Sunday, July 20, 2014

So Much Zucchini!

Wondering what to do with the zucchini that is already becoming prolific in your garden? Freezing zucchini is a great option to preserve it for the winter months when some chocolate zucchini bread would hit the spot! Blanching is recommended to preserve the quality of the zucchini. These guidelines come from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Summer Squash

(Cocozelle, Crookneck, Pattypan, Straightneck, White Scallop, Zucchini)

Preparation – Choose young squash with tender skin. Wash and cut in 1/2-inch slices. Water blanch 3 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.
Grated Zucchini (for Baking) – Choose young tender zucchini. Wash and grate. Steam blanch in small quantities 1 to 2 minutes until translucent. Pack in measured amounts into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cool by placing the containers in cold water. Seal and freeze. If watery when thawed, discard the liquid before using the zucchini.


Blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short time) is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen. It stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture.
Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.
Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size. Underblanching stimulates the activity of enzymes and is worse than no blanching. Overblanching causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals. Follow recommended blanching times (see below).

Water Blanching

For home freezing, the most satisfactory way to heat all vegetables is in boiling water. Use a blancher which has a blanching basket and cover, or fit a wire basket into a large pot with a lid.
Use one gallon water per pound of prepared vegetables. Put the vegetable in a blanching basket and lower into vigorously boiling water. Place a lid on the blancher. The water should return to boiling within 1 minute, or you are using too much vegetable for the amount of boiling water. Start counting blanching time as soon as the water returns to a boil. Keep heat high for the time given in the directions for the vegetable you are freezing.

Steam Blanching

Heating in steam is recommended for a few vegetables. For broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and winter squash, both steaming and boiling are satisfactory methods. Steam blanching takes about 1½ times longer than water blanching.
To steam, use a pot with a tight lid and a basket that holds the food at least three inches above the bottom of the pot. Put an inch or two of water in the pot and bring the water to a boil.
Put the vegetables in the basket in a single layer so that steam reaches all parts quickly. Cover the pot and keep heat high. Start counting steaming time as soon as the lid is on. See steamblanching times recommended for the vegetables listed below.


As soon as blanching is complete, vegetables should be cooled quickly and thoroughly to stop the cooking process. To cool, plunge the basket of vegetables immediately into a large quantity of cold water, 60ºF or below. Change water frequently or use cold running water or ice water. If ice is used, about one pound of ice for each pound of vegetable is needed. Cooling vegetables should take the same amount of time as blanching.
Drain vegetables thoroughly after cooling. Extra moisture can cause a loss of quality when vegetables are frozen.

Blanching Times*

VegetableBlanching Time

Small Stalk
Medium Stalk
Large Stalk

Beans-Snap, Green, or Wax3
Beans-Lima, Butter, or Pinto

(flowerets 11/2 inches across)

Brussel Sprouts
Small Heads
Medium Heads
Large Heads

Cabbage or Chinese Cabbage

1 1/2
Diced, Sliced or Lengthwise Strips

(flowerets, 1 inch across)

Small Ears
Medium Ears
Large Ears
Whole Kernel or Cream Style
(ears blanched before cutting corn from cob)


All Other


Whole (steamed)
Buttons or Quarters (steamed)
Slices steamed)

3 1/2
Small Pods
Large Pods

(blanch until center is heated)

10-15 seconds
Peas-Edible Pod1 1/2-3
Peas-Field (blackeye)2
Peas-Green1 1/2
Strips or Rings

Potatoes-Irish (New)3-5
Sweet Potatoescook
Turnips or Parsnips

*blanching times are for water blanching unless otherwise indicated.

This document was extracted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Maybe Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

We’ve all heard the phrase “Laughter is the Best Medicine” but what exactly does that mean and how do we get the full benefits from laughter? Vigorous laughter can be stimulating; it can increase heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, enhance circulatory immune function, pulmonary ventilations and alertness, and provides exercise for some skeletal muscles. Immediately following laughter, there is a brief period in which blood pressure goes down, and heart rate, respiratory rate and muscle activity decrease resulting in relaxation (Fry, 1994 as quoted by Mahony et al. 2002).

There’s even a new type of yoga called “Laughter Yoga”. It was started in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai, India. It combines unconditional laughter with traditional yogic breathing. Many participants report greater general health such as fewer infections like cold and flu while others swear by the positive effects it has had on their chronic diseases and illnesses.

Laughter is universal, has no language barriers and knows no bounds. It can bring people together, ease stress and hardship, and help with coping. One thing is for sure, there is no harm in laughing and it has the potential to provide wonderful health benefits. So, have you laughed today?

Creating opportunities to laugh
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Go to a comedy club.
  • Read the funny pages.
  • Seek out funny people.
  • Share a good joke or a funny story.
  • Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
  • Host game night with friends.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Go to a “laughter yoga” class.
  • Goof around with children.
  • Do something silly.
  • Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).

Excerpted from Have You Laughed Today? By Rachel Larson

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Laundry Essentials

Ever wonder how you would wash your clothes in an emergency situation? Here are complete instructions!


ü 2 - 6-Gallon Buckets
ü Gamma Seal Bucket Lid (threaded bucket lid w/hole in middle)
ü Hand Agitator
ü Detergent or Homemade Laundry Soap in a Storage Bag (see below)
ü Fabric Softener or Homemade Fabric Softener (see below)
ü 1 Teaspoon Scoop
ü Stain Remover or Fels-Naptha Soap
ü Heavy Rubber Gloves
ü Package of Clothespins
ü Clothespin Bag
ü 100’ Clothesline

Homemade Laundry Soap

·         1box 20 Mule Team Borax (76 oz.)    
·         1box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz.)
·         4 bars Fels-Naptha Soap
·         1 Large Zip Lock Bag

Directions to make soap:
Take 3 bars of the Fels-Naptha Soap, unwrap and let these bars dry out for two days.  After two days, finely grate or use an electric grater (it is just soap) to grate these bars.  Take the zip lock bag and put 6 cups of Borax, 1 box of Washing Soda, and the 3 grated bars of Fels-Naptha Soap, and mix together.  This is enough soap for 10 bucket loads per week for 1 year.  (To use this soap in an electric washer use 1-2 tablespoons per load.)

Directions for washing: 
Put 1 teaspoon scoop of soap in ½ bucket of water with a few articles of clothing.  Put the agitator in the bucket and twist the gamma lid on tight.  Pump the agitator up and down for a few minutes to clean the clothes.  Put clean clothes in the second bucket to rinse.

Some Washing Tips:
-       To pre-treat stains use the other bar of Fels-Naptha.  Wet the stain and rub it firmly with the corner of the bar of soap. Use a soft brush for tougher stains.
-       Wash whites first with warm or hot water if possible.  Wash coloreds next and save the dirtiest clothes for last.
-       Bleach or boil if possible all clothes and linens used to care for the sick.
-       Clean water is all you need not your emergency drinking water.

Rinsing your clothes:
You may want to use another bucket for rinsing.  Fill the bucket ½ full of clean water and add the washed clothes.  Pump the agitator up and down for a few minutes, drain and repeat.  After the second rinse, remove the clothing and then use the water for your next batch of wash. 

You may wish to add homemade fabric softener to your clothes. (If you use fabric softener do not use the rinse water for your next batch of wash.)

Homemade Fabric Softener

Small Batch                                                 
2 cups water                                    
1 cup baking soda                          
1 cup vinegar                       
1/3 cup hair conditioner

Large Batch
6 cups water
3 cups baking soda
3 cups vinegar
1 cup hair conditioner
Put the baking soda in a large bowl and pour the vinegar over it, while it is bubbling pour cold water in the mix.  Once the mixture is combined add hair conditioner.  Store the softener in a sealed container and shake well before using.  Add three teaspoons of softener to rinse water.  (Use ¼ to ½ cup in electric washer.)

Wringing and drying the clothes:
After rinsing, you will need to wring each item to remove as much water as possible.  It is helpful to wear heavy rubber gloves when hand wringing your clothes to make it easier on your hands. 

The easiest way to dry your clothes is to hang them on a clothesline with clothespins.  You may need to occasionally squeeze the water from the bottom of your clothes for faster drying.

Copyright © 2014 SFG, LLC

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sanitation Preparation

When preparing emergency supplies, don't forget about your family's sanitation needs. Here are some ideas for basic supplies, as well as how to organize the supplies for most effective use. 


2 6-Gallon Buckets                                    
1 Roll Paper Towels                                  
1 Bottle Hydrogen Peroxide                               
1 Collapsible Shovel                                  
1 Pair Safety Glasses  
2 Rolls Toilet Paper
10 Plastic Bucket Bags
2 Containers Super Sorb Gel Powder
1 Mask, Particulate/Breather (N95)
1 32 oz. Spray Bottle


4 Handi-Pax Concentrate                          
1 Shower Curtain Liner                              
10 Clothespins
Paracord for Hanging Curtain


5 Pair Nitrile Gloves
1 Pair Yellow Chemical Resistant Gloves                                 


1 Mirror/Collapsible Brush                          
1 Toothpaste                                             
8 Bandages                                                
1 Chapstick                                             
2 Toothbrushes
1 Bottle Mouthwash
2 Combs
Feminine Supplies (Tampons/Pads)
Hair Conditioner


1 Pkg. Cotton Swabs                                  
1 Razor                                                       
1 Small Lotion                                              
1 Nylon to make Soap on a Rope
1 Bar Soap
1 Small Stick Deodorant
2 Washcloths

Potty Assembly Pack

  • Place one large plastic bag into a 6 gallon bucket and open it up, then fold the top of the bag over the edge of the pail. Secure the potty seat and you are ready to go.
  • Super Sorb Powder -- use in potty after use. This powder absorbs 60 times its weight in liquids and turns them into a gel. After using the potty, sprinkle about a tablespoon full onto the waste and liquid in the bag. The powder also acts as a deodorizer.
Privacy & Sanitation Pack
  • Handi Pax Concentrate -- Pour 1 pouch into the empty 32 oz. bottle and fill with clean water. Use to disinfect all questionable surfaces.
  • Shower Curtain, Clothespins & Cord. Thread cord through holes in privacy curtain. Make a + with the cording at the top to make a square out of the curtain. When finished, brace the corners with tent type poles or sticks. Hang from tree or overhead pole. Use clothespins to secure door opening.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Make an Emergency Kit

Looking for a fun family activity this summer? Watch this entertaining video, then gather your family and make your own emergency kits. You never know when you will need to be prepared.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Prepared Children

School will be ending soon and kids will be home for the summer. What a great time to update your family emergency plan and teach your children what to do in case of a fire, earthquake, or other disaster. This video teaches creating and practicing an evacuation plan. Feeling prepared can help your children feel more secure in an emergency situation. For more information, visit


Friday, May 9, 2014

Why Won't My Garden Grow? Mistakes Beginning Gardeners Make -- And How to Fix Them!


In your excitement to grow a vegetable garden,you might buy every type of vegetable you think you'd like to have. The problem can be having enough space to give each plant the right amount of room, water, or sunlight they need.
When shopping for plants, make sure you understand what your plant is going to need to grow.
  • Does your plant need sunlight or shade?
  • Does it prefer dry or moist soil?
  • How much space does it need between it and other plants?
You know what your yard is like—how much space there is, the type of soil, etc.—so make sure you buy plants that will work in those conditions. When you understand and provide the conditions your plants need, you’ll have better luck growing a full and plentiful crop.
You can find information for specific plant conditions on plant tags at nurseries, or in seed descriptions in catalogs.


Why Won't my Garden Grow? 5 Mistakes you May be Making
We all know that if a plant doesn’t get enough water, it will die, and so as novices we can fall prey to overwatering. Well, overwatering is just as dangerous as under-watering. While under-watering can lead to dehydration, overwatering can lead to rot, which inhibits the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.
All plants need water to metabolize nutrients and to help them grow, but every plant is unique in how much water it needs. It’s important to know what your plant’s moisture requirements are. Some plants (like tomatoes) are heavy drinkers and need more water, while others, like beans, require less.
Real Simple Magazine shares an approach from Rebecca Sweet, a garden designer in the California Bay area and writer of the Gossip in the Garden blog. Sweet suggests that in order to stop guessing how much water your plants need, “invest in an irrigation system with a ‘smart’ controller…[that can] automatically adjust watering levels based on historical data and moisture sensors.”
If an irrigation system is a little too expensive, just give a little extra attention to the soil in your garden. Check it regularly and if it’s dry and crumbly (or especially rock hard!), it needs watering. If you can form it into a loose ball, then it has enough moisture.


Why Won't my Garden Grow? 5 Mistakes you May be Making
Certain plants, like squash, are sun worshippers and absolutely need full sunlight to thrive. Other plants, like green peas, can thrive and grow in shady areas. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because one plant can grow in partial sunlight, so can another. Most vegetables need at least six hours of direct sunlight.
Plan your garden before you plant. Make sure you have enough space available in your garden to give enough sunlight to each plant. You can check the planting recommendations on seed packets to know which plants will need more sunlight. Give the sunniest spot in your yard to plants that require the greatest amount of sun.


Although your plants may start out small in your beginner garden, perennials take up more space with each additional season. However, there’s more than one reason to avoid planting your vegetables (or other plants) too close together.
When too close together, plants will compete for the nutrients found in soil, water, and sunlight. If you follow the spatial recommendations found on seed packets, however, your plants will be able to thrive.
Some plants, like carrots and green onions, are okay planted close together when initially buried. The reason they can be close is because not all of them will sprout. After the viable seeds have sprouted, it’s important to thin them out and give them more room as they grow.
Don’t worry about wasting vegetables. Most the small vegetables you pull out to thin your row of carrots, green onions, or other veggies are edible, so you can start using them right away while the rest continue to grow.


Why Won't my Garden Grow? 5 Mistakes you May be Making
If not contained, weeds will choke out all the plants you love, leaving nothing behind but ugly grass and crunchy leaves. The best time to go out and weed your garden is when the first tiny weed pokes out of the soil. Catch them early in order to avoid more work later on. When weeds grow, their roots spread, making it more difficult for you to pull them out without damaging the roots of your plant. Also, the larger a weed gets, the more nutrients it will steal from your plants.
Unfortunately there is no cure-all for making weeds disappear for good. All you can do is tend to your garden and pull the weeds out (or even move the top layer of soil around with a hoe to upset the weeds) when you see them growing.