Meal Ideas for Ground Turkey

Ground Turkey is a great change of pace for meal-time in your home. Turkey is also a very lean and healthy meat. There are many tasty recipes that include (or can be substituted to include) ground turkey for a delicious meal. 

Simple Turkey Burgers

This recipe makes 8 large burgers. Homemade burgers are always a family favorite, and can be combined with almost any of your family’s favorite side dishes for a great dinner. Good additions to this recipe are diced onions, red peppers, garlic, or chili peppers for a spicier version.

You’ll Need:
3 pounds ground turkey
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 egg whites, beaten 20 strokes
Salt, pepper, garlic, onion, or fresh vegetables to taste.

Steps:
1) Mix all ingredients together .
2) Form into patties of desired thickness.
3) Cook thoroughly over medium heat.

Turkey Pot Pie

This homemade pot pie recipe is cheap, easy and delicious.

Steps:
2 ¼ cups Biscuit Mix
cup milk
1 pound cooked ground turkey
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cans mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, etc.)

1) Combine biscuit mix and milk in a medium bowl
2) Mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl, spread in baking pan.
3) Spoon biscuit mix in large even lumps, about the size of biscuits, on top of mixture.
4) Bake at 450 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until biscuits are cooked all the way through and mixture is fully warmed.

Turkey Loaf

This recipe serves 6. For a juicier turkey loaf, add 3 teaspoons of water.

You’ll Need:
2 pounds ground turkey
1 box turkey flavored stuffing mix
2 eggs, evenly beaten
1 2/3 cups hot water
Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:
1) Mix hot water and stuffing mix and let stand while completing Step 2.
2) Mix turkey, eggs, and spices in a separate bowl.
3) Combine all ingredients and transfer to greased loaf pan.
4) Bake at 375 degrees F, or until thoroughly cooked.

Easy Turkey Chili

This 30 minute chili recipe is fast, easy, and versatile. Add more cayenne pepper, fresh chili peppers, or crushed red pepper for a spicier dish. This recipe serves 8.

You’ll Need:
1 pound ground turkey
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced or chopped
1  can canned crushed tomatoes
1 can canned kidney beans  
2 cups water
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:
1) Brown turkey in a pot with oil until thoroughly cooked. Add the onion and cook until no tender.
2) Rinse, drain, and mash beans. Add water to pot to boil, and mix in remaining ingredients.
3) Bring mixture to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turkey Quesadillas

This is a very simple, cheap and super fast choice for lunch or dinner. Great additions to this recipe are salsa, hot sauce, fresh vegetables, or guacamole.

You’ll Need:
1 package medium tortillas
1 pound ground turkey
1 package mixed Mexican-style cheese

Steps:
1) Brown turkey until thoroughly cooked.
2)  Place tortilla on skillet over medium heat.
3) Sprinkle cheese and cooked turkey on tortilla.
4) Turn once when cheese melts.
5) Cut into desired sizes.

Turkey Casserole

Another inexpensive, quick, and easy dinner. This is one of my personal favorites, and I’m sure you will enjoy it too. Great served alone or with a bread side.

You’ll Need:
1 ½ – 2 pounds ground turkey browned
1 box pasta (egg noodles, bow-ties, or rotini)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can peas
½ can hot water
Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:
1) Boil and drain pasta.
2) Combine remaining ingredients in large pot.
3)  Cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes.
4) Stir mixture into pasta. Allow to sit 5 minutes before serving.

Turkey Meatballs

These turkey meatballs are great by themselves or with a pasta dish.

You’ll Need:
1 pound ground turkey
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper, garlic, or onion powder to taste

Steps:
1) Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl.
2) Roll mixture into medium sized balls.
3) Bake at 375 degrees F in a greased pan for about 15 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked.

Boxed Meal Kits
Use ground turkey in place of ground beef in boxed instant meals, which have many varieties to choose from. For the best results, be sure to drain the oil after browning the turkey on medium high heat in a skillet.

Turkey Tacos
Less expensive and healthier than going out for fast food. These tacos are delicious, so you might have to double the recipe.

You’ll Need:
1 pound ground turkey
1 package taco seasoning mix
Taco shells
Toppings

Steps:
1) Brown ground turkey over medium heat.
2) Prepare taco seasoning mix as directed.
3) Add seasoning to turkey.
4) Spoon into tacos or burritos and top with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and re-fried beans as desired.

Breakfast Turkey Patties
This recipe will make yummy, healthy turkey patties that go great with hash browns, eggs, toast, or any other breakfast item.

You’ll Need:
1 pound ground turkey
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 ½ tsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Steps:
1) Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
2) Refrigerate 6-8 hours, or overnight.
3) Cook patties over medium heat in a skillet.

Reference:
1. 50 Ground Turkey Recipes – Healthy Meals with Ground Turkey
2. 35 Easy Ground Turkey Recipes

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Meatless Monday Meals

Mondays are typically not the favorite day of the week for most. With all the excitement from the weekend, it is often hard to get back into the swing of things around the house. Therefore, cooking a massive meal on Monday evenings is usually not a favorite for many moms. The good news is there are several good meals that are quick, easy, and family pleasers for Monday evenings. They are also meatless!

Here are a few favorites:

Fried Rice – you can boil your rice and then add salt/pepper, soy sauce, green onions, eggs, peas, carrots, water chestnuts, and any other vegetables you may like. Mushrooms, garlic cloves, or almonds add a bit of variety to this meal.

Mac-n-Cheese – There is no better comfort food than macaroni and cheese. You simply boil your noodles, add milk, add salt and pepper to taste, add a few cups of cheese, stir, add some cheese on top and bake. It’s a kid favorite!  

Veggie pizza – Instead of using the traditional pepperoni and cheese, simply add sauce, cheese and your favorite vegetables to your pizza. Preferences might be mushrooms, grated Parmesan, spinach, and onions. You can also do a veggie pizza. Spinach (dried), tomatoes, mushrooms, and grated cheese are all the ingredients you need.

Soup and sandwich – On a rainy or cold Monday evening, your family may prefer a simple soup and sandwich meal. Tomato soup and grilled cheese are sure to be a hit!

Veggie Omelet – Onions, peppers, cheese, and mushrooms make a tasty Omelet. You can add biscuits, fried potatoes, or even fried apples to make a complete meal.

Summer Salad – A nice mix of greens, strawberries or dried cranberries, pecans, tomatoes, green onions, and raspberry vinaigrette make an outstanding summer meal.

Pasta and Marinara – No need for meat if you can make a good tomato marinara or Alfredo. Put your favorite sauce on penne or your favorite pasta, add a little parmesan cheese, and add a side salad or garlic bread and you have a hearty meal.

Breakfast for Dinner – Both kids and adults love pancakes. Add some chocolate chips, pecans, or even some fruit topping to give your family a favorite dinner! If you have a Belgian waffle maker, you can make waffles instead of pancakes.

Wraps – Vegetable wraps are both delicious and healthy meals. You can add green peppers, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, banana peppers, spinach, cheese, etc. with any type of sauce (salsa, ranch, spicy mustard, etc.) to make a veggie wrap. They are delicious!

Vegetable Skewer – A grilled skewer with squash, onions, peppers, mushrooms, or zucchini makes a wonderful meal over a bed of rice.

As you can see, there are several meals you can cook on a Monday night. They are meatless, but delicious. Your family will enjoy these quick, easy, and fairly cheap meals.

Reference:
1. Meatless Monday Favorite Recipes – Meatless Monday
2. 25 Weeknight Vegetarian Recipes to Embrace #MeatlessMonday …

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Italian Rice Balls

Many families have a favorite family dish, passed along from generation to generation. Some folks make their favorite recipes quite often, while others make them during the holidays. One of our family favorites is Italian Rice Balls. My grandparents, who traveled from Italy to America for their honeymoon, lived with us for many years. My grandmother and mother made all meals from scratch, including homemade pasta and spaghetti sauce. Grandma’s Italian Rice Balls were a favorite reserved for the holidays. We served the rice balls with roasted chicken, turkey and ham dinners. My mother and her sister passed down the recipe to my cousins, sister and me. The recipe is below:

 1 cup white rice, cooked according to package directions

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 can tomato paste

1 ½ cups Italian style breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

¼-cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine the rice, ground beef, tomato paste, ½ cup of the breadcrumbs, egg and seasonings in a large bowl. Mix well with fork. Cover with Saran wrap and refrigerate two hours or overnight (we usually prepare the mixture in the evening and refrigerate overnight).

Heat oil in a large skillet.  While the oil is heating up, spread one cup of the breadcrumbs onto a large plate. Form two-inch balls of the ground beef/rice mixture, then roll in the breadcrumbs until completely covered. Gently place the balls into the skillet and cook, turning each ball over, until all sides are lightly brown in color. The rice balls should be slightly firm and crispy. Place cooked rice ball on a paper towel-lined plate to catch the excess oil. Place in a casserole dish, cover with foil and bake in oven at 350 for half an hour. Serve as a side dish.  Refrigerate any leftovers in a covered casserole dish.

Reference:
1. Arancini
2. Italian Rice Balls Recipe – Allrecipes.com

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How to Throw an all Appetizer Party

Having a party with simply all appetizers should relatively be easier than having a party with main dishes. When it comes to appetizers, they are usually self-serve. All guests need to do is grab a plate and utensils. One could take a look at the restaurant called “Cafe Tu Tu Tango” for example as it is a restaurant that serves dishes in the form of appetizers. There are several ways you can throw an all-appetizer party.

First, you need to make a list of how many people you are going to invite. Once you have a conservative estimate, meaning you should overestimate how many people will show up, then decide how much you need to buy in regards to ingredients. It is best to overestimate the amount of people to ensure that nobody leaves with an empty stomach.

Second, you should diversify. Have appetizers that are completely different from each other. You should have something for everybody. For guests who enjoy meats and dairy, have various meat and cheese appetizers. For guests who are vegetarians and vegans, then you need to have appetizers for them as well. Also, have “neutral” appetizers that anybody and everybody can eat.

Third, prepare the appetizers the day or night before. If you plan on having plenty of appetizers and plenty of guests, it is important to prepare them beforehand. The easy prepare appetizers such as chips, dips, sliced meats, and so forth can be bought on the day of the party. Buy those things a few hours in advance before the start of the party. Such examples are sliced cheeses, cheese cubes, vegetable platters, sliced meat platters, popcorn chicken, popcorn shrimp, fries, cheese sticks, crackers, chips, dips, spreads, chicken wings, and many appetizers.

Fourth, be simplistic. Appetizers should not be something complicated to make. These are simple dishes that prepare a person before the main course. Since you are only serving appetizers, serve plenty of appetizers and in generous portions. Think about serving up possible one-pot meals as they should be easy to make and in large quantities.

Fifth, make the appetizers self-serve. Making a party self-serve will ease things off for you. If you are throwing the party, you should be out mingling and having fun.

If you are pressed for time, think about having a potluck type of appetizer party. You create a number of appetizers and request guests bring dishes of their own. That way, it makes it easier for you to prepare the party. It is best to encourage guests to bring their own appetizers to the party. When people bring their own dishes, then there is much diversity. It goes a long way to ensuring that there is something for everybody.

Depending what type of party you are throwing, it is best to simply have appetizers. If you are having a Super Bowl, NBA Finals, or some other type of special event party, then it is best to have appetizers. In the case of such parties, it does not hurt to order a few pizzas or something to go along with the appetizers. Since something like pizza can be divided up, it can count as an appetizer.

Appetizers do not have to be fancy. They simply need to be delicious, easily accessible, and in variety.  

Reference:
1. All-Appetizer Party – Cocktail Party Menus – Every Day with Rachael …
2. How To: Host a Finger Food Party – Big Girls Small Kitchen

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Mushroom Growing

Understanding and manipulating mushroom cultures to produce has been a long and sometimes frustrating task that has taken lifetimes of research. Once it was found that a profit could be made in the cultivation of mushrooms, the successful cultivators kept their techniques and methods to themselves as to keep out possible competitors and therefore increase profit potential. As a result, until recently families passed on the secrets from generation to generation. Still today with only limited works on the subject those with the resources are becoming the major producers, those who inherited the knowledge from their parents are not using the information as often as previously. Those who would enjoy the cultivation find the research too much of a hassle to continue in their efforts. As a result, the number of home cultivators is very small in comparison to most any other crop, and the commercial growers probably enjoy this situation.

The techniques for growing mushrooms are essentially the same for all species even though growth parameters, pH preferences, or substrate preferences differ. The following is a summarization of the basic steps to follow:

1)     Prepare and pour agar into Petri dishes.

2)     Germinate spores and isolate pure mushroom mycelium.

3)     Expand the growth of the mycelium on the agar media.

4)     Prepare the grain medium.

5)     Inoculate the grain.

6)     Incubate the inoculated grain spawn.

7)     A. Lay out grain spawn into trays; or

        B. Inoculate the grain spawn into bulk substrates

8)  Case with a soil-like mixture.

9)  Initiate the formation of pinheads.

10)  Influence cropping. This is the start of the flushing pattern.

11)  Continual harvesting and recasing.

Modest harvests can be made from mushrooms grown and fruited on cased grain for most species; maximum harvests can be realized if the mushrooms are grown on compost, straw, or wood. Whichever method one chooses to utilize, there must be adequate moisture and humidity that can be controlled for the grower’s benefit. Without enough moisture, mushrooms do not grow.

Mushrooms are part of the fungal kingdom Eumycota. Mushrooms are known as the “fleshy fungi” and they constitute only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of species known. Fungi are non-photosynthetic and are believed to have evolved from algae. The primary role of fungi is to decompose dead organic matter.

All gilled fungi are members of the class Basidiomycetes which are characterized by the production of spores on club-shaped appendages called basidiospores. Most of the conspicuous fungi that one encounters (i.e. mushrooms, puffballs, and bracket fungi) are members of the subclass Homobasidiomycetes. Of the members of this subclass, the gilled mushrooms are placed in the order Agaricales. The basidiospores germinate to form monokaryotic hypha. A hypha is a tubular filament; aggregations of these hyphae collectively comprise a mass of thread-like filaments referred to as the mycelium. The mycelium comprises the main body, the thallus, of the fungus. The stalked, capped structure, which we call the mushroom, is actually only the fruiting body or the spore-producing reproductive structure, and constitutes only a small portion of the total mass of the fungus. The great bulk of the organism exists underground in the form of a network of mycelium that occasionally fruits under the appropriate conditions.

The basidiospores germinate to produce a monokaryotic mycelium which is a mycelium having only one nucleus per cell. This mycelium grows outward until it encounters another monokaryotic mycelium, which germinated from another spore and is of a compatible mating type. If the monokaryotic mycelium does not contact a compatible monokaryotic mycelium, it will eventually die. If the mycelium does contact another compatible monokaryotic mycelium a process called somatogamy (the fusing of the somatic cells of the two mycelia) takes place, but fusion of the nuclei does not take place. The result of this junction is the formation of a dikaryotic mycelium which is a mycelium containing two nuclei.

The dikaryotic stage is the most prolonged portion of the life cycle and is the main assimilative stage of the fungus. The dikaryotic mycelium can propagate vegetatively indefinitely without going through a sexual stage or if given the appropriate conditions the mycelium can be induced to fruit. The undifferentiated mycelial thallus of the fungus begins to weave itself into an articulated spore-bearing, fruiting body, in this case a mushroom. The mushroom continues to enlarge and thrust above ground incorporating more and more mycelium while at the same time expanding by the absorption of water. At a certain stage in the growth of the mushroom, basidiocarp, club-shaped basidia form on the underside of the gills. At this point karyogamy (the fusion of the two nuclei of the dikaryotic mycelium) takes place within the basidia. This is the only diploid (2n) stage in the life cycle of the fungus and is the briefest stage. Meiosis (the reduction division of a diploid, 2n, nucleus to four haploid, n, nuclei) occurs immediately following karyogamy. The result of meiosis is the production of four haploid nuclei within the basidium. These are then pushed out of the basidium and become surrounded by hard sheaths to form the basidiospores. The result is the basidium bearing four basidiospores on its outer surface. These basidiospores eventually detach from the basidium to begin the life cycle again.

With the life cycle in mind, there is competition between the organism we are intending to grow with other fungi, viruses, bacteria, as well as many other microscopic particles and this competition usually dictates the success or lack thereof of a crop. To keep competition to a minimum, an understanding of the nature of contamination is needed as well as a sterile or “semi-sterile” controlled workspace, laboratory, with good hygienic maintenance measures taken. Whereas the actual shaper and construction of the workspace will vary from cultivator to cultivator, the same idea is built into each of them, keep contamination out and yet still provide a suitable environment for the mushroom crop.

There are five primary sources of contamination in mushroom cultivation: the immediate surroundings, the culture medium, the culturing equipment, the cultivator and his or her clothing, and the mushroom spores or the mycelium. To control contamination the first measure in preparing a workspace would be to remove all carpeting and other cloth-like materials that can harbor enemy spores. Next, an anti-chamber should be built and an air box constructed with controls to control temperature, humidity, CO2, airflow, and contamination inlet. The room and its contents should be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized with a ten percent bleach solution, Lysol, or isopropyl. Any materials to leave and reenter the workspace should be resterilized. A strict regimen of hygiene should be kept at all times, just remember that it is much easier to prevent contamination than to eliminate it after it has occurred. Some cultivators get by in what seems to be the most primitive conditions, working out of Styrofoam boxes, while others battle contamination working in commercially set-up laboratories. Each event of contamination dictates an appropriate counter measure. Whether you are the one working among primitive conditions or within the most that technology has to offer, the problems are similar, differing not in kind but rather in degree. In either case, sterile work requires patience, concentration, and a steady hand. Work for reasonable amounts of time and not to the point of exhaustion. Never leave an alcohol lamp or Bunsen burner unattended. Lysol and other such products are extremely flammable. Moreover, always be conscious of the fact that an airtight space is quickly depleted of oxygen.

Once the laboratory is complete, the next step is preparation of the agar media. There are extensive amounts of agar recipes suitable for growing mushroom mycelium and this can result in a personal study producing deeper understanding of the inner processes of the mushroom nutritional needs. However, this is not necessary since one can buy a standard formula of either potato dextrose agar or malt extract agar, which is suitable for most mushroom species. To the though, one may supplement the media with peptone or neopeptone, protein sources. If there is an enormously high rate of contamination from bacteria, antibiotics can be introduced to the medium. Most antibiotics like streptomycin are not autoclaveable and must therefore be added after the medium has been sterilized and while the medium is still molten. Gentamycin is an antibiotic that will survive autoclaving. Antibiotics adversely affect some mushroom species so to a certain degree experimentation is needed. The agar medium is sterilized by use of an autoclave or by using a pressure cooker (cook for sixty minutes at fifteen psi, do not allow the temperature to exceed 250 degrees Fahrenheit as this will cause the media to caramelize, inhibiting mycelial growth and promoting genetic mutations). In the case of the pressure cooker, a layer of petroleum jelly can be used around the opening where the lid and pot come into contact to prevent entering contaminants and it helps to stabilize the pressure by not letting air seep out.

Once sterilized, the pressure cooker is brought into the laboratory and the media is poured into Petri dishes. Glass Petri dishes can be autoclaved, removing the addition of the preceding step. In pouring the media, the following steps are used: allow media to cool to a temperature where it is comfortable to handle, vigorously shake the media to evenly distribute the contents, flame the lip of the container, pour the media into the Petri dishes, stack the Petri dishes to minimize condensation which can hold and promote contamination, allow the media to solidify before inoculating with either spores or living tissue.

Once one has obtained a spore print, the monokaryotic mycelium can easily be obtained by germinating the spores on the appropriate medium. Spores can be transferred most readily by using a clean #11 scalpel, inoculating loop or similar instrument. Flame the instrument to be used and wear latex gloves during the transfer. The inoculating loop can be used to scrape the spores onto the medium or with the scalpel  cut a 2-3mm square in the medium, spear the square, use it to lightly touch the paper or slide with the spores, then quickly replace the square and Petri dish cover. Another method uses spores diluted in water transferred by syringe. Incubate the spores at 86 degrees F for 24 to 36 hours. This will break dormancy and force the spores to germinate faster. Spores will germinate without incubation but it may take up to 24 days and this increases the chances the culture will be contaminated. During this time, the spores will germinate and monokaryotic mycelium will begin to grow radially outward from each point of inoculation. The plate should be left undisturbed until the mycelia from two different spores have grown together and made contact. A few days after contact has been made it is reasonable to assume that somatogamy has taken place and that a dikaryotic mycelium has been established. In practice, one transfers many pores at a time and therefore it is necessary to isolate a single strain. This can be done in the same manner as the scalpel/square technique used in inoculation. The dikaryotic mycelium thus isolated will grow outward in all directions from the point of inoculation on the new plate, covering it within eight to twelve days. Then one can make further transfers being reasonably sure that one is working with a single strain and that the mass of the culture will grow at the same rate, requiring the same environmental changes, at the same time. Deviations indicate contamination.

It is advisable to isolate several different strains. The different strains should be labeled and their characteristics compared. The strain with the most favorable characteristics should then be used exclusively thereafter. The mycelium being ropy in appearance is the most favorable and those strains with contamination or cottony sectors should be discarded. The ropy morphology is caused by the formation of rhizoids, thick strands of hyphae, which are similar to the rhizoids formed prior to and during the fruiting stage. The rhizoid’s function is to transport water and nutrients to the developing mushrooms.

Once one has successfully grown several mycelia cultures on a solid agar medium, it is time to move on to the next step, inoculating and growing on sterilized grain. Many grains are suitable for expanding the mycelia mass including rye, wheat, barley, triticale, oats, rice, sorghum, millet, and buckwheat. However, rye is recommended since it works as well as any and yet it is less expensive. One must be sure, however, that the rye is suitable for human consumption. Feed rye is usually treated with a fungicide. 160 ml of rye to 130 ml of water is mixed in a quart mason jar as sterilized, as was the agar medium. In a single gram of rye there is an estimated cell count of 50,000-100,000 bacteria, more than 200,000 actinomyces, 12,000 fungi, and large numbers of yeasts, which is why it is necessary to sterilize. After the jars have been sterilized, checked for imperfections, and cooled, one can inoculate the grain. A scalpel is used to cut a grid of nine to twenty squares in the Petri dish of agar and mycelia and each square is transferred to an individual jar, always flaming the scalpel between transfers. During this time, a square from two different strains can be introduced to one jar to create a hybrid strain. By the eighth to the fourteenth day, the mycelium will have grown to about the size of a fifty-cent piece. The next step is to shake the jars. This will loosen the rye for easier penetration and allow for air exchange while at the same time this will break up the mycelium into smaller sections throughout the jar, which creates more points of inoculation, and faster, even growth throughout the jar. Allow the jar to recuperate for three to four days then shake again on the fourth, sixth, eighth, and if necessary the tenth day. During this time, discard any contaminated jars. Anywhere from the eighth to fourteenth days the entire jar will become completely permeated. In many circumstances, complete permeation may take much longer but the factor this is contributed to is temperature. The most likely contaminants are penicillium and aspergillus, which are almost impossible to eliminate. Rhizopus also seems to be another contaminant so commonly present that it escapes most sterile techniques. The amateur mycologist may become quite frustrated despite his or her most dedicate attempts. Nevertheless, if it is any recourse, this step is the most difficult step. In addition, if one jar has no contamination, then the mycelia clump can be broken up and divided into ten other jars with grain and the shaking process repeated until these ten new jars are permeated, then these ten can inoculate one hundred jars and so on indefinitely until contamination stops the process.

When one or more jars are completely permeated one can move on to the next step, casing. It should be noted that this is where personal choice enters the picture for people differ from here on out with individual techniques. Some employ the use of compost, an exact art requiring much time, resources, knowledge, as well as experimentation but usually maximum yields are realized. Since a discussion on compost would warrant a report in itself and since I have not used compost in the production of mushrooms, I shall omit further discussion. Other cultivators vary in the use of containers but the following discussion will follow, arguably the simplest of techniques, casing in the grain master jars. The basic functions of the casing layer are to protect the colonized substrate from drying out, to provide a humid microclimate for primordial formation and development, to provide a water reservoir for maturing mushrooms, and to support the growth of fructification enhancing microorganisms. A correctly balanced casing layer promotes beneficial microflora. The selection of the casing layer is dependent upon the following properties: water retention, structure, microflora, nutritive value, pH, and hygienic quality. The casing layer is now a soilless medium since peat moss has been introduced. It supplies nitrients and has an acid vase in which most contaminants cannot survive. Standard formulas are provided below:

#1

Course peat: four parts

Limestone flour: 1 part

Limestone grit: ½ parts

Water: approximately 2 – 2¼ parts

#2

Coarse peat: two parts

Chalk or Marl: 1 part

Water: approximately 1 – 1¼ parts

The process of casing is to place a one half inch layer, a half cup for quart jars, of remoistened, sterilized casing medium over the substrate. During the casing period, the daily transpiration and evaporation cycle is very important in order to have vigorous fruiting, healthy cultures. Maintaining the proper moisture and the evaporation rate is a complex interplay between temperature, aeration, and evaporation. If temperature or aeration is excessively high, the soil will dry out. However, this does not mean that the soil should be allowed to become waterlogged either. With temperatures at their optimum, and air exchanges as required by the cultivar, each jar should need only two to three good squirts from a fine mist sprayer daily. Watering is a critical matter at this stage to provide the first flush just enough to produce a normal flush. The first and second flushes will be the largest yielding and the following flushes grow from those before them. If the first flush is bad, then it will not get better for the following flushes. Mushroom mycelium thrives in a moist, humid casing sending out minute branching networks that expand and grow, absorbing water, carbon dioxide, and oxygen from a nearly saturated casing. The overall aspect is lush and dense. When the layer is examined, it should be held together by mycelium but should separate easily. In a dry casing, fine capillary-like mycelia will eventually permeate the entire casing layer and cause overlay, a condition in which mycelium covers the surface of the casing layer, dries out, and effectively seals the casing from water. Therefore, even though one may provide plenty of water later and even to the point of forming puddles being formed, the mushroom mycelia will not be able to utilize the resource. In a saturated casing, the mycelium grows coarse and stringy. Mycelial growth is sparse and slow, if there is any growth. A saturated casing often leaches into the substrate, which inhibits further growth and promotes contamination.

During the next two to three weeks, the mycelium will grow into the casing layer gaining more and more intersecting nodes that are visual at the interface between the glass and the casing layer. By the fourteenth to twentieth day, these nodes differentiate into tiny white dots along the surface and perimeter of the surface of the casing layer. These tiny white dots are small, young mushroom primordia. Gradually they enlarge and incorporate more mycelium and take on the appearance of small, squat mushrooms with tiny heads. This is the beginning of the pin stage. The pins gradually enlarge and some will begin to thrust above the surface. It will take another five to ten days to reach maturity.

Once the mushrooms have reached the fruiting or flushing stage, the awareness is shifted to a new class of pests and contamination, flies and mites. The first protective measure is to have screens in the air box but this will not prevent mites and flies. Second, one must be able to identify the mites. Mites are most visually active during the mid through late afternoon. They appear as tiny specks discernable from the casing layer only by their movement. Once spotted, the first recourse should be to discard contaminated jars. Next, if this is not working to one’s satisfaction would be to use Malathion ½ solution. Malathion is one of the least toxic and most rapidly degraded of commercial insecticides. However, I would recommend not harvesting for at least a week after application to allow the chemicals to dissipate. Never use the miticide Keldane because it is fatal to mushrooms.

When the veil separates from the cap margin, the mushroom is ready to harvest. The way one harvests can dramatically influence the yield of the next flush. When picking, one must be careful not to harm resting pinheads or the casing layer. Any pinhead disturbed was a potential mushroom. The best way to pick the mushrooms is with a good frame of mind. Be meticulous, unhurried, and treat the mushrooms with care. Equipped with a short bladed knife and a basket or paper bag, grasp the base of the stem and with a twisting motion, pull the mushroom from the casing layer being careful not to disturb the surroundings. Use the knife to remove, by scraping, attached casing or substrate. Then remove scrapings from the growing area and use or store your mushroom harvest.

Reference:
1. Fungiculture
2. Growing Mushrooms at Home – North American Mycological …

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Money Saving Tips for Holiday Dinners

Around the holidays, I am usually too broke to even “pay attention”, let alone pay an enormous grocery bill, so I have a plan. Parts of the plan are not pretty, but you will save money!

1. Do not have your holiday dinner on the holiday.

(I see your eyes bulge, let me continue.) As a divorced parent of adult children, I already am used to the fact my children would not always be mine on the holiday. Now that they both have “significant others” the schedules become more complex. I have never felt it was a “do-or-die” that everyone in the family be present in my home on the “official” holiday. The only stipulation I made was that during the holiday season I would reserve a date for a family meal that everyone had to attend. (Doctor’s excuses sometimes accepted.)

Besides, do you know the discounts you can get on seasonal items the day after the holiday?

2. Buy whatever you can, the year before, at the “After-Holiday Sales.

Do I need to explain this means decorations, and non-foods? Do not buy your turkey for Thanksgiving 2008 on 11/23/07 just because it is “on sale”. It will not be pretty, or probably edible.

3. Make out a menu with a budget.

This will be the most laborious part of the process. If you wish, get one item from each of the dinner attendees that must be on the menu. (Make this subject to your own discretion.) My son always asks for lobster, until he starts catching his own, and we live in Texas, this item always is deleted.

Do not attempt to compete with the Golden Corral restaurant. You are just preparing one meal, the guests will eat again, somewhere else, trust me.

Regardless of your budget, do try to find a recipe you have never tried before just to spice it up a little. (No lobster, unless you have just inherited money!)

4. Clip coupons.

Even if you are not a normal coupon user, if you have access to coupons via a newspaper or magazine subscription, it is beneficial to clip coupons during the holidays. During the holidays regardless of our finances, lets face it; we buy things we normally do not buy. Stores usually have great sales on name brand holiday products, combine that fact with coupons and you can save money.

5. If someone offers to bring a dish, let them!

Just find out what they are bringing so you do not duplicate their offering.

6. After the meal, take a realistic look at the leftovers, and freeze whatever you know will not be consumed in the next three days. If it is something that does not freeze well be sure to offer your guests “doggie bags”.

Reference:
1. 6 Ways to Save Money on Holiday Meals – US News
2. 7 Money-Saving, Stress-Less Holiday Shopping Tips | Real Simple

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Oven Baked French Fries

French fries are usually associated with greasy fast food, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  You can make healthy French fries at home and chances are, you’ll enjoy them much more than fast food fries because they’ll taste like fresh potatoes.  And you can season them in a variety of creative ways.

The best way to make healthy fries is to bake instead of fry.  Baked French fries are easy to make and are much healthier than deep-fried.  Whenever you make something at home, you get to control the fat, salt and seasonings, and you’ll know exactly what you’re eating.
 
Russet or Idaho potatoes are probably the best type of potato to use for French fries.  Emeril Lagasse, in a recipe on Food Network, suggests Kennebec potatoes, but for most people, russet potatoes are just fine.

Either way, keep in mind that a potato with less moisture is going to make a better French fry.  According to James P. DeWan in a Chicago Tribune article about making French fries, an older potato will have less moisture and is your best bet for a good batch of fries.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. A hot oven is key in making crispy fries.

A general rule for portions is about one and a half to two potatoes for each person.  Of course, this can vary, and a good idea is to make one extra portion, just in case someone is really hungry. 

The potatoes can be cut in quite a few ways and you can leave the skins on or peel them.  You don’t really need any special knives or slicers for French fries.  If you have a mandolin or special French fry cutter, great, but it’s not necessary.  A regular sharp kitchen knife will do.  Cut them into chips, wedges or shoestring shapes. Whatever shape you choose, try to make them as uniform as you can so they all cook evenly.

Once the potatoes are cut, lay them out on a baking sheet and brush them with olive oil.  Then, sprinkle them with your favorite seasonings.  Choose garlic powder or even fresh garlic, chili powder, onion powder or paprika. 

Bake them in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Take the baking sheet out and turn over the fries and brush again with more olive oil and your spices and/or seasonings. 

You might be surprised at how crispy and flavorful homemade French fries are in comparison to fast food fries.  And you might be surprised that your family likes them better, too.

Reference:
1. Baked French Fries I Recipe – Allrecipes.com
2. Best Baked French Fries Recipe – Allrecipes.com

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Mix Apple with just about anything

Pies are one of the most popular desserts in the world. When many people think of pies, it is fruit pies that they envision. Apple is the universal favorite, but there is no reason why a combination of fruits can’t be as delicious as a single fruit pie.

Strawberry rhubarb

Strawberry rhubarb is a prime example of the two-fruit pie. While certainly both of them can stand alone in any dessert, the combination is magical. The sweetness of the strawberries is a perfect foil for the tartness of the rhubarb. The proportion of each of the fruits must be considered carefully, but when it is done well, this is one of the most flavorful pies in the world.

Apple pear

For a true taste of autumn, nothing beats apple and pear. Both of these fruits are in season in the fall and combine beautifully. There is a similarity in texture and sweetness, but the taste is so uniquely different that the blend is heavenly. There are many different varieties of both apples and pears, and each variety has its own texture and sweetness. Bosc pears and Cortland apples work well together. When making your choice, try not to choose both a tart or sweet pear and apple, use one sweet and one tart. It makes for a better taste combination.

Apple berry

Apples combine well with most berries. Apple and blackberry is a traditional combination and certainly a combination of mixed berries and apples makes what is commonly called a razzleberry pie. This is perfect for when you have a mixture of leftover berries that you want to use before you lose them.

Pear fig

Pear and fig is a less common, more unexpected combination of fruits, but the result is sweet and delicious with Italian influences. If using dried figs, they need to be rehydrated before baking.

Peach cherry

If you have very sweet luscious peaches, they make a beautiful combination with a sour cherry. The interaction of the bright red and the yellow is visually appealing. The tastes also meld together harmoniously.

Nectarine plum

When using fruits such as nectarines and plums, a one-crust pie is often the way to go. It is very attractive to slice the fruits and arrange them in pattern within the pie crust. Use nuts to flavor the crust and add a nice crunch to the whole dessert.

When it comes to pies and combinations of fruit, it is hard to go wrong. Most fruits won’t clash, just keep in mind the amount of moisture each fruit is capable of producing when cooked, and the amount or lack of sugar in the fruit, then let your imagination go wild.

Reference:
1. Apples and oranges
2. Music – Discover – Apple

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Macaroni Salad Recipe

Macaroni salad is a family-favorite in most households.  The great thing about macaroni salads are, you can really go with what you have on hand.  Substitutions are easy and almost anything goes.  If you don’t have green peppers, how about celery?  If you’re out of scallions, how about regular onions?  You really can change this up every single time you make it and you’ll still get good results.

A basic recipes follows but remember, whatever you have on hand can probably be used in place of something you’re missing.

Ingredients-

Salad-
4 cups of cooked macaroni
1/2 cup of diced green peppers (Any color peppers work)
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of chopped scallions
1/4 cup of shredded or grated carrots
1/4 cup of chopped black or green olives

Dressing-
2 hard boiled eggs coarsely chopped
1 cup of mayo
1/2 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoon of prepared mustard
1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Step one-
In a large bowl stir together macaroni, green pepper, scallions, carrots and olives.  Gently fold in the cheese

Step two-
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the mayo, sour cream, mustard, garlic powder until it’s fully mixed.  Add the chopped hard boiled eggs.  For a creamier dressing, finely chop your eggs.  

Step three-
Fold the dressing into the salad and stir until well mixed.  

Optional Step-
Garnish with parsley or olives or just about anything else that will look nice on top

This salad is great for barbecues, as it goes well with almost any grilled meat.  You can also easily double this or half it to serve more or less.  And again, don’t be afraid to change it up and add different ingredients to either the dressing or the salad.  You really can’t go wrong with this one.

Reference:
1. Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe – Allrecipes.com
2. Macaroni Salad Recipe – Food.com

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Avocado edamame Beans iceberg Lettuce vegetarian Vegan gluten Free

It is very important to include green salads in ones diet. This ensures that a certain amount of raw vegetables are eaten by the individual, thus keeping the nutrients intact. A salad adds a certain amount of freshness to any meal. It is filling,and when eaten before we start the meals helps us control our portion of oily or carbohydrate laden foods. Here is a simple recipe for a green salad that also includes avocado for added taste and texture.

Avocado Green Salad:

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado
1 red onion
1/2 bell pepper (red or yellow)
1/2 cup red kidney beans or edamame beans (cooked)
1 tomato  fully ripe and firm

1 head  iceberg lettuce
a few sprigs of coriander leaves

Dressing :
1/2 tsp honey
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon (for rind and juice)
1/2 fresh red chili
salt and pepper as per individual taste

Make the dressing as follows:

1. De-seed the red chili and chop it finely.

2. In a bowl grate the rind of the lemon and squeeze out the juice.

3. Add the chopped chili, olive oil, honey and the seasonings.

4. Mix well and refrigerate.

For the Salad:

Scoop out the pup from the avocado and roughly chop it. Similarly chop the onion, bell pepper and tomato. Mix it in a bowl, add in the beans. Mix well and toss in the chilled dressing. Refrigerate again. Just before serving add the lettuce leaves torn with hands and the coriander leaves. Lightly mix again and serve chilled.

Eat within half an hour of preparing for maximum flavor. This salad is extremely healthy as well as filling. This is a recipe for 2-3 servings. A cooling summer that goes great with barbecues. The salad uses olive oil so it is heart healthy too. A good and tasty gluten free salad option for vegetarians as well as vegans.

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