Know How, Know More Connecting You with Your Food, Farmers and Community Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Yogurt at Home: Beyond the Basics Tue, 15 May 2018 09:00:00 +0000 It's been a number of years since the "Back to Basics" do-it-yourself series where we made a basic mozzarella recipe from start to finish.  Refresh your memory by reading the Cheese, Please blog post.

If anyone thought cheese making was easy, yogurt is even easier, in my opinion.

These are the basic steps:

1. Heat milk
2. Stir in yogurt starter
3. Incubate milk to become yogurt

Yup, easy!

Drained yogurt


Bacteria from the yogurt starter will digest lactose – the sugar in milk – to form lactic acid. Lactic acid reduces the pH of the milk, making it more acidic. This causes proteins to coagulate or pull together, resulting in a thick milk that becomes yogurt. Bacteria from a previous batch of yogurt, or a purchased starter culture of bacteria, are used to inoculate the milk and start the process.

Make it at Home (or in Class)

This summer, join UI Extension for hands-on classes where we will start yogurt and have you take home a jar to incubate.

From a basic yogurt, to drained yogurt, to drinkable yogurt, it will be a fun class.  If you want to get started on your own, download the handout with instructions on making yogurt and some recipes using yogurt.  Let us know about your successes (and maybe some bloopers of trial-and-error).


Yogurt Made Simple, Washington State University Extension, 2015
Yogurt: One of the original dairy foods,
Yogurt and beyond,
What is Greek Yogurt?, University of Iowa Extension, 2010

Drinkable yogurt

Be Reminded Of New "Know How, Know More"

At the top right of our blog, enter your email to get notifications when a new post is out.

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Warm Season Plants and Frost-Free Date Fri, 27 Apr 2018 12:56:00 +0000
Our warm season vegetables like cucumbers and squashes need a soil temperature of 70 deg. F.  Tomatoes and green beans need soil temperatures in the mid-50's and minimum temperatures that are above 45 deg. F.  For us here in this part of Illinois, we typically can not expect those kind of temperatures until after our last expected frost.

According to the Illinois State Water Survey here in central Illinois, a frost can happen up until May 7 through May 12 depending on your location. For ease of remembering, I tell people to plant warm season crops on or after Mother's Day.

If you are willing to protect cold-sensitive plants, then you might be more interested in the median (average) frost date, which varies from April 14 to April 22. This year we had temperatures in the mid-20's on April 16 and 17, so just remember a median or average frost date means that 5o percent of the time the temperature will be above or below 32 deg F on that date.

Another important point to remember is the number of frost-free growing days we have here in central Illinois. On average, we can expect to have about 175 to 185 days. I normally figure on 180 days. This means that if I want to grow artichokes or ginger, I am going to have to either start them indoors or provide them some sort of a season extension structure to grow in, such as a hoop house or greenhouse.]]>
New and Unusual Food World Tue, 03 Apr 2018 09:00:00 +0000 Ever heard of an Ugli fruit or a tried a purple carrot? What about kohlrabi or jicama?

In the last six months, I have taught a couple programs titled "New and Unusual Foods." The design of the classes were different, but the central idea was this: let's try a new food.

  • Not that Unusual. Ugli fruit is a citrus fruit, like an orange. Purple carrots taste like orange carrots, but have a different pigment. Many foods are variations of other foods we are already familiar with.
  • Nutrition. Unusual fruits and vegetables contain familiar nutrition, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. The deep pigments, like purple and red, in some of these foods add antioxidant compounds, which help limit cell damage in the body and may reduce risks of health conditions.
  • Adventure. If you are feeling adventurous, new and unusual foods (at least new and unusual to the typical American diet) are worth eating.

If you are not sure where to start, see what your local stores have already that you have not tried. The unexpected – and new and unusual – are likely in places you have not looked yet.

Of course, buying foods you have not tried before is a gamble. What if I do not like it? Will it be a waste of money?

This is where information from your local Extension office can come in handy. Read our blogs, call our offices, and look for recipes with these new and unusual ingredients. Gain more knowledge and skills as you explore, shop, and eat in a new and unusual food world.

Jicama Summer Salad (serves 6 1-cup servings)

1 Tbsp lime Juice
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Half of a jicama, peeled and diced
3 cups strawberries, sliced
6 oz. blueberries
15 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1. Mix together lime juice, honey, and cinnamon in a small bowl until well mixed.
2. In a large bowl, combine jicama, strawberries, blueberries, and mandarin oranges and drizzle with lime, honey, cinnamon combination.
3. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator 3-4 days.

Nutritional analysis: 120 calories, 5g fat, 10mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 1g protein
Recipe from: Lisa Peterson, University of Illinois Extension, Nutrition and Wellness

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Winter Burn on Evergreens Fri, 30 Mar 2018 10:49:00 +0000 This winter, like many, has taken a toll on evergreens in our gardens and landscapes. Just driving down the highway or through a neighborhood, you can notice browning on evergreen shrubs and trees. So the question is, why does this happen?

Since evergreens retain their leaves throughout the winter, they are susceptible to a variety of winter related problems. These leaves are still living and need to be able to use and uptake water from the soil.

A good portion of the browning that we see on evergreens is caused by winter burn or dessication. This happens when cold winter winds blow past evergreens and pull moisture out of the leaves at a more rapid rate than the plant can replace the moisture. If the ground is frozen and the plant cannot uptake enough water, the leaves then brown as a result. This typically shows up on the windward, sun-exposed side of the plant and is not uniformly spaced around the plant. This can happen on young, as well as old trees and shrubs.

The other possible cause of browning on evergreens could be from salt spray. This browning can occur on evergreens that are close to sidewalks and roadways where de-icing salt may have been splashed on the plant. Since salt draws water from plant tissue, this salt spray can cause winter burn in evergreens. This again will appear on only the side of the tree closest to the sidewalk or street.

Luckily, many times an evergreen come overcome this damage if it just occurs on a portion of the plant. One way to verify if your plant is still viable and living, is to check and see if the branches and buds are still alive. Scratch the bark of a young branch that has browning and check to see if the inside is green and living, or if it is brown and dried out. If the branch is still green and living, there is a good chance that the branch will continue to grow and overcome that needle loss. Just give it some time. It will take some time for the evergreen drop those dead needles and fill back in.

If this browning occurred in other times of the year, or if the pattern is more uniform and not confined to one side of an evergreen, this could be a sign of other issues. Various diseases are known to cause problems with evergreen trees and shrubs. Drought conditions and improper water procedures have also caused many evergreen problems in recent years.

If you suspect other problems, our Master Gardener Hotlines will be starting this spring in each of our local Extension offices. They are a great resource to help you identify and solve your plant problems. Contact your local Extension office through our webpage. You can also post questions on our Facebook page.

To prevent this problem next year, make sure evergreens are well watered in the fall going into winter. Anti-dessicant sprays can also be purchased and applied following the label's directions next season and a burlap wrap around the plant can also deflect some wind.

Floral Department Finds Mon, 26 Mar 2018 14:53:00 +0000 To my knowledge, people generally do not purposefully go to the grocery store to purchase a potted plant from the floral department; or have it on their shopping list unless maybe at Easter. Frequently, it is a purchase made on the way to a friend or family members home as a gift to the host, or as an impulse buy for yourself when you are feeling particularly over worked and under-appreciated and decide, so rightly so, that you deserve this small spot of beauty to brighten your home!

The potted plants are often flowering, and beautiful, and overall wonderful. As with most things, the choices available depend on the season- miniature roses, Gerber daisies, English Ivy, mums, and poinsettias are for other times; in spring it is false shamrocks, tulips, daffodils, Easter Lilies and kalanchoes!

The ones in the spring are the most tempting; we have waited so long for color! Do not be denied the chance to take that brilliant yellow or pink home, just know some special facts about how to care for them and what your expectations for them are, the same way to approach all plant care, really.

Native to Brazil, the False Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis) is popular in February and March due to its striking resemblance to the Irish shamrock. Found in both green and purple, this long-lived plant grows from bulbs and is a great addition to most home environments. It likes bright light and cooler temperatures, and pots with good drainage. They have natural dormant periods usually occurring in mid to late summer, and can go without much water or light during this time. Just set it aside, and watch for re-growth in about 6 weeks to resume regular care. Easy!

Kalanchoes(Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) have the same indoor growing requirements of the false shamrock plant- bright light, cool temperatures, well-drained soil with care needed to not over water. This is a succulent from Madagascar, and its waxy foliage bears brilliant long lasting blossoms of various colors. Kalanchoes can be moved outdoors during summer months to a semi-shaded area, and brought back indoors in the fall. To re-bloom again next winter and spring, light conditions must match natural day light hours in the fall months, much like a poinsettia plant. Try it if you like, or just grow the plant for the glossy, succulent and attractive leaves

Originally, from Japan, the Easter Lilly (Lilium longiflorum) also does well indoors in bright, indirect light in cool temperatures. The blooms last longest when temperatures are between 40 - 68 degrees and the pollen-bearing golden anthers, or the male part of the flower, are removed. Removing the large anthers will help the blooms last longer because pollination cannot occur, and the bloom is less messy too. Transplant them outdoors in a sunny spot once danger of frost is over for a re-bloom again in late July or August. Great instructions on how this all works are found here

Finally, what self-respecting grocery store floral department would be without pots of flowering tulips, daffodils or hyacinths to tempt you? Isn't that such a great bargain, to enjoy them now and then again year after year? Well, maybe, but probably not. Bulbs that have been forced to bloom have spent much or all of the plant's food reserve and struggle to recover completely. However, if you are an optimist, you can try to get them to flower the following spring. Cut off the stems when the flowers are spent, but leave the foliage. Keep the plant in a bright light and water as usual. When the leaves turn yellow stop watering and store in a cool, dry place. Re-plant outdoors in the fall as you would any spring flowering bulb; and be sure to fertilize. Sometimes, they will successfully re-bloom; with the daffodils being a bit more on the successful side than tulips or hyacinths. Maybe it will take two years, maybe one year, maybe not at all.

Nevertheless, try, because you have nothing to lose and more to gain. Just don't place too much pressure next year on those same bulbs though, have a backup plan in place. Plant new bulbs for fall planting outdoors to fill in areas the indoor bloomed ones may not.

Or, plan a trip to the floral department at your local grocery store for spring blooms- put it on your grocery list even.

Garlic in the Oats Cover Crop Wed, 14 Mar 2018 15:27:00 +0000 What I like about this system, is that the spring oats seeds almost entirely fall in the valleys beside the row bed. This leaves a clean row bed top. By late September, the spring oats have grown tall enough to shade and cover the top of the bed where the garlic is planted. The garlic is planted into a weed-free stale seedbed. My oats cover crop is killed by the cold temperatures of late fall in the upper teens. The winter killed oat stems act like mini windbreaks to catch wind-blown leaves that adds more material to the mulch layer over the garlic row.
I like this cover crop method of growing garlic, because in a conventional garlic planting you use a loose mulch to cover the planted garlic row. Where I live my loose mulch are blown off the garlic rows by the strong winter winds, and this leaves my garlic rows exposed to cold winter temperature fluctuations and these open garlic row areas are prone to infestation from winter weeds.
My garlic-cover crop system keeps mulch on my wind blown garden and it keeps my winter annual weed problem down to a minimum.
Boomers and Frozen Food Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 Frozen fruits and veggies are some of my favorite convenience foods. I enjoy raspberries, but buying fresh means I get very few raspberries per dollar compared to what I can get frozen. I admit the frozen raspberries are not the plump fruit of fresh and fall apart, but that is okay with me since I usually use them for smoothies and to flavor yogurt.

On April 3, UI Extension is hosting "Boomers and Beyond." This daylong learning forum will host three lessons useful for seniors, including a lesson on using healthy convenience foods. Representatives from Peace Meal, Macon County Home and Community Education, SYNERGY HomeCare and Vespasian Warner Public Library will be on hand to share the services and resources they offer to seniors.

Register by March 27. Lunch is provided.

Crustless Spinach Quiche (Serves 8)

Try this quiche with a whole-grain English muffin and a fruit cup (maybe even using frozen fruit).

5 large eggs, beaten
6 ounces low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
4 ounces feta cheese
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 Tbsp margarine
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 box (10-ounce) frozen spinach, thawed and drained
Cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Spray a quiche or 10-inch pie pan with cooking spray.
3. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except spinach. Stir in spinach.
4. Pour into pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes until slightly browned on top.

Nutritional analysis: 146 calories, 10g fat, 382mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 11g protein

Recipe from: Recipes for Diabetes, University of Illinois Extension

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.