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A long time ago, when I was in school, my home economics teacher instilled in me that to be a good cook, you must measure carefully. 

I admit to still following my teacher’s advice in that I faithfully use my measuring cups.

My grandma didn't own a measuring cup. I'll take that back; she did tell us that an ordinary coffee cup, not a mug, held the equivalent of one cup. She was right; I tested her knowledge with my measuring cups.

Now watching some of the cooking shows on television, I see the cooks are not the prudent students of measuring that I was taught to be and the experience of eyes seems to be prevalent.

Nonetheless, I still find myself using measuring cups, though I do make my own calculations at times because all brands of flour and such do not seem to be the same, and often less sugar can be used without damaging the results.

Perhaps more important, measuring should be considered when we eat. We tend to underestimate the amount of food we put on our plates and often overestimate how much we feed our children. A dietitian would probably have you measure or weigh portions to get the point across. A good idea, and I am sure it would provide an awakening, but there is the "grandma method" that isn't so far off as to the size of a serving. You have to hand it to her; she knew what she was doing.

Everyone knows a meat measure is the size of a deck of cards or the size of the palm of your hand. That is the equivalent of about three or four ounces. We just often tend to ignore that fact if the meat really tastes good.

Butter, margarine, mayonnaise etc. should be measured by the teaspoon or by the "thumb nail." Go to "thumb," or one or two tablespoons, if you are measuring dressing, sour cream, cream cheese, peanut butter or hard cheese.

The size of your fist equals one cup if it is cereal, soup, casserole, fresh fruit or raw veggies or salads.

Cup your hand for a 1/2 cup serving of pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, cooked vegetables, pudding or ice cream.

Two cupped hands, or 3-4 ounces, works for chips, popcorn, crackers and such.

Maybe if we went back to "dishing plates" instead of home style, serve yourself, we would eliminate a lot of second helpings that don't really help us, and in fact often harm us.

Everybody has their likes and dislikes, which can often be incorporated into foods like casseroles and smoothies so you are not conscious of it. Some foods we just don't get to because they weren't a part of our "growing up" or difficult to prepare or present: eggplant, brussels sprouts, kale, okra etc. Ethnic foods are no less important, so masquerade is sometimes in order.

I was really surprised recently watching the Dr. Oz show. He was game to try anything, but when it came to a zucchini dish he very nervously said, "No, I can't eat that." He gave no explanation why, but it was realistic. There are foods, for one reason or another, people dislike. I am sure if it were disguised in breads or something he would have no problem, but he didn't explain.

Back when I was in grade school in Geneva, I remember there was a student who couldn't stand to eat peas. Mena Johnson, our school cook, conceded to "just one pea" in her attempt to get the child to eat it, but to no avail.

Speaking of vegetables, if you typically start your own tomato or cabbage plants inside you should have already done so, but give it a try and a boost of good dirt with sunshine and talk to them. Also realize that lettuce seeds can't germinate when soil temperatures reach or exceed 85 degrees. Shade the soil and the emerging seeds to cool them off. It is important to get cool, season veggies like cabbage in the ground early.

Plant carrot seeds three or four weeks before the last frost. Plant a new crop every three or four weeks until midsummer. It is true; carrots are good for your eyes. Did you ever see a rabbit wear glasses?

Asparagus, once established, grows and produces for years. In the refrigerator, stand the stalks upright, like a bouquet of flowers with just a little water in the glass. They will keep longer.

Never put tomatoes in the refrigerator if you want the best flavor. Look for those nice red varieties still with a bit of a stem on them. Turn the tomatoes to that side down, "bottoms up" so to speak. They keep better, but don't resist the temptation to eat them. They’re delicious raw but even more nutritious cooked. It is the lycopene that makes them good for you.

Most vegetables are best raw or lightly steamed, both for flavor and nutrition. Low temperature and less water just make sense.

We all learn when others share their information. We all have choices in regards to what we do with it.

Oops, I forgot, bananas keep better if they are separated individually, or is it the other way around?

Remember, eating strawberries three times a week will lower bad cholesterol. I didn't say how many; let the temptation be your guide.

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Birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, April 17th: Mike Nesdahl, Suzanne Marcus Cory, Matthew Olson, Diane Van Riper, Kathy Paulsen, Bethany & Terry Mikesell, their 9th, Jerry & Mary Peterson

• Friday, April 18th: Ellen Hanson, Marge Leak, Peggy Wallerich, Tim Stollard, Tom Kaphers, Rebecca Lyn Peterson, her 12th; Brian Olson, Danielle Zamora, Levi Michael Den Herder, his 8th

• Saturday, April 19th: Elizabeth Rose Wallace, her 7th; Cody James Reistad, his 8th; Aaron Utpadel, James Bremmer, Jaxon Branstad, his 13th; Kaden Shaw Tonlinson, his 10th

• Sunday, April 20th: Jacob Dau, his 7th; Sara Elizabeth Hemingway, her 12th; Steve Mumm, Brenda Sorenson, Kathy Haberman, Jennie Korsbon, Paul & Jennifer Wayne, Don & Delores Glynn

• Monday, April 21st: Helen Pierce, Michael Foster, Veronica Graif, Adrian Kilian, Marilyn Reistad, Elmer Vanden Heuvel

• Tuesday, April 22nd: Noah Lowell Swearingen, his 10th; Rollie Johnson, David Purdy, Gregory Swearingen, Stacy Thostenson Harold, James Van Riper, Marilyne Dodge, Mike & Sarah Collins, Rodger & Sue Hill

• Wednesday, April 23rd: Dan McElfresh, Jayne Miller, Buffy Bergland, Alan Edwardson, Jackie Johnson Miller

May the year ahead bring you a world of pleasures.

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