Monday, December 29, 2014

Soups and Stews- A to Z

Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Soup does its loyal best. You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor and sick, do you?  This quote comes from Judith Martin, better known as Miss Manners and directs us to think about soup and its benefits.

Soup is warmth and comfort, security and strength, ease and good flavor. With contemporary accessories like food processors, blenders and slow cookers, soups are beginning to qualify not only as down home cooking, but as practical, fast foods. The aroma of a simmering soup or stew can restore your spirits. And soups and stews are great when made ahead because their flavor improves overnight. Deanna Sagaser, County Extension Agent in Hale County shared the following information concerning soups and stews.

To make good soups, you need more taste than skill. The recipes you follow are only guides. Even if you follow a recipe slavishly and it is painstakingly detailed, the soup will never be exactly the same twice. The moral of this story is you must taste what you are cooking often. Don’t forget the food safety issue, always use a clean spoon.

Adjust the dish by adding more salt, pepper, spices, or herbs. Mustard, sugar, Worcestershire or soy sauce, red wine, bouillon cubes, drippings from a roast or a tiny bit of ground cloves to improve broths.

Stews and chilies typically have a tomato base and lots of meat. The pieces of meat and vegetables in a stew are generally larger than in a soup and the mixture is considerably thicker, Don’t cheat on the simmering time on stews-the long, slow simmer helps extract maximum flavor and ensures fork tender results.

Make sure the spoonful you taste is relatively cool. If it’s very hot, you won’t be aware of its real flavor. Sometimes just letting a soup sit for half an hour can improve it, so when you aren’t happy with your dish, walk away from it; then come back and taste again.

Many soups take on a richer taste if refrigerated for a day to give the flavors time to blend and develop. You can store soup in the refrigerator up to three days. Most soups freeze well, especially thick gumbos, chilies, and stews. Be sure and place soups and stews in small enough containers so that it will chill promptly in the center of the mixture. Package soups and stews in pint or quart plastic freezer containers or heavy-duty zip top freezer bags. Be sure to label them with the recipe name, date, and amount. Freeze soups up to three months.

For more information on Soups and Stews from A to Z, contact the Wise County Extension office at 940/627-3341.

As you plan your New Year’s menu, you might want to try the following:

Black-Eyed Pea Soup
4 bacon strips, diced                                                               1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped                                                           2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15½ ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained            1 cup water
1 ½ teaspoons salt                                                                   1 to 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 1 ¼ teaspoons ground mustard                                        1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon curry powder                                                       ½ teaspoon pepper
¼ to ½ teaspoon sugar, optional                                             Minced fresh parsley
Shredded Colby-Monterey Jack Cheese

In a large saucepan cook bacon over medium heat until crisp; remove to paper towels. Drain drippings, sauté the green pepper, onion and garlic until tender. Add peas, tomatoes, water and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 -20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, parsley and bacon. Yield: 8 servings (2 quarts)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Creep Feeding Your Calves

 Some decisions are easier than others where your beef cattle operation is concerned.  The decision to creep feed or not creep feed is not an easy one for most producers.  Like most aspects of the beef business it’s a complex decision that should be analyzed each year since there are a lot of variables involved.  Each producer should weigh their variables when making the decision if creep feeding is financially feasible for them. 

            Creep feeding simply put is a way to supplement forage and milk for unweaned calves with a feed source not available to the mother.  Creeping is usually done in free choice feeders with feeds in the 10-15% range.  A 14% protein pellet is the most popular.  Nutritionists say forage quality is the dominant factor in selecting the protein level needed for creeping a set of calves.  Therefore, if you are creeping or considering creeping, it would be wise to know the nutritional content of the hay you are feeding. 

            Work at Virginia Tech reveals that milk from a lactating beef cow furnishes only about 50 per cent of the nutrients that a three to four month old calf needs for maximum growth.  The remaining nutrients must come from another source if the calf is to realize its genetic potential for growth.

            Calves full-fed a creep ration will usually weigh 40-70 pounds more than non-creep fed calves at 7-8 months of age.  Four years of research at the University of Missouri showed creep feeding increased the weaning weight of spring calves by 57 pounds and fall calves by 74 pounds.  On average it takes about 900 pounds of creep to put on each 100 pounds of extra wearing weight.  Good creep feeds are available locally for about 15 to 20 cents a pound, which translates to $135.00 - $180.00 to put on that extra 100 pounds.  Each producer should determine what their price expectations are at weaning, get out the calculator and see if the cost is feasible for their program.

            While advantages are obvious, there are also some disadvantages to creeping.  Creeping requires some additional labor.  It can also produce fleshy calves that are discounted at the market and may even impair future milk production on replacement heifers.

            If you have questions about creep feeding and whether it will benefit your operation, please call the Wise County Extension office at 940-627-3341.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Family Fitness throughout the Holidays

As the temperature outside continues to grow colder, it is easy to simply want to cuddle up on the couch with a warm cup of hot cocoa, snacks, and your favorite holiday movie.  However, with the rising obesity levels, especially among children, staying active before, during, and after the holidays is an important part of being healthy.
A key way to help your children become healthy adults is to encourage an active lifestyle. Children in the United States today are less fit than they were a generation ago, and physical inactivity has become a serious problem.
So, what can parents do to help increase the entire family’s fitness level?  First and foremost, parents can be good role models. If children do not see the adults in their lives taking interest in hobbies and participating in activities that promote continuous movement for 30 to 60 minutes a day, they are less likely to adopt active lifestyles.
Decreasing “screen time” for families during the holidays is another way parents can increase the family fitness level. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average child watches about 3 hours of television a day.  Choosing to turn off the television or computer and taking an outdoor family walk to see neighborhood holiday decorations or just dancing around in the family room to favorite music are two ways to keep the family moving. Take every opportunity to establish good viewing habits, and ensure that children have no more than 2 hours of television and video time per day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Parents should also encourage their kids to do a variety of activities. For children, exercise means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise in gym class, walking or playing fetch with the dog, or even playing tag in and outdoors. According to the 2010 dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, all children 2 years and older should get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on most, and preferably all, days of the week, with adolescents and adults getting at least 30 minutes.
As winter approaches, here are some helpful ways to increase your family’s physical activity time:
·      Establish a weekly Dance-A-Thon night, dancing to a variety of favorite fun music from      various eras.
·      Work together in a family garden.
·      Put up and take down holiday decorations outside as a family.
Being active is a crucial element of health for all ages. So this year, resolve to take small steps to help your family make healthy behavior changes that will keep your family moving towards better health in the coming year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Save the Date for Step Up & Scale Down

           This is the time of year when everyone seems to be saying to themselves “as soon as I get through the holidays, I am going to start eating better and exercising.”  I encourage you to go ahead and commit to that New Year’s resolution of a healthy lifestyle, by contacting the Wise County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Just after the New Year, we are launching our 3nd Annual Step Up & Scale Down, a 12-week weight management program to help Wise County residents in their efforts
             The series will kick off Tuesday, January 6 at the Decatur City Hall meeting room.  Classes will be held from noon to 1:00 pm for twelve consecutive Tuesdays.  “Step Up &Scale Down is a great program to do with a friend or family member.  It is always easier to reach your goals when you have additional support.
            The program will consist of weekly lessons to help participants move toward a healthier weight and will include a weekly weight check-in, weekly challenge to “stay the course,” Dinner Tonight! healthy recipes and tips, exercise resources, and a weight-loss planner.  
            The Step Up & Scale Down program is based on the USDA 2010 Guidelines, which is intended to help Americans choose a healthful eating plan.  Step Up & Scale Down is a researched based program that has proven success in weight management and building healthy lifestyle habits.
            Cost for the 12-week program is $25 which includes all course materials.    Pre-registration is available until January 5 by contacting the Extension office at 940/627-3341 or  Educational programs of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age or national origin.  The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Scale Insect Can Be A Problem

One of the most common insects I find when making horticulture visits is the scale insect. One of the common scale insects that we find are the euonymus scale, a common insect that attacks many species of indoor and outdoor plants.
            Many species of scale insects damage landscape plants, shrubs and trees. Scale insects insert their mouthparts into plant tissues and suck out the sap. When scale numbers are high, plant growth will be stunted, leaves will develop yellow blotches, branches will die and some or all of the leaves may fall off.
            Although scale insects are common, they are probably the most misidentified of all insect groups. Scale insects are generally small (1/4 inch long or less) and often mimic various plant parts such as bark or buds. Other species appear as small, white, waxy blotches or small bits of cotton on leaves or stems. The one attribute of scale insects that leads to the misidentification is that they appear to be nonliving. Once the young crawlers settle on a plant, they generally don’t move and can be overlooked.
            Depending on the species, scale insects can spend the winter as eggs, young or adults.
            Because of their protective wax covering, most scale insects are very difficult to control with insecticides once they have settled. Scale insects are most vulnerable to spray formulations of contact insecticides during the crawler stage.
            Many pesticides are available to consumers wanting to control scale. Pesticides work best on crawlers. For effective control, you may need to apply pesticides two to four times at 5 – 7 day internals, because most pesticides work for less than a week, but crawlers from a single generation can hatch over several weeks.

            Regardless of the number of applications needed, you must cover the plant thoroughly with insecticide each time. Cover both sides of the leaves and all the twigs and branches.
 Dormant oils should be applied before spring growth begins, when temperatures are above 45 degrees for 24-48 hours. Apply summer sprays when temps are below 90 degrees for 24-48 hours.
When scales are on plants that are actively growing, apply a systemic insecticide such as imidacloprid around the base of scale infested plants.
The following is a partial list of approved insecticides available for scale insect control:  orthene, Azatin XLâ, Sevin â, Di-Systonâ, Meritâ, Battleâ, horticultural oil, Olympic insecticidal soap and Distance â.  Read and follow instruction on the label.  For a complete list of insecticides and more information on scale insects come by the Extension office and ask for publication B-6097.