’s, too, in preparation for open enrollment or the period when people can change or enroll in a health insurance plan.  Open enrollment for 2020 runs from November 1 to December 15, 2019 but some job plans may have different open enrollment times.  Outside of the open enrollment time, one can only enroll in a health insurance plan if certain qualifications are met for a special enrollment period.

Each year it is a good idea to review options provided by one’s current plan to see if it will continue to best meet one’s health needs for the next year.  Prior to open enrollment, most plans publish changes to annual costs and policy changes.  It is also a good time to take a look at different plans should the current one become excessively expensive or discontinue coverage that is needed.

The process of sorting through plans and comparing options can be intimidating and confusing.  There are resources available to help one navigate the various options.  HealthCare.gov has a wealth of information online designed to help one make the best decision.  Another resource might be to enlist the help of a trusted insurance agent.  A third option is to enroll in Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Basics and/or Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Actions.  The Smart Choice classes are online classes offered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.  Both of these classes are free and designed to make comparing policies and understanding coverage easier. 

Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Basics will meet online, November 6, 7-8 pm.  One must register for the class by November 4 at http://bit.ly/schi14326.  This class will provide an overview of health insurance and cover strategies for selecting a health insurance plan that will meet your health care needs and fit your spending plan.

Smart Choice:  Health Insurance Actions will meet online, November 13, 7-8 pm.  Registration must be completed by November 11 at http://bit.ly/schi14328.   This class will provide information on maximizing benefits, understanding billing statements, resolving errors, securing medical information, and keeping necessary health documents.

Most importantly, know when your open enrollment period is and take the time to review your options before the deadline so that the best policy will be in place to meet your health care needs for the coming 12 months.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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The Many Colors of Cauliflower – Purple, Green, Orange, and White

Green, yellow, and purple cauliflower
Green, yellow, and purple cauliflower

Have you been seeing something in the supermarket or famer’s markets that looks like cauliflower but instead of the traditional white, the heads are purple, orange, and green?  Colored cauliflower started popping up in the markets about 10 years ago and have increasingly become more popular and readily available.    What are these colored cauliflowers?  How do they taste?  How to prepare them so they retain their color?

White cauliflower used to be the only option.  The colored cauliflowers, like the white variety, are members of the cruciferous vegetable family.  They have a similar texture and taste—mild, sweet, and nutty.  The major difference is their color and with color, a slight difference in nutritional value. 

White cauliflower matures creamy white if the head is void of direct sunlight.  Older cultivars need to be blanched (inner leaves are tied loosely over the small heads to reduce the amount of light penetration) to prevent the sun from turning white cauliflower to yellow.  Newer cultivars are self-blanching as the plants produce inner leaves that hug the heads tightly preventing light penetration.  No blanching is required for the colorful varieties.

Purple cauliflower gets its color from anthocyanin, a naturally occurring phytochemical that is also found in other red, blue, or purple fruits and vegetables, as well as red wine.  Carotenoids are responsible for the color in orange cauliflower; carotenoids are also found in carrots, squash, and other yellow vegetables and fruits. Orange cauliflower actually came about as a genetic mutation that allows it to hold more beta carotene than its white counterpart.  Green cauliflower, also known as broccoflower, is a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower.  Green cauliflower contains more beta carotene than white cauliflower, but less than broccoli.

Colored cauliflower can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled, sautéed or steamed.  Cooks Illustrated experimented to find out the best method of preparation for holding color.   They found that the orange cauliflower proved to be the most stable; the orange pigments are not water soluble or sensitive to heat.  The chlorophyll in the green cauliflower is heat sensitive just like broccoli; overcooking will cause the cauliflower to become brown.  The anthocyanins in purple cauliflower leach out in water which dulls it’s color; color is better retained with dry heat such as roasting, grilling, or sautéing.   

There are lots of recipes available online for preparing the colored cauliflowers.  Enjoy the color!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Safe Edible Cookie Dough

Edible Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Bites

An interesting question came from an AnswerLine friend. This person had received a recipe for making homemade cookie dough ice cream. Being aware that raw flour should not be consumed, this friend was delighted to find directions in the recipe for supposedly making the flour used in the cookie dough safe by baking the flour in a preheated 350F oven for 5 minutes on a sheet pan. Question: Did this really make the flour safe so that the cookie dough was safe to eat in the ice cream?

Since edible cookie dough is now such a popular trend, there are several internet sites that suggest the same or similar DIY methods to eliminate possible pathogens found in flour. However, none of the sites are researched based. While it makes sense that heating flour in an oven could eliminate the potential food safety issue, there is no research-based DIY directions for consumers to support that theory. Food safety experts advise against any of these DIY methods as there is NO guarantee that the flour will reach the desired 160F needed to eliminate food contaminates for an appropriate amount of time. Further, baking flour could possibly denature the protein strands in the flour resulting in a less desirable product.

Flour is classified as a minimally processed agricultural ingredient and is not a ready-to-eat product. Through the growing process, wheat can come into contact with harmful bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella via wild animal waste. If pathogens get into the wheat plant, they stay with the seed head in the milling process. When flour is used in baked products, the baking temperatures will generally inactivate any pathogens in the flour. However, harmful bacteria remain active in uncooked flour and when ingested will cause illness or worse.

So if one desires edible cookie dough, what are the options for safe “flours?” There are a couple of easy options:

Purchase commercially processed heat-treated flour. Heat-treated wheat flour is not generally available at our local supermarkets. Page House is one such brand and is available online. It is, however, a bit pricey.

Substitute oatmeal or oat flour. Flour is used in dough to add structure, not flavor. Oatmeal or oat flour is a good replacement as it is not dangerous to eat raw. Oat flour tends to also be a bit pricey but can easily be made by pulsing oatmeal in a blender or food processor. (Two cups of oatmeal will yield about 1 ½ cups of oat flour.) In the process of making oatmeal, the oat grain is heated to stabilize the oat groats and then it is steamed to flatten into oatmeal thus oatmeal is classified as a ready-to-eat product.

The other ingredient in cookie dough that can render cookie dough unsafe is eggs. Pasteurized eggs or no eggs at is the way to go. Peanut butter can also be used to replace eggs.

Here are two recipes that I make with my ‘edible-cookie-dough-lovin’ grand kids.

Peanut Butter Bites
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup add-ins (chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit,
peanuts, chia seeds, M&’s, etc)
1 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup ground flax seed
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients. Roll into balls.
Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Edible Cookie Dough
½ cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 ½ homemade oat flour (see above)
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup add-ins (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips,
M&M’s, raisins, nuts, Reece’s pieces, etc)
Cream sugars, vanilla, and milk until fluffy. Add in oat flour and salt. Mix until all is incorporated. Stir in add-ins. Shape into balls. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for up to a week. 

Enjoy cookie dough, but do it safely!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Family Fun Making Apple Cider

The apples are getting ripe in our orchard and most of the varieties are producing nice, pest-free fruit this year. With an abundance of quality fruit, our family gathered over the Labor Day weekend to make ‘apple cider’.  Actually, for us, it was just fresh apple juice as we did not allow it to ferment.

We began by setting up the equipment (crusher and press) and making sure it was clean.  Then we headed to the orchard with buckets to pick apples from a variety of trees.  We like to use a mix of apple varieties as over the years we have found that the best cider comes from a blend of sweet, tart, and aromatic apple varieties. The grand kids were the taste testers to help determine if the apples on the various trees were ripe, firm, and sweet enough.  Green, immature apples give cider a flat flavor when juiced.

Apples for cider do not have to be flawless so apples with blemishes or of small size are okay.  We tried to avoid picking apples with spoilage.  However, if the spoilage was small and could be cut away, those apples made it into the cider press, too.  Spoilage will cause the juice to ferment rapidly and ruin it.

After picking the apples, we washed them in a big tub and then set about coring and cutting them into quarters.  For the most part this was a job for the adults and older kids.  As the apples were cut up, they went into the crusher.  After a sufficient amount of crushed apples had accumulated, the smaller kids help load the crushed apples into the press.  With the weights in place, the grand kids were allowed to take turns turning the ratchet handle and were thrilled to see the juice pour out of the press into a bucket.

Next we took the fresh juice into the house and squeezed it through a jelly bag to remove as many particles as possible.  Since it was our intention to not ferment the juice, we immediately pasteurized it by heating the juice to 160°F to eliminate the possibility of E coli or Salmonella poisoning.  After the juice had cooled for a while, we poured it into clean, recycled juice bottles.  There were lots of ‘yums!” as everyone sampled the warm juice before refrigerating it. Fresh juice or cider will keep in the refrigerator up to five days.  If there is more than can be used in that time, it should be frozen after chilling.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has additional information on making sweet, hard, or dry cider and turning apple cider into vinegar.

It was a great afternoon of family fun. In addition to making some great tasting ‘apple cider’, we made some great memories with the grand kids, too.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Salsa – Questions and Answers

With the summer gardens finally coming into season bringing an abundance of tomatoes, peppers/chilies, onions, and herbs, salsa making season is here! With it comes lots of questions to AnswerLine regarding how to make it safely. This blog will attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

I made up my own recipe for salsa or got one from a friend. Can you tell me how long to process it? It is important to use a tested or researched based recipe when canning homemade salsa. The reason being, the ratio of low acid vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic) to acid (lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar) has not been tested in a non-research based recipe. Recipes that have been tested will have enough acid to prevent the growth of the botulism bacteria and provide a safe product that everyone can enjoy straight from the canning jar. (Source: Homemade Salsa is a Science, Not an Art, Michigan State University)

Where do I find safe recipes for canning salsa? Creating a safe product that can be processed and stored on a shelf means having the correct proportion of acid to low acid vegetables to prevent the growth of botulism bacteria. The best way to ensure that the salsa is safe is to always follow a tested or researched based recipe. These recipes can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Land Grand University publications or blogs, The USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, and So Easy to Preserve.

Can I make my own salsa recipe? Creating your own recipe is a possibility. However, instead of guessing at the processing time, freeze it or make just enough to be eaten fresh. Another alternative is to follow a tested recipe using the exact ingredients and processing time; when ready to use, add the black beans, corn, or any other ingredient that should not be used in a home canned salsa recipe.

Can I add more cilantro to my canned salsa than the recipe includes? Cilantro is best added to fresh salsa. It is not usually included in cooked recipes. Cilantro loses its fresh flavor when cooked and becomes dark and soft in the mixture. As mentioned in creating your own salsa, cilantro could be added at the time of using the canned salsa.

Do I have to use canning salt? Canning salt is recommended and should definitely be used with vegetable and pickle canning. However, in a pinch, one could get by with iodized or table salt with salsa. The product will be safe but one may detect a metallic or bitter flavor which may not be disguised by the spices or herbs used in the salsa. Also, table salt usually has an added anti-caking ingredient which may cause a slight cloudiness.

Can I substitute peppers? One should never increase the total volume of peppers in a recipe. However, substituting one variety of a pepper for another is perfectly fine.

Must I use the suggested spices? Spices are the only safe ingredient you may change in a tested recipe to adjust for flavor.

Does it matter what kind of onion I use? Like peppers, one should not increase the amount of onion specified in a tested recipe. However, red, yellow, or white onions may be substituted for each other.

Is it okay to use any size jar? The size of the jar can also affect the safety of the product. All tested recipes are canned in pint jars and one should not substitute another size and assume it is safe.

For more information on preserving homemade salsa, check out Preserve the Taste of Summer Canning: Salsa.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Juicing Grapes and Other Fruits

America’s favorite juice and jelly grape, the Concord, is ripe now.   We have a single vine that was planted a number of years ago by our daughter who gave it to her dad for Father’s Day.  It took a few years before it matured enough to harvest grapes; now many years later and with the right early-spring pruning and weather conditions, we have a large number of grapes to harvest and enjoy.  When the harvests were small, it was possible for me to turn what we harvested into a batch of grape jam or jelly for family or occasional gift use.  As my kids left and the harvest increased, it was no longer possible to easily use what we were harvesting for jam and jelly and it took too much time to make juice. 

In my quest to conquer the grape harvest, I learned about steam juicers.  After researching them, I purchased a stainless steel unit and haven’t looked back.  Steam juicers have three pots and a lid that stack on top of each other–water reservoir at the bottom, collection pan with funnel opening in the middle, and steam basket on top.  They work by stewing the juice out of the fruit. Water in the bottom pot is brought to a low boil, the steam funnels through the middle collection pan up and through the fruit in the steam basket at the top.  The steam does all the work. As the fruit heats up, the fruit juices are released and run down into the middle collection section of the juicer.  As the collection pan fills, the juice begins to run out of the unit through a silicon tube on the front of the extraction section to a collection vessel placed away from the unit.  The juice is clear, free of pulp, and is ready to drink, can, or freeze after it comes out of the steamer.  So easy!

The steamer saves so much time and effort.  After the grapes are picked, I wash the bunches and as I do so, I pull off any green or unripe grapes, leaves, and other debris that might be attached.  There is no need to stem, remove seeds or skins, or crush.  They are then packed into the basket and placed atop the middle extraction section with slowly boiling water below.  With the lid in place, the steam slowly goes to work.  There is no chance of over steaming the fruit; one just needs to be mindful of keeping sufficient water in the lower pot so that it doesn’t boil dry.  Extraction is complete when the fruit has completely collapsed; it is a good idea to let the collapsed fruit sit for awhile after steaming as juice will continue to be released for a long while after steaming.  If there is need to move on with another batch, the collapsed fruit can be placed in a colander on the counter and allowed to drain while steaming goes on with additional batches.

Directions one might find online suggest that the juice can be drained right into hot sterilized canning jars, capped, and left to cool on the counter.  This is not a good practice if the intention is put the juice on the shelf; doing so would be fine if the juice was to be used immediately or frozen.  To be shelf safe, fruit juices need to be processed in a hot water bath.  (For more information see National Center for Home Food Preservation.)

Since I do not have room in my freezer for all the juice I get, I need to prepare it for the shelf.  Instead of collecting the juice in sterilized jars, I collect all the juice in a large pot or pots.  After all the grapes have been juiced, I reheat the juice to near boiling, fill the sterilized canning jars leaving 1/4-inch head space, cap, and place in a boiling water canner for the appropriate time for my altitude.

Once the jars have cooled and sat for 24 hours undisturbed, the juice is read for future jelly making or as juice to drink.  Sugar can be added prior to or after canning if needed; it’s all a matter of personal preference.  I usually don’t add sugar to our grape juice as we like it as is.  However, my grand kids like it a bit sweeter so they add a little sugar to their individual glasses to suit their taste.  We also like it mixed with apple juice.  After the juice has cooled and set on the counter undisturbed for 24 hours, it is ready to go on my shelf.

The juicer is good for far more than grapes.  Just about any type of fruit works with a steam juicer; cherries, plums, apricots, blueberries, cranberries, apples, pears are just some suggestions.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Food Dehydrators – Why Use One?

I have been a food dehydrator user for many years. Recently I stumbled onto a short workshop on food dehydrators while out shopping. Since it had been years since I’d purchased my food dehydrator, I decided to sit in and learn what was the newest and latest. While dehydrators haven’t changed much over the years in operation, they have changed a little in style and some have a few more “whistles and bells” than my basic dehydrator.

Home food dehydrators are small appliances that are great for drying fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even meats. They are especially handy for those who grow fruits and vegetables and run short of freezer space or don’t wish to can. Dehydrators come in many sizes with varying numbers of shelves or drying trays. They are simple to operate. One places sliced food on the trays, turns on the power, and waits as warm air circulates through the unit to dry the food. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, most dehydrators are designed to dry foods fast at 140ºF.

Horizontal Unit
Vertical Unit

Food dehydrators are of two basic types—vertical or horizontal. Costs vary depending on the size and features that come with the unit. Horizontal units have a heating element and fan located on the side or back of the unit. The heating element and fan of a vertical unit are located below the trays. The major advantage of a horizontal unit over a vertical unit is that there is less chance of mixing flavors if different foods are dried at the same time. Besides showing the latest features in dehydrators, the demonstrator at the store also talked about some advantages of drying foods:

Safe form of food preservation. Because dehydrators remove the water content of foods, there is a very low risk of bacteria and spoilage.

Taste good and are nutrient dense. Vitamins and minerals are not lost. Because dehydrators work at low temperatures, foods dried in a dehydrator are still in their ‘raw’ state. The living nutrients and enzymes unique to the fruits and vegetables are not destroyed or lost to heat or water. Further, you benefit from all the fiber present in the fruit or vegetable.

Reduced waste and extended shelf life. Most dehydrated foods have a shelf life of 2 years. As such, they make 100% natural, healthy snacks. In addition, they are light weight and portable.

Reduce cost. The average drying time for fruit and vegetable chips is about 8 hours at a cost of less than $1. Further, no additional electrical cost for refrigeration, freezing, or canning is incurred after drying.

Require minimal storage space. Dried foods take about 1/6th of their original storage space. Insect proof containers, canning jars, plastic freezer bags, or vacuum seal bags are all that is needed for pantry storage.

Allow for controlled drying. Foods can also be dried in the sun where climates allow or in the oven. Both sun drying and oven drying are not predictable.

Versatile. The kind of foods that can be prepared in a dehydrator is limited only by your imagination—fruit or veggie chips, fruit leathers, jerky, and herbs to name a few. A dehydrator can also be used to proof bread.

Easy to use. The dehydrator itself is easy to use. The foods made in the dehydrator are also easy to use; they can be eaten in their dried state or rehydrated in water and used in soups, stews, and casseroles.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Donuts, an Old Food Made New

Perhaps you’ve noticed that doughnuts or donuts have taken a new prominence in the culinary world. They have become the new party food being proudly displayed for the picking on peg boards at graduation parties, replacing cake at wedding receptions, the new “cupcake” at birthday parties, and the most requested birthday breakfast treat. Further, there is the opening of new generation donut shops across American featuring contemporary takes on the standard donut with creative flavors, fresh-made on the spot varieties, limited editions, and other creations that deny all healthy eating. At many of these shops, people wait in long lines to get their treats at elevated prices.

Recently, I was one of those standing in a long line to try one of these new pleasures. In June, we traveled to California for my son-in-law’s PhD hooding. We kicked off graduation day with a trip to a nearby gourmet donut shop for coffee and their special creations. As we stood in line, the baristas brought samples of the donuts they were making that morning so that when we got to the counter we could quickly order. We each picked a different flavor and after getting our treats, we went to a nearby park to share and eat. Our choices include strawberry buttermilk, maple bacon, huckleberry, cookie dough, and chocolate (spelled choc-a-lot). It was my first donut in many years and each was definitely unique and very good.

Like other contemporary “doughnuteries”, this shop boasts donuts made hourly from scratch in small batches, using only the finest real ingredients, no preservatives, use of seasonal products, infused glazes and hand crushed toppings to insure a fresh and warm treat for each and every customer. They feature daily and monthly specials as well as regular offerings all created from their own recipes. At other shops one might find donut ice cream sandwiches or donut burgers. The creation list of flavors and uses is endless.

While donuts seem to be trendy now, they have always been a popular food. They have been around for hundreds of years and there is no definitive answer to the donut’s origin. There are, however, events in history that give background to the development of the donut as we know it today.

Dutch immigrants brought the tradition of making olykoeks (oil cakes) with them when they came to North American. Olykoeks were yeast-raised dough balls boiled in lard (pork fat) until golden brown. However, often the centers remained undone and gooey. To remedy that uncooked center, cooks began pushing nuts into the center of the dough balls to assure more even cooking; while this was better than just the solid dough ball, it was not the perfect solution. In 1847, Hansen Gregory, an American ship captain, experimented with a different method. He used a punch to make a hole through the center of the dough ball and discovered that a hole eliminated the uncooked center completely. Thus Captain Gregory is given credit for inventing the traditional ring shape that we know as a donut today.

There is also the question, cake or raised, when it comes to donuts.  Apparently, you are either a cake or yeast donut person.  A yeast donut is made from a yeast dough and is often referred to as a raised donut.  It’s puffy and light and typically is glazed, sugared, or frosted.  Cake donuts rely on baking soda or baking powder to raise and are often denser and sweeter.  Cake donuts can come in all kinds of flavors.

Lastly, there is still the question of whether it should be doughnut or donut. Wikipedia attributes the doughnut spelling to British English and the donut spelling to American English. Historians tell us that in 1809, the word “doughnut” appeared in print for the first time in a publication, A History of New York, by Washington Irving. Sometime during the 1900s, the word was shortened to “donut.” Today, either spelling is acceptable.

In whatever way the donut came to be, how we spell it, or if it is cake or raised, one thing is for sure—Americans and people around the world love donuts in many fashions. My favorite is still the standard, raised and glazed donut.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Tips for Completing the 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet

The 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet is part of each static project that 4-H members prepare for the fair.  The goal sheet is usually in written form, but may be submitted as a video or a voice recording.  4-H members can use a standard form or create their own.  Regardless of presentation, the three parts (questions) must be answered. The three parts to the exhibit goal sheet include:

  • exhibit goal – first and perhaps the most important,
  • explanation of steps taken to reach the goal,
  • learning experiences acquired while doing the project as stated in the goal.

A previous blog addressed the “What was your exhibit goal?” question.  This blog will be about the remaining two parts (steps and learning) or questions, “What steps did you take to learn or do this?” and “What were the most important things that you learned.”

What steps did you take to learn or do this?

Here is where the 4-H member lays out the path that was taken to get from the goal to the finished project.  It can be communicated step by step or told in story form.  At any rate, it should be thoughtful and thorough so that the reader can follow the procedure and understand what has been done.  Pictures showing the steps or the project in progress are helpful but are NOT REQUIRED.  If the project is a baked product, the recipe must be included and the source identified (cookbook name, magazine, or website).  If the recipe came from a relative or friend, give their name.

What were the most important things that you learned?

Here is where the 4-H member reflects back on their project and shares all that was learned.  The learning might even include something that didn’t go well or that they would do differently another time.  It may be about trial and error or problem solving.  It may include discoveries that were made in the course of completing the project or some research that was done. Here is were the member can also include the identified elements and principles of design if they are required for the project.  Remember, the learning should come from the project goal.

The 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet form is available from the County Extension Offices and online.  However, the forms do not have to be used as long as the three questions are answered.  Regardless of how it is done, the goal sheet should support the project that is exhibited.  The goal sheet should be typed or neatly written by hand so that it looks as professional as possible.  Be sure to proofread.

For more help in answering these two questions, check out this great video.  A thoughtfully prepared 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet is the final step in putting together a great project for exhibit at the fair.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Tips for Writing 4-H Exhibit Goals

We are within days of County Fair season in Iowa.  For some families, that means crunch time to get 4-H projects ready for exhibit.  Besides the project, members must also complete a 4-H Exhibit Goal Sheet for each of their static projects.  When the goal sheet is hastily written or not well thought out, the goal sheet can become a detriment rather than a support to the project.  The goal sheet is usually in written form, but may be submitted as a video or a voice recording.  4-H members can use a standard form or create their own.  Regardless of presentation, the three parts (questions) must be answered.

The three parts to the exhibit goal sheet include:

  • exhibit goal – first and perhaps the most important,
  • explanation of steps taken to reach the goal,
  • learning experiences acquired while doing the project as stated in the goal.

This blog will be about the goal or the “What was your exhibit goal?” question.  Another blog will address the steps and learning experiences questions.

The goal is the road map helping one plan how to get where they want to go or the “googled” directions for arriving at a destination. As one usually ‘googles” directions before starting to drive, the goal should lead to the finished project.  Therefore, it is important that the goal be known at the start of the project so that the steps and learning experiences result in the project to be evaluated.

So what makes a strong goal?

  • Goals have three parts—ACTION (what one wants to do)—RESULT (what one is going to do)—TIMETABLE (when one plans to do it or have it done).
  • Goals should pass the “control test.”  Does the 4-H member have control over the outcome of the goal or does someone else have that control?
  • Goals should be appropriate for the age and experience level  of the 4-H member.
  • Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.  or SENSIBLE – MEASURABLE – ATTAINABLE – REALISTIC – TIMELY.  Of the five  S. M.A.R.T. parts, MEASURABLE jumps out as the part that allows a 4-H member to evaluate their own project and see growth.  Measurable is also important to the 4-H judge in evaluating the project.

Here’s some examples of goals and their strength.

Action Result Timetable Pass Control Test S.M.A. R. T. Strong Goal
I want to make a poster. None Yes Not Measurable No
I want to learn how to tie 5 knots and display them at the county fair. Yes Yes Yes
I want to earn a blue ribbon on my photo at the fair. No Not Measurable

 

 

No
I want to sew a pillow for my room before my birthday. Yes Yes Yes
I want to make a favorite family treat. None Maybe Not Measurable No
I want to learn how to make strawberry jam when the strawberries are in season. Yes Yes Yes

Learning to set goals is an essential life skill to develop.  Goals should change and become more challenging each year to show growth in a project.  For more information on strong goals for the 4-H Exhibit Sheet, check out a worksheet and a great video on setting goals.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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