Friday, May 29, 2009

Wendy's Chili Knock-off Recipe

This recipe came from the amazing class at the USU Extension on using/storing dried beans. The chili tasted identical to Wendy's! It was really good.

Serves 12:
2 pounds ground beef
1 (29 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (29 oz) can kidney beans (with liquid)
1 (29 oz) can pinto beans (with liquid)
1 cup diced onion (1 medium onion)
1/2 cup diced green chili pepper (2 chilies) (or 1 can diced green chilis)
3 medium tomatoes chopped
2-3 tsp cumin powder
3 TBS chili powder
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
2 cups water

Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat. Drain off the fat. In a large pot, combine the beef plus all the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 2-3 hours or 4-5 hours using a crock pot on high.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thinning the Home Fruit Trees

As a relatively new fruit tree owner (last 2 years) I am trying to keep up with everything that should be done to the trees. This came in my email last week about thinning the fruit on your trees. I thought it was very useful and thought I would share, since it is time now to thin!! It is very hard for me to pluck those little fruits off when I have been so patient to get them.

Utah Pests’ Tree Fruit Advisory, 5-20-09 Page 3

University of Arizona Extension

Residential Growers: Thinning the Home Orchard

Fruit trees must like their job, because when left to their own devices they often produce more fruit than they can handle. Then, home gardeners are left wondering why their fruit aren’t as big or as sweet as those found in Utah’s farm stands and farmers markets. The solution to this problem is in proper pruning and thinning to keep a balance between fruit growth and tree health.

Why thin – The objective of thinning is to balance supply with demand (leaves per fruit) and in the case of apples and pears, to prevent or at least reduce biennial bearing. The goal is to have fewer fruit in favor of larger size, sweeter flavor, and a crop every year.

Supply and demand - For fruits to grow large and sweet, they require lots of energy in the form of carbohydrates. Maintaining a healthy root system and producing adequate new shoots and leaves also requires carbohydrate energy. This energy all comes from photosynthesis in the existing leaves. Too many developing fruits competing for the carbohydrates supply of a limited number of leaves result in lower fruit quality (smaller size, less sugar), weak shoot and root growth, and declining tree health. In the case of apples and pears, this energy drain in combination with plant hormones coming from the developing fruit, signal the plant to produce less flower buds for the following year.

Alternate cropping – Flower buds in temperate fruit trees begin their development the season before they open. For apple and pear, this starts 3 to 6 weeks after bloom. Peach flower buds begin to form 2 months after bloom. The presence of developing apple and pear fruitlets will prevent the short side-shoots known as spurs from initiating flower buds for the next year. If too many spurs set fruit in a given season, then there will be few or no blossoms the following year. This situation is known as alternate cropping or biennial bearing.

When to thin – Most fruit trees will partially thin themselves through natural fruit drop. However, this comes after a lot of energy is wasted on the extra fruit, and after the chance for improving return bloom has past. For best results, apples should be thinned when the largest fruits are between ½ and ¾ of an inch in diameter. Thinning late will help fruit size, but return bloom will be compromised. Peaches and other stone fruits should be thinned when fruits are ¾ to 1 inch in diameter. Stone fruits do not typically suffer from biennial bearing, but waiting too long wastes the plant’s energy and the opportunity to get the largest, sweetest fruit possible.

How to thin – When thinning, pick off the smallest fruits as well as any that are misshaped or damaged. Then adequately space the remaining fruits. Peaches, nectarines and other stone fruits should be spaced out 3 to 5 inches along a shoot. If the trees have not been properly pruned to reduce the amount of fruiting wood, additional thinning may be required to prevent a heavy crop from breaking limbs. To achieve the large sweet peaches that we all enjoy, a moderate-sized peach tree should only produce 100 to 150 fruits on the entire tree.

Apple blossoms come in clusters of five or six and, when pollination conditions are right, may try to produce three or more fruits on each cluster. For best results, apple clusters should be thinned to one fruit, and fruiting clusters spaced 6 to 8 inches apart.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Varieties of Beans

Beans are low in fat and loaded with nutrients, and we'd probably eat more of them if they weren't also loaded with flatulence-producing enzymes. One help to reduce gas is to change the water from time to time while you're soaking or cooking the beans. Pouring off the water helps gets rid of the indigestible complex sugars that create gas in your intestine. It also helps to cook the beans thoroughly, until they can be easily mashed with a fork. Most bean connoisseurs prefer dried beans, but canned beans are also available. These don't need to be cooked, but they tend to be saltier and less flavorful than reconstituted dried beans.

If you get overwhelmed at the grocery store (or cannery) when choosing beans for your food storage, here are a few favorites and how to use them:

Navy Beans

Navy beans are also known as pea beans, a small white bean used in navy bean soup, baked beans, casseroles and ethnic dishes. A large portion of the crop is used in canned beans and tomato sauce.

Pinto Beans

The pinto bean is a variety of the red kidney bean which was first cultivated by the Indians of South and Central America. The pinto bean is grown in Southeastern Utah and Southwestern Colorado. It is used in Mexican dishes, such as refried beans and chili.

Kidney Beans

The kidney bean is large, has a red color and is kidney shaped. They are frequently used for chili con carne, in salads, baked beans, dips, main dishes and casseroles.

Black Beans

Black beans are also known as turtle beans and are used in Oriental and Mediterranean cooking. A rich, thick soup is made with black beans in the Southern United States.

Lima Beans

There are two classes of lima beans—large seeded, or Ford-hook type, and small seeded, known as baby limas. In the southern part of the United States, the lima bean is called butter bean. Used for casseroles, main dishes, and vegetable side dishes.

Chick Peas

Chick peas are also known as garbanzos in Spanish-speaking countries. Chick peas have a nut-like flavor and keep their shape well when cooked. Chick peas are used on salads and in casseroles and soups. A favorite for using chick peas is making hummus.

Black Eyed Beans

Black eyed beans are also known as black-eye peas or cow peas, in different areas of the country. They are primarily used as a main dish vegetable and are traditionally served on New Year’s Day in the South as a token of good fortune during the new year. They are small, oval-shaped, and creamy white with a black spot on one side. Also good roasted with cajun seasonings.

Adzuki bean

The Japanese use these small red beans to make sweet red bean paste, but they're also good in rice dishes or salads. Adzuki beans are sweet and relatively easy to digest, so they won't make you as gassy as other beans. They also don't take as long to cook. Substitutes: black adzuki beans OR red kidney beans OR Tolosana beans.

Split Peas

Split peas are green and yellow in color. In grocery stores, split peas come cleaned in one-pound packages. Large quantities in bulk might also be available in specialty shops. Split peas are commonly used in soups.


As the name implies, the lentil looks like a double lens. Lentils are dried on the plant and go through a number of processes to remove any extraneous plant materials. Therefore, they always need to be looked at carefully before cooking. Lentils are grown in the United States and come in various shades of brown. Almost all are grown at an altitude over 2,000 feet in Washington and Idaho. Good in soups and salads, or “baked lentil” dishes.


Dry beans are available in several forms, packaged in transparent packages, loose, or canned. The following are important factors in selection:

1. Bright, uniform color. Color will vary with the variety of bean, but loss of color usually indicates long storage time.

2. Uniform size. Uniformity of size will result in a more evenly cooked product since small beans cook faster than large beans.

3. Freedom from defects. Cracked seed coats, foreign material, and pinholes caused by insects are signs of a low quality product.

About one-third of all dry beans are officially inspected. Federal grades are generally based on shape, size, color, damage and foreign material. The packaged beans, which are on the grocery shelf, are normally the highest grades.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Versatile Bean

Tonight I went to a wonderful class on dried beans! I have been looking forward to this for a while. Wierd, I know. This information comes from the ladies at USU Extension in Provo. I wanted to share some of the information I learned on storing, preparing, and USING your beans! Can I just tell you how excited I am to use more beans? The recipes we tasted were delicious! I also realized that I have been storing my beans wrong! Time to fix that! Over the next few posts I will share all the recipes, tips, conversions, etc.

Nutritional Value: Bean are an excellent and inexpensive source of protein (average 22% protein in the seed), iron, thiamin, & riboflavin. They also contain zinc, dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate that tend to be low in most American diets. The Food Guide Pyramid encourages frequent consumption of beans- several cups a week! Dry beans contain all essential amino acids except one, methionine, which can be found in corn, rice, and meat. For a complete protein, pair beans with rice or corn!

Ways to use your beans: Consider all the ways to use and rotate your beans:
Appetizers (hummus, roasted & seasoned chick-peas)
Main Dishes (chili, soup, and casseroles)
Vegetable Sides (refried beans, bean patties, salads, and seasoned boiled beans)
Fillings (tacos, burritos, etc)
Breads (muffins, cakes, bread, brownies, cookies, pie)

Storing your beans: Beans should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry location. They do not need to be refrigerated and can keep 1-2 years if stored in this manner. Older beans will require longer soaking and cooking times than freshly harvested beans. A BYU study also found that when beans were packaged in #10 cans or mylar bags with an oxygen absorber, they have a shelf life of over 10 years. Since oxygen can lead to rancidity of bean oils and light can fade the bean color, storage of beans using #10 cans or mylar bags with an oxygen absorber is recommended. I have always put my beans in 5 gallon buckets with oxygen absorbers. I learned tonight, if you put them in buckets, you either need to put in a mylar bucket liner, or put the beans in mylar bags, then in the bucket.

Preparing to eat your beans:
  1. Sort through dry beans or peas and discard any that are discolored or shriveled.
  2. Rinse the beans and drain well.
  3. Soak the beans using one of the following methods (Note: Lentils and peas do not require soaking):
  • a. Overnight soak: Soak beans at room temperature or in the refrigerator 8 hours or overnight in a pan containing approximately 6-8 cups of water for each pound of beans. Drain and discard the water. Beans soaked using this method will keep their shape better, have a more uniform texture, and cook more quickly than those prepared by the quick soak method.
  • b. Quick soak: Bring 1 pound of beans or peas and 6-8 cups of water to a gentle boil. Boil 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand 1 hour. Drain, discarding the soaking water. Note: It is important that beans are not allowed to stand for more than 1-2 hours. The heat can activate bacterial spores and the warm temperatures during cooling can favor their growth causing the potential for food-borne illnesses.
4. Cook your re-hydrated beans using one of the following methods:
  • Stove-top: Place the soaked beans in a large pot, cover with hot water, add 1 TB of oil and simmer with the lid slightly ajar until the beans are tender. The oil will cut down on the amount of foam produced during cooking. Do not bring to a rolling boil or stir frequently as this will cause the bean skins to break. Add additional water if need. Most beans will tenderize within 2 hours; however, beans which have been stored for long periods will require a longer cooking time.
  • Pressure cooker: A pressure cooker will save time and energy when cooking beans. Never fill the cooker more than 1/3 full to allow for expansion of the beans. Add water and oil as above and cook at 15 pounds pressure for approximately 10-15 minutes.
  • Slow cooker: Since crock-pots can very in terms of wattage, follow your manufacturer's instructions for cooking beans. In general, you will cover your beans with 3 times their volume of unsalted water and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes, reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Discard water after cooking.
Bean cooking tips:
  • Do not add salt or acidic ingredients like vinegar, tomatoes or juice until after beans are fully cooked. These types of ingredients will slow the cooking process.
  • Cooking times vary with the types of beans used, but also vary with their age.
  • Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork. Always test a few beans inc ase they have not cooked evenly.
Bean Conversions:
  • Two cups dry beans =one pound dry beans
  • One pound dry beans=six cups cooked beans, drained
  • One cup dry beans=three cups cooked beans, drained
  • One 15 oz can of beans=one and one-half cups cooked beans, drained
What about the gas??
Why do beans cause gas? To get technical, beans contain fiber and complex sugars which our bodies find difficult to process. The digestive enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract are not capable of breaking these sugars apart into simple sugars for absorption. In the lower intestine, the sugars are metabolized by bacteria and form carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane gas. So what can you do about it?

It has been proven that if you gradually increase your consumption of beans, your system will adjust and be able to digest them more easily. While some information says that the longer beans are soaked, the more sugars are dissolved into the soak water, we cannot recommend that you allow your beans to sit in warm water for longer than 2 hours because of the risk of food-bnorne illnesses. However, we can recommend that you do a quick soak, allow to stand for up to 2 hours, then drain, rinse and immediately refrigerate. You can also take commercial nateral enzyme products such as Beano which help break down the complex sugars and make them easier to digest.

I am excited to share the yummy recipes we tried! You will be amazed! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fruit Tree Trauma

So I learned a hard, but valuable lesson this week. I went out as usual yesterday to check on the fruit on my 5 fruit trees that were planted last fall. Last Wednesday I sprayed all the trees with the appropriate spray to protect from pests. I was a bit nervous doing so, as I have never had fruit trees and wanted to do everything right. I carefully measured, mixed and sprayed the recommended amount on each tree. I even added spreader sticker so the pesticide would really stick to each leaf and fruit.

You can imagine my shock as I went out yesterday and all the leaves were falling off my trees! The leaves were turning brown and crunchy, curling lengthwise and into the letter "C". Panicked, I called the USU Extension Master Gardeners. The first question they asked me was if I had ever had any other type of chemical in my sprayer. Uh-Oh! Last year I used the same sprayer to spray dandelions with 2-4-d Amine, a broadleaf weed killer. Although I rinsed the canister very well, and even sprayed water through it, I guess there were chemicals still in the plastic. They said it doesn't take much of the weed killer to really damage the tree.

So, the lesson I learned: Never use the same sprayer for fruit trees and weed killer. I wish I would have learned that lesson the easy way. I am hoping that the trees will not completely die. USU said I won't know for about a month. If all the leaves fall, the fruit cannot mature. The leaves give the fruit the starch it needs to grow and develop. So, if they do pull through, I will buy a new sprayer that will only be used to spray my trees.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Storing Water

I decided to put this towards the top of the "food storage lessons" because water is the most critical portion of your food storage. We can live without food for much longer than we can live without water. In doing research about water storage, I went directly to USU extension services. I love them! They seem to have all the answers for any type of food storage question. Before you worry about shelves, getting your grains, sugars, etc, your first priority really needs to be water. The following is contributed by Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences agent, Washington County, Utah:

Most often, the safety of our domestic water supply is of little concern. However, situations may occur when the water supply may be cut off or damaged. Consider this information for water storage and use in emergency situations.
• It is recommended that you store a gallon of water per person per day for drinking. One quart of water will sustain life, but you will likely not be as comfortable. You will also need additional water for washing. It is recommended that you store a minimum of a three-day supply of water, per person, but it would be best to have a two-week supply in your home for each family member.
• When drinkable water is properly disinfected and stored, it should have an indefinite shelf life, but to maintain the optimum drinking quality, water should be rotated every six months.
• Storage containers should be “food grade,” meaning they were meant to hold food or water. This includes containers made of glass, plastic, stainless steel or metals coated for food and water storage. They should have secure lids and spouts to allow dispensing without contamination.
• Clean all containers with soap, water and rinse well. Sanitize container and lid with one tablespoon bleach per gallon of water, shake well, empty container and allow to air dry. Juice and milk jugs may not be effective, as they may leak and may contain proteins and sugars from the previous foods. Two-liter pop containers are less likely to leak or hold residues. Do not store containers by materials that may leach into them. Store water containers off the ground and cement in a cool, dark place. Store a few containers in a freezer to provide ice if the electricity goes off.
• Most city-treated water is safe for storage without additives, but to ensure the storage of quality water, use a chlorine or heat treatment. To treat with chlorine, unscented, liquid bleach may be added to disinfect. Add eight drops, or 1/8 teaspoon bleach, to one gallon of water. To treat with heat, fill clean quart Mason jars and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. This provides a way to have safe drinking water and also use jars that may be sitting empty.
• Purchased bottled water is a quick and convenient way of getting a water supply; however, it is not considered to be safer or purer than city-treated water.
• In an emergency, you may need additional water. If this becomes necessary, use water from pipes, ice cubes or your hot water heater. Only use water from swimming pools, toilet tanks or waterbeds as a last resort and then only for purposes other than drinking since chemicals may be present.
• In some emergency situations, you may need to treat or purify contaminated water, such as that from lakes, runoff, streams or ground water. To do this, boil water for five minutes, cool, then pour back and forth to improve taste. Chemical treatments may also be effective. A chlorine treatment of 1/4 teaspoon or 16 drops of unscented bleach may be used. Allow the water to sit for 30 minutes, then check for cloudiness. If it is cloudy, repeat the chemical treatment and let stand for 15 minutes. A slight chlorine odor should be present. If the water does not become clear, do not use it. Note the difference in treatment and purification amounts of bleach. For a treatment, use eight drops per gallon; for purification, use 16 drops.
• Water purification tablets are another option. Be sure to note their shelf life. Commercial water treatment units may also be used. Follow directions carefully and note the additional treatments that may be needed. Be aware that there is no effective way to decontaminate water that contains radioactive chemicals or fallout.
Water storage is important to your survival in the event of an emergency. Being prepared is critical. Additional preparedness information is available through your local USU Extension county office.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dough Enhancers and Vital Wheat Gluten

I love making bread! It is so nice to be able to pull out a bread packet, mix it up and wa-lah! Bread in about 1 1/2 hours. There are many great bread recipes out there. My favorite recipe is on another post. Many of them call for "dough enhancers" (also called "dough conditioners") and "vital wheat gluten". So, what exactly are these? If you are new to making bread, the understanding of these is important!

Dough Enhancer or Dough Conditioner
This product improves the rise, taste, texture, color, crumb and shelf-life of whole grain breads. It contributes softness and lightness to breads. Although you can purchase ready made "dough enhancer", you can get the exact same results (I actually prefer the homemade ones!), at a fraction of the cost.

How to make your own dough enhancer:

It’s best to use all three of these enhancers when making whole wheat bread.

Gluten: Use 1/2 Tbsp. - 1 Tbsp. per cup of flour (this means before you measure a cup of flour, place the measured gluten in the bottom of your cup and then measure the flour as usual). Or, you can just add the gluten with all of the other dry ingredients. Gluten holds the air bubbles. It is a non-animal form of protein.

White Vinegar: Use the same amount of vinegar as the amount of yeast called for in the recipe (i.e., 1 tsp. yeast = 1 tsp. vinegar). Acid strengthens the bubbles. You can substitute lemon juice for the vinegar. I have used both, but generally use vinegar as it is so much cheaper.

Potato Flakes: Use 1/8 - 1/4 cup per loaf of bread you are making. Experiment to see what works best in your recipe. Do not substitute potato pearls for the flakes! They don’t dissolve as easily and add artificial flavoring to your breads. The starch in the potatoes adds an extra casing around the bubbles. The bran in the wheat is coarse and can pop or rupture the bubbles, so this helps maintain the fluffy texture of the bread.

Vital Wheat Gluten

Vital wheat gluten only does one thing. It helps improve the rise and texture of the bread. Vital wheat gluten occurs naturally in all wheat and wheat derived white flours. Some white flours have more or less than others. In a dry form, it is used to give the yeast a boost because it contains a high amount of gluten forming proteins. Use it in your heavier breads that rise slowly, such as whole grains, rye, or ones loaded with sugar, dried fruit and nuts. Generally, if you are using white bread flour you don’t need to add any gluten. However, all-purpose or whole-grain flours need vital wheat gluten.

As a general rule, use 1 tsp. per cup of all-purpose or 1 1/2 - 3 tsp. for every cup of whole grain or rye flours. Or 1 Tbsp. for each loaf of bread. Some recipes will differ in the amount of gluten to use.

Make sure that you store a year supply of vinegar, potato flakes and gluten. I buy vital wheat gluten at the health food store in the bulk section. It is quite inexpensive if purchased this way. I then put it in #10 cans.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tomato Tips

My mom has the most BEAUTIFUL tomatoes that I have ever seen. The plants themselves are thick, lush green, and the tomatoes are the size of grapefruits. She has an amazing yield. Each year as I compare my tomatoes to her, I simply can't believe that I even planted the same varieties! I asked her the secret. She said that her secret is in the fertilizer. After trying many different fertilizers, she found one makes her tomatoes the envy of the neighborhood. The only kind of fertilizer she uses now is "Fertilome Blooming & Rooting Soluble Plant Food (9-59-8)". She mixes 2 TBS with 1 gallon of water and uses this mixture for all of her vegetables and flowers throughout the growing season. She said to make sure the tomato plant is established (in ground for 1-2 weeks) before applying the fertilizer. Then, fertilize every 10-14 days. If you could only see her tomatoes!! I am on my way to go buy some of the fertilizer in hopes I have the same success!

Here are some more tips from USU extension services when it comes to tomatoes:
  • Tomatoes are categorized by maturity class (early, mid-season or late), fruit shape or size (cherry, pear, plum or large), plant size (determinate, semi-determinate or indeterminate), fruit color (red, pink, yellow, orange) and use (fresh, process or dual use). When selecting varieties, consider the growing environment, primary use and available growing space. Most garden centers and nurseries carry varieties that have been proven to grow well and produce high quality, flavorful fruits for local conditions.
Note: For square foot gardening, you will want to choose indeterminate plants that you can trellis.
  • Tomatoes can be grown from seeds or transplants. Transplants should have five to seven mature leaves and a well-developed root system. Transplants mature about four weeks before seeded tomatoes and are recommended for most growing areas in Utah. Tomatoes prefer a sunny location and fertile, well-drained soils. Incorporate plenty of organic matter and a complete fertilizer into the area before planting.
  • Plant tomato seeds directly in the garden 10-14 days before the last frost date. Plant four to five seeds ½ inch deep at the recommended plant spacing and later thin the weaker plants. Most gardeners transplant tomatoes through black plastic for earlier maturity. Use row covers or hot caps to protect the plants when planting before the frost-free period. Space tomatoes 2 feet apart in the row with rows 2-3 feet apart.
  • Plant three to four tomato plants per person for fresh use and an additional five to 10 plants for juicing, canning or freezing. Expect 100 lbs. of fruit per 100 feet of row.
  • Irrigation should be deep and infrequent. Apply 1-2 inches of water per week. Use drip irrigation if possible. Place mulch around the plant to conserve soil moisture and reduce weed growth. Do not apply organic mulches until soils have warmed to 75 F. Irrigate so that moisture goes deep into the soil. Irregular watering (over or under) can cause blossom-end rot, a dark leathery spot on the bottom of the fruit.
  • Use wooden stakes or wire cages to support semi- or indeterminate plants. Staking helps reduce sunburned fruits and keeps ripening fruits off the ground. Drive stakes 18 inches into the soil, 3-4 inches from the stem. Indeterminate varieties require more support and vine pruning to keep plant size manageable. Continue to tie up plants as they grow.
  • Control insects and diseases throughout the year. Common problems are tomato horn worm, aphids, fusarium and verticilium wilt. Always identify the problem before using a pesticide. Your local county Extension office can help identify the problem and offer solutions.
  • Tomatoes require 25-35 days to mature from flowering, depending on the temperature and variety. For best flavor and quality, pick fruits when they are fully colored but firm, and pick as they ripen. At the end of the season, harvest all fruits that are mature green or slightly colored. Store at 55 F and use as they ripen. Ripe tomatoes will store for one to two weeks if held at 50-55 F. Fruits are subject to chilling injury, so do not store them for more than a few days in the refrigerator.
The following are answers to tomato questions:

Q: What causes the flowers to drop off my tomato plants?
A: During unfavorable weather (night temperatures lower than 55 F or day temperatures above 95 F), tomatoes do not set and flowers abort. The problem usually disappears as the weather improves.

Q: What can I do to prevent my tomatoes from cracking?
A: Some varieties are more prone to cracking than others. Many newer hybrid varieties are quite resistant. Severe root or vine pruning increases cracking. Keep soil moisture uniform as tomatoes develop and plant resistant varieties to minimize the problem.

On some of my tomato plants, the leaves are turning yellow and the plants are no longer growing. Also, the fruits are ripening prematurely, and are leathery and bitter. What is wrong?
A: Tomatoes with these symptoms are infected with the curly top virus, a disease transmitted by the beet leaf hopper. Once infected, there is very little you can do. Since the severity of curly top varies from year to year, planting a few more plants than required will compensate for potential losses. Plant varieties resistant to curly top include Roza, Columbia, Rowpac and Saladmaster.

Why are the new leaves on my tomato pointed, cupped, twisted and irregular in shape?
A: Your tomatoes may have been injured by 2,4-D or a similar growth regulator weed killer. Never use the same sprayer in your vegetable garden that you use for weed control in your lawn. Use caution when applying lawn care chemicals near vegetables or fruits. If applying grass clippings to the garden, make sure the herbicides used are safe for food plants. Consult with your lawn care professional to ensure the chemicals applied to your lawn will not affect your edible garden plants.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Garden Delight

I asked my husband the other day if it was weird that I get so excited by my garden! Each day when I go out and look at the little seedlings coming up, it really makes my day! It is very fulfilling to me. I get so excited to spend time getting it planted, watered, etc. Hopefully my enthusiam will last the whole growing season. I haven't got my irrigation system figured out yet. Today I will go and talk to the folks at the irrigation store to get some help. I have always used a drip system in my garden, but now since I am doing square foot gardens, I am not sure that is the best way.

It is time to get planting! It is not too late to plant lettuce, peas, radishes or other cool weather crops. And now it is time to get everything else planted! I always jump the gun a bit and plant earlier than is recommended. This year I got burned. We had a hard freeze several days after I planted. I covered the garden with black plastic, but I still lost 3 tomato plants and 3 cucumber plants. However, even having to replace a couple of plants, everything is coming up beautifully. So far the only things that have not come up are my canteloupes, and several beans which I will reseed tomorrow.

For square foot gardening, here are the totals per square for different seeds:
Plant (#per square)
Asparagus (1)
Basil (4)
Beans, Pole (8)
Beans, Bush (9)
Beets (9)
Broccoli (1)
Cauliflower (1)
Carrots (16)
Cilantro (4)
Corn (4)
Cukes (2)
Dill (4)
Eggplant (1)
Lettuce (4)
Okra (1)
Onions (9-16)
Oregano (1)
Parsley (1)
Peas (8)
Peppers (1)
Potatoes (4)
Radishes (16)
Rosemary (1)
Spinach (9)
Swiss Chard (4)
Tomatoes Vine (1)

Plant (#of squares)
Cantaloupe (2)
Pumpkins (2)
Summer squash (9)
Bush Tomatoes (9)
Watermelon (2)
Zucchini (9)

Some links on square foot gardening:

Happy Planting! Even if you don't want to plant a huge garden, plant some pots! It is amazing how much fun growing can be!

Beans, eggplant, beets, carrots and lettuce. Some are ready to snip (I planted 2 in each hole-and they all germinated!)The small trellis we made for a few tomato plantsPlanting in pots works great. Chives, rosemary, strawberries, rhubarb & tomatoes Not shown: around the trunks of my trees I plant basil, oregano and thyme.While planting, I planted a bunch of flower pots as well. What a difference they make in my yard!

Cucumbers (top row)
Spinach (bottom row)

Below: My "Salsa" garden: peppers, jalepenos, anaheims, and some garlic and lettuce too!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring Salsa

This time of year as I am putting my little tomato plants into the ground, I start craving Salsa! Although my absolute favorite Salsa has fresh tomatoes, jalepanos, onions and cilantro from the garden, this quick salsa is right up there. If you have a food processor, this is ready in a snap.

Put in food processor and pulse until pieces are small:
1 large white onion
1 anaheim pepper, seeds taken out
1 /2 jalepeno, seeds taken out
1 large can petite diced tomatoes
1/2-1 bunch cilantro (according to taste)
1 tsp salt (to taste)
Juice of 2 limes
Pinch of sugar
Pulse until mixed thoroughly.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Fully Funded Emergency Fund: Baby Step #3

Today I wanted to post on Dave Ramsey's Baby Step #3, Fully Funding your Emergency Fund. If you are on this step, that means that you have completed Baby Step #1, the $1000 beginner emergency fund, and also Baby Step #2, the debt snowball. So now, you are completely out of debt (except your house). This step (#3) is probably the easiest to understand, but not the easiest to actually DO.

If you’ve been working the Baby Steps and you paid off your debt using the debt snowball method, that means you can simply start putting the same amount of cash that you were giving to someone else and put it in your savings account instead. For instance, if you paid your last Discover Card bill of say $500 in April, now in May redirect that $500 to your saving account. Your monthly budget will stay the same for a while as you get that emergency fund nice and fat.

Q: How much should I have in my Fully Funded Emergency Fund (FFEM)?

A: That depends. Most financial experts recommend 3-6 months of expenses, not income. Big difference. I think the best way to determine how much you need, is determine where you will feel "peace". For my family, we feel we need the 6 months of expenses. If you are single, with a steady, secure job, 3 months may be adequate. If you are self employed, like my husband, 6 months may be better. Suze Orman changed her response from 6 months to having a full 8 months of expenses saved. Talk it over with your spouse, and decide how much you would need. When figuring out how much your expenses would be per month, remember that in a true emergency, you would spend far less than your income. If you lost your job, what budget categories would you still need? These usually end up being: mortgage or rent, utilites, food, gas, insurance, and phone service. In the event of a true emergency, you would probably cut out or spend significantly less on eating out, entertainment, lessons, gift giving etc. Lets take a look at the Smith's (a fictional family). Here is what they think they can get by with in an emergency:

  • Mortgage: $1000
  • Utilities: $250
  • Gas: $100
  • Food: $300 (they use/rotate their food storage)
  • Phone: $100
  • Insurance: $400
Total: $2150 per month
For 3 month FFEF: $2150x3=$6450
For 6 month FFEF: $2150x6=$12,900
For 8 month FFEF: $2150x8=$17,200

Because the Smiths are self employed and have several children, they decided to make their goal be $15,000.

Q: What constitutes an emergency?
A: An unexpected event such as a medical emergency, a job loss, a car wreck, etc. Christmas is not an emergency. A "great deal" on a new bedroom set is not an emergency, nor is a dream vacation to Hawaii. It is great to save up for these things, but not with the emergency fund.

Q: Where should I store my emergency fund?
A: Dave Ramsey said that any bank savings account is fine. It needs to be liquid, or in other words, easily accesible. However, you don't want it too accessible. We decided to put ours in an "add-on CD" through our credit union. We get 3.5% interest on it, can withdraw it penalty free for 5 days each quarter, and add to it as often as we want. If we needed to withdraw it anytime besides those 5 days, we would lose the interest for that quarter. We decided that was still better than getting the terrible interest rates that the banks are offering in their savings accounts. Another option is online banks. They usually give you a higher interest rate.

Q: How long will this take?
A: That depends on how much you are going to save each month, how committed to putting every extra penny in the account, and the interest you are receiving. If you could put $1000 per month into your emergency fund, it would add up pretty fast. Our example of the Smiths could have their FFEF done in just over a year.

Q: Is it worth it to sacrifice a bit longer to fully fund my emergency fund?
A: Think ahead a year.... you decided that you didn't think YOU needed the emergency fund. Unfortunately your husband lost his job, or your car died. Even worse, you had a medical emergency in your family. Now, do you think it would have been worth it? Having the peace of a fully funded emergency fund is one of the greatest goals I think anyone can have. YES, it is worth it.

Below are some quotes on Emergency Funds:

"What do you do when your car breaks down in the morning, your wife calls later to tell you the dog ate the sofa, you lose your biggest account in the afternoon, and when you get home in the evening you find a note from the plumber saying he replaced the living room baseboard, and P.S., your furnace is dead? You express deep gratitude for your contingency fund, that's what."
— Jerrold Mundis, How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously

"Maybe you've felt it. The rush in the pit of your stomach when you hear the pinging sound in your car, and you wonder how you'll ever pay the mechanic. The tightness in your chest when the plumber tells you it will be $185 to fix the shower. The rock-hard knots in your back when you realize that the check you mailed to the electric company will probably bounce.

These are the feelings of not having any Savings. And when you start to save — when you really sock it away, month after month — these feelings stop. You can put these feelings in a box and mail them to the moon, because they won't be with you anymore."
— Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi, All Your Worth (2005)

"The basic truth is that you must plan for the unexpected, because it will happen. Although we don't know what form it will take, it will come. Cars do break; women do get pregnant; people do get hurt or die; businesses do lay people off. To think otherwise is naive. So you have to plan for it. Saving into an emergency fund is an essential element for financial peace."
— Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace (1995)

"You start the emergency fund with $1,000, but a fully-funded emergency fund will usually range from $5,000 to $25,000. The typical family that can make it on $3,000 per month might have a $10,000 emergency fund as a minimum. What would it feel like to have no payments but the house, and $10,000 in savings for when it rains?

Remember what we said about emergencies a couple of chapters back? It will rain; you need an umbrella. When the big stuff happens, like the job layoff or the blown car engine, you can't depend on credit cards. If you use debt to cover emergencies, you have backtracked again. A well-designed Total Money Makeover will walk you out of debt forever. A strong foundation in your financial house includes the big savings account, which will be used just for emergencies."
— Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover (2003)

"The amount you need in your emergency fund is not the same as what you earn in three to six months. It's also not what you typically spend. When you're working, you spend much more freely than you would if you were just trying to get by."
— Jean Chatzky, You Don't Have to Be Rich (2003)

"Why bother to become a better saver? Because boosting your saving prowess can have a huge emotional payoff. Nine out of ten savers say they're 'happy' with their lives. Savers are more likely than spenders to be happy with their lifestyle, self-esteem, even their weight and appearance. They're more likely to feel confident and content, less likely to feel stressed and restless. Spenders are just the opposite: They're more likely to be frustrated with their lot in life."
— Jean Chatzky, You Don't Have to Be Rich (2003)

Small steps are inevitably going to be your first steps, and they definitely count. Once you have put aside $25 one week and discovered that you can live in fact without that $25 in your spending account, then you have the confidence to know that you can do it again. You may even have the confidence to think, "Well, hey, if I put aside $25 and I didn't miss it, I'm going to try to put $50 aside and not miss it."
— Jean Chatzky, Interview, 2007-07-23

"You need to understand and know that the main unknown in your financial life — and where most people tend to get in trouble with their money — is when something happens that you are not expecting. A job loss, an accident, a family crisis, an illness (either your own or that of a parent or child), a death or disability, or an unexpected divorce — each is an unforeseen even that affects your expenses and finances. When an unforeseen event does occur, your biggest problem usually will be to know where to get the money you need to pay for your known expenses and your unknown, unanticipated ones until you can become safe and secure again. Keep in mind that your financial world can be shaken or destroyed by very common, unforeseen possiblilties. This has always been the case, of course — and in a time of economic and global uncertainty, it is especially true. People who sail through difficulties with relatively little financial harm do so because they have prepared for them."
— Suze Orman, The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life (2003)

"Another problem that you may encounter in preparing for the unknown is that you find it hard to save — and can't imagine setting up an account with eight months worth of expenses in a short amount of time. Well, my friend, if this is the case, the way for you to create an emergency fund is simply to take every extra penny you have, put it into a money market account, and save it there. You have to make a decision here. Which means more to you — having a Starbucks coffee this afternoon and going to the movies tonight, or knowing that you and your loved ones will be protected even if you lose your job or get sick? Doing what is right for you — including making sure you'll have what you need in any sitution — may mean giving up what you want right now to pay for what you could need later on. I hope you decide to do this, for you'll be amazed at how much control over your life you will feel with your emergency fund standing behind you."
— Suze Orman, The Laws of Money, The Lessons of Life (2003)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Breakfast Muffins (using bean puree)

This muffin recipe is fast, easy, and delicious. It's a great way to use food storage items: powdered milk, powdered eggs and beans!

Breakfast Muffins
3 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. shortening (or 1/3 c. white bean puree + 1/3 c. shortening)
2 eggs (or 2 TB powdered egg + 4 TB water)
1 c. milk (or 1/3 c. powdered milk + 1 c. water)

1/3 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon

Lightly grease 12 muffin cups (we like the mini muffin tins). Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. In separate bowl, cream together 1 c. sugar and the shortening (and/or bean puree). Add eggs; mix well. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes for full size muffins, or 12-15 minutes for minis-or until toothpick comes out clean. In a bowl, melt butter. In a separate bowl, combine remaining sugar and cinnamon. Dip baked muffin tops in butter, coating thoroughly, then coat with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Delicious!

If you are using powdered milk and eggs, remember to add dry ingredients with the other dry ingredients, and add the water with wet ingredients.

I used bean puree, powdered milk & powdered eggs. My whole family loved them.

Beans, Beans, a magical.... oil replacement!

Did you know that you can replace oil and shortening in your baked goods with a bean puree? Not only does it significantly lower the fat content, it does not change the flavor at all! It adds fiber, nutrition, and keeps you fuller longer! Yay! I have been experimenting with this ever since I tasted brownies made with black beans. YUMMY. In the past I have used applesauce to replace the oil. I still like to use that on occasion as well. However, applesauce does tend to flavor your recipe like apples, and can contain a lot of extra sugar.

To make a bean puree you can either use home cooked beans, or canned beans. For home cooked beans: add cooked beans to a blender with enough liquid they were cooked in to make a puree. Blend until very smooth. For canned beans: add entire contents of can into blender and blend until very smooth. You don't want any chunks in your food! Substitute for oil in brownies, cakes and other baked goods. If you don't use all of the puree that you blended, it will last for several days in your fridge, or it freezes beautifully.

If you are making something with chocolate (brownies, cakes, muffins, etc) use black beans. If you are making something lighter in color, use any type of white beans.

You can substitute 100% bean puree in recipes calling for oil. If the recipe calls for shortening, I have been substituting 50% bean puree, and still adding 50% of the shortening. You can substitute 100% bean puree for shortening if you make your puree thicker (like a paste). Substituting beans will give the final product a more cake-like texture.

Give it a try! What a great way to use those inexpensive beans in your food storage!

Friday, May 1, 2009

How Much Do I Need to Store/Inventory

One of the first things needed when starting (or continuing) your food storage is to have a plan on what and how much to store. Your family may be large or small. Perhaps there is only 1 person. It is important to assess your needs. There are many tools to help you do this. Click here for a great food storage calculator that follows LDS guidelines, and is very simple to use. I was so happy to find this! I have been meaning to create a spreadsheet for my own use and to post on this blog. When I found this, it saved me lots of hours of work :) This comes from You can save it to Excel, modify it, add to it, take away items, etc. It is really great- and easily adapts to what YOUR family will use.

I would count each child as an adult so you don't have to continually re-calculate as the kids grow and eat more. Remember, these are only suggestions. For instance, if you don't eat or use cornmeal, certainly don't store as much as is recommended. However, substitute the pounds it recommends with another type of food in the same category.

To be successful with your food storage program, it is essential to use what you store, and store what you use. This way you are continually rotating your supply. One of the best ways to do this is the following (from Becky Low, USU Extension):

1. Using the chart write a list of dishes frequently eaten, or a list of favorite meals. Studies show families will eat the same 10 main dish foods 80% of the time.
a. Create a list of 10 to 20 meals
b. Create a separate list for breakfast and lunch foods, as appropriate and if desired.
c. As you begin this process you may not think of many foods. Post this list in aprominent place in your kitchen for the coming 2 weeks. Each time you think of a new food write it on the list. Ask the family for ideas and suggestions. Make the list reflect what your family typically eats and enjoys.
2. Go back over the list and add foods needed to make the meal balanced.
a. Write these foods after the main dish item, see the sample.
b. Add foods from the bread and cereal group, fruit group, vegetable group, milk and dairy group and meat group as needed.
(Click on Picture to make it bigger)
3. Break down each meal constructed in steps 1 and 2. In the columns to the right break the dish into specific foods. For example tuna noodle casserole would include tuna, noodles, cream soup, etc.
a. Write the category above the columns, for example: vegetables; fruits; meats; bread, cereals, grains, pasta; soups, sauces, mixes; dairy.
b. In the spaces below the main categories, write the specific foods needed. For example under the vegetable category you may have listed peas, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, etc.
c. Write down the amount of the food needed for that particular dish for your family. Continue with all dishes listed.
d. When completed, add the amount of foods in each column and total at the bottom of the page.

4. Plan on preparing 80% of your meals from this storage planner. The remainder of a years meals and storage will include foods eaten less frequently, short term seasonal foods, special meals, holidays, and long term basic storage to sustain life such as beans, rice, wheat, etc.
a. Eighty percent of 365 days is 292. Divide the total number of dishes or meals in step #1 into 292. This is the number of times each year that you will prepare this dish.
b. Multiply each food totaled in the columns in step #3d by the answer above. This will give you the amount of that food needed for 80-90% of a years supply of foods most often eaten.

5. Place foods from planner onto an inventory list.
a. Group foods according to category. For example, use one page for freezer, and group together frozen vegetables, meats, etc. Use one for the shelf, and group together vegetables, fruits, canned meats, soups, pasta, etc.
b. Inventory current food storage and pantry and compare to the amounts needed.
c. Update inventory on a regular basis, monthly, every 6 months, yearly, etc.
(Click on Picture to make it bigger)
6. Shop for foods on the inventory list. Watch for good buys, buy in bulk, etc. Gradually increase the amount of food stored to equal the amount needed for 1 year.
a. Spend 80% of each food dollar on storage items, 20% will go toward fresh foods, special or seasonal foods.
b. Date all foods going into storage.
c. Place new foods to the back of the storage. Use old foods first.
d. Add new purchased food amounts to inventory list.
e. Update inventory on a regular basis, monthly, every 6 months, yearly, etc.

7. Plan meals for the week from your created list of foods in step #1. Select foods to prepare the meal from your storage.
a. Keep a list of dishes from step #1 in a handy readily visible place.
b. Move foods for the week, month, etc. from the storage to your smaller pantry.
c. Use what you have on hand. Purchase fresh foods (milk, fresh vegetables, etc.) as needed.
-Becky Low, USU Extension
Click here to print off inventory sheets. They are on page 4-6 of the link.

After you have the recommendations for your family, print it off. Next, take an inventory of what you have. Now you will know what you need to start focusing on.