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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Food Dehydrators – Why Use One?

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

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

Horizontal Unit
Vertical Unit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

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

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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.

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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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Plan now for county fair 2020

Just picked green beans.

Now that both County fair and State fair are over, it is time to start thinking about projects for next year in 4-H. If there is an area that looked interesting, now can be a great time to time to look deeper into a project area. If you are interested in food and nutrition projects, think about exhibits you can prepare ahead of time for the fair in 2020. An easy make-ahead project area would be food preservation. Many foods are ripe and ready to preserve now that may not be ready again before the fair next year. Green beans and tomatoes are plentiful now and would make a great exhibit for the fair. Be sure to use an approved recipe from Extension and Outreach, the USDA canning guide, or So Easy to Preserve. If you choose to make a jam or jelly, the insert from the pectin package contains approved recipes. It is important to only use a tested recipe for a canning exhibit; old family recipes may not produce a safe product.  Those recipes will be disqualified if you bring them to the fair.  Follow the tested recipe directions exactly, adjust the recipe for altitude if necessary, and compose the write-up now while everything is fresh in your mind. You will be grateful next summer that you took time now to complete a fair exhibit.

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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Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds at my feeder in early September 2018

Last spring, in 2018, we saw the first hummingbirds ever at the home we have lived in for over 40 years.  We enjoyed watching the birds all summer and then were in for a surprise in September when they began massing at our home.  We had not seen more than a handful of hummingbirds at the same time all summer.  It was fascinating to watch them while we ate supper on our patio.  Although they do not tend to migrate in a flock like other birds, they do start preparing for migration in late August or early September.

I learned that the hummingbirds were eating more nectar in preparation for migration south for the winter.  I did a bit of research on hummingbirds last summer but I’m afraid that I did not remember to check early enough this spring for the date hummingbirds would return from the south. I got the feeder out in late May or early June this year but I have since learned that hummingbirds often arrive in April in central Iowa. I can put my feeders up but if a freeze is expected, I will need to take them inside for the night.

I plan to put a note on my feeders when I take them in this fall to remind me to get them out earlier next spring.  I’ve learned that hummingbirds have great memories and do return to a spot they fed at the previous year.  If they arrive and there is no feeder present, they may look elsewhere and not return.  My feeders will remain out until October this fall or until 2 weeks have passed without seeing a hummingbird.  I have enjoyed them this summer and miss having something to look at while I’m working in my kitchen. 

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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Jam and Jelly problems

Jar of strawberry jam

We have been getting a lot of calls and questions about problems with jams and jellies in the last few weeks.

We do have directions for remaking jams and jellies and often give this information to callers. The remade jam or jelly will be a slightly different flavor and texture as the directions call for adding more sugar and pectin but no more fruit or fruit juice. These directions will allow you to save the jelly or jam and still have a spreadable product.

Other callers have been concerned about jam that was too stiff to spread without breaking the bread. Their jam may have been overcooked or they may have chosen too much under-ripe fruit. The under-ripe fruit contains more naturally occurring pectin than ripe fruit and the extra pectin could make a stiff jel.

Jelly or jam containing many bubbles may actually be fermenting in the jar. This product may not have been heated enough before filling jars or it may have been under-processed during canning.

If you find crystals that seem like glass, especially in grape jelly, it would be tartrate crystals. Letting the juice stand overnight in the refrigerator and then straining the juice before making jelly can eliminate this problem.

Jam that appears to have a layer of jelly on the bottom and then floating fruit in the rest of the jar is a common problem. We often see this in strawberry jam. Floating fruit is due to a difference in density between the fruit and the liquid. If this your problem, try cutting the fruit into smaller pieces and using only ripe fruit to make jam.

We love to help callers with jam and jelly problems, please contact us and we will do our best to help.

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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Back to school time, again!

I can hardly believe that it is time to get ready for another school year.  The commercials are on TV, school supply displays are popping up in the stores, and summer activities are winding down.  It seems like just last week was the first day of summer. 

Most schools in Iowa will start in about three weeks.  This is a good time to set some goals for the upcoming school year.  If getting kids up, fed, and out the door always is a struggle, you may want to look for some easy changes to your routine.  Lost library books or assignments may be preventable when you designate a special spot for those items.  A little planning now may make weekdays a little easier throughout the school year.

If mornings are chaotic because your child takes forever to choose an outfit and get dressed, consider some options.  Some students choose their clothing for the next day at bedtime.  If it takes your child so long to make a decision that it delays bedtime, consider allowing them to choose a weeks worth of clothing over the weekend. 

Breakfast options are easy to plan ahead.  Allow your child to choose five or six different options that are nutritious, fast, and easy to prepare.  You can chart the options or the student can choose one before school. 

Take some time now, before life goes back into a difficult routine to make some changes.  You will be glad you did. 

 

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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Preserving food with children

Do you have children in your life you would like to share your love of food preservation with? My sister and I host a “Camp Iowa” for our granddaughters, who live in Chicago, every Summer. We are always looking for unique and fun hands-on projects to do with them. We enjoy preserving food together every Summer and are looking forward to when they can help us. We have been looking for research-based, tested recipes to use with them and came across a wonderful publication put out by the University of Georgia. The University of Georgia is where the National Center for Home Food Preservation is located. It  is also where testing is done on recipes for home preservation that you can find in “So Easy To Preserve” which this office recommends on a regular basis. I cannot stress enough the importance of using a research-based, tested recipe. If you are unsure about your recipe being a safe tested recipe please call us at AnswerLine and we will be happy to discuss it with you.

The publication we found is titled “Preserve It & Serve It“. It is a children’s guide to canning, freezing, drying, pickling and preparing snacks with preserved foods. It gives directions for preserving foods as well as recipes to use the preserved foods in. For example, you can make and preserve your own applesauce and then use it in Applesauce Cinnamuffins.

The picture I have included is of freezer peach jam. Freezer jams are a good starting point with children. They are pretty simple, there are recipes with and without pectin, and they look beautiful when finished. The jam can be used on toast, sandwiches, or ice cream, and used in a thumbprint cookie.

If you love home food preservation I hope you will share that enthusiasm with a child in your life. It is a lifelong skill and a great bonding experience!

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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