Make Lemonade! Drink Lemonade!

Sipping ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day is one of life’s memorable pleasures.  However, for me, that means lemonade made with real lemons, sugar, and water.  I am not a fan of frozen concentrate, powdered instant mixes, or bottled or canned (refrigerated or shelf-stable) lemonades.  While the latter are very convenient, they just don’t make the mark for me; they are nowhere near as delicious as a homemade version and often are full of artificial ingredients.  There’s seriously nothing more refreshing than a big glass of cold, fresh squeezed lemonade.

There are two easy ways to make fresh lemonade—fresh squeezed or DIY concentrate.  Either option is made with just three simple ingredients—fresh lemons, sugar, and water.  Making your own lemonade gives the option to adjust the sweetness to one’s liking and also add other fruits or herbs to the mix—like strawberries or mint.   WARNING!  There are downsides to making your own lemonade: it may ruin your taste for any store-bought lemonade, be more costly, and require preparation time.

Get Squeezing and Make Lemonade.

Fresh Squeezed.  Fresh squeezed lemonade can be made by combining fresh lemon juice, sugar, water, and ice followed by stirring or shaking to dissolve the sugar OR by combining the lemon juice with a simple syrup and pouring over ice.  Recipes for both styles of fresh lemonade can be found at food.com and tastesbetterfromscratch.com.

DIY Lemonade Concentrate.  Concentrate is made by adding fresh lemon juice to a simple sugar.  It can be store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months (for best quality). When the mood strikes, the concentrate is simply diluted with water and ice.   A good recipe can be found at realsimple.com.

Health Benefits Derived from Drinking Lemonade

As it turns out, the adage, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is good advice.  Beyond quenching your thirst, fresh lemonade has many health benefits because it contains lemon juice—lemons are one of the superfoods. Lemonade made with real lemons is an easy way to get a healthy dose of lemon juice.  Lemon juice is an especially good source of vitamins (C, B6, A), folate, potassium, phytonutrients and antioxidants (flavonoids) that can assist the body in numerous ways.   Some benefits include:

Assist with Digestion:  Citric acid stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach which improves digestion. Citric acid also slows the break down food and absorption of nutrients in the gut.

Prevent Kidney Stones:  According to researchers at UC San Diego [1], lemons have the highest concentration of citrate of all citrus fruits.  Citrate is a natural inhibitor of kidney stone formation and also breaks up small stones that are forming. The more citric acid in your urine, the more protected you are from forming new kidney stones [2]

Improve LDL Cholesterol Levels.   Citrus fruits contain a compound known as citrus limonoids. One type of limonoid, called limonin found in the juice of lemons, may help reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol and improve heart health.

Prevent Cancer:  The antioxidants found in lemons have been shown to prevent cells in your body from deforming which can lead to cancer developing and/or spreading.

Lower Blood Pressure:  Lemons contain a high amount of potassium which can help to calm numerous cardiac issues.

Risks of Consuming Lemonade

If consumed in excess, lemonade could cause gastric reflux problems or heartburn for those who suffer from the conditions. Citric acid can also wear down tooth enamel.  For that reason, drinking lemonade through a straw is encouraged.  Additionally, there are approximately 28 grams of carbohydrate (sugar) or 150 calories in a 12 oz glass of lemonade.  

Fresh lemonade—it really does a body good!

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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Recipe Makeovers for Healthier Versions

One doesn’t have to give up favorite recipes to maintain a healthy diet. Making a few simple changes can make most recipes more healthful without sacrificing taste.  It begins with preparing a recipe in a different way or by substituting ingredients.

Recipes can be altered to reduce or eliminate fat, salt, and unwanted calories in the form of sugar. Recipes can also be altered to increase nutrition or fiber. When modifying a recipe, it is best to make one modification at a time, reducing, substituting, or increasing an ingredient by a small amount at first.

Baked goods require careful adjustments as each ingredient has an important role in the outcome of the product.
– Fat provides flavor, richness, and texture.
– Eggs provide structure, act as a binding agent, and add volume.
– Sugar provides flavor, increases tenderness, and acts as a preservative.
– Salt provides flavor.

Below are suggestions for reducing fat, calories, sugar, and salt and/or increasing fiber in your recipes without changing texture, flavor, purpose or structure.  Be sure to keep a record of the changes that produce the best tasting and satisfactory product.

If your recipe calls forMake the following adjustments or replace with
Condiments and toppingsOmit or use fresh cucumbers vs pickles, cherry tomatoes vs olives, non-fat or reduced fat spreads, mashed fresh berries, thin slices of fresh apples, peaches or pears.
Canned fruit packed in syrupFresh fruit or canned fruit packed in water
Chicken stock or brothsVegetable stock/broth or refrigerated broth with fat skimmed off
Sour creamLow-fat yogurt or blended low-fat cottage cheese
1 egg2 egg whites
CreamWhipped non-fat dry milk or skim evaporated milk
RiceBrown rice
Sautéing in butter or oilNon-stick spray, chicken or beef broth
Cream cheeseNeufchatel cheese or light cream cheese
Gravy1 Tbsp cornstarch or 2 Tbsp flour added to 1 cup fat-free broth
Whole milkSkim or 1% milk
Ice creamLow-fat or non-fat yogurt
All-purpose flour½ whole wheat flour and ½ all-purpose flour
Ground beefLean ground turkey or chicken
BaconTurkey bacon
Ricotta cheeseNon-fat or low-fat cottage cheese
CheeseLow-fat or non-fat cheese or use only half 
PastaWhole wheat pasta

If your baking recipe calls forMake the following adjustments
Sugars – Brown, Corn Syrup, Honey, MolassesUse up to one third less sugar in recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads, and pie fillings. Add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla or almond extract to boost sweetness.
Fat – Shortening, Butter, Lard, OilReplace solid fat with vegetable oil using 1/4 cup less.  Or, use half the butter, shortening or oil and replace the other half with an equal amount of applesauce, mashed bananas, pureed prunes or commercially prepared fruit-based fat replacers.
SaltReduce the amount by ½ (except in yeast breads), use spices or herbs or light salt.

Other options to add fiber include adding whole oats or chopped dried/fresh fruit to cookies, muffins, waffles, and pancakes and beans to soups, casseroles, and salads. Using fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits whenever possible not only increases fiber, but also ups nutrition.

Cooking methods such as baking, boiling, broiling, grilling, roasting, or stir-frying whenever possible are the best choices for reducing fat intake. Along with fat reduction, the high heat associated with frying changes the chemical structure of the fat making it difficult for your body to break down which can negatively affect health.

Remember, make small modifications at a time. Be creative and, most importantly, have fun! Enjoy the challenge!

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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Yeast Bread Baking – A Kitchen Science ‘Drama’

Does anything in the world ever smell quite so good as a just-baked loaf of bread? If you’ve never made yeast bread before, an adventure awaits!  And prepare yourself for one of the great “dramas” of kitchen science!

Every ‘drama’ is made up of various parts—cast, script, and various acts.  Bread baking is no exception. The cast of ingredients that go into a loaf of bread are simple—flour, yeast, liquid, sweetener (sugar), salt, and fat. Other ingredients can be added for flavor, texture, and nutritional value.  It is the nature of the ingredients and the way they are combined that create “drama!”

Meet the DRAMA Cast–Ingredients

Flour.  In most recipes, the flour used is either all-purpose flour or bread flour.  Both flours, derived from wheat, contain two proteins important to yeast breads—glutenin and gliadin.  When combined with liquid and manipulated, these proteins produced gluten, an elastic web that traps the gas released by the yeast.    All-purpose flours are a blend of hard and soft wheat in proportions to give satisfactory results for most baking, including bread.  Bread flour contains more hard wheat that soft wheat; with slightly more protein that all-purpose flour, bread flour is ideal for hearty breads because it allows for more structure.  Because the blend of hard and soft wheat used in all-purpose or bread flour may vary by manufacturer and flour gains or loses moisture depending on the weather or storage, most yeast bread recipes call for an approximate measure of flour rather than an exact amount.   Other flours or grains can be used in combination with all-purpose or bread flour to create breads with different textures, flavors, and nutrient value.

Want to see gluten and how it works? Science: What is Gluten? Here’s How to See and Feel Gluten by America’s Test Kitchen will answer those questions.

Gluten is formed when flour and water are combined.  Proteins in the flour react with the liquid to form gluten.  Beating and kneading the dough develops the gluten. 

Yeast.  Yeast is a living organism (actually a single-celled fungus).  Yeast ‘drama’ happens when the yeast granules awake in warm water, search out food (sugar), break it down, become active and release carbon dioxide—a gas!  It is the gas, trapped within the elastic web of gluten strands which cause dough to rise. 

To see yeast work, try this Scientific American experiment: Yeast Alive! Watch Yeast Live and Breathe.

Yeast is particular about temperature to thrive; lukewarm temperatures of 105-115 degrees F are perfect. It works slowly in cooler temperatures and dies when the temperature is too hot.

Yeast is available most commonly in the dry form as active dry or instant/quick-rise/fast-rise granules.  Compressed or cake yeast is less common and requires refrigeration.  Active or compressed yeast must be awakened prior to use in warm water (proofing).  Instant yeast is a modern variety which does not need to be proofed in the same way that active yeast does; it can be blended directly with the other dry ingredients.  However, there is no harm in proofing instant yeast.

Liquid.  Water and milk are the typical liquids used in making yeast bread.  Juice and vegetable water can also be used. The kind of liquid used plays a role in the bread’s outcome:  bread made with water has a crusty top and chewy texture; milk slightly weakens the gluten strands creating a bread with more tenderness and browner crust.   Even the kind of water—hard, soft, chlorinated—will bring about different characteristics.  Yeast is reluctant to dissolve in milk so is best dissolved in water.

An important step in making yeast bread is combining the flour and liquid in just the right proportion to yield a good dough.  Too much liquid weakens the gluten and too little makes the gluten tough so that it does not stretch sufficiently. 

Sweeteners/sugar and Salt.  Sweeteners, such as sugar or honey, and salt add flavor.  Salt also slows yeast growth but is not necessary to make bread.  Sugar furnishes food for the yeast.  Yeast can feed on the natural sugars in the flour by breaking down the carbohydrates but the break down takes time.  Since sugar or another sweetener is a readily available food, it speeds up the growth and rising action.  Sweeteners also add tenderness, moisture, and browning.

Fat.  Fat is an optional ingredient and is not necessary to make bread.  Fat, when used, adds flavor and tenderness and keeps the bread fresher for a longer time.

Eggs.  Eggs are also an optional ingredient and are more commonly used in rolls.  When used, eggs add flavor, color, nutrition, and improve the keeping quality and texture of the finished product.

The Script – A Good Recipe

Every drama needs a good script or in this case, a good recipe.  Like any other adventure in life, it is best to start with the basics and practice, practice, practice until one becomes proficient or skilled enough to branch out.  Bread can be made by hand, mixer, food processor, bread machine or some combination.  The best way to really learn bread is to use the hand method as it allows one to see and feel the ‘drama’ as it takes place which is great preparation for using any machine.

This basic or standard bread recipe makes two loaves and is the perfect starter recipe.

BASIC WHITE BREAD
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons shortening or butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt (optional)
1 package active, instant, or cake yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm (105-115F) water
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour

Act 1.  The Plot Thickens – Making the Dough

Heat the milk on low heat. Stir in shortening, sugar, and salt and heat until all ingredients are dissolved; do not heat beyond scalding. Cool to lukewarm.

It is important to proof the yeast to ensure the yeast is alive and ready to create carbon dioxide.  To do so, dissolve the yeast in a large warm bowl with ¼ cup lukewarm water and ½ teaspoon sugar.  Stir and allow the mixture to stand for 5-10 minutes.  When the yeast mixture starts to bubble and foam, it is alive and ready for the bread.

Add the lukewarm milk mixture to the dissolved yeast. Stir in 3 cups of the flour; beat until smooth with an electric mixer or wooden spoon. Mix in enough of the remaining flour to cause the dough to form an irregular ball, come away from the sides of bowl and is easy to handle. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes for easier handling. 

Act 2.  Conflict – Kneading

Kneading is the process of working the dough by pushing, pulling and stretching to develop gluten and elasticity.  Kneading will develop muscle in the bread as well as the bread maker!  Prepare to have fun!

Turn the rested dough out on to a lightly floured surface for kneading.  To knead, take the heel of your hand and push the dough forward and stretch it. Then fold it in on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat. Continue kneading until the bread dough is smooth, elastic, satiny, and air blisters appear just under the surface. The dough should no longer stick to the work surface or your hands. Kneading times vary, but generally it takes about 8-10 minutes of work. Don’t worry about over-kneading by hand—you will be tired long before you overwork the dough.  Shape the dough into a ball and place the dough ball back into the mixing bowl which has been lightly greased; turn the dough once to grease the surface.  Cover the dough with a clean towel or lightly greased plastic wrap for proofing. 

Act 3. Rising Action – Proofing

Proofing is the rest period during which yeast ferments the dough and produces gas or the time when the yeast and gluten do their magic work!  Proofing is best when the dough is set in a warm place (above 75ºF).  It will take about 45 to 60 minutes until the dough doubles its size.

When the bread is doubled in size, punch it down. This means plunging your fist into the center of the dough to press out some of the air inside the dough. Fold the dough over and form into a ball. Allow to rise a second time if possible. (A second rise allows yeast more time to work thereby giving the bread more texture and flavor.)   

Act 4. The Climax – Dough Becomes Loaf

After the first or second punching, divide the dough into two equal portions. Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes to make the dough easier to handle.  Place the dough on a hard surface and roll or push out the dough to remove the air bubbles and shape each loaf by rolling and pinching.  Seal the edges by pinching the seam and place into two greased 9×5-inch loaf pans; cover and let proof again until doubled. This should take about 60 to 90 minutes.

When the bread has doubled in size, pop it into a 375ºF oven and bake for 30-45 minutes until golden brown and the internal temperature reads 195-210ºF on an instant read thermometer. Remove the baked loaves from the pans as they come out of the oven; cool the loaves on wire racks. Brush the top crust of the hot, baked loaves with butter or margarine, if desired, to keep the crust from becoming tough.

Act 5.  The Review – Enjoying the Results

Admire! Hold the temptation and allow the loaves to cool completely before cutting into them.  Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to slice the bread. Enjoy!

For visual help with the bread making process, check out Basic White Bread (Hand Kneaded) a YouTube by Kevin Lee Jacobs of Delicious Living. 

If you want to evaluate your bread, consider appearance,
crumb, flavor, and aroma.

APPEARANCECRUMBFLAVOR and AROMA
Symmetrical shapeMoistPleasing
Smooth rounded topFine, uniform grainSlightly sweet
Golden brown colorNo large holesNut-like flavor
Tender crustElastic or springy textureMild yeast overtones
Correct sizeNo dough streaks 
Light in weightCreamy color 
Small, defined break and shred (space
between top and sides)
  

When you have mastered basic yeast bread, you are ready to try variations using other ingredients and other techniques.  While the outcome may look or taste different, all yeast breads share a common ‘drama’.  The variety is endless and all are delicious rewards for the effort.  Your yeast bread adventure awaits!  Let the ‘drama’ begin!

[Note: this blog is geared toward 4-H youth in response for educational materials to include in a ‘box unit’ on yeast bread encouraging basic skills in the Food and Nutrition area.]

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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Whipped Cream – Tips for Perfecting by Stabilizing

Light and airy, there’s nothing quite like a dollop of freshly whipped cream topping a bowl of cut fruit, strawberry shortcake, pumpkin pie, hot chocolate, or  . . . (dream on) to turn ordinary into extraordinary!   Whipped cream simply makes every dessert special!

Once you learn how to whip cream, you’ll never have to resort to that store-bought, non-dairy, who-knows-what, frozen topping again. Further, you can flavor it with vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, liquor, strawberry, or anything else that sparks imagination.

In a scientific nutshell, whipped cream is a foam created by incorporating tiny air bubbles into a fatty liquid where the fat molecules line up around the air bubbles and cling to each other.  Cream must have a fat content of at least 30 percent to hold a stable, unseparated foam when whipped. Dairy products sold as ‘heavy cream’ or ‘heavy whipping cream’ contain between 30-36 percent fat.  The higher the fat content, the denser the whipped cream.

The King Arthur Baking Company has a great tutorial on how to whip cream beginning with a cold bowl (preferably stainless steel), beaters, and cream to keep the fat in the cream in a microscopically solid state.  Ordinarily, it takes a very short time to whip cream and it’s very easy to go from a soft, billowy foam to butter! And even perfectly whipped cream can be close to butter by the time it is stirred, spread, or piped as any additional manipulation has the same result as whipping.  Therefore, it is best to slightly under whip cream to be used as a frosting, filling, or piped decoration.

Whipped cream topped desserts, frosted or filled cakes, or desserts made with whipped cream, are best served the day made.  If the whipped cream needs to stand up longer, the whipped cream needs to be stabilized by adding ingredients containing protein or carbohydrate to give the foam more structure enabling the whipped cream to stay fluffier longer. Stabilized whipped cream adds 24-48 hours of additional life and holds up better at room temperature. This gives one the ability to prepare a day in advance without loss of loft or body, or releasing any of its liquid when stored in the fridge like standard whipped cream will.

Here are 7 common ways to stabilize whipped cream.  Each has its own merits or weakness.

Gelatin. Gelatin is commonly used and works very well but is the most complicated of stabilizers and is also not vegetarian. It does offer the option of making a non-sweet whipped cream.  To use gelatin, pour 1 tablespoon of cold water into a heatproof cup.  Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin.  Let it soften without stirring for 5 minutes.  Place the cup in simmering water until the gelatin is melted and the liquid is clear.  Let cool to room temperature.  Add to the whipped cream as the cream begins to thicken.1 When stabilized with gelatin, the whipped cream needs to be used right away as it sets from the gelatin. It will not be smooth again unfortunately. During refrigeration, the gelatin may form small lumps in the cream resulting in a marshmallow-like consistency.

Dry milk powder.  Dry milk powder is a great stabilizer and adds no change in flavor or texture to the whipped cream.  To 1 cup of heavy cream, add 1 tablespoon of dry milk powder2 at the same time that sugar would be added.  Dry milk powder and powdered sugar make a great combination.

Instant Clearjel. Instant Clearjel is a modified food starch made from corn that thickens instantly when it comes into contact with liquid.  Instant clear gel powder imparts no flavor and leaves no granular feeling. Mix 1 teaspoon Instant ClearJel with the sugar (2 Tablespoons) and add to the whipping cream (1 cup) 2 when the whisk or beaters start to leave trails in the bowl.  It is recommended that Instant Clear Jel be thoroughly blended with sugar before it is added to liquids in order to prevent lumping and to insure smoothness. The presence of sugar acts to control the rate of the hydration of the starch. Instant Clearjel is not readily available but can be purchased from online sources.

Cornstarch.  Cornstarch is an easy way to thicken and stabilize whipped cream.  To one cup of heavy cream, add 1 teaspoon cornstarch3 mixed with the sugar.  The cornstarch can leave a slightly gritty texture to the whipped cream and a bit of a starchy taste.

Confectioners or powdered sugar. Replace the granulated sugar with powdered sugar to take advantage of the starch (usually cornstarch) in the confectioners sugar.

Instant pudding mix.  Instant pudding, made with modified starches, adds strength, flavor, and sweetener.  Additional sugar may or may not be needed.  To one pint of cream, add 1 tablespoon of INSTANT pudding mix4 Pudding mix is added to the cream at the beginning of the whipping processes. 

Cream of Tartar.   Cream of Tartar is an acid commonly used to stabilize egg whites for whipping. It also helps to thicken and stabilize whipping cream but also adds a slightly sour taste to the cream.  Add a 1/4 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar to a cup of cream.5 

Last but not least, remember that cream is perishable and stabilizing whipped cream does not prevent it from becoming a food safety hazard if left at room temperature for too long. TWO HOURS is the max at room temperature!

Once whipped cream is mastered and the preferred method of stabilizing is found, that artificial non-dairy whipped topping will never again be a ‘go to’. Over time, I have experimented with all of these methods. For everyday toppings, I like stabilizing with powdered milk and powdered sugar. For cream cake fillings and cake frosting, I prefer using the Instant ClearJel. Cooks Illustrated also experimented and, over all, chose gelatin. No matter the method, homemade whipped cream is always worth the effort. Enjoy!

Recipe sources:
1 Joy of Cooking, 2019 edition
2
Stabilized Whipped Cream, University of Wyoming
3 Tip: Stabilized Whipped Cream, theKitchen.com
4 Easier Stabilized Whipped Cream, Food.com
5 Decorator’s Never-Fail Whipped Cream, FineCooking.com

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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Embracing Fall with Cherished Family Recipes

We are living in an abnormal year!  The year of 2020 has brought many challenges to our lives in ways we could not have predicted as we celebrated 2019 and welcomed 2020—how we do our jobs, our children’s schooling, connecting with family, socializing with friends, celebrating special events, shopping, and just about everything else. 

Sometimes in the midst of turmoil, we need to be reminded of the constants in our lives.  The cycle of changing seasons being one; it’s something we can always depend on.  In a normal year, there was something special about the return of routine in the fall.  The end of summer might have meant a new calendar charting everyone’s school and extra-curricular activities, practice times, meeting new teachers and launching into a new academic year.  For others, fall might have been a time of looking forward to reconnecting with coworkers and friends after being away or in-and-out over the summer.  Fall also meant the return of football games, tailgates, visits to the pumpkin patch, carnivals, and that long-planned fall trip. Whatever fall meant in the past, COVID-19 might have changed those ‘looked forward to’ expectations.

Coming home, wherever that may be, at the end of day is another constant. It’s where we rest, relax, and recharge to be ready for whatever the next day holds. For some reason, coming home in the fall conjures up memories and smells of the past–pot roast in the oven or chili on the stove. 

My AnswerLine co-workers and I are each sharing a cherished recipe handed down from our mothers or grandmothers that bring happy fall memories to mind.   We hope that they will help you recall a favorite fall memory or smell to make your fall routine seem ‘normal’ and remind you that having constants in our lives gives us the fortitude for whatever unknowns the season my hold.  May your fall be a time to carry on traditions as much as possible while embracing new adventures.

Memories from Marcia Steed
The comfort food that I fondly recall from my mom’s kitchen in the fall was chili. We were a busy household but always had supper together as a family. Chili was a ‘go to’ as it could be prepared ahead and would be ready for us whenever we gathered for supper. My mom would have used the
Chili Con Carne recipe from the traditional red-checkered
Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

Chili Con Carne
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 1-pound can (2 cups tomatoes, broken up
1 1-pound can (2 cups) dark red kidney beans, drained
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
1 bay leaf

In heavy skillet, cook meat, onion, and green pepper till meat is lightly browned and vegetables are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove bay leaf. Makes 4 servings.

Memories from Marlene Geiger
A memory that always comes back to me in the fall is the smell of Mom’s apple butter wafting in the air as I neared by childhood home after school.  Apple Butter was made almost annually from the apples in the family orchard and served on toast for breakfast. The recipe is taken from the tattered pages of my mother’s handwritten cookbook in a 1940s spiral notebook.  Likely the recipe is my grandmother’s. The apple butter was made in a large enamel roasting pan, the same pan used to roast a turkey.  The recipe is non-specific, typical of an old recipe.  Today, I make apple butter in my electric programmable pressure cooker using a tested recipe.

Apple Butter
Pare, core, and dice 15 cups apples to fill roasting pan.  Add 12 cups sugar, and one teaspoon cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Bake until apples are tender and thick. Mash apples if needed. 

Memories from Beth Marrs
A family favorite is the chocolate chip cookie recipe that my mom made for my sister and I.  It is the perfect cookie that is soft and delicious.  These cookies were favorites of all of my kids’ teammates, too, as I would make multiple batches of cookies to take along to all their fall activities.    I am thrilled to now be making them with my grandsons who are 2 and 4!

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies
1 cup butter or margarine
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 (3.4 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ¼ cup flour
1 package chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars.  Add pudding mix, vanilla and eggs and mix until creamy.  Slowly add the baking soda and flour and mix until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  I use a medium cookie scoop to make them all the same size and shape and place them on a cookie sheet.  Bake 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  They will be light brown. Do not overbake.

Memories from Carol Van Waardhuizen
I remember fall as a time when I converted my FCS high school students into “homemade soup lovers.”  To accomplish our knife skills objectives, we used potato peelers, chef’s knives and paring knives to prep our freshly harvested vegetables.  Lastly, they learned of the versatility of a basic potato soup by adding cooked ham cubes, bacon bits, or grated cheeses.  They couldn’t believe the goodness of a thick soup that they had created themselves.  

Potato Soup
4 potatoes, washed, peeled and diced 
2 carrots, washed, peeled and sliced 
2 ½ cups of water
1 T. and 1 t. chicken soup base (or vegetarian)
3 T. butter or margarine
½ large onion, chopped 
2 T. flour 
2 cups milk
Ground pepper to taste 
½ t. salt 
2 t. dried parsley
1/8 t. dried thyme or other seasonings to taste

In a stockpot or Dutch oven, heat water while preparing vegetables.  Add potatoes, carrots and chicken soup base to the boiling water.  Return to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes if the cubes are about 1” or smaller).  Some of the water will boil down, but don’t let it dry up. 
While potatoes and carrots are cooking, melt butter in a skillet and add onions. Sauté onions until they are translucent.  Over medium heat, add the flour to the cooked onions to make a (roux) paste and then cook 1 minute, to cook the flour starch.  Gradually add the milk.  Stir well with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the white sauce has thickened.  
Add the onion and white sauce mixture to the cooked potatoes and carrot mixture and stir well.  Stir in the seasonings and heat thoroughly.  You can garnish with grated cheese, bacon bits, ham cubes or other items to your preference.  

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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Celebrating the ‘Unique’ Angel Food Cake

Unbeknown to me, October 10 is National Angel Food Cake Day, a day to celebrate the light and fluffy textured foam cake made primarily of egg whites.  October seems like an unlikely month to celebrate angel food; I think of it as a springtime dessert served with fresh berries or fruit.

Since I enjoy history, I set out to learn the origins of the cake but found very little.  It is thought to be an American dessert perhaps originating with the Pennsylvania Dutch. The first recipe for the cake appeared in The Home Book of Tested Recipes in 1878.  In 1880 the New York Times published a recipe for angel food cake and the 1884 Boston Cooking School Cook Book also included an angel food cake recipe.  In a Martha Stewart article, the author writes “some food historians trace the widespread popularity of angel food cake to the advent of the rotary eggbeater in the mid- to late 19th century. What was once an arduous task became much more homemaker-friendly, and recipes began to appear in earnest.”

Regardless of how it originated, angel food cake is a unique cake in several ways–ingredients, pan, and cooling. It is made entirely of stiffly beaten egg whites, flour, sugar, and usually cream of tartar; unlike other cakes, no leavening or fat.  Steam and air incorporated into the eggs whites by beating are the main sources of leavening.  Flour adds structure and sugar brings sweetness.  Cream of tartar, an acid, helps to stabilize the egg whites.  (Lemon juice was once used to keep the beaten egg whites stiff, but today cream of tartar is the stabilizer of choice.) A special ungreased pan, known as a tube pan, is used for baking as the central tube and high sides of the pan support the delicate foam as it expands during baking; the hollow tube also allows for even heat distribution. Angel food cakes are cooled upside down. The elevation provides sufficient air flow to insure proper cooling which is needed to maintain the stability of its lofty structure.

Traditionally an angel food cake is made from stiffly beaten egg whites followed by carefully folding the dry ingredients into the delicate foamy egg whites.  Many recipes require a dozen egg whites or more. (The Pioneer Woman site offers a typical angel food recipe with tips and pictures.) Other options in today’s world include 1-step and 2-step box mixes.  A 1-step mix combines dehydrated egg whites, sugar, flour, flavorings, surfactants, stabilizers, and leavening agents in one package; water is added to the mix and beaten for a given amount of time.  Most major brands no longer offer the 2-step mix but some store-brand labels still offer this option.  The 2-step option is similar to traditional in that there are two packages in the mix—dehydrated egg whites and dry ingredients (sugar, flour, flavorings, stabilizers, and leavening agents).  First the dehydrated whites are whipped with water until stiff and then the dry ingredients are carefully folded into the egg white batter.  Purchasing a ready-made cake from the bakery is also an option.

Angel food cake is a low-guilt dessert with no cholesterol or fat.  One slice of cake typically contains 129 calories from 15 grams of sugar and 3.1 grams of protein.  Different recipes, box mixes or commercially prepared cakes may differ on calorie count and nutrition.

Angel food cake is not limited to just the traditional white. Angel food can be many flavors and colors. Since it is fall, it might be fun to celebrate National Angel Food Cake day by also celebrating a flavor of the season with a Pumpkin Angel Food Cake!  Taste of Home offers an easy recipe and the pumpkin will add additional vitamins and fiber!  Here’s to National Angel Food Day!

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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Fun with Fondant

I’m not a cake decorator, but for as long as my children enjoyed a special cake for their birthday, I did my best to create a cake of their wishes.  I even took a cake decorating class way back when and mastered a few things with buttercream frosting.  Now I have grandchildren and after many years of not decorating cakes, I am back at it, having fun and learning new things!

Sometimes the grands just give me a theme for their cake and look forward to what my imagination creates.  Other times, they are a bit more specific. This year my 8-year old grandson sent me a picture. He thinks BIG and presently has his sights set on expensive race cars, specifically Lamborghinis’!  One look at the picture told me this wasn’t a buttercream frosting cake—I was going to have to learn how to cover the cake with fondant! 

I chose to make my own marshmallow fondant rather than make or buy traditional fondant.  Marshmallow fondant requires just three ingredients—marshmallows, icing or powdered sugar, and water.  It is inexpensive, fast, fool proof and tastes good!  Basically it involves melting down fresh marshmallows with a small amount of water and adding the powdered sugar to get the right consistency.  (Some recipes also include vegetable shortening.)  The recipe that I used can be found at the end.  Traditional fondant differs in that a marshmallow base is first made from unflavored gelatin, glycerin, butter, water, and corn syrup and kneaded with powdered sugar.

I had so much fun with the fondant!  Marshmallow fondant is almost like playdough—roll it, sculpt it, cut it, mold it.  I found some great tips and videos for handling fondant and covering a cake on the Wilton website. My adjustable thickness rolling pin came in handy for rolling the fondant to an even thickness for covering the cake.   I also found my silicon baking mat useful; I rubbed a small amount of vegetable shortening on it before rolling the fondant.  When it came time to pick up the fondant, it peeled up smoothly and easily. Fortunately for me, everything worked so very well; the cake came together beautifully and was the delight of a special little boy!

Because I had a little fondant left over, I researched how to properly store it.  While fondant is best used fresh, it can be stored and used at a later date. To keep the fondant from drying out, rub it with a small amount of vegetable shortening, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in an airtight, zip bag removing as much air as possible. Add a date and store in the refrigerator.  With proper care, it should be good for a couple of months; the greatest risk is getting dry.  I don’t know that I will be using it anytime soon for cake decorating, but it just might come in handy as an ‘edible’ clay for entertaining grands.

Freezing is not recommended as condensation in thawing could change the consistency and texture of the fondant.  Water begins to dissolve the sugar in the fondant and makes it sticky.  For the same reason, fondant covered cakes should not be frozen after decorating.  Further, condensation between the cake and fondant may cause bubbling.

Marshmallow Fondant
10 ounces marshmallows
3 tablespoons water
Approximately 6 cups icing/powdered sugar, sifted

Pour the marshmallows into a microwave-safe bowl, add the water, stir, and microwave in 30-second increments until the marshmallows are creamy and melted (2-3 minutes). Add the sugar and mix with a big spoon or hands.  After the fondant begins to come together, turn it out onto a well-oiled surface (I greased my countertop and hands with vegetable shortening) and knead, adding more icing sugar if needed, until it’s nice and smooth. To color, add paste or gel food coloring and knead to incorporate. Flavoring can also be added using a drop or two of food-grade essential oil.  This amount makes more than enough fondant to cover a layer cake or ¼ sheet cake.

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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Bread Omelet

Have you heard the talk about a Bread Omelet? I was not familiar with it but one of my children discovered it so I thought I would check it out. I thought it came together quickly and was quite tasty!

Bread Omelets are common street food in India. To me they are like French toast, because you dip the bread in eggs and then cook, with an omelet in the middle. In some places it is called “egg on toast”.

Most recipes I found used 3 eggs and 2 pieces of bread. I thought that was a lot for me so I cut the amounts in half and it worked great.

For the process you whisk the eggs together with salt and pepper and add to melted butter in a preheated skillet. It is important to use a skillet large enough to hold the two pieces of bread you are using side by side. Depending on the amount of eggs you are using, let the eggs sit 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then add the bread dipping one side in the eggs and turning it over so both sides have egg mixture on them like you were making French toast. Let the egg mixture with the bread in it cook for a couple minutes then flip the entire thing over to cook the other side. While the second side is cooking you add your filling ingredients and the options are endless. I added only cheese but any meat or vegetable or other omelet filling ingredients you enjoy would work.

After you have added your filling ingredients, flip the cooked egg edges in over the bread and then close the sandwich – fold one piece of bread onto the other. Let the bread omelet cook until it is brown on both sides and enjoy!

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Freezing Blueberries

I will quit picking my rhubarb very soon and am looking forward to picking blueberries. I do not have any blueberry bushes on my own property but I have traveled to some wonderful blueberry farms to pick. Blueberries are so easy to freeze and when picked at the peak of their season add wonderful flavor to anything you add them to.

The National Center for home Food Preservation has two ways you can freeze blueberries. One is the dry pack which involves laying the unwashed blueberries out on a cookie sheet, freezing them til they are like little marbles then packaging them in freezer bags or containers. You wash them right before using. Washing them before freezing can cause the skins to get tough if there is any moisture left on them.

The second way to freeze blueberries is crushed or pureed. For this process you wash the berries first then use a food processor, blender or sieve to crush or puree them. For each quart of berries you add one to one and an eighth cups sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved then package in your freezer containers and freeze. Frozen blueberries will remain safe indefinitely as long as they are continuously frozen but will lose some quality over time. It is recommended to use them within one year.

Spend Smart Eat Smart offers some great recipes for using your blueberries. You might want to try Blueberry Pancakes or a Smoothie.

Enjoy Blueberry Season!

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Create Your Own Cooking Channel

Our completed scones!

We have had a weekly Zoom call with my entire family most Sunday evenings. That call has included my parents and all of their kids, grand kids and great grand kids. We are living in three different time zones and we have had the best time getting caught up on what is happening in every ones lives. This is one of the benefits of the pandemic-making us realize the importance of staying connected with family.

On one of our calls we were talking about cooking and we decided to schedule a Zoom class where I could show those interested how to make scones. After a search on the internet, we chose a white chocolate raspberry scone recipe for us to make together. I sent the recipe to everyone who was interested and available and scheduled the call. We ended up having 4 participants and everyone was pleased with how their scones turned out. Our next class is going to be on making homemade pretzels and I think we will have even more participants! I have even had some friends ask if they can be included on the next session.

Keeping in touch with others is so important especially when we are still social distancing. This was a really fun way to spend a morning together and to learn to make a delicious treat.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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