Freezing strawberries

This is the last week for picking strawberries at the farm I go to. I am always sad to see the season end. The berries are consistently delicious! The ones I buy in the store the rest of the year never measure up. I do make sure I freeze a certain amount to have on hand during the Winter as I enjoy the flavor in smoothies and desserts.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends using a sugar syrup or sugar pack when freezing strawberries. This process works very well and helps preserve the color and texture of the berries. It is however a quality issue, not a safety issue.

Many people prefer not to have the added sugar. This also gives you more options when you are ready to use them later in the year. For my purposes I prefer the dry pack method. It is easy right now to spread my berries out in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet and let them freeze individually overnight then transfer them to my freezer bags/containers. By letting them freeze individually first it is easy to just remove the amount I need without any of them sticking together in a glob.

I will enjoy the fresh strawberries of the season as long as I can and also make sure I freeze some to enjoy later.

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.

More Posts

Mice in the camper!

My camper is my happy place. It is my escape from stress and the best way for me to relax. Last week I discovered mice have invaded my happy place. I have always taken precautions when closing the camper for the summer before winter storage. I can only remember one other time that we had mice in a camper and that was after we had stored our tent trailer in a small shed with a dirt floor. Now we store our camper in a shed with a concrete floor. I noticed a couple of mouse droppings inside the camper after we had used it several times. When we moved our fifth wheel camper out of storage, I did not find any evidence of mice.

We have a permanent campsite on our farm, near our pond, and we often use the camper spontaneously. I like to keep food in the refrigerator and in the pantry so that we can relax any time we like.

I was putting away some groceries in the pantry when I noticed that a bag of croutons had a hole in the bottom and croutons were scattered all over the shelf. I knew that I needed to remove any food that would attract mice and I needed to remove anything that they could chew into and damage.

We bought a variety of products to kill mice as I was unsure which one would be most effective but I wanted to eliminate the mice as soon as possible. We set two traps on the top shelf, some glue traps among the canned foods and a mouse poison bait on the floor of the pantry.

So far, the traps have been the most effective. We caught a mouse the first night and again several days ago. One glue trap had a trace of mouse hair but all the glue was gone.

I have done a bit of research to keep our food safe from mice. I will store my food that is not in cans or bottles in smaller plastic totes. I hope that we caught all the mice sharing our camper but I am not sure that is true. I will be cautious and store any food that attracts mice in plastic for the rest of the summer.

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.

More Posts - Website

Summer Baking with Kids

Summer is nearly upon us and many of us will be looking for fun things to do with the children in our lives. One thing I love to do with my grandchildren is bake. I recently attended a cookie decorating class in hopes of picking up a few tips about some new techniques or products to use. The cookies we used were homemade (which are always fun to do with children) but if you find you don’t have enough time to do everything, using refrigerated cookie dough works just fine. There is a wide range of cookie cutters available on the market today for most any interest your children would have. If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for, trace a pattern and make your own!

 

Once your cookies have baked and cooled, frost with your favorite sugar cookie icing. Buttercream and Royal frostings are always popular. Experiment with making different colors of frosting using gel or powdered coloring. Put the prepared frostings in a baggie, cut one corner of the baggie diagonally and let the children use their creative skills to add frosting to the cookies.

The class I attended introduced me to Sprinkle Pop which is one of many brands of sprinkle type toppings available on the market in many different forms. Some of the varieties include sanding sugar which is translucent and quite fine and delicate; crystal sugar is also translucent but has larger, coarser crystals; nonpareils are round; quins come in many different shapes; edible glitter; and dragees which have a hard outer shell. It is important to be a good label reader when purchasing decorations for your cookies to make sure they are all edible. Some decorations will be labeled for use as decoration only and should not be consumed. They should be removed before serving the cookies. The FDA advises to avoid the use of non-edible food decorative products.

 

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.

More Posts

Tree Sap?

Parking your car underneath a tree can actually do permanent damage to the finish of your car. It seems that we have all experienced parking under a tree and discovering some sap on the hood or trunk of the car. I always thought this was just a minor inconvenience in life and never worried too much about removing the sap. According to Consumer Reports magazine, “Heat accelerates how sap sticks to the paint. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remove.” Sap left on the car can actually eat through the paint.

The magazine recommends using rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth to remove sap. Test it on an inconspicuous area of the car before attacking the sap on the hood. If rubbing alcohol does not seem to work, some specialized cleaners remove both sap and bug stains. As we do with stains on clothing, wash the car after using either of these products. Waxing the car will help to further protect the finish on the car.

If you find sap on the windows of the car, remove it with a plastic scraper. If necessary, a single edged razor blade can also remove sap. Just be careful not to scratch the glass.

I will look more carefully at my parking spots if I need to park under a tree at my grandsons’ baseball games this summer.

 

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Sunscreen questions?

Spring seems to be starting slowly this year. We have had some beautiful warm and sunny days and I realized that I need to get back into the habit of applying sunscreen. One of our favorite pastimes, when my grandsons visit, is walking down the hill to the bridge over the creek and tossing stones into the stream. The boys could do this for hours. It is so easy to just head outside without a thought to how long we will be standing in the sun.

Both my husband and I have had MOHS surgery for skin cancer. I would like to avoid that for my grandsons. I do not always understand all the factors important to choosing an effective sunscreen so I thought a little research was in order.

Sunscreens come in two different varieties; they use either an organic filter or an inorganic filter.

Organic filters are chemical compounds designed to absorb UV radiation and convert it into a small amount of heat. These filters include oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene. Some people incorrectly think that these chemicals can cause skin cancer but research has demonstrated that this is not the case.

Inorganic filters are minerals that physically block the UV light from contact with skin. The minerals may be zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They actually reflect and scatter the UV rays. Inorganic filters are often in sunscreens designed for children. These products are often thicker and look whiter than sunscreen made with an organic filter. These formulas also tend to be easier on skin so adults with sensitive skin may prefer inorganic filters too.

SPF can also be confusing. The recommendation for most people is an SPF of 30. This will protect against 97% of the UVB rays in sunshine. Sunscreens with SPF of over 50 add only a slight additional protection.

No sunscreen will perform well if not applied correctly. Think about the shot glass and teaspoon rule when applying. Use a teaspoon on your face and a shot glass amount on the rest of your body. Remember to reapply sunscreen containing an organic filter every two hours or after getting wet or sweating.

Stay safe this summer and prevent sunburns.

 

 

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.

More Posts - Website

Purslane — Weed or Treat?

PURSLANE (Portulaca oleracea) is a weed in my garden that I curse; it comes uninvited, spreads fast, and keeps on giving.    Purslane grows nearly everywhere in the world and is known as a weed, as I see it, or an edible plant.  Some cultures embrace purslane as a delicious and exceptionally nutritious treat!

Because purslane grows so rapidly and spreads easily, most research has focused on eradication by tillage or chemicals.  The new approach is to eradicate by eating.  While I couldn’t begin to eat against the amount of purslane that pops up in my garden, a little now and then is a bit of garden treat.  The leaves, plucked from the stems, are somewhat crunchy and have a slight lemon taste.  I like it sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, and omelets.  It can also be steamed or used in stir-fries and makes a good thickener for soups or stews because it has a high level of pectin.  Supposedly it also makes a great low-fat pesto; because purslane is so juicy, only a small amount of olive oil is needed.  Purslane is high is Vitamin E and essential omega-3 fatty acids providing more that six times more Vitamin E than spinach and seven times more carotene than carrots.  It is also rich in Vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, and phosphorus.

While it is readily available in my garden,  I have yet to see purslane in the markets in Central Iowa.   If one is so lucky to not have purslane in their garden or yard but are curious to try it, likely there is a neighbor who would be only too happy to share.  Before sampling or eating, make sure that the plant is chemical free and thoroughly washed as it grows close to the ground.  And if this is a new food, don’t over indulge.  Any number of recipes can be find via Google.

Having said all these good things about purslane, I still see it as a weed and struggle to eradicate it by pulling, hoeing or using chemicals.   Using a mechanical tiller is the worst at controlling it as cultivating breaks it apart and, being a succulent, each piece becomes a new plant.  Hoeing is effective only if the root is taken and the plant is removed.  Any soil disturbance raises long-lived seeds near the surface where they easily germinate.  Purslane is not picky about where it grows, loves hot weather, and does not require moisture; but give it tilled soil and a little moisture, and it goes wild. Therefore, the best rule is to get it before it goes to seed; it takes less than three weeks from the time it emerges until it flowers and seeds.  A single plant may produce 240,000 seeds which have germination potential for up to 40 years.   Mulching helps control purslane as mulch suppresses seed germination.  For mulch to be effective, it must be thick enough to block all light to prevent seed germination; 1/2 inch of mulch is recommended.

Purslane . . . weed ’em or eat ’em?   I will be weeding more than eating.

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.

More Posts

Pie Storage

Home Made Apple Pie

It’s summer time and a favorite summertime dessert is PIE!  We often get questions on how a pie should be stored—on the counter or in the refrigerator?  Here’s a look at the different kinds of pies and how to store them.

Fruit Pies made with Sugar.  According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), fruit pies are food-safe at room temperature for up to two days.  This recommendation is based upon fruit pies made with sugar as the combination of sugar and acid in the fruit is sufficient to retard bacterial growth.  If additional storage time is needed, the pie may be stored loosely wrapped in the refrigerator for two more days.   Fruit pies freeze quite well.  To freeze a fruit pie, place them uncovered in the freezer until frozen solid, then wrap in plastic wrap or foil and place back in the freezer for up to four months. Thaw at room temperature for one hour and if desired, reheat at 375°F until warm for about 30 minutes.

Custard, Cream, Mousse, Chiffon, and Fresh Fruit Pies.  These soft pies need to be refrigerated until ready to serve and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.  Soft pies do not freeze successfully so enjoy while fresh.

Pumpkin, Pecan and other Pies containing Eggs.  Pies containing eggs should be eaten as soon as possible after baking and cooling.  Otherwise, these pies should be refrigerated.  They keep well in the refrigerator for up to four days.  Both pumpkin and pecan pies can be frozen with some success for up to two months.  In freezing, they loose some of their integrity; the filling may separate a bit and the crust may get soggy.  To freeze these pies, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and foil or place in an air-tight freezer bag.  Thaw the pies in the refrigerator before using.

Pies made with a Sugar Substitute.  Sugar acts as a preservative, helps retain moisture, and keeps baked-goods fresher longer.  Therefore, it is best to consume pies made with Equal or SPLENDA® in 1-2 days.  These products are best stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  If you want to keep pies made with sugar substitutes longer, they should be frozen by wrapping in plastic and foil or in an air-tight freezer bag.  These pies can be frozen successfully for for up to two 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.

More Posts

Poke Bowls

We had friends just return from Hawaii who were raving about the Poke Bowls they enjoyed there. I had never heard of them but they piqued my curiosity enough to do a little research on them.

Poke (pronounced po-kay) is a sushi-like raw seafood salad. Poke is a Hawaiian verb meaning to slice or cut – which is what you do to the fish. Poke bowls were created in the Hawaiian Islands with a Japanese influence. The most popular are made with ahi tuna or octopus but you can use any fresh-caught fish or seafood you enjoy. If you do not care for eating raw fish or don’t enjoy it’s texture, you can certainly grill the fish/seafood you are using. They are a light and healthy meal and can be made low carb, gluten-free, and grain-free. They are also a great source of protein.

Poke bowls have been in Hawaii since the 1970’s and became popular on the mainland six or seven years ago. You can find them many places today including restaurants that only serve poke, poke bars in grocery stores, food trucks and you can buy prepackaged poke bowls  at the grocery store to take home like the one pictured. Poke bowls are easy to make at home as well. Many people start with a base of sushi rice, cauliflower rice, or lettuce. The poke is placed on top of that containing the fish, some onions (Vidalia or green onions work well, soy sauce and sesame oil (or tamari) along with some spice like Sriracha sauce. On top of the poke most add raw vegetables and slices of avocado.

The National Restaurant Association named poke a hot trend last year. It may be a refreshing and healthy choice for lunch or dinner on some of these hot Summer days. Enjoy!

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.

More Posts

Grilling Fruit

Summer and grilling just seem to go together at my house. Typically it is meat we are grilling but I have recently been interested in branching out to grilling fruit to complement the meat or use as a side or dessert.

As I was researching grilling fruit I was amazed at how many fruits lend themselves to be grilled. Peaches, melons, pineapple, pears, avocado, bananas, figs, grapes, watermelon and mango are all recommended. The key is to use fruits that are firm and barely ripe. You will want to grill them right before they are considered ripe enough to eat.

Grilling fruits intensifies their flavor by caramelizing the natural sugars. Juicy fruits will get even juicier and the grill marks make the fruit look very appealing. To maintain structure, cut the fruit into large chunks, slices, or wheels. If you are grilling smaller fruits, put them on a skewer so they don’t fall through the grates.

To prepare the grill for grilling fruit, preheat it to medium high for at least 10 minutes. Scrape and oil the grates to prevent sticking. Using a neutral tasting oil that is suitable for high heat is best so it does not affect the taste of the fruit. You may oil the fruit, if you wish, to also help prevent sticking but most people find they get better grill marks on the fruit without oiling the fruit itself. You can also sprinkle a spice on the cut fruit before you grill it if you want to. Many people recommend sprinkling white or brown sugar on the cut surface to help with the caramelization.

When grilling your fruit it is important to let it sear before trying to turn it to help prevent sticking. A general rule of thumb is to let the fruit sear for three minutes, flip it, then let it cook another one to three minutes more. If the fruit seems to be sticking before you turn it for the first time let it sear for a little bit longer and it should release. Denser fruit takes longer to grill  i.e. pineapple will take longer than peaches. You can put the lid on the grill to help keep the heat in if you wish. Check the fruit every few minutes to prevent overcooking. Your goal is for the fruit to be hot in the middle with beautiful grill marks on it.

Grilled fruit is delicious by itself but pairs nicely with ice cream and/or whipped cream. I’m looking forward to experimenting with grilling some fruits as more and more fruits are coming into their season.

 

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.

More Posts

Watermelon

When I remember eating watermelon as a child in suburban Chicago, I remember it as a rare treat. Thinking back, I can only remember eating watermelon in a thick, flat slice. It was always in the shape of half a watermelon.

I think that we see watermelon in the store almost year-round these days. I know that I have eaten watermelon in lots of different shapes. Sometimes scooped out with a melon baller, sometimes cubes, or small triangular slices. Watermelon is one of my husband’s favorite treats and I like to buy at least a half melon and cut it up so it is easy to grab a bit and enjoy it any time.

Here are two of my favorite ways to cut watermelon. One reason that they are my favorite methods is that they are quick and the other reason is that it is easy to enjoy a quick bite between meals.

Method 1

The first method is also a great way to cut a melon for a picnic or pot luck dinner. This method leaves a bit of the watermelon rind on the outside of the slice, thus keeping your hands from becoming too sticky.

Place the cut side of the melon down and cut slices from stem end to blossom end roughly an inch apart.


Next cut slices perpendicular the first slices, also about an inch apart.


Now you have watermelon sticks that are easy to serve and easy to eat.


Method 2

The second method is nearly as easy.

In this method, you will start with a quarter of a watermelon. Using a large knife simply cut between the melon flesh and the rind. Start on one side and then move to the other side. The object is to free all the melon flesh from the rind. Do not worry that you will not get every bit of usable melon. You can add that to your cubes when you are finished.


Next cut slices from blossom to stem end about an inch apart. Do this on the flat side. Flip to the other flat side and repeat the process.


Then slice down through the melon from top edge to rind. You can now dump out the cubes. Feel free to clean up the rind if you find you have left more melon there than you like.


Enjoy.

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.

More Posts - Website

AnswerLine

Subscribe to AnswerLine Blog

Enter your email address:

Connect with us!

AnswerLine's Facebook page AnswerLine's Twitter account AnswerLine's Pinterest page
Email: answer@iastate.edu
Phone: (Monday-Friday, 9 am-noon; 1-4 pm)
 1-800-262-3804 (in Iowa)
 1-800-854-1678 (in Minnesota)

Archives

Categories