Green Bean Casserole

Originally called “Green Bean Bake”, we know the recipe as Green Bean Casserole today. It is a favorite Holiday side dish at my house and in many others too I’m sure. You may not know that the inventor of this recipe recently passed away. Her name was Dorcas Reilly and she was 92 years old when she passed away on October 15, 2018.

Dorcas was working as a supervisor in the home economics department of a Campbell’s test kitchen in New Jersey in 1955 when she was given an assignment to create a recipe using ingredients any cook would have on hand at home including Campbell’s mushroom soup and green beans. The recipe she and her team came up with consisted of just six ingredients: Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans, and crunchy fried onions. She has said she and her team talked about adding celery salt and ham to the recipe but decided to just keep it simple with minimal prep time needed, affordable ingredients that could be stirred together, and a short amount of bake time. Plus the recipe worked well with canned or frozen green beans. Cheap, fuss-free cooking was all the rage for post-War America at that time. More women were entering the workforce and looking for easy-to-make meals. Convenience cooking was starting to take off since wartime rations had been lifted on canned goods and new innovations in canning and freezing made packaged foods more accessible than ever.

The “Green Bean Bake” became very popular once Campbell’s started printing the recipe on the side of their cream of mushroom soup cans. That was not the only recipe Dorcas and her team were credited for helping create however. She was also a part of the team that created the tuna noodle casserole and Sloppy Joe’s made from tomato soup recipes. Dorcas has been quoted as saying she was very proud of the “Green Bean Bake” recipe and pleasantly shocked when she realized how popular it had become. Her hand-written original recipe card even made it into the archives of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

Over the years people have changed the recipe a bit to make it a better fit for their family. Here are two lighter versions of the original recipe: One is from Campbell’s and one is from the American Heart Association.

I will be thinking of Dorcas this Holiday season as my family enjoys a traditional green bean casserole!

 

Marcia Steed

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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Thickeners for Home Canning

It is the time of the year for callers to be canning pie fillings. Callers want to can a filling that can go straight from the canning jar into the pie. That is not always possible since the only recommended thickener for pie fillings is a product called Clear Jel. This product is not readily available in stores like so many other canning products. At the time researchers were developing pie filling recipes, they anticipated that Clear Jel would be sold alongside other canning supplies. At this time, the easiest way to purchase Clear Jel is on the internet. It is very difficult to find Clear Jel at a local store.

Callers often wonder why Clear Jel is the only recommended thickener. Not all starches perform the same way; Clear Jel can be heated and cooled several times and still maintain the same thickening power. Cornstarch used to thicken pie filling can form clumps and cause the cloudiness inside the jar. Pie filling made with cornstarch may not thicken while the pie is baking.

It can be tempting to just experiment with adding a bit of flour or cornstarch to your recipe but the National Center for Home Food Preservation tells us that it is a bad idea. Here is their explanation.

“In general, you are correct — it is NOT safe to add flour/corn flour or any other thickening agents to just any canning recipe. Thickening agents slow the ability of heat to penetrate throughout the product. Heat must be distributed evenly and at a high enough temperature in order to destroy mold, yeast, and bacteria. In low-acid foods (vegetables and meats for example), there is a risk of causing botulism if the product is not heated properly in the canner. Adding a thickener to a tested recipe and then processing it for the same amount of time as tested without a thickener would risk under-processing of that product, and in turn, would risk causing food poisoning/spoilage.”

There are a couple of recipes that do include flour on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. “In the particular case of the Pickled Corn Relish, the recipe was tested with the flour paste thickener as part of the ingredients and approved by the thermal process authority providing that recipe. That is why we can recommend adding this particular flour paste to this particular recipe. As you can see from looking over the ingredients list, there is a large portion of vinegar in this recipe, which does play an important role in the safety of pickled foods and does also influence the margin of safety for adding the thickening agent. There also is not that much thickening that occurs; the resulting brine in this product is still quite watery, so it’s not excessive thickening. The amount recommended should not be increased, however, and it should be incorporated just as described. We do not know the effects of adding the same flour paste to other recipes, however, so we would not recommend using it in other canning recipes.’

Please resist the temptation to add a thickener not listed in a recipe. Keep your family safe. You can always easily thicken canned apples or other fruits for use in a pie.  You may see some new thickeners on the market but for now, Clear Jel is the only recommended thickener for use in pie fillings.

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Celebrating Iced Tea Safely

June is National Iced Tea Month!  I didn’t know we celebrated iced tea nationally but after reading that iced tea makes up 85% of all tea consumed in the U.S., I concur that Iced Tea should be celebrated.   Further, I learned that iced tea was born in America.  Wikipedia relates that iced tea started to appear as a novelty in the U.S. during the 1860s.  (Prior to that, very little tea was consumed as it was thought to be unpatriotic after the Revolutionary War.)  By 1870, iced tea was quite widespread as it was available on hotel and railroad station menus.  Its popularity increased quickly after being introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis by Richard Blechynden.

Iced tea is my ‘go to’ summer beverage as an alternative to soda.  With the popularity of iced tea, we now have a large assortment of teas to use to make our cherished iced tea.  While some manufacturers have developed specific blends or formulations for iced tea, just about any tea can be enjoyed cold.  Until recently, iced tea was made by either brewing with hot water or brewing with the sun.  For years, I used the natural rays of the sun to make sun tea as the mild heat of the sun seemed to enhance the flavor of the tea and cut down on the tannins.  Well, no more!  Since 2011, the Centers for Disease Control have highly discouraged making sun tea as it is the perfect medium for bacteria growth.  Sun tea gets warm enough to brew tea, but it does not get hot enough to kill a ropy bacteria called Alcaligenes viscolactis that may be present in the water or in the tea or herb leaves.  Ropy bacteria is commonly found in soil and water.  If tea containing the bacteria is consumed, it has the potential to cause abdominal infections and illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and the National Tea Association recommend the following for brewing tea:

Brew tea by steeping tea at 195 degrees F for three to five minutes. Some tea drinkers complain that when tea is brewed with hot water, the tea becomes cloudy. The cause of the cloudiness may be due to tannins from the tea being released into the solution when the tea is cooled too rapidly or by chemicals or minerals in the water supply. One way to avoid cloudiness due to the tannins is to gradually bring the temperature of the steeped tea down with cool water before refrigerating or adding ice.  If chemicals in the water are causing the cloudiness, let the water sit for several hours to evaporate the chlorine.  Tap water containing minerals may need to be replaced with distilled or reverse osmosis water to eliminate the problem.  While cloudy iced tea may not be desirable, it is not a health risk.

Tea can also be brewed safely in the refrigerator by putting tea in cold water for six hours to overnight depending on the strength of the tea desired.  It can also be made more quickly with the Cold Brew formulations now available.

One should only brew enough tea to be consumed within a few hours.  When tea is not in use, it should be refrigerated.  If you use an iced tea maker, be sure to wash, rinse and sanitize the equipment regularly.

So get out your tall glasses and ice cubes and celebrate the warm weather by pouring yourself a safely home-brewed glass of iced tea be it plain, sweetened, flavored, or spiked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice tea certainly offers a healthier alternative to soda which is our country’s #1 beverage of choice.

 

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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Garnishes

Since Spring has officially arrived, I am already looking forward to warmer weather and Summer! Smoothies are a favorite at our house in the Summer. They are something we, along with our children and grandchildren, all enjoy.

One of the fun things about smoothies is the many fun ways you can garnish them. There are the usual little umbrellas, plastic animals, and fancy straws. Flavored salt is another pretty common garnish. You can use your food processor or a mortar and pestle to grind coarse salt. Moisten the rim of the glass with lemon, lime, or orange juice, or even water, and dip it in the flavored salt. This works with flavored or colored sugar as well. Or try powdered drink mixes or finely chopped coconut for something different.

The idea behind garnishes is to complement or contrast flavors to hint at what’s in the recipe or bring out the flavor. If you use ice as part of your garnish you can freeze colored juices or sodas in cubes which will not dilute your drink. Or freeze berries or slices of fruit in ice cubes. You can also purchase spherical ice cube molds which look unique and attractive in the glass.

Other popular garnishes for fruity drinks are maraschino cherries, pineapple wedges, fruit kabobs, shaved coconut, and candied strips or wheels of zest. It is fun to experiment using a few different citrus zests and twisting or tieing them together.

If you are serving a vegetable smoothie, you can use a mandolin or vegetable peeler to make long, thin strips of cucumber, carrot, or radish to garnish with. Fresh herb leaves or sprigs also add a nice touch. Or try threading sprigs of hardy herbs (rosemary or thyme) through cranberries, blueberries, and raspberries. My favorite vegetable smoothie uses fresh spinach, frozen bananas, avocado, protein powder, and almond milk. I like to garnish it with fresh fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

Sometimes in place of smoothies my granddaughter likes a “mocktail” which we often like to make layered. To accomplish this you need to use ingredients with contrasting colors and different weights. For a Layered Shirley Temple, mix together 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage. Pour the mixture into a tall glass then pour 1 Tablespoon grenadine in and let it sink to the bottom. Maraschino cherries make a nice garnish for this drink. Another layered drink that looks pretty is the Italian Cream Soda. To make this one, mix the fruit flavored syrups you are using with the soda water and pour into a glass. Float half-and-half on top for the layered look and top with whipped cream.

Homemade lollipops are a fun activity to do with children and the lollipops can serve as a stirrer in their smoothies and a snack.

Happy Summer! I hope it will be a long one after the extended Winter we have had!

 

 

Marcia Steed

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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Tips for avoiding curdling

We get more calls about curdled food this time of year than any other time. Callers are frustrated when their homemade tomato soup curdles. It can be annoying when making tomato soup or scalloped potatoes to have the product look curdled and lumpy. It certainly is not an appetizing way to serve a meal.

You should know that the protein in milk is likely to clump together or curdle, when exposed to acid or salt. A number of things can help you avoid this situation. When making cream of tomato soup, try adding the tomato to the milk rather than the opposite. Remember to have both the milk and tomato hot, and thicken either the tomato juice or milk before they are combined. Do serve the soup promptly.

If you are baking scalloped potatoes, avoiding high oven temperatures and long cooking time will make the milk less likely to curdle. Parboiling the potatoes shortens the cooking time and the likelihood of curdling. Using evaporated milk further aids the product.

If ham and scalloped potatoes are baked together, curdling will occur. Ham contains curing salts, which make the milk protein extremely unstable and causes them to curdle easily.

Think through the recipe and directions before you start cooking; you should be able to avoid curdling in your dish.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Sheet Pan Cooking

With the beginning of a New Year, many of us are looking to eat healthier but also want recipes that are simple and easy to prepare with quick clean-up. For me, sheet pan cooking is a good solution. You can have protein and vegetables ready in a short time for dinner. It is also a great way to use any leftover vegetables you might have in your refrigerator.

The concept is pretty straight forward but there are a few tips to keep in mind for more successful sheet pan cooking. First of all you will want to use the right pan – it should be sturdy, measure 18 by 13 inches, and have a one inch rim all the way around it. A half sheet pan is ideal. Jellyroll pans will look similar but in general are smaller and flimsier than half sheet pans. The size is important so your ingredients can spread out. This will help them roast rather than steam which causes mushiness.  The rim is important to allow air to flow across the pan which helps the ingredients brown and get a bit crispy. The sturdiness of the pan is important to allow for high oven heat and sometimes the broiler. For speedier and easier clean-up, line the pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

When selecting vegetables to use, remember denser vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc) take longer to cook than softer vegetables so you will want to roast the denser vegetables for 30 minutes or more before adding the softer vegetables to the pan. This sometimes takes trial and error so write a few notes down as you are trying various combinations of vegetables. Choose vegetables that are in season that you like to roast and cut them into roughly the same size pieces for more even cooking. You may want to consider adding fruits to your sheet pan dinner as well. Grapes, apples, pears, peaches and plums all roast nicely. They will cook more quickly so add them at the end of the cooking time.

Once you have your vegetables and fruits prepped, toss them with oil to completely coat them. This helps keep them from drying out. You can use olive, grapeseed, coconut or canola oil. Put the cut up vegetable and fruit pieces in a large bowl, pour your choice of oil and any seasonings you may be using over them, and stir with a spoon or your hands to cover the pieces with the oil. You may want to coat the denser pieces first then use what is left in the bowl to coat the softer pieces that will be added later.

It is best to avoid cuts of meat that require braising when you are doing sheet pan cooking. If you are using breaded chicken or fish, use a wire rack to keep the breaded ingredients above the moisture in the pan. This will help the meat keep it’s crisp coating. You would also want to use a rack if you are roasting a cut of beef or pork so the ingredients get basted with the juices and the meat gets browned.

If your sheet pan meal looks too pale to you when you take it out of the oven, try putting it under the broiler for a short time for color.

There are many recipes available online from many sources to help you get started. The possibilities are practically endless!

 

 

Marcia Steed

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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Slow cooker tips

There is something special about coming home after a long day of work and smelling something delicious in the slow cooker. Without a lot of effort, supper will be ready in only a few minutes. I blogged about using a slow cooker a couple of years ago. It is surprising how many people have discovered that blog post and asked questions. I have done a bit of research recently and thought that I could share just a bit more information about cooking with a slow cooker.

We blogged recently about fire safety so it is good to know that while a slow cooker will get hot while in use, it is considered safe to use on the counter top. A well-maintained slow cooker is not a fire hazard due to the low wattage of the appliance.

Typically, a slow cooker takes about 7 or 8 hours to reach 200°F on low or 4 to 5 hours to reach that same temperature on high. This temperature should be enough to kill any bacteria that might be present. As the food reaches that temperature, the meat will become done enough for meat to fall off the bones and for the flavors of the foods in the slow cooker to meld together. Remember not to open the lid of the cooker as that allows heat to escape. Removing the lid later in the process has less effect than removing it during the first hour or two. Use an instant read thermometer to know if meat has cooked long enough.

Your recipe may call for some special ingredients. Here are some tips for using those special ingredients.

  • Pasta: If your recipe calls for pasta, pre-cook the pasta until it is just slightly tender. You can then add it to the slow cooker during the last hour or two of cooking.
  • Rice: Simply add the rice and an equal amount of water to the slow cooker when you are adding ingredients at the beginning of the cooking time.
  • Dry beans: Dry beans must be softened completely. Once the beans contact sugar or an acid, they will remain hard. If you must put all the ingredients into the cooker at once, consider using canned beans.
  • Vegetables: Root vegetables (things like potatoes and carrots) require a longer cooking time than some meats. Be sure to place them at the bottom of the cooker when adding food.
  • Liquid: your recipe must include some liquid. At the very least your need ½ to 1 cup of liquid. The foods in the cooker will contribute additional liquid during the cooking time. This liquid aids in transfer of heat from the cooker to the food.
  • Thickeners: You can add a thickener at the beginning or the end of the cooking time. Not all thickeners work equally well. Flour can be added at the end of the cooking time but will require additional cooking time to thicken the food. It can take up to 15 minutes of cooking on high to remove the uncooked flour taste from the dish. Cornstarch works in a similar way, but will thicken after the food returns to a boil. Cornstarch, too, must be added at the end of the cooking time or it will break down. Tapioca is the only cooking starch that you can add at the beginning of the cooking time. Typically, you would use the same amount of tapioca as flour to thicken a dish.
  • Milk, cream, sour cream: These foods will break down over a long cooking time. Add these during the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking.
  • Fish: This delicate food should also be added during the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking time.

Use these tips to convert any favorite recipes that you have into a slow cooker recipe. Enjoy a healthy, fast dinner tonight.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Beyond Pumpkin Spice and all Things Nice

If your love for “pumpkin spice” and all things pumpkin nice is beginning to wane or you were never a fan to begin, perhaps it is time to pigeon-hole those sweets and lattes and look at different ways to use the vitamin rich pumpkin (or squash).  The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene, a plant carotenoid which converts to Vitamin A in the body.  Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene reduces the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and some degenerative diseases.  Besides beta-carotene, pumpkin is also packed with Vitamins C and K, fiber, and other important nutrients while being low in calories.

Pumpkin is a surprisingly versatile product with a smooth, warming quality that lends itself well to creamy textures.  Squash, such as butternut, can be substituted for pumpkin.  Since all recipes do not use a whole can of pumpkin or the flesh of a whole pumpkin or squash, you may need to think of multiple uses for it.  Pumpkin/squash puree is good for 5-7 days in the refrigerator or 2-3 months in the freezer. Here are a few of the ways I use pumpkin/squash puree or a can of pumpkin that are an alternative to pumpkin spice and traditional desserts along with some recipes from my recipe box.

Drinks, smoothies, and yogurt parfaits

Hummus

Thickening for chili soup, marinara sauce, or curries

Yeast breads and rolls

Soup

Pancakes or waffles

Vegetarian burgers (can also be used in meat burgers)

Risotto

Ravioli or lasagna filling

Crackers

Pumpkin Orange Smoothie
½ cup Greek yogurt (or substitute)
¼ cup milk or substitute
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon honey
Blend until smooth; serve cold.

Black Bean Pumpkin Burgers
½ cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 14-oz can black beans, drained, rinsed or 2 cups cooked black beans
Place all ingredients and half of the beans in a food processor.  Pulse until smooth.  Add remaining beans and pulse until just slightly chopped.  Form into patties.  Place patties on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 325F for 40-45 minutes.  Makes 4 burgers.

Pumpkin Hummus
2 cloves garlic
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin or 1 ¾ cups puree
2 tablespoons almond or peanut butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon olive oil
Dash cayenne pepper or smoked paprika
Ice water
Pumpkin seeds (optional)
Puree all ingredients in a food processor.  Add ice water until desired consistency is achieved.  Garnish with pumpkin seeds.

Cheesy Pumpkin Crackers
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
½ t salt
½ t pepper
3 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon water
Mix all ingredients together.  Roll 1/8” thick on parchment paper.  Cut into squares or designs with a cookie cutter.  Use a fork to poke holes in top.  Bake on parchment lined baking sheet for 15 minutes at 400F.

Let’s spread the word. Pumpkins are not just for baking into pies, bread, or bars, displaying on your stoop, or carving into jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkin is a delicious addition to many kinds of food.

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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Making Scones

One of my favorite things to make are scones. I like to make them enough that I have even purchased an official scone pan that makes 16 small scones from one batch. The scone pan is not necessary but it makes all of the scones the same shape and size so I look like a professional even though I am not! I have experimented making many different kinds including orange, vanilla, chocolate chip and lemon but my favorite one is a mixed berry scone that I found when looking at recipes on the internet. Through trial and error, I know that adding sour cream to a recipe makes them extra moist and delicious so I like to add some to all of the recipes I try. I know that the dough will be very crumbly and that if I over mix it will cause them to be tough. I thought I would share with you some of the techniques so you can try making some at your house.

 

 

 

First measure your dry ingredients into a bowl. This includes flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

 

Grate butter into the flour mixture and blend into flour with your fingers.  Be sure that your butter is very cold!

Grating the butter makes it blend into the four much easier than cutting it into small pieces.

Mix wet ingredients together in another bowl. This includes milk, sour cream, egg and vanilla.  Add the liquid ingredients and the frozen berries (I used frozen blueberries, raspberries and blackberries). Don’t let the berries thaw or they will color the dough and you will not have any whole fruit pieces in your baked scone.

Mix until just combined. Do not overmix or the scone will be tough.

Shape into a square on a floured cutting board. I then cut it into 16 pieces (four squares with four triangle shapes).  If you wanted larger scones you could cut them into 8 instead of 16.

After putting the pieces in the pan I sprinkle with a course sugar before baking.

Bake at 400° F. for about 18 minutes until the scones are just starting to turn light brown. I cook mine in my convection oven at 375° F. for approximately 15 minutes.

If using a pan, allow to cool for 10 minutes then remove from pan and place on a cooking rack.

Making scones is easy and fun!  Try it out for yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

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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Can your own pie filling!

Callers have been asking for recipes to make their own canned pie filling a lot lately. It can be frustrating for a home canner to hear that the only recommended starch in pie filling recipes is Clear Jel. This product is not typically available in a local grocery store. The best option for purchasing Clear Jel is the internet. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has the following information on their website.

Clear Jel® is a chemically modified corn starch that produces excellent sauce consistency even after fillings are canned and baked. Other available starches break down when used in these pie fillings, causing a runny sauce consistency. Clear Jel® is available only through a few supply outlets and it is not widely available in grocery stores. Find out about its availability prior to gathering other ingredients to make these pie fillings. If you cannot find it, check Internet stores, or ask your county Extension family and consumer sciences educator about sources for Clear Jel®.

We do have a way for home canners to work around the Clear Jel problem. Sliced apples can be processed in a medium or heavy syrup. When you want to bake a pie with your home canned apples, simply thicken them after taking them out of the jar and then put them into your pie crust. It adds another step but is the best way to make apple pie filling without Clear Jel.

Enjoy a “fresh” apple pie any time.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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