Time to put the garden to bed

Cleaning the garden

Now that we have had several frosty nights, it is time to think about getting the garden finished for the season. I have been reading some press releases from Richard Jauron a the Hortline at Iowa State University to remind me of everything I need to accomplish this week . If you want to speak with Richard directly, you can call him at 515-294-3108 any weekday between 10 to noon or 1 to 4:30.

I plan to follow his directions for getting my garden ready for winter. I will need to mulch my strawberry bed to prevent damage to the plants from repeated freezing and thawing. Temperatures much below 20 degrees F could kill the flower buds or damage the roots of the plants. I do have some time to get my mulch prepared as the advice for mulching includes letting the plants acclimate to the cooler weather before mulching. I plan to use chopped cornstalks as they are more readily available to me than oat, wheat, or soybean straw.

I have been trying to get all the garden debris cleaned out of the garden between rainstorms this fall. Removing garden debris helps control the spread of disease and prevents insects from overwintering in the dead plants. I took the tomato plants out when they stopped bearing tomatoes. The plants didn’t look very healthy at that point. The potatoes were dug early to prevent them from rotting in the ground. The onions were pulled early for the same reason. I’ll get everything else out later this week, but with a late harvest, I’m not sure my husband will be able to till the garden yet this fall. If he is able to get that done for me, the garden will dry out and warm up a bit earlier next spring.

If we have a warm weekend, I hope to clean up my garden tools. Richard advises removing that caked-on soil from shovels, hoes, and rakes. Wash the tools and coat with WD-40 to prevent rust. Blades and edges of hoes and shovels can be sharpened. If I have lots of time, and energy, I can sand the rough handles on both of my hoes. Both hoe handles are very rough and I don’t like the way they feel when I use them. Richard says that linseed oil will prevent cracking and drying of the handles. I have already put my hoses away for the winter. I drained and coiled them carefully to ensure that they will be in great shape next spring.

Hopefully, the time I take this fall to get things cleaned up will make gardening in the spring more enjoyable.

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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October is Pork Month!

Pork loin chops

Although we are already part way through October, there is still plenty of time to celebrate Porktober19.  Pork is a very versatile meat and can be prepared many different ways.  Pork has been a part of my family’s life for many years as we raised a lot of hogs on our farm.  My husband and I continued the family tradition of raising hogs from farrow to finish (birth to market). After we made the tough decision to get out of the hog business, I worked for a neighbor as a herdswoman for an additional 5 years.  We always had pork in the freezer as we took a hog or two to the locker plant in town every year.  It is easy to make a quick work night supper with some ham steaks or pork chops or a special family meal with a pork loin roast. 

Whole pork loins

If you are in a rut and need some new and interesting pork recipes, the Iowa Pork Producers have plenty of new recipes that you may enjoy. If you are a new cook or have not had a chance to cook pork for a while, the National Pork Board has some great, quick videos covering multiple ways to cook or work with pork.  They demonstrate how to cook pork chops or how to cut down a large tenderloin into cops and roasts.  There is also a demonstration on how to correctly use a thermometer to check if the pork has been cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Enjoy some pork 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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Substituting honey for sugar

We get calls all year long from consumers wanting to substitute honey for sugar.  Some people prefer the taste of honey, some feel that honey is a more “natural” product, and some think that honey is healthier than sugar.

Honey pot preserved with honeycomb on wood background

We help callers understand the facts surrounding honey and sugar substitutions.  If the substitution is in a baked product, you will substitute half of a cup of honey for one cup of sugar. Remember to decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey used.  Sometimes this substitution will affect the overall quality of the product.  The best option would be to start with a recipe designed to use honey. 

If you wish to substitute honey for sugar in a drink, such as lemonade, use half the amount as listed above, but do consider using a bit of hot water to help the honey dissolve into the drink.

Honey is a natural product produced by bees using the nectar from flowers to make honey.  Raw honey contains pollen grains but is usually available in the store as processed honey.  This product may have been heated or filtered.  Sugar is also a natural product made by processing sugar beets or sugar cane.  We should avoid using an excessive amount of either product.

For our callers that think of honey as a healthier option, it does have a small amount of minerals but overall it is not really much healthier than sugar. The American Diabetes Association states that there is no advantage substituting honey for sugar in the diabetic diet.  Most of us would benefit by limiting our sugar intake. 

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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Pumpkin Puree Leftovers

I was recently doing some baking with pumpkin. My recipe called for only 1 cup of pumpkin rather than the whole can which left me with about half a can of pumpkin puree leftover. Some of you may have experienced the same thing. If you have, there are some options for you to consider. First of all you might want to double the recipe you are making and share the additional baked product with a friend:) One 15 ounce can of pumpkin is just shy of 2 cups. If you definitely want the full cup for the second batch you are making just add 1 tablespoon of applesauce to the leftover pumpkin puree. I think you will also find being a tablespoon shy of a full cup of pumpkin will not affect the outcome of your recipe.

If you are using commercially canned pumpkin puree you can refrigerate and use any leftovers within 5-7 days. If you have made your own pumpkin puree you will want to refrigerate and use it within 3-5 days. The leftover pumpkin is wonderful stirred into oatmeal or yogurt or added to a smoothie. Libby’s has posted on their site recommendations for substituting pumpkin puree for eggs, oil or butter in your baking.

 

You may also freeze any leftover pumpkin puree. An easy way to do that is to lightly spray a muffin cup and spoon 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup measurements of pumpkin into each cup. Freeze in the muffin pan until solid then remove the pumpkin mounds/scoops from the pan and transfer to freezer bags. Make sure to label your bags with what it is, the amount in each mound and the date. It is easy to remove the amount you need for a recipe later on. If you thaw the pumpkin puree in the refrigerator, which is the recommended way, you have an additional 3-4 days to store it in the refrigerator and use it. If you thaw the pumpkin in the microwave or with the cold water method you need to use it immediately. Once the pumpkin has thawed if there is any liquid pooling just drain it off before using. For best quality, use frozen pumpkin puree within 3 months. It will be safe indefinitely however if continuously frozen but will lose some quality over time.

There are so many delicious pumpkin recipes out there. I hope you will enjoy baking with pumpkin puree this 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.

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Induction Burners

My son recently purchased a portable induction burner. I have friends who have them and love them but I do not have one so decided to do a little more research on them. Maybe I need one!

The units plug into a standard outlet so it is easy to use on your countertop or even outdoors if you have a deck or gazebo with outlets or an outdoor kitchen. An electromagnetic field below the glass surface provides heat that heats up the pan you are using. The cookware is considered the transformer so the surface of the burner cools down immediately after a pot is removed.

Because the cookware is the transformer not all cookware can be used on the induction cooktop. Aluminum, glass and ceramic will not work. You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy new cookware though. To test yours, see if a magnet will stick to it. If it does, it will work on your induction cooktop.

Using magnetic induction heats pans up more quickly than either gas or electric. This saves energy and time. Induction burners also respond immediately to temperature adjustments. If you raise or lower the heat you will see results right away.

As I mentioned before, the induction burner will not work if the transformer (the pot/pan) is not on top of it. That is especially advantageous if you have small children present. It is also a plus if you happen to spill something on the burner. Since the burner does not get hot the splatters do not burn. Many induction burners can also sense if there is nothing in the pot and they will turn off after 60 seconds.

Before I go out and purchase one there are several things I need to consider:

1 – how much do I intend to use it?

2 – how much counter space/storage space will it require: will I leave it out or tuck it away when I am not using it

3 – how much power do I need: some burners have more power levels built in and can reach higher temperatures

4 – what size: how many people do I regularly cook for? will I need double burners or will a single burner suffice

5 – budget: the sticker shock I initially experienced may reduce depending on how I answered the other questions about an induction cooktop

I was looking at portable induction burners but you can also purchase them as a built-in cooktop. I definitely think they are energy efficient and I like the fact they heat up quickly yet the burner itself does not get hot. I will wait and see how well  my son likes his and maybe even try his myself then decide if I think it is a worthwhile purchase for me.

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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Christmas gifts for Canners.

It may seem early but I have some ideas for Christmas gifts for the Canner in your life.  We get lots of calls this time of year from people that need a resource that has tested recipes.  The So Easy To Preserve canning book from the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Georgia is a perfect gift.  All the recipes were scientifically tested and if the canner follows them exactly, they are guaranteed to have both a good and safe result.  This book is available through the UGA Marketplace on-line store.  If you purchase through the University of Georgia, the cost will be $20.00,which includes shipping and handling. 

So Easy To Preserve, our go-to book at AnswerLine.

Almost anyone with a hobby can use more tools.  Your canning friend may need an updated canner.  New canners are readily available this time of year and may even be on sale for the end of the season.  Remember that if you purchase a pressure canner with a dial gauge that the gauge should be tested yearly. Many county Extension and Outreach offices in Iowa perform the yearly tests. Call us at AnswerLine and we can help you find someone to test your gauge. Weighted gauge canners never need testing. Wide mouthed funnels make filling jars easier and headspace tools make it easy to have the correct amount of headspace inside of a jar. You may find these and other tools on sale, too.  

Often recipes call for amounts of vegetables by weight. A new digital scale that is easy to use and easy to clean would make a great gift. A new thermometer, digital and instant read can ensure your canning friends get ingredients to exactly the right temperature. These thermometers come in several styles. You can purchase a folding thermometer that has a thin probe, or a smaller one that can easily clip inside shirt pocket. Either one would be a handy addition to your canning friend’s tool kit.

While there are many other options for gifts, this list may help you get started finding something special for someone special in your life. Merry Christmas.

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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Apple Desserts

Fall is right around the corner and for many of us that comes with visits to local apple orchards. Of course the apples are delicious to eat on their own but there also many different types of apple dessert recipes to tempt us. Here are some differences among some of the various apple desserts:

Apple Brown Betty: baked apples with spiced bread crumbs layered between the fruit

Apple Buckle: moist cake topped with apples and a streusel topping

Apple Cobbler: less fussy than pie;  pie dough, biscuit dough, or cookie dough is spooned/dolloped on the top rather than being chilled and rolled out

Apple Crumble: baked chopped apples with a crisp streusel topping that does not contain oats

Apple Crisp: apple mixture with a topping that includes oats and brown sugar

Apple Pandowdy: this apple dessert is “dowdied” up when dough is cut or broken into pieces and pressed into the bubbling juices

I love Summer but am looking forward to Fall and visiting some local apple orchards. Whether I eat the apples as a snack or incorporate them into a dessert I know they will be delicious.

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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Don’t wash raw poultry!

Washing raw chicken in the sink.  Please don’t do this!

The USDA sent out another press release a few days ago, reminding us not to wash raw poultry. This is a topic that comes up every so often with callers. Some callers resist our advice not to wash poultry. Washing raw poultry simply is not very effective. Splashing water and hands not washed well will spread bacteria from the raw poultry to many other places in the kitchen. This simply is not an effective method for ensuring a safe meal.

Callers often do not believe that they will end up with bacteria in their sink or counter tops that will not be easy to clean up. According to the USDA, 60% of people that washed raw poultry had bacteria in the sink after washing or rinsing poultry. About 14% still had detectable levels of bacteria in the sink after washing the sink. The researchers for the USDA also found that 26% of these people had also transferred bacteria to their ready to eat salads. Therefore, even if you try to clean up after washing poultry, there is no guarantee that you can remove it from the sink or be sure that it does not transfer to your salad. This is not an appetizing thought.

Even if participants in this study did not wash the raw poultry, 31% still managed to transfer bacteria from the poultry to their salad. Researchers speculated that this transfer occurred due to lack of handwashing and contamination of the countertop from the poultry. We often explain to consumers that it is hard to be conscious of the “little things” that we do to cross-contaminate in the kitchen. Consumers also tend to underestimate the value of handwashing.

We do remind callers to use a thermometer to check the temperature of poultry (and all other meats) every time. Thorough cooking will kill bacteria that is present on the meat. That is why we can tell callers that not washing poultry is safe. Cooking kills bacteria. Knowing we have reached the proper temperature inside the meat or poultry ensures a safe product.

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

Scrambled Eggs in the Oven

We had weekend guests recently and I was looking for some easy, time-saving recipes for brunch that would allow me to enjoy my company rather than standing in the kitchen cooking. When I was sharing what I did with my co-workers one of them suggested this would also be a great dish to prepare while children are getting ready for school in the morning to give them something substantial for their tummies.

I wanted to serve scrambled eggs and decided to try making them in the oven. I was very impressed with the outcome! The process was very simple and very similar to making scrambled eggs on the stovetop. For mine I melted butter in my baking dish before adding the egg/milk mixture I had whisked together. I started with one dozen eggs in a square baking dish but you could easily do two dozen eggs in a 9×13 pan. The American Egg Board has a good recipe on their website. After the initial 10  minutes in the oven I was skeptical as the mixture was still very runny but they set up nicely after an additional 10 minutes. They were not quite done at that point so I put them back for 5 more minutes and they were perfect.

Scrambled eggs for a group in 25 minutes!

I started with a dozen eggs.
Whisking eggs and milk together
After 10 minutes in the oven
Finished product!
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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