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Food News

4-H member is a winner from curly haired cavies to chocoflan

Celeste Harrison with her prize-winning chocoflan dessert. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
From cavies to chili to chocoflan...

Thirteen-year-old Celeste Harrison, a fourth-year member of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, shares her expertise about chili and cavies (guinea pigs), but she's also a pro in the kitchen and at making a dessert called “Chocoflan.”

It's part cake, part flan.

The chocolate dessert recipe originates “from my Great-Aunt Esther and it's what we serve at all our family gatherings,” she said.

It's a winning one, at that. And just in time for Valentine's Day.

Celeste baked the dessert for the recent Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day — where 4-H'ers share what they're learned in their projects — and her presentation and recipe earned a showmanship award, one of seven awarded.

Last year she won a showmanship pin for her project, “Curls Just Want to Have Fun: How to Care for Your Curly Haired Guinea Pig.”

Celeste, a seventh-grader is active in 4-H. She serves as the treasurer of her 4-H club and last year served as a Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) officer in the Solano County 4-H Program. This year she's enrolled in five projects: cavies, poultry, dogs, record keeping and rabbits.

Always eager to learn, Celeste decided to “take dogs, rabbits and poultry so I can learn showmanship,” she said, noting that she competed in the Round Robin Small Animal Showmanship at two county fairs last year but was inexperienced at showing animals other than cavies. So this year's she's set her sights on learning more about them. Her goal: to place first in Round Robin.

No stranger to the kitchen, Celeste served as a member of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club's Chili Cook-Off team for the last two years in the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day.

This year, however, she turned from chili to chocoflan. The evaluators loved it! So did the 4-H'ers and their families who sampled it.

Here's the recipe:

Chocoflan Recipe

A bundt pan, deep roasting pan, blender, large bowl and a hand mixer are needed for this recipe.

Ingredients for flan:
A 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
A 7.6-ounce can of Media Crema (light cream)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces of cream cheese
5 eggs

Ingredients for chocolate cake:
2 cups white sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water

Directions:
Put an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Coat a bundt pan with cooking oil spray.

Sift flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla and cocoa mixture and beat with a hand mixer for two minutes. Add the wet mixture in increments of one cup into flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir cocoa powder into hot water until melted and then stir into cake mix and set aside.

In a blender, add in all flan ingredients and blend on high until smooth. Pour cake batter into a bundt pan (make sure surface is level). Pour flan mixture into the cake batter but do not mix (it will sink to the bottom of the bundt pan while in the oven).

Put chocoflan into a large roasting pan and fill the pan with about 2 inches of warm water. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray and set it on top of the bundt pan (but do not fold it over the bundt pan.) Bake for one hour and 45 minutes. Remove cake from oven and let cool before inverting it onto a serving platter. Enjoy.

Solano County 4-H Program
The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program, follows the motto, “Making the Best Better.” 4-H, which stands for head, heart, health and hands, is open to youths ages 5 to 19.  In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in projects ranging from arts and crafts, computers and leadership to dog care, poultry, rabbits and woodworking. They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools. For more information about Solano County 4-H, contact 4-H program representative Valerie Williams at vawilliams@ucanr.edu.

 

Celeste Harrison's chocoflan dessert was a big hit at the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day. She won a showmanship award. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Celeste Harrison served as a member of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club’s Chili Team for two years. Members of the 2018 team that prepared Ruby Redstone Chili were (from left) Darren Stephens, Celeste Harrison, Julietta Wynholds and Hanna Stephens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
From cavies to chocoflan: At the 2018 Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day, Celeste Harrison won a showmanship award for her cavies (guinea pig) project: "Curls Just Want to Have Fun: How to Care for Your Curly Haired Guinea Pig.” Here she explains her project to evaluator Sharon Taylor of Dixon. This year she focused on chocoflan and won another showmanship pin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 2:11 PM

How to support your breastfeeding employees when they are out in the field

New parents returning to work after the birth of a child face a lot of questions and uncertainties, particularly around breastfeeding. Should I continue to breastfeed? Will there be a space for me to pump milk in private? What will my boss and co-workers say? How many times should I pump when I am away from my baby?

Recognizing the importance of breastfeeding to the health of both parent and child, California recently passed AB 1976 to strengthen protections for working parents that want to continue to breastfeed and need to express milk (i.e., pump) at work. Starting on Jan. 1, 2019, employers must make reasonable efforts to provide a private area to pump that is not a bathroom or face fines and penalties. Prior to 2019, some employers would designate a bathroom as their lactation room, a practice that was technically “ok” so long as the toilet was behind a stall or other barrier. Now that practice is expressly prohibited and employers will need to find another space to accommodate lactating employees.

So, what happens when an employer cannot provide a permanent, private area due to operational or financial conditions? Many new parents might find themselves in just this position. Agricultural workers or field researchers may not work in a traditional office or they may find themselves at off-site locations for a large percentage of their work day. At UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, many employees travel across multiple counties delivering community health education lessons at various sites. AB 1976 includes provisions for setting up temporary lactation locations so long as the space is private, only used for that purpose while the employee is expressing milk, and otherwise meets the requirements of state law concerning lactation (again, it cannot be a bathroom).

Do not disturb sign for vehicle door

Lactation locations when out in the field

To be compliant with state law, avoid fines and penalties and support the health of their employees, employers may need to set-up a temporary lactation station for their workers. AB 1976 specifically states that agricultural employers are compliant if they provide a “private, enclosed, and shaded space, including, but not limited to, an air-conditioned cab of a truck or tractor.”

One solution is to assemble a mobile lactation unit that employees can check out or reserve based on their pumping schedule. Mobile lactation stations can take many forms, however, some basics that should be included in a lactation unit are listed and itemized below.

Truck interior with car shades set-up

Privacy screens and supplies

To be compliant, the space needs to be private and free from intrusion. When setting up the mobile station in a vehicle, you will need to have privacy screens that fit all vehicle windows front, back and sides. There are many options on the market ranging in price from $20 on up. When ordering window shades, you will need to know the make and model of the vehicle.

  • Privacy screens for front, back and side windows (4 total, $21 each) = $84
  • Signage and door locks to prevent intrusion or knocking

Food safety supplies

Remember, breast milk is food. Helping your employee keep their expressed breast milk safe for their baby will result in less illness and less time off work. Some basics:

  • Sanitizing surface wipes: These will be used to sanitize the space including the seat, dashboard or other surfaces that may come in contact with the lactation equipment. Large container of surface sanitizing wipes = $5
  • Hand sanitizing wipes: Unless there is always a sink in close proximity, your employee will want to wash their hands before and after pumping. If their hands are very dirty they will need to have a place where they can remove all dirt and debris before using the hand sanitizing wipes. Hand sanitizing wipes = $4
  • Cooler bag, ice pack and thermometer for the employee to store the expressed milk safely. The cooler size and number of ice packs needed will depend on the conditions where the milk will be stored. A small cooler with one ice pack will heat up quickly on a hot day. The thermometer will give the employee peace of mind that the milk stayed below 40 degrees and is safe for the child. Leaving/storing a cooler with expressed milk in the trunk or interior of car will increase the temperature in the cooler more quickly. Instead, find a shaded location when possible. 1 cooler bag (approx. $15) + ice packs (approx. $8) + cooler thermometer (approx. $2) = $25
  • Backpack or bag: To store these items when the lactation space is being used for other purposes (e.g., driving), you will need a backpack or bag. Costs can vary, however, the bag should be large enough to fully contain all of the items and ensure that they are not contaminated by other materials that may be placed around or near the supplies. You will want it to have a zipper and an easy-to-clean material on the outside and inside (e.g., vinyl or plastic-coated fabric). Cost is variable $5 to $150 depending on your style and budget needs.
  • Closed trash receptacle for all used cleaning wipes. Approx. $5

Additional item

Sample adapter available for cars/trucks
Adapter for vehicle: Assuming employees have their own pump and equipment, a nice touch is to include an adapter in the kit. An inverter that adapts a car plug to a regular outlet will ensure that the kit is compatible for many different brands of electric pumps.  (Approx. $20-$30)

Support for breastfeeding employees is not only a company perk, it's the law. Under certain circumstances, employers can set-up these mobile lactation stations for their field-based employees for under $150. What better way to promote employee health, avoid fines and penalties and support local families?

Posted on Monday, February 4, 2019 at 1:50 PM

Healthy food and food insecurity

Farmers grow lettuce, spinach, broccoli and other vegetables in California's Imperial Valley, Central Valley, Salinas Valley and far northern counties. However, these nutritious foods are not readily available to local low income communities.

“Children often don't have access to healthy food options,” said Christopher Gomez Wong, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educator in Imperial County. “I'm from the Imperial Valley and often the fruits and vegetables grown here are not sold in local markets.”

According to the non-profit organization Feeding America, almost 2.5 million young people in the United States do not have access to nutritious food.

Despite the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables grown in California, some residents don't have access to nutritious food. (Photo: USDA)

“In California, one of every six children lives in a home where it's difficult to get the amount of nutritious food needed for their families,” said Lorrene Ritchie, director of the UC Nutrition Policy Institute. “We call this ‘food insecurity.'”

A study by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) found that food insecurity increases school absences and behavioral problems, and reduces children's concentration and academic achievement.

Ritchie, who leads a group of experts fighting obesity and food insecurity, said when family income is not sufficient, there is a tendency to buy cheaper foods, generally, junk food.

“If I'm hungry and I don't have much money, I'm going to a fast food restaurant where I can get more calories at a lower price,” Ritchie said. “Fast foods have more calories and cost less, but they typically also contain more sugar, salt and fat.”

For example, research presented at the UC ANR Statewide Conference on food insecurity included a graphic showing that for one dollar, consumers can purchase a bag of potato chips with 1,200 calories or a soda with 875 calories. In contrast, one dollar can buy just 250 calories of fresh vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit.

In everyday life, there are many examples of nutritious foods being displaced by junk foods

“We are studying children's eating habits,” Gomez Wong said. “Children aren't eating in the cafeteria and are eating lots of sweets. Five dollars more often buys them chips and a soda than a salad.”

Eating lunch at school helps students make better food choices. (Photo: USDA)

UC ANR works to combat food insecurity in many ways. It implements various ongoing community programs, conducts research and promotes government nutrition programs.

Urban gardens and orchards have a positive impact in low income communities, particularly where families do not have space for their own gardens and are interested in growing their own food. One example is the Community Settlement Association in Riverside. Other cities with similar programs are Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

UC Master Food Preserver Program teaches the public how to preserve food by canning, freezing and drying in order to take advantage lower prices for fruit and vegetables purchased in season.

Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) offers free nutrition workshops in most California counties where people can learn how to purchase nutritious foods for less money and how to prepare them.

In addition, there are successful government programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, that provides nutritious foods free or at a reduced cost for children in public schools. The food is aligned with the national food guidelines that promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat milk.

“Every study we have done shows that school food contributes in an important way to children's nutrition,” Ritchie said. “For example, many children can meet half of their daily nutrition needs from school foods available absolutely free. I encourage all families to review school food programs to assure that their children arrive at school in time for the school breakfast and take advantage of the school lunch.”

MyPlate
In the fight against food insecurity, UC ANR has made important contributions, however, the challenges are enormous given that society continues to promote junk food of low nutritional quality.

“What we are trying to figure out is how to create an environment in which healthy options are the easiest options,” Ritchie said.

She said it would be ideal if supermarkets were designed under in concert with the healthy eating guidelines set forth in MyPlate. That is to say, to have stores where half the space is devoted to fruit and vegetables, a third is grains and whole grains, and another third are proteins, dairy foods and water (although water is not currently on MyPlate.)   

Link to the Spanish version of this story.

Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 8:03 AM

For family fun and treats - a winter farm visit

California farmers all over the state invite you to visit, shake off the city, learn a little and enjoy your holiday shopping the old-fashioned way; direct from the growers of winter fruits and creators of small-batch treats to fill your gift baskets. Here is a sample of some day-trips the whole family can enjoy:

Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days - Placer County - December 15 & 16, 2018

Follow the mandarin trail and join the Mountain Mandarin Growers' Association (MMGA) members at their groves on the third weekend in December for Orchard Days. They have loads of family fun in store.

Visit the Mandarin Growers Map page to find the groves closest to you and for a list of Orchard Days activities at each ranch. The fun includes artists, crafters, and mandarin product sampling including oils, sauces, honey, juice, cakes, fudge and spreads. You can also visit with Santa, visit farm animals, get your face painted and pick your own mandarins. Learn more

Holiday Santa Tour and Sanrio Village - Tanaka Farms, Orange County - December 15 & 16, 2018

Take a wagon ride around the 30 acre farm and sample the delicious winter vegetables growing along the way. (Yes, Tanaka is a real working farm!) Your friendly tour guide will tell you all about the farm and history as you enjoy the scenery. Make a special stop on the tour in Tanaka Land on the top of the hill where you might get caught up in a snow flurry!

You will also have the opportunity to take photos with Santa and other farm-themed holiday sets while enjoying the gorgeous view. The wagon will then transport you back down to the festival grounds where you can continue the winer fun and photo opportunities. After the tour, take a "Walk through the Seasons" in a meandering corn maze filled with Hello Kitty & Friends decor celebrating each of our harvest seasons, all leading to the Sanrio Holiday Village, specially decorated for the holidays. Learn more

Holidays Along the Farm Trails - Sonoma County - various activities until January 1, 2019

'Tis the season to celebrate with the community. Join Sonoma County farmers and producers as they open their gates and barn doors to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at life on the farm. Shop their unique farm stand for your holiday meals, cut your own Christmas tree, make a gift at DIY workshops, greet farm animals, and so much more.

Along the trail, you can tour a creamery, taste wine and cider, and watch a jam-making demo. Visitors must register (for free) to receive the list of participating destinations and offerings in the interactive online map. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Music at the Mill - Seka Hills Olive Mill & Tasting Room - Capay Valley, Yolo County - December 15, 2018

Join us for an afternoon of live music featuring local artist, Tom Norris! Saturday, December 15 from 1 to 3 p.m. Guests will also enjoy a special offer of 35 percent off the mixed case sale.

The Séka Hills Olive Mill & Tasting Room showcases the agricultural bounty of the region and is a destination for artisan goods and delicious locally sourced fare. Visitors are treated to scenic views of the surrounding orchard and rolling blue hills that inspired the name Séka Hills.

The Tasting Room is located inside the 14,000 square foot olive mill facility, offering an insider's view of how the Tribe's olives are grown, milled and finished into world-class, award-winning Séka Hills extra virgin olive oils. Guided tours and tastings offer visitors a chance to experience the growing line of fine agricultural products from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation that now includes olive oils, wines, honey, beef jerky and seasoned nuts. Learn more.

Suisun Valley Anniversary Celebration 2018 - Solano County - December 26, 2018

Did you know that, in order to designate a wine as "Suisun Valley", 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must have been grown within the Suisun Valley AVA? When you tour Suisun Valley during this Aniversary Celebration you are helping to support the vintners and growers that are behind a very special area. The Anniversary Celebration "Tasting Pass" is a one day pass to taste the wines and other offerings around the Suisun Valley AVA at participating locations. By buyint a ticket to the Anniversary Celebration, attendees will be able to waive the normal tasting fees at the eleven participating locations and enjoy a fun day with friends and family.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
Click Here to Purchase

Explore the Cheese Trail of California

California Cheese Trail - which includes CheeseTrail.org, the California Cheese Trail map and the California Cheese Trail app - promotes artisan cheesemakers and family farmers. It's the only project/website that connects people to the cheesemakers, their tours, cheesemaking classes and cheese events throughout California.

Check the map to design your own tour or pick one of various regions, find a tasting, class or cheese event near you, find cheesemaking supplies, private classes, online cheese sales, and the latest blog!

Find the Cheesemakers here.

Find many more opportunities to visit California farms, ranches and vineyards on the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar of Events: www.calagtour.org.

Happy Holidays!

 

Posted on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 12:53 PM

Lemon water tasting at UC research center kicks off an 18-month citrus sensory study

What flavors do you detect in a sip of lemon water? Are there notes of sweetness, sour, off flavors or fresh citrus taste? Scientists at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center and the USDA want to know every subtle taste sensation for a research project continuing over the next 18 months.

Participants will taste the major types of citrus to confirm that treatments used to eliminate pests in overseas shipments don't have an impact on fruit enjoyment. Lemon tasting will be followed by mandarins, navel and Valencia oranges, and grapefruit.

USDA plant physiologist David Oberland, left, and UC Cooperative Extension subtropical specialist Mary Lu Arpaia prepare lemons for tasting in the sensory laboratory.

“This work is critical for the citrus industry,” said Mary Lu Arpaia, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in subtropical fruit. “A huge amount of California citrus is exported, but if there are quarantined pests in the shipment, that triggers treatments with a fumigant.”

In the past, importers treated citrus with methyl bromide. However, the pesticide has been phased out because it depletes the ozone layer. An alternative fumigant, phosphine, kills the insects, but scientists don't yet know what impact the chemical will have on the fruit.

“We're hoping there's no taste difference,” Arpaia said. “But we don't know. That's why we're doing the testing.”

USDA technician Paul Neipp presents a tray for lemon water tasting in one of the sensory lab booths.

USDA plant physiologist David Obenland, based at the USDA office across the street from Kearney in Parlier, is working with Arpaia to conduct the study at Kearney's sensory laboratory. The 1,100-square-foot laboratory features neutral white paint and broad-spectrum lighting; the ventilation system minimizes distracting odors. Six tasting booths each have small windows that open to the kitchen area, where samples are prepared.

“Previous research has resolved residue issues and determined phosphine is effective in killing the pests,” Obenland said. “But they didn't fully determine whether the process would hurt the fruit.”

The current project compares fruit treated with methyl bromide, phosphine and a cold temperature protocol in which the fruit is held just above freezing for three weeks. In addition to tasting the fruit, volunteers evaluate the fruit's appearance.

The visual component of the testing session allows scientists to determine whether subtle impacts of treatment will deter buyers from selecting the fruit.

“People buy with their eyes,” Arpaia said. “We're asking our participants to compare the fruit visually to see if they detect any differences.”

The research is funded by the California Citrus Quality Council through a grant from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Posted on Friday, December 7, 2018 at 8:06 AM

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