Green Beans–Behind the Scenes

As I was driving home, I noticed a field of what looked like soybeans, being harvested. I was quite confused at the sight (and the leaves all over the road) because soybeans aren’t harvested when they are green. Dad noticed the field too and stopped to investigate. He determined that they were green beans!

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When I learned this, I grabbed my camera and asked Mom to drive. My plan was to just take pictures out the window, but there were workers standing right by the road. I quickly put the camera away to avoid being super awkward. Mom suggested that I should just go up to them and ask to take pictures. First of all, I was in purple stretchy shorts. Second, I had chicken shoes on (yard shoes with chickens on them and maybe even chicken poop). Unfortunately, Mom, in all her motherly wisdom, decided that I should go home to change. Now, I had absolutely no excuse.

I changed my shorts, but left the shoes (I was feeling bold). I asked Alec to go with me this time. I’m not sure that was the greatest idea because he was absolutely no nonsense about it all. All of a sudden, we were parked on the side of the road, and he was out of the truck telling me to come on. He walked up to the men, and said, “hey, my sister likes to take pictures, do you mind?” That was not the eloquent introduction I was going for, but it was something. I introduced myself and started shooting.

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After talking to the guys there, I learned that they were from Pennsylvania and were with Hanover Foods. They had been working their way up from Florida picking beans on contract. This allowed for a longer growing season.

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The current field they were working on was 147 acres, and they would harvest 41 million pounds of beans.

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The neat part was we have bought Hanover green beans before from the store. Now, I know that someone had to grow those beans that I got from a can, but actually putting a face to the name and seeing the process was pretty special. I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look too. Special thanks to the guys for letting me take pictures and answering questions.

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Family, Black-eyed peas, Collard Greens & 2016: Slow-cooked NC Eastern Style BBQ Recipe

Pork was the theme for our New Year’s Eve and Day. New Year’s Day was your typical southern fare with black-eyed peas cooked with ham hock, collard greens, bacon, and ham. If you didn’t eat collard greens and black-eyed peas, then, I’m sorry but wealth will not be in your 2016. It is tradition, you see, to eat greens and peas for good fortune.

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There isn’t really a tradition for New Year’s Eve in terms of food for our family. I made the command decision to cook a pork shoulder for BBQ (Eastern style of course), green beans, and loaded mashed potatoes. It was all good, but the pork was the star of the show. Clearly, it had to be, what with it being the last meal of 2015. It will not be left in 2015, though. It will surely make an appearance in 2016 at our house. I definitely recommend trying it at your house too!

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Ingredients: Pork Rub

  • 9 lb Boston Butt Pork Shoulder (this can vary based on the crowd you are feeding. 9lb fed our family of 6, and we had leftovers)
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Brown Sugar
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Liquid Smoke

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Ingredients: Sauce

  • 1.5 cups of white vinegar
  • 1.5 cups of cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of apple juice
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons of hot sauce

Instructions:

  1. Rinse your shoulder and pat it dry with paper towels. Set it on a piece of tin foil. Do not take any fat off or the bone out.
  2. Coat all sides of the shoulder with mustard. After all sides are coated, liberally sprinkle other seasonings on all sides of the meat. Squirt liquid smoke on once all seasonings are on.DSC_0665.jpg
  3. Dump all sauce ingredients into a crock pot on low heat.
  4. Place the meat (fat side up) and tin foil on a baking sheet and put it in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook for about 2-3 hours or until the middle of the meat registers 95-100 degrees. The oven will create a nice bark on the meat.
  5. Take the meat out of the oven and place it in the crock pot full of sauce. Cook on low until the meat registers 140 degrees Fahrenheit (around 2 hours).DSC_0673.jpg
  6.  Once the temperature has been reached, take the meat and place it on a pan to shred. If there is any fat left on it, carve it away. Take two forks and shred the meat. It should fall right apart.DSC_0684DSC_0692.jpgDSC_0698.jpg
  7. Put the shredded meat back in the crock pot full of sauce for 10-15 minutes. Serve on sandwiches or by itself.DSC_0701.jpg

*Note: If you like things spicier, add more hot sauce and crushed red pepper flakes to the meat and sauce at the end. I also made a separate batch of sauce to put in a bottle and squirt on top of the BBQ. The only difference in it and what was put in the crock pot, is I didn’t include apple juice and simmered it in a pot. 

This makes a great family meal, and provides loads of leftovers for our family of 6. We have even frozen the meat for pre-made meals. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! [p

Is Turkey Trending?

Turkey. It is a hot topic right now. You could even say its trending. People are trying to decide how big of a one to cook, how they should cook it, or should they even cook one at all. The President will pardon one lucky bird from doing his duty of becoming a meal. As of right now, the word turkey is trending with 620 thousand tweets, but the thing is, turkey was trending long before Twitter was even thought of.

History

In the beginning, the turkey was regarded as a god by the Aztecs and had two celebrations for the mighty turkey. It has fallen a little bit in esteem in today’s time. The Spanish were the first non-natives to discover turkeys.  They described them as a sort of peacock with great hanging chins. It would take years for the name turkey to stick to the bird. Because of Columbus and his mistake in geography, the birds were called anything from the rooster of India, the Peru bird, Lebanese bird, and the Ethiopian bird. The word turkey probably came from the Turkish merchants who knew of them or from the Indians that called them tukka, tukka because of the way they sounded.

The Aztecs weren’t the only ones to hold the turkey in high esteem. Benjamin Franklin,  thought the bird was of good moral, calling it a Bird of Courage. You may have heard that Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird; however, there is some dispute about that fact. In a letter to his daughter, he says that the eagle on the seal looks like a turkey. He went on to say that this was better as the eagle was not of good moral compared to the courageous turkey. Even if the turkey did not rise to be an emblem of America, it has certainly become iconic on at least one day of the year–Thanksgiving.

The Modern Turkey

turkeyToday’s domesticated turkey is much different than the ones that the Indians and explorers saw. Wild turkeys are brown and can fly, but domesticated turkeys (the ones in your supermarket) are white and cannot fly. The domesticated turkey is about twice the size of a wild turkey, explaining its flightless state. Domesticated turkeys have been bred to have white plumage so it does not discolor the meat. Wild turkeys need their brown plumage to blend in to their surroundings; they are also a lot quieter than their domestic cousins. That is probably a good thing so they don’t get eaten by predators. There are other heritage breeds of turkeys that come in gray, black and white, and red too.

Source:http://www.wideopenspaces.com/turkey-slam-pics/

Turkey Production Facts

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  • Turkey production has increased 110% since 1970
  • In 2014, there were 237.5 million turkeys grown by farmers
  • North Carolina is the 2nd largest producer of turkeys behind Minnesota
  • The average person ate 15.8 pounds of turkey in 2014
  • Consumers turkey consumption has doubled in the last 30 years
  • 20,000-25,000 people are employed in America to help grow turkeys.

Turkey Trends

Cage Free: If you see this on a label, know that all turkeys are raised cage free. Domesticated turkeys are grown in large barns with free choice of water, plenty of feed, and shelter from the elements.

Hormone Free: Under federal law, it is illegal for any poultry to receive hormones. If you see this label, read the fine print. It will tell you that it is against the law. Don’t pay extra for a label.

Avian Influenza: This has been a major issue across America this year, claiming more than 40 million turkeys and chickens. While devastating for farmers and birds, it poses little threat to humans. No cases have been reported in American humans. It may pose a slight threat to your wallet, though. Turkey prices are around 15-20 cents higher than last year.

Thanksgiving Turkey

  • 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving
  • 46 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving
  • The average turkey bought for Thanksgiving weighs 16 pounds
  • 70% of the turkey is white meat and 30% is dark

The turkey has certainly proven itself as a bird worthy of esteem. It was trending hundreds of years ago, and it is still trending today. So, gobble up that gobbler and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sources:

National Turkey Federation

North Carolina Poultry Federation

Colonial Williamsburg

University of Illinois

The Smithsonian

PBS

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

USDA

The Poultry Site

Meet the New Faces of Food Network–The Brothers

Our family is heavily involved in 4-H, and one of the things that we participate in every year is presentations. It has taught all of us kids to learn public speaking skills and confidence–something that I have been extremely thankful for over the years. This year, was the boys’ first time doing a presentation. Following in their older brother’s footsteps, they chose to do the outdoor cookery category. In this section, they have to actually cook a piece of meat for judges on charcoal grills. Do you know how cute a 9 and 10 year old are grilling? Let’s just say they could be the stars of Food Network.

It isn’t just about grilling some scrumptious food, though. The kids have to field the judges’ questions about what temperature to cook the meat to, why they wear gloves (side note: Mom was quizzing Gid on why he should wear gloves, and was trying to get him to remember the word salmonella by thinking of fish. He had the worst time picking the right fish. If you hear him say the flounder disease, you know what he’s talking about), grill safety, and even nutritional facts about their meat. When they age up to senior level, they have to give an additional presentation discussing the industry and more for a chance to go to nationals. Impressed yet?

The boys had already grilled at the county level, and were now competing at the district level. Gideon is still a Cloverbud, so he was non-competitive. Isaac was a junior and ended up winning gold, so he will be headed  to state next month. They were both cooking turkey tenderloin. Now, I used to be a only turkey at Thanksgiving kind of girl, but when we started grilling turkey tenderloins for these presentations, I reevaluated life. It is so very good, especially if you follow their recipes (see below). I know I may be partial, but I think my brothers are just too cute and ever so talented.

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Waiting for the coals
Waiting for the coals

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Clearly, it was superb
Clearly, it was superb

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Isaac and Gideon have very opposite personalities. Isaac is more quiet and Gideon is sassy, so it is only fitting that their recipes parallel with their personalities. They have been kind enough to share their special recipes with you guys so you too may enjoy turkey this summer. Here is Gideon’s. It is has more of a kick.

turkey on targetIssac’s is more subdued and sweet.

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Not only is it delicious, but turkey is also nutritious.

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And don’t forget, turkey needs to be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and to wash your hands after handling raw meat lest you get “flounder diseases.”

I hope you enjoy the recipes and be sure to look out for Food Network’s new faces–The Brothers–coming soon. 😉

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The Story of the Egg

There was a time when an egg was nothing spectacular to me. It was just a thing that you couldn’t toss around like a football. It wasn’t supposed to sit on a wall lest it have a great fall. It came from a chicken, magically it seemed. Just a squawk and suddenly we have an egg whilst the chicken beamed. This brings me to the age old conundrum of what came first the egg or the chicken? Regardless, both are here now, and an egg can grow up to be anything it wants, especially chow. It won’t ever hatch into a chicken unless there is a rooster in the pen. Otherwise it can be scrambled,poached , boiled, or fried. It can be devillish and at Easter, dyed. This doesn’t even touch the amount of cakes and goodies they make happen. Eggs are King Bacon’s queen in the Kingdom of Breakfast. Eggs, my friends, are pretty amazing, if you ask me, but how do they come to be?

An egg is all a part of a chicken’s reproductive cycle. A female chicken is born with as many follicles or ova as she will ever have in her life. The ova will turn into the yolks of an egg as the hen matures. As you can see in the picture below, there are larger and smaller ova. The larger ones, are the ova that are the most ready to turn into an egg.

 

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So the egg starts its journey in the ovaries of a chicken, but it still has a ways to go. Here you can see the rest of the reproductive track of the chicken:

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In each of these sections, different parts of the egg develop. It isn’t just the shell, whites, and yolk.

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It typically takes 25 hours for an egg to develop  and be laid. Light and feed do affect the amount of eggs laid by a hen. The genetics and breed of a hen determine the color of the egg shell. It has something to do with the amount of proteins put in the shell. Chickens naturally lay shades of white, brown, and green/blue eggs.

I wish somebody made 3X3 egg cartons!
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Most times the ears of a chicken can tell you what color eggs they will lay. Red ears are indicators of brown eggs and white ears mean white eggs. Pretty handy, huh?

This chicken has a red ear, so she lays brown eggs.
This chicken has a red ear, so she lays brown eggs.

Their genetics and breed also affect the size of the eggs. It is also interesting to note that when a hen first starts laying eggs, weird things can happen. Sometimes, they are extra tiny eggs or the shell may not develop fully. After a few weeks they get into the swing of things, though.

Is there a chick in there?

Any egg you buy from the store will not be fertilized. Those hens are not exposed to roosters at all. Local farms may have a rooster with their hens, but a chick will not develop unless they have been left out in certain temperature. If you have ever seen something in the yolk that you thought was an embryo, you are probably seeing a meat spot or blood spot.

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It is just a malfunction on the hen’s part. Most likely a blood vessel burst, and the egg was involved. It is completely fine to eat, it just might not be as pretty when you crack the egg open.

Egg Bloopers:

A hen is not perfect and neither are her eggs. You may be used to eggs looking the exact same if you buy them from the store, but they look the same, because they have been candled (a light shone through them to detect imperfections like meat spots). They go through a rigorous grading procedure. These imperfections do not make the egg bad to eat, it just makes them not uniform. Store eggs are uniform, because that is what the standard is. An egg may be rejected to go to a store, because it is too big, has bumps on it, has a meat spot, or is not the right shape. If an egg is too long or too big, it won’t fit in the cartons correctly and will be more likely to break. So, shape matters, and odd shapes will not go to the store. Sometimes eggs get little bumps on them. These are calcium deposits. Again, it doesn’t affect the quality of the egg, just the uniformity. Double yolk eggs are also rare in a store, because eggs are candled, and these are considered abnormal. Double yolks happen when two ova drop down and get enveloped by the shell simultaneously. A final blooper that can occur in egg development is a ridge. Eggs can break inside the hen. When this happens, the chicken repairs the egg before it is laid. This causes a ridge in the shell. Bloopers happen. You just probably won’t see them in a store.

And that my friends, is the story of the egg. They are as unique as you and I, and are quite the spectacle. I hope you will share the story of the egg with all as you color Easter eggs this weekend!

And you and eggs lived happily ever after.

The End


 

Picture Credits:

1,2,3, 4, 5

National Cherry Pie Day: Graduate School Style

Every time I think of cherry pie, I think of the song Cherry Pie by Eden’s Edge, probably because I listened to it quite a lot when I first discovered it. That is beside the point, though. Today is National Cherry Pie Day! Such a classic deserves a nationally recognized day, am I right?

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Since it is National Cherry Pie Day, I fully recommend that you eat a slice of cherry pie. It only seems right. Unless you are someone who just happens to have cherry pies lying around your counter, you might want to make one, but if you are like me, time often kills best of intentions or dreams. As a graduate student, I feel like everything is down to the wire in terms of getting stuff done. That means, doing things that are simple, is often best–including pie baking. Now, going out and buying a frozen cherry pie, is probably the simplest version, but I wanted to be a little more personal in my pie baking. Partly because it was for a belated Valentine’s gift for the boyfriend, and partly, because I feel like National Cherry Pie Day deserved a little handmade attention. So, my dear reader, here is how to make a cherry pie the graduate school way (and with a little Valentine’s/love influence):

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (21 oz) of cherry pie filling
  • 1 can (15oz) of pitted cherries in heavy syrup (you can also use fresh or frozen pitted cherries)
  • 1 deep dish frozen pie crust
  • Pre-made pie crusts
  • Sugar for sprinkling on top

cherry filling

 

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Directions:

Drain the can of pitted cherries in heavy syrup (I just used a slotted spoon to fish them out).

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Mix them with the can of cherry pie filling and dump it all into the deep dish pie crust.

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Roll out your pre-made pie crust on a floured counter. Take a heart shaped cookie cutter (honestly, you could use any shape you want) and cut a bunch of hearts from the crust.

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Place them on top of the filling, fanning them out, until it is all covered.

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Take a pastry brush, and brush milk on top of the crust gently. Be sure to cover your edges with tin foil and pop in the oven at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Mid-way through baking, I removed the tin foil and sprinkled sugar on top of the pie. Once the pie is done, cool on a rack, and enjoy with ice cream.

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