Tulelake Farm Advisor
University of California
Tulelake Farm Advisor

UC Food Blog

No chill in these chili dishes

When Solano County 4-H’ers compete in their annual Chili Cookoff, part of the countywide Project Skills Day, the competition is as fierce as some of the hot peppers. This year’s cookoff was no different.

When it was all over but the tasting, the “Beanless Babes Do Beans,” a duo from the Maine Prairie 4-H Club, Dixon,  won the championship, followed by “The Golden Spice Girls,” a trio from the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon.

Both teams provided unusual recipes: the Beanless Babes opted for elk burger instead of the traditional beef and named their chili, “Hunter’s Chili.” The Golden Spice Girls used beer, chocolate, coffee and sugar in their chili, naming it “Bad Character Chili.” The Tremont 4-H’ers derived the name from a great-grandmother who used to refer to folks who indulged too much as “bad characters.”

Judges proclaimed both dishes as delicious, but especially the Beanless Babes' dish made by Lauren Kett and Rebecca Ivanusich.

“It was really good,” said judge Jim Baumann, owner of The Point Restaurant, Rio Vista. Fellow judges Trish San Nicolas of the Golden Hills 4-H Club, Vacaville, and Jose Topete of the U.S. Coast Guard, based in Rio Vista, agreed. They said they were impressed with the taste, creativity and presentation.

The recipe was based on a recipe published by the North American Hunting Club. “This was the first time we made it,” said Rebecca. Lauren's father provided the elk burger.

The second-place chili, made by Kaylee Lindgren, Savannah Woodruff and Hannah Crawford-Steward, also drew praise from the judges. "Wonderful!" said San Nicolas.

Eight teams from 4-H clubs throughout the county competed in the Solano County 4-H Chili Cookoff, held earlier this year in Riverview School, Rio Vista.

Also participating were six other teams: the Three Amigos from the Rio Vista 4-H Club; Red Hot Chili Peppers from Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo; Suisun Valley Cowboys from the Suisun Valley 4-H Club, Fairfield-Suisun; 4-H Iron Chefs from Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon;  and the Chili Chicks and Firecrackers, two teams from the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville.

Here are the winning recipes. Add more hot peppers for "more kick"; adjust to preferred taste.

Hunter’s Chili
By Beanless Babes Do Beans
Lauren Kett and Rebecca Ivanusich
Maine Prairie 4-H Club, Dixon

1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds elk burger (traditional hamburger can be substituted if there's no hunter in the family)
1 large onion
2 hot peppers
1 bell pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup water
1 beef bouillon cube
2 cans kidney beans
1/2 teaspoon garlic
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 bay leaf

Brown meat. Chop onion and peppers and fry in butter until limp. Add all ingredients. Simmer for at least two hours. Serves several hungry persons.

Bad Character Chili
By Southern Spice Girls
Hannah Crawford-Stewart, Kaylee Lindgren and Savannah Woodruff, Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon

3 cups onions, diced
1 pound lean ground beef
1 can (14-ounces) dark beer
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 teaspoons chipotle spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can drained, diced tomatoes
1-1/2 cups coffee, made from caramel-flavored beans
1-1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 pound beef sirloin, cubed
4 ounces of espresso
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
1 packet beefy onion soup mix
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 28-ounce cans drained kidney beans
1 7-ounce can mild green chilies, diced

In a large pot, cook onions, garlic and meat until brown. Add beer and stir over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add espresso, brown sugar and tomato paste. Stir in cocoa, soup mix and spices. Stir in one can of kidney beans, tomatoes and green chilies. Reduce heat and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, stir occasionally. Add flavored coffee and one can of kidney beans. Reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hour, stir occasionally. Optional toppings: fried onions and sour cream. Serves 6 to 8.

The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program is headquartered at 501 Texas St., Fairfield.

They won with hunter's chili
They won with hunter's chili

Lauren Kett (left) and Rebecca Ivanusich of the Maine Prairie 4-H Club, Dixon, dressed as hunters and served "Hunter's Chili" to win the annual Solano County 4-H Chili Cookoff. Their chili featured elk burger. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Runner-Up Team
Runner-Up Team

The Southern Spice Girls (from left, Kaylee Lindgren, Savannah Woodruff and Hannah Crawford-Stewart) of the Tremont-4-H Club, Dixon, won runner-up honors in the Solano County 4-H Chili Cookoff with their recipe, "Bad Character Chili." Ingredients included beer, chocolate, coffee and sugar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, February 19, 2010 at 1:15 PM
Tags: 4-H (11), chili (3), cookoff (1), Solano County (1)

The science behind salad safety

Nutritionists recommend eating a cup of leafy green vegetables every day, but recent reports about the safety of fresh greens may have some wondering whether it could do more harm than good. Consumers Union, the publishers of Consumer Reports magazine, analyzed store-bought prewashed and packaged leafy greens and published the results in the March 2010 issue.

Currently, the FDA has no set guidelines for the presence of bacteria in leafy greens. Consumers Report said several industry consultants suggest that an unacceptable level would be 10,000 or more colony forming units per gram. The Consumers Report study found that 39 percent of their 208  samples purchased last summer in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York exceeded this level for total coliform, and 23 percent for Enterococcus.

"Although these 'indicator' bacteria generally do not make healthy people sick, the tests show not enough is being done to assure the safety or cleanliness of leafy greens," said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist Trevor Suslow wrote a lengthy and detailed reaction to the study for Farm Safety News. He said it is unfair to consumers to raise a specter of fear well beyond what is supported by available science and our everyday shared experiences.

"What I rely on for my personal confidence in regularly consuming lettuces, spring mix, and spinach salads is that there are billions and billions of servings of these items consumed every year in the U.S. alone and the predominant experience we have is of safe consumption," Suslow wrote.

Suslow offered these common sense guidelines for purchasing and eating leafy greens:
  • Check the display temperature by hand to confirm the display is cool and the bags are very cool to the touch.
  • Look at and heed the "Best if Consumed By" date.
  • Take notice of the display case arrangement. Bags should be vertical in a row, not laid one on top of one another in stacks. Clamshell containers can displayed in various stacking or slanted row patterns that allow generous space for airflow.
  • Prewashed greens do not need to be rewashed at home. In fact, studies have found that home washing doesn't provide any benefit and could make the vegetables susceptible to cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Packaged leafy greens.
Packaged leafy greens.

Posted on Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 2:15 PM
Tags: food safety (41), leafy greens (3)

Nutritious beans stretch food budget

Families today are starved for time, starved for money and starved for well-balanced meals, and USDA projections hold another piece of bad news: food prices are likely to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent this year.

The good news is there is one powerful five-letter word that will save you money on your food budget, allow you to eat healthier and cook less: beans.

Beans and legumes are a powerhouse of nutrition, heart healthy and very economical. There are endless varieties of beans and legumes and just as many ways to cook them. They can be served as a main dish, a salad and as a dessert. (See below recipes.)

Besides being a great source of protein, beans are naturally low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals.

Most beans contain only 2 percent to 3 percent fat and no cholesterol. They even help lower your cholesterol because they are so rich in fiber. Most beans contain 20 percent protein and are high in complex carbohydrates. In addition, they are rich in B vitamins and iron.

To save money at the grocery store, try eating beans and legumes once or twice a week. Cook your own beans instead of using canned and save even more. If you cook up a big batch, freeze some for use in future recipes. Delicious bean recipes can contain as little as four ingredients.

3 can chili

  • 1 14 1/2 oz can of whole kernel corn
  • 1 14 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes (can use Mexican-style tomatoes with chilies added)
  • 1 14 1/2 oz can of beans or 2 cups of cooked beans (pinto, kidney or your choice)
  • Chili powder to taste

Add all ingredients and heat and serve. For added flavor you can add chopped onions and peppers.

Eggs Mexicali

  • 6-8 eggs
  • 2 cups of salsa, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 15 oz. can of beans (pinto, kidney, black, etc.) or 2 cups of cooked beans
  • 1/4 cup of shredded cheese

Heat salsa and beans in a pan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Crack an egg in a bowl and add one at a time. Cover and cook until eggs are firm -- about 6 minutes.

Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Cover until the cheese melts. Serve with rice and tortillas.

Lentils cooked with smoked turkey leg

  • 1 pound of lentils rinsed and sorted
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 cups each chopped celery and onions
  • 2 cups of sliced or chopped carrots
  • 1 large smoked turkey leg

Add to a pot, cover with water and cook until lentils are done. Remove the cooked turkey leg from the pot and remove the meat. Chop the meat in bite size pieces and add back to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. This recipe can be cooked in a crock pot.

Bean fudge
  • 2/3 cup canned milk
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups strained pinto beans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup nuts
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
Combine sugar and milk in kettle then boil 5 minutes stirring constantly. Add remaining ingredients and stir until marshmallows melt then pour into buttered pan. Cool and cut into squares.


By Margaret Johns
Nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor, Kern County

Beans are an inexpensive form of protein.
Beans are an inexpensive form of protein.

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 9:23 AM
Tags: beans (3), legumes (1), nutrition (123)

California farmers produce superior olive oil

California olive oil may cost a little more than the mass-produced imports commonly found at the supermarket, but UC farm advisor Paul Vossen said it is well worth the money.

“Good olive oil imparts delicious, subtle flavors to foods, its antioxidants can neutralize free radicals in the body and it is ‘greener’ than other vegetable oils because it requires no heat or chemical extraction," says Vossen, who has traveled the world to study olive oil production.

Most of the imported oils found at the store, he says, have been sitting too long, are rancid or fermented. Even the assertion on a bottle of olive oil that it is “extra virgin” means very little. There is no U.S. law that enforces an “extra virgin” standard. Almost all California olive oil, however, is fresher and better-tasting and the number of farmers producing the local oil is increasing.

A recent UC Davis survey determined that 12,127 acres of super-high-density olive trees were planted in California as of the end of 2008, with 78 percent of the acreage planted between 2005 and 2008.

"The super-high-density olive sector has achieved impressive growth in just a decade," said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center. "This survey, the first conducted exclusively of this sector of the state's olive industry, highlights grower practices and suggests areas in which the University of California might be able to provide assistance."

In addition, consumer education is important to raise awareness about the superiority of California olive oil. Vossen believes the key to boosting sales of the local product is to get people to taste it. “They need to know how fantastic it really is,” he said.

In the video below, Vossen conducts an olive oil tasting session:

More about California olive oil is available in the article California olive oil is worth the splurge. Vossen's Web site contains extensive information about olive oil courses, PowerPoint presentations and publications.

Posted on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 10:28 AM
Tags: locovore (1), olive oil (10), olives (4), Paul Vossen (4)

California kids need more fruit and veggies

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control in September 2009 confirms what most moms already know - high school students don't eat anywhere close to enough fruit and vegetables. According to the report, only a third get two servings of fruit a day, and only 13 percent say they get three servings of vegetables.

Adults don't have much higher marks. The CDC said only 33 percent of adults get two servings of fruit, and 27 percent three servings of vegetables.

Compare that to the recommendation in the federal dietary guidelines presented on the My Pyramid Web site. The guidelines say, for ideal health, Americans should be eating 9 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Many UC Cooperative Extension offices offer the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program, which teach low-income families ways they can add fruit and vegetable servings to their diets.

Here's a popular recipe shared by the UC program which takes only 15 minutes of prep and 20 minutes to cook. It makes use of a variety of winter vegetables available fresh in supermarkets this time of year.

Italian Winter Vegetables

2 cups water
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
2 small zucchini, sliced
1 small onion, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 pound package any shape pasta, cooked
1. Put 1 cup of hot water in a saucepan.
2. Add vegetables and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add tomato sauce, remaining cup of water, basil and salt.
4. Simmer until heated thoroughly.
5. Serve with cooked pasta.
6. Refrigerate leftovers.

Supermarket produce.
Supermarket produce.

Posted on Friday, December 4, 2009 at 11:39 AM
Tags: food stamp (1), fruit (29), nutrition (123), vegetables (39)

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