Friday, December 15, 2017


Cranberries are in season right now which means they are abundant and inexpensive! This nutritious fruit can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks or you can freeze them now to enjoy them all year long. The perfect cranberry is full, plump, firm and dark red or yellowish-red; avoid cranberries that look shriveled or bruised. Cranberries that are ripe will bounce.

When cooking cranberries, cook just until the cranberries pop; further cooking will result in a more bitter taste. Raw cranberries are tart and bland-tasting, but using them fresh or dried adds color and nutrition to many recipes. Cranberries are versatile and can be combined with many other flavors. Try mixing cranberry juice with other juices such as apple, orange or grape. Dried cranberries can be used in place of raisins, added to nuts, granola, oatmeal, or breads. 

Wondering what to do with cranberries, either fresh or dried? Following are a couple of recipes that I encourage you to try during the Holidays. The first is Cranberry Crunch Salad from AgriLife’s Dinner Tonight’s recipe collection! It is filled with winter time favorites such as cranberries, brussels sprouts, quinoa and pecans. 

Cranberry Crunch Salad
Clean prep areas, wash hands, and wash produce. Slice brussels sprouts Whisk together dressing ingredients: agave, fresh squeezed orange juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper; set aside Toss together brussels sprouts, quinoa, dried cranberries, chopped pecans, and dressing. 

Nutrition facts: Calories: 200; Total fat- 8 grams; saturated fat- 1gram; Sodium-55 mg; Total Carbohydrates-30grams; Dietary fiber-4grams; Total sugar- 17grams, added sugar-4grams; Protein-4grams. 

The second recipe may have been around for a while, but is one that I have just discovered. It is tangy and sweet with a little bit of a bite.  Thank you to my co-worker Karen Wade for introducing me to Cranberry Salsa.
  • 1 bag (12 ounce) cranberries, fresh or frozen.
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¼ tsp cumin
Combine cranberries, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno pepper, lime juice, sugar, salt and cumin in a food processor or chopper. You can also just chop them up yourself. Be sure to chop to medium consistency. Serve at room temperature. Serve as a salsa with pork or turkey, or as an appetizer with cream cheese and crackers or chips. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

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.

Healthy Gift Giving Ideas

Do you have a friend or family member who is a fitness fanatic…or, one you would like to lovingly nudge toward a healthier lifestyle?  Do you need some fresh, fun new gift ideas to inspire you?  Are you a DIY kind of gal or guy?  Whatever the case, AgriLife Extension’s Walk Across Texas program recently suggested some great gift ideas that I thought were worthy to pass along.

 You’ll find that all the ideas are geared towards healthy holiday gift ideas – some for the obvious fitness buff, while others are subtle, so as not to offend, while hoping to move loved ones toward a healthier lifestyle. Some allow you to be creative and put your own touches on, while others can be picked out, wrapped and ready to go.
Kitchen gadgets can be a great gift, whether you’re looking for an inexpensive stocking stuffer, or a gourmet chef’s delight. Here are some ideas that would make great gifts:

For flavor, a microplane herb mill allows you to place fresh herbs inside and then simply twist, like a pepper grinder. It cuts foods into your cooking or atop any dish to add flavor without a lot of calories or salt.

A grater-spoon is a device that goes right into a spoon, so if you need to grate, for example, fresh garlic or ginger, you can just stir it right into your dish – one tool, little expense, little clean up, and lots of flavor.

For food safety, colorful rings cutting boards that are non-porous and resistant to stains and odors would make a great gift. Nonporous surfaces like plastic or acrylic are easier to clean than wood, which is porous and more likely to harbor bacteria. So, choose any nonporous cutting board design you like for your gift. You might even choose two, since it is a good idea to have a separate cutting board for your fresh fruits, veggies, and bread, and another for your raw meat.  Hutzler Food Savers (in the shape of fruits or vegetables, or just colorful containers if you prefer), are designed to extend the shelf life of your fruits and veggies. 

For portion control, measuring cups would make a great gift. They can be found in many shapes so there is something for everyone. A digital food scale for the person trying to control portions, can really keep you on track. Seeing exactly how much is in an appropriate portion can be a great step to healthy portion control over a lifetime…it can also be used to measure healthier food substitutions for not-so-healthy recipes, and is a fun gadget to have for the kids to see, too.

An indoor herb garden with herbs that can be snipped, washed, and added fresh into dishes is a unique gift that can be purchased or made personal with a little DIY (Do-It-Yourself) ingenuity.

Culinary herbs are ideal for growing indoors because they don’t need a lot of space and can thrive on sunlight from a bright window. Recommended herbs for indoor gardening include: Basil, Bay, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Garlic Chives, Lemongrass, Mint, Mustard, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Sweet Marjoram, Tarragon, Thyme, and Vietnamese Coriander.

For a little personalization, you can plant herbs yourself in fun jars, a monogrammed mug, colored bottles, etc. This way you get to choose the herbs and personalize for your friends. You can choose a theme, like Italian, by giving basil and oregano. Just remember to use a good potting mix and provide holes for appropriate drainage.

Happy gifting!

10 Simple Tips to Keep Holiday Weight Off Your Hips

The holidays are upon us … with Halloween candy and Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas, and New Year’s Eve before us, the recipe for weight gain is set. For many people, a gain of 5 to 10 pounds is common during the holidays.  However, getting the weight off can be a challenge.  Here are 10 steps to prevent weight gain this year.

1. Don’t deprive yourself. Just have three luscious bites instead of three pieces of pie. If you allow yourself to have a few bites instead of depriving yourself, you will feel less like eating the whole pie later.

2. Increase your exercise time by 10 to 20 minutes – either all at once or throughout your day. According to the American College of Sports medicine you can get your exercise in 10-minute segments of time and it is just as effective as if you exercise for a full 30 minutes.

3. Find slimming, healthy recipes to take to pot-luck holiday dinners. These dinners can be a dangerous place if you are trying to lose or maintain weight. With a little planning and creativity, you can make an addition to the buffet that tastes good and is healthy. Grapes, raw vegetables and low-calorie dips will make great contributions.

4. Have a healthy snack before a holiday dinner so you don’t eat so much. The right kind of snack, such as a handful of walnuts or almonds, can also regulate blood sugar and keep hunger pangs at bay.

5. Eat regular meals. During the holidays it is often tempting to skip meals. Starving yourself all day and then eating all evening is not an effective plan for weight maintenance. 

6. Sleep 7 to 8 hours a night. Studies have proven a link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. People who don’t get enough sleep often have a challenge curbing feelings of hunger. 

7. Plan what and how much you will eat at parties – choose to take a small piece of cake, but skip the chips. If you have a general plan, you will be able to enjoy the party.

8. Drink water – It has zero calories and can prevent mindless eating. If we drink water before meals, we will also feel less hungry and be able to enjoy the meal before us.

9. If you blow your plan, get back on track as soon as possible. Each day is a gift. If you veered off track at the family gathering on Saturday, there is no reason for you not to get back to your goals on Sunday. 

10. Remember: Everything in moderation. Moderation is the key to not feeling deprived and keeping yourself in balance. Whether it pertains to your exercise program, your healthy eating plan or any other activities, making small, but consistent adjustments will help you stay on track, feel better and perform at your best.

Grazing Management

 More than half the population of Texas lives in the urban centers, yet many yearn to return to a somewhat rural lifestyle.  Almost every city and town in Texas including the towns in Wise County is surrounded by small acreage tracts of land (5 to 100 acres) owned by individuals who work in the city but use their land as their principal or weekend residence.  Collectively, these small acreage landowners own hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land, pastureland and rangeland in Texas.  Unfortunately, small acreage tracts can be easily abused if not managed properly.

The number one abuse of these small acreage tracts in Wise County is overgrazing.  Properly grazed acreages are more stable and experience less soil loss from erosion.  Most livestock are grazed all year long or continuously on these small tracts which results in more bare ground, poor quality grasses and invasion of less desirable plants.  These improperly managed acreages can indirectly cause contamination of water by damaging vegetation to the extent that erosion takes place.  This can allow non-point source pollution to enter streams and waterways adjacent to the mis-managed tracts.

It has been my observation that most small acreage landowners have little understanding of just how much forage livestock need to survive each month and each year.  Forage is what an animal consumes by grazing.  Feed is what you supply in the form of hay or supplement.  Forage production is measured in pounds per acre or in animal unit months (AUM’s).  One AUM is equivalent to the amount of forage consumed by a 1000 pound animal in one month.  Most classes of livestock will consume about 3% of their body weight in forage each day if it is available.  Therefore one 1000 pound cow will need about 10,000 pounds of forage per year. 

There are four main components in a successful grazing program:

1.      Eliminate continuous grazing;
2.      Divide pastures into smaller units and rotate livestock;
3.      Let plants recover before allowing animals to graze it again;
4.      Provide a water source in each pasture.

Good grazing management will promote a healthier landscape, happier livestock and provide a more rewarding land ownership experience for the small acreage landowner.