Canning Myths Video Available

canning myths

The folks at Ball (you know, the people who make jars and other canning goodies) held a webcast today addressing common canning myths. I missed the live broadcast, but they have the recording posted on their website to watch anytime. Free and convenient!

If you’re just getting started in canning or thinking about getting started, this may help answer some of your curiosity. If you learned to can from someone who was full of advice that was likely based on decades-old science, you might find some of their tips useful, too. And, hey, if you just love canning things, it’ll be interesting for you, too!

 

 

Rhubarb Cake

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If you think this photo looks a little odd, you might be right. I cut a small hole in the middle to test for doneness and we started cutting slices from there…which should go to show you how yummy this cake is!

This is the first year I’ve had a rhubarb harvest, incidentally, and I discovered something about rhubarb from a local veggie farmer who also has several rhubarb plants. Not all rhubarb plants turn red when they’re ripe. Mine appears to be one of those that stays green even when it’s ready, I guess.

Anyway…on to the recipe, which I adapted from one published by Penzey’s Spices. (Although I disagree with some of the company’s stands on social issues, I find that Penzey’s is one of the best places to get low-cost, high-quality spices.)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. melted butter, cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped rhubarb
  • For Topping: 1/3 c. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sugar, butter, egg, yogurt and vanilla together in a large bowl. Stir in baking soda and flour, mix well. Fold in the rhubarb.

Spread the batter in a greased 9×13 pan.

Combine the topping sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the cake batter. It will probably seem like there is too much topping for the size of the cake, but trust me, it’s right. The sugary topping forms a crust of sorts that is very yummy.

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Bake 30-35 minutes. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers.

Pitting cherries can be the pits!

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Just look at all those beautiful red pie cherries! But those buckets of cherries are full of pits and the pie filling recipe I wanted to try this year called for 10 pounds of these little jewels. That translated to a lot of pitting, so I thought I’d share our opinions on the various pitting methods.

Method #1: Slice and Dig

It’s possible to slice each cherry in half and dig the pit out with your fingernail. I don’t have any pictures of this method because, well, I don’t recommend it.

This would probably work just fine if you only need a couple of cups of cherries, but it’s quite messy and time consuming if you need much more than that. Not to mention leaving lots of cherry gook under your fingernails.

Method #2: Bobby Pin

This works great if you don’t have a cherry pitter on hand, and it’s still my hubby’s favorite method. Start by holding a cherry between the fingers of one hand with the stem end facing out. Position the loop of the bobby pin at the stem opening.

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Press down with the bobby pin, sweeping the pit out of the cherry as you pull the pin out.

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Ta-da! The pit should come out smoothly and land somewhere nearby.

This method leaves a slightly bigger hole in the cherry than Method #3 but otherwise is very effective. And it takes no time at all to clean the pin when you’re done. With a large number of cherries to pit, though, my hand tends to cramp and my fingers get a little sore from holding the pin.

Method #3: Cherry Pitter

This is my preferred method, since I find it a bit faster, cleaner and easier than the other methods.

A cherry pitter is a simple contraption with a long, specially shaped bit that shoves the pit out of the cherry as it goes through from one side to the other. Place the cherry on the platform and squeeze the handle.

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You should end up with a pit-less cherry and a pit in the catching tray below.

I couldn’t find a cherry pitter at local stores, so if you live in a small town, you might have a bit of trouble tracking one down, too. Fortunately, a friend let me borrow hers. I suspect every pitter is slightly different and may have its own quirks. For example, this one tended to leave the pit in the cherry if I didn’t squeeze it quickly.

I like that this method doesn’t require me to line up the cherry precisely and it isn’t as messy as the other methods. I found this faster after I got into a rhythm with it, too.

Do you have any favorite methods or machines to pit your cherries?

Farm to Fork Summit Coming to Colby

Registration is still open for the Kansas Rural Center’s Farm to Fork Summit, coming to the Colby community building from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this Wednesday.

Chris Sramek, co-founder of the High Plains Food Co-op, an online food purchasing cooperative that sources from Kansas farms, will speak at the meeting. Sramek will share his experience and insight into the development of the cooperative, including challenges and future opportunities.

A panel of Kansas farmers, health professionals, extension workers, food retail businesses and other community experts will share their experiences, too, telling the story of the regional food system and community health and setting the stage for discussions about region-specific challenges.

Afternoon sessions will encourage discussion and feedback of specific policy items. The Kansas Rural Center will incorporate these items into a statewide plan to provide information to citizens and policymakers about the status of the state’s farming and food system, along with a discussion of problems the food system experiences.

The meeting is part of the center’s Community Food Solutions Initiative, made possible by a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. The center works to develop policy priorities to shape the future of Kansas food and farming designed to expand access to healthy, fresh Kansas-raised food. For more information, contact Natalie Fullerton at (402) 310-0177.

 

Discount Travel in Omaha

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The travel bug has bitten our family hard this summer! But instead of planning far away trips, we are focusing on all the fun things there are to do in our area.

It might not seem like there are many fun things to do around northwest Kansas, but I’ve been surprised by the options available in within a half-day’s drive. A long weekend can feel like a mini-vacation and doesn’t have to cost much.

One of the best ways I’ve found to experience local attractions is to take advantage of discounts available. The folks at the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau reached out to me to help get the word out about their free savings card. Anyone can request one at their website: http://www.visitomaha.com/omaha-adventure/savings-card/#.U5kGXtEg_IU. And while you’re there, you can also request a free travel guide and get all kinds of visitor info.

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The card has good discounts at several family-friendly attractions, including the zoo and children’s museum. We plan to visit the zoo later this summer when we visit Omaha, and I’ll be sure to post a review of that, too.

In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Omaha, check out their website…you might be surprised what the city has to offer.

And if you aren’t planning to visit Omaha, take a few minutes to check out the visitor’s bureau websites of the towns near you. You might find discount programs you didn’t even know were out there!

 

 

 

Visiting Chaffee County, Colorado

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Doesn’t that look delicious? If you love black olives like I do, it does. And it was delicious, too!

This delicious pizza came from a restaurant called Pizza Works while my hubby and I got away for the weekend in the mountains outside Buena Vista, Colorado, last weekend.

Buena Vista, part of Chaffee County, is a small town that isn’t overly touristy (at least, not yet) but offers a ton of outdoor activities: hiking, biking, river rafting, hot springs, ghost towns, etc. Since many of the activities are free or inexpensive, it can be an affordable family vacation, or it can be a slightly pricey getaway. You can easily customize your vacation to your family’s budget and interests.

We opted for the slightly pricey getaway this time. We stayed at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and Resort, pictured below, which is about a six-hour drive from our part of Kansas.

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I remembered the hot springs from when I was younger, but it has blossomed into a true mountain resort. When I was younger, the hot springs area was basically a convenience store, old hotel and a spring-fed pool and creekside springs. Now, it has more pools, a spa, an event facility, a waterslide, a restaurant and several renovated and new lodging options.

The rooms and cabins are not exactly cheap and they book fast, but they do include complimentary passes to all of the pool facilities. It’s so convenient to take a dip in the springs when they’re right outside your hotel room door!

If you want to visit the hot springs but don’t want to “spring” for the cost of a stay at the resort, you can buy a pass to the pools for about $20.

There are ample camping options around, including RV parks and national forest campgrounds, as well as hotels in Buena Vista, Salida and other area towns. And, if you’re camping and need a shower, a day at the pool might be just the ticket!

Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo…

A life-sized and realistic elephant statue is a great way for kids to get an up-close look at the big animals.

A life-sized and realistic elephant statue is a great way for kids to get an up-close look at the big animals.

…How about you, you, you?

Anyone else remember that old song? There was quite a chorus of it in our car this morning as we made our way to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.

I have to be honest up front: this is not a frugal activity! Adult ticket prices are about $17 each and some of the zoo activities cost extra, such as a few dollars for food to feed the giraffes. But, it’s really not a bad price for a full day of family fun.

If you go, here are a few tips:

  • Check into the membership prices if you have a large family or you think you’ll visit more than a few times in a year. They can save you money, especially if you have several kiddos.
  • Bring your own lunch, drinks and snacks. There are plenty of picnic tables and benches that make it easy to munch on your own goodies, avoiding the more expensive restaurant options.
  • Plan a full day or at least a full afternoon. After all, you’re paying the same admission price no matter how much time you spend there. There are certainly enough activities going on to fill a whole day! And, if the kids get bored, there’s always another critter to see…or see again. I recommend starting early in the day since the chance for rain increases significantly in the afternoons.
  • Wear good walking shoes, comfy clothes, hats and sunscreen. This outdoor zoo is literally perched on the side of Cheyenne Mountain. It’s hilly and surprisingly warm on many days. Be prepared to walk a lot (up and down the hillside) and protect yourself from the sun.

And definitely don’t miss the giraffe feeding!

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