December 26, 2009

How Smart Are the Woolly Bears?

(photo by Jon Yuschock,
The fuzzy "Woolly Bear" caterpillar is often seen crossing roads and sidewalks any time from Spring to Fall, but more often in the late Fall.  According to weather folklore, the longer the middle brown band, the milder and shorter the approaching winter will be.  The shorter the brown band, the longer and harsher the winter will be.

This seems to have started in the late 1600s when farmers wanted something from nature to help them predict the weather. 

So just how savvy are these woolly bears when it comes to predicting the winter?  That depends on what you want to believe!

The Old Farmer's Almanac mentions the relationship between stripes and weather. And there are some people who may buy a new, warmer winter parka based on the woolly bear's stripes. After all, the woolly bears seem to be correct 80-85% of the time.  And you have to admit that it is fun seeing these little guys in the fall and then speculating about the winter that may be coming.  Why, you can even use it as a conversation starter during your coffee break!

However, scientists insist that even though wide brown bands often do fit in with the mild winter at the time, sometimes woolly bears have been found living near each other but their brown bands have shown different predictions for the same winter!  Scientists speculate that the length of the colors may show the age of the caterpillar. As the woolly bear molts and gets closer to being an adult, it becomes less black and more brown. 
By the way, did you know the woolly bear is the caterpillar or the larvae of the Isabella Tiger Moth 

And did you know there are festivals honoring this cute little caterpillar?  There is the Woolly Bear Festival in Vermilion, Ohio, and the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, N.C. 

December 19, 2009

Makes You Glad You Have Left Over Turkey

(photo by Darren Fisher,

What-To-Do-With-Left-Over-Turkey Salad

large bowl of greens of your choice
2 cups left-over cooked turkey pieces
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup pecans 

1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup oil

Blend cranberry sauce, vinegar, sugar and half of the feta cheese in a blender. Slowly add oil.
Place greens on plate and top with turkey, pecans, cranberries. Pour dressing over this mixture. Sprinkle remaining feta cheese over top.

December 17, 2009

Delicious Any Time of the Year

It doesn't have to be a holiday to enjoy Cranberry Orange Bread. This recipe also makes perfect muffins.

(photo by Andrea Skjold,

Ingredients for Cranberry Orange Bread or Muffins:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup cranberries
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Fold in cranberries.
Add vinegar to milk; then combine with yogurt. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
If making bread, pour into greased bread pan.
If making muffins, fill greased muffin cups or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 cups full. (makes one dozen)
Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack.

December 12, 2009

This Time of Year

This time of year is perfect for Cranberry Bars.  Just look at the "holiday" ingredients.  People will ask you for the recipe, guaranteed!  (photo by Tracy Hebden,

Cranberry Bars
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups cold butter
1 cup sugar
3 cups quick-cooking oats

In a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil.  Add cranberries and cook until they pop.  Add orange juice, peel, butter, cinnamon, and salt.  Cook 5 minutes more or until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in walnuts.  Set aside.

In a bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in butter until crumbly.  Add sugar and oats; mix well.

Spoon half into an ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Pat firmly into pan.

Spread filling over crust.  Top with remaining crumbs; pat lightly.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Cool.

December 11, 2009

Their Popularity is Soaring, So Know and Love Them!

(photo by Galyna Andrushko,

Tart . . . Tangy . . . we used to think of cranberries only as something that appeared as a sauce on the table on Thanksgiving.

Grandma, and maybe Aunt Betty, were the only people who actually ate much of it, though.

But now, you can find these red beauties being used in cereal . . . yogurt . . . bagels . . . cookies . . . soft drinks . . . salads . . . energy bars . . . cakes . . . breads . . . turkey, pork, chicken, and ham main dishes . . . and candy (with chocolate!).

And you can probably easily add some more to this list.

New recipes using fresh, frozen, or dried berries are popping up in cookbooks and the internet and quickly becoming favorites.
Here are two of my favorites.

Cranberry Glazed Hamballs

Mix and form into balls:
1-1/2 lb ham loaf mix
1-1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 can sliced pineapples
1/4 cup juice from pineapples
1 cup whole cranberry sauce

Place pineapple slices on bottom of pan.  Add ham balls.  Mix remaining dressing ingredients together and pour on top of ham balls.  Bake one hour at 325 degrees.

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Pork

4 pork chops or small pork roast
1/2 cup water
1 can pineapple chunks with juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 small onion, chopped

Brown pork in small amount of oil. Add water and cover and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.
Drain pineapple and mix rest of ingredients with juice in saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture thickens.
Then combine pork, pineapple, and juice mixture and cook a few minutes until bubbly. Serve over rice.

December 8, 2009

Bouncing Berry Alerts!

Bouncing Berry Alerts, that is, information and fun facts about cranberries.

Did you know that cranberries have small pockets of air inside that cause them to bounce?  Drop one on your kitchen floor and watch your cat pounce to play with it!  These pockets of air are also why cranberries float on water.

Cranberries were first called bearberries because bears like to eat them.  Later they were called crane berries because when the vine flowers blossom, they look like the head and beak of a crane.  After awhile, the name was shortened to cranberries.  And, of course, they are also called the bouncing berries or bitter berries.

Cranberries have lots of fiber, vitamin C, and other substances that make them a healthy food.  They are thought to help protect us from urinary tract infections, as well as cancer and heart disease.

Cranberry juice contains a chemical that blocks pathogens that cause tooth decay.

White cranberry juice is made from regular cranberries that are harvested before they turn red.

Honeybees are sometimes used to pollinate cranberry crops.

One 12-oz bag of cranberries has three cups of whole berries in it.

Cranberries can be kept in the refrigerator for one month, and in the freezer for nine months.

Cranberries are native to North Aerica.  Other native fruits are concord grapes and blueberries.

Native Americans pounded cranberries into a paste and mixed it with venison.  This was called pemmican.  They used cranberries as dye for blankets and also for medical treatment of arrow wounds.

Frozen cranberries can be used in recipes without thawing.

It is easier to chop or grind cranberries while they are still frozen.

There are about 200 cranberries in every can of sauce.

There are about 440 cranberries in one pound, and about 4,400 in a gallon of juice.