Royal Blue Velvet Cake

This recipe has been around for a while but I was a little surprised that so many of my friends hadn’t heard of it. You’ll impress your family and friends with this one! I believe the original recipe came from the Betty Crocker Kitchen.

Royal Blue Velvet Cake

Prep Time 30 Minutes

Total Time 1:35 Hr:Mins

For the Cake:

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® white cake mix

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa

2 teaspoons royal blue paste food color

1 toothpickful violet paste food color (be sure to get the paste food coloring)

violet paste food color

For the Frosting:

1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Heat oven to 325°F. Grease bottom and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans with shortening and lightly flour, or spray with baking spray with flour.
  2. In large bowl, beat all cake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed about 30 seconds or until moistened. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.
  3. Divide batter evenly among pans. Bake 23 to 28 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched in center. Cool 15 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely.
  4. In large microwavable bowl, microwave marshmallow creme uncovered on High 15 to 20 seconds to soften. Add butter. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and salt until smooth.
  5. If necessary, trim rounded tops of two cake layers to flatten before assembling. Place 1 cake layer, top side down, on serving plate; spread with about 1/3 cup frosting. Top with second layer, top side down; spread with about 1/3 cup frosting. Top with untrimmed cake layer, top side up. Frost side and top of cake with remaining frosting.

Royal Blue Velvet Cake

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Seed Savers’ Glossary of Terms

One of the most prudent things a gardener can learn is how to save seeds from one season to use the next. Growing your garden from seeds you’ve gathered and saved moves you to the next level of sustainability. And the vegetables and herbs you grow from the seeds you’ve saved just seem to taste better! I find it almost magical to watch plants sprout from seeds I’ve saved from the year before.

One thing you need to keep in mind before you plant is that not all seeds will produce viable seeds. Avoid purchasing any GMO seeds! These are the kinds of edibles we should avoid anyway and you won’t get viable seeds from them. Hybrids may produce seeds that sprout but you can’t be sure which traits the resulting plant will give you. The best bet for seed saving is to purchase heirloom seeds from a reputable seller. Look for companies that state that they do not use GMO seeds and that do sell heirloom seeds.

To start this series I’m going to give you a Glossary of Terms that you will use in your seed saving adventure. You may not use all of the methods. It depends on what you grow and what seeds you’re trying to save. But this Glossary will give you a comprehensive list of terms so that you understand the various methods and equipment for properly saving seeds.

alternate-day caging – A technique that allows two different flowering varieties to be pollinated by insects without being cross-pollinated. Cages constructed of wood, wire, or plastic frames are covered with fine screen. One variety is covered with cages one day, allowing the other to be visited and pollinated by insects; the cages are switched each day to allow insect access to the previously caged variety.

anther – Organ where pollen is produced.

chaff – Broken pieces of dried seed capsules, stems, leaves and other debris mixed in with seeds.

characteristics – General features caused by unidentified complexes of genes including but not limited to freeze tolerance, cold tolerance, regional adaptability, winter hardiness, early maturation, and flavor.

cleaning screen – Screens with different-sized openings are used to separate seeds from chaff. The screen number denotes the number of openings that will cover a one inch line. A screen is selected with openings just large enough to let seeds drop through without the chaff or as in the case of larger seeds, a screen selected to allow the chaff to drop through without the seeds. (See page 36.)

cross-pollination – When pollen is exchanged between different flowers from the same or different plants.

dehiscent – A seed capsule opened to discharge seeds is dehiscent. Seeds must be harvested before this process takes place and the seeds are lost. In some varieties, the seed capsules literally explode.

dioecious – A species with male flowers and female flowers on separate plants.

dominant trait – The variation of a specific, identifiable gene that results in observ able traits. For example, tall is a dominant trait in pea plant growth. Crosses with bush varieties will usually result in tall varieties. See “trait.”

F1 hybrid – The “F” in F1 hybrid stands for filial or offspring. F1 means the first generation offspring after cross-pollination. The majority of F1 hybrids are sterile or produce offspring unlike themselves. See “hybrid.”

filament – Tube that supports the anther where pollen is produced.

flail – The process of fracturing or crushing seedpods in order to free the seeds. This can take the form of everything from simply rubbing broccoli pods between your hands to driving over bean vines with a car.

flower – The part of a plant where reproduction takes place and seeds are produced.

hybrid – Varieties resulting from natural or artificial pollination between genetically distinct parents. Commercially, the parents used to produce hybrids are usually inbred for specific characteristics.

inbreeding depression – A loss of vigor because of inbreeding. Inbreeding is the result of self-pollination or pollination between two close relatives.

insect pollination – Pollen is carried from one flower to another by insects.

monecious – A species is monecious if it produces single plants with separate male flowers and female flowers on the same plant.

open-pollinated – Open-pollinated varieties are stable varieties resulting from the pollination between the same or genetically similar parents. Not hybrid.

ovary – The female part of a flower that contains the ovules. Fertilized ovules develop into mature seeds.

pappus – Small hairs borne at tip of seed (composite flowers only).

perfect flowers – Individual flowers that contain both stamens and pistils.

pistil – The female reproductive organ in a flower made up of the stigma, style, and ovary.

pollen – Equivalent of sperm in plants. Pollen grain fertilizes plant ovules.

pollination – The process of sexual fertilization in plants. The male chromosomes contained in pollen are combined with the female chromosomes contained in the ovules.

recessive trait – The variation of a specific, identifiable gene that results in observ able traits only if the dominant trait is not present. For example, wrinkled pea seeds result only in varieties where the dominant smooth-seed trait is missing.

rogue – The process of removing or destroying plants with unwanted characteristics or traits.

selection – The process of saving the seeds from plants that exhibit desirable charac teristics and traits. To identify desirable characteristics, plant the same variety in different environmental conditions, or plant different varieties in the same environ mental conditions.

self-pollination – When pollination takes place within a single flower, usually before it opens. Other flowers or plants are not needed. Self-pollinating flowers are called “perfect flowers” because they contain the stamens that produce pollen and the pistil that receives the pollen. Isolation distance to prevent cross-pollination is not necessary unless insects are known to invade the flowers before pollination is complete.

silique (siliqua) – Long, tubelike seedpod that splits in half.

stamen – A flower’s male reproductive organ consisting of the filament, anther, and pollen.

stigma – The opening in the pistil through which the pollen passes to the ovary.

style – Contains the pollen tube between the stigma and the ovary through which the pollen is carried.

thresh – A term used by seed professionals to describe the process of separating seeds from chaff.

trait – A specific feature traced to an identifiable gene or group of genes. Pea traits traceable to single genes include vine growth (bush or tall), seed texture (smooth or wrinkled) and disease resistance (fusarium, enation mosaic, and powdery mildew).

viable – A viable seed is one that will germinate and produce a vigorous plant. Seeds must not be harvested before they have matured enough to be viable. There is wide variation in the point of maturity at which a seed can be harvested and still be viable.

vigor – Strong, vibrant germination and growth. A desirable characteristic.

wind pollination – When pollen is carried from one flower to another by the wind.

winnow – An ancient technique used to clean seeds. Moving air from a fan or breeze is used to separate heavier seeds from lighter chaff.

Bam’s Banana Bread

{a little background: My oldest grand daughter couldn’t pronounce “grandma” when she was a toddler. It became “Bamma” which she then shortened to “Bam.” Since then all my grand kids have used this name for me.}

Bam’s Banana Bread

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

2 cup plus 2 tbls sugar

2 eggs

½ cup oil

3 ½ bananas – very ripe, mashed

2 tbl sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup walnuts – toasted and chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together.

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Beat sugar and eggs with a whisk (or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer) until light and fluffy (about 10 minutes).

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Drizzle in the oil. Add the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla.

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Fold in the dry ingredients and nuts.

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Pour into the lined loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

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This banana bread is dark in appearance but very moist!

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Building Your Food Storage On A Shoestring

One of the biggest blocks when someone considers prepping is the cost. Too many people do nothing to prepare for an emergency simply because they can’t figure out how to pay for it. As I’ve mentioned, I’m disabled and John is retired. Our income didn’t make us part of the upper crust even before John got cancer and the bills started coming in like an avalanche.

In spite of our financial situation BC (before cancer), I was determined to do something to ready my family for a crisis. It was challenging to figure out how to start. I was overwhelmed. But when John got sick and I had to rely on the things I’d purchased I was so glad I’d made the decision to prepare. You’ll be happy you put in the time, work, and money should a disaster strike. It’s my goal, with this blog, to help people who are not as far along or haven’t even started preparing just as I’ve learned from those people with more experience.

You want to build your stockpile of food and water but you don’t want to have to go to a loan shark or sell your firstborn to do it. There are strategies to help you stretch your dollars. And you can learn from the mistakes that those of us who started earlier have made.

First on my list of things not to do is thinking you have to do it all before the sun sets tonight. When I realized how unprepared I was for a crisis I felt I had to get everything instantly. I didn’t research certain items as well as I should and, consequently, spent too much on them. I bought too much of some things and not enough of others. My first word of advice is to take a little time.

When you do dishes by hand the “experts” (and just who the heck is a dish washing expert? Sorry. I digress.) tell us to wash the glassware then the flatware followed by the dinnerware, and finally the pots and pans. If you wash the pots and pans then the glasses you’re either going to have to change the dishwater (a waste of detergent and hot water) or you’re going to end up with greasy glasses (a waste of your time, detergent, and hot water). Think of your preparations like doing the dishes. You do one thing at a time. Start by building a Deep Pantry then move on to 30, 60, and 90 day stockpiles. Eventually you can get into storing enough food to last for years.

Because I jumped in and wanted to build a huge supply in a heartbeat I didn’t set a budget. This was sort of okay at first but later it really began to pinch. Set an amount you feel comfortable putting aside each week. If you can only do $5.00 put that aside. If you can save $20, it’s even better. It adds up more quickly than you think and it gives you time to research what you want to purchase early on. Use all or part of your tax return to stock up. In our state we have to return most cans and bottles. I use the money from the returned cans to spend on my storage. What I’m saying is there are ways to set aside at least a little money to begin preparing.

There are a lot of things that you’ll eventually want to have stockpiled. You’ll need a way to cook the food. You’ll need personal hygiene items. You’ll need to be able to provide heat. But the most basic items are food and water so I’ll start with food. A huge mistake is buying the wrong kinds of foods. Remember, this is for a survival situation so stocking up on Twinkies and pop isn’t the best use of your money.

Your body needs certain things to function. In a survival scenario you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck in terms of both money spent and nutrition. In a crisis you’re going to need these foods at about these percentages: Carbohydrates – 50% – 60%, Fats – 10% – 20%, and Proteins – 20% – 40%

Carbohydrates break down quickly into the sugars your body will need. Fats break down more slowly. These two give your body the energy it needs. Protein allows your body to create new cells and without it your body will cannibalize itself. Without protein your body will eat your muscles to keep itself going.These three are referred to as macro-nutrients. For long term survival you’ll also need micro-nutrients which I’ll discuss later.

Many websites talk about stocking comfort food and I agree, in part, with what they are saying. But junk food is empty calories and very expensive. Avoid buying it. Another really expensive purchase is proteins. You’ll need them but be careful about which ones you choose. Meat doesn’t keep well unless it’s canned or dehydrated but beans will give you a lot of protein and is a really inexpensive choice. It’s okay to stock a few of the junk food items but don’t use the bulk of your prep money for them.

Make sure you buy the items that will store well if you have no access to a refrigerator or freezer. There are ways to keep even some of the more perishable items for long term storage and I’ll get into them when I discuss the ways our ancestors fed themselves without refrigeration.

Planning, price comparisons, and sales are the best way to get your food for the least amount of money. Plan what you want to start stockpiling then check your local grocery stores and online to find the best price. While many items you’ll want to buy, like dried beans, don’t often go on sale, you may find a great sale on canned items. If the store has a limit on sale items just take everyone in the family and have each person buy the limit. I’ve also purchased the limit of items, put them in my car, and gone back in to buy the limit again. If there’s a great sale on meat you can always buy a lot of it and then turn it into jerky. Amazon carries grocery items as do Walmart and Target. And they’ll ship for free if you spend a certain amount (usually $50). Buy salt, canning salt, sugar, molasses, dried fruit, and beans this way, too. A lot of the carbohydrates you’ll want to stock are sold in bulk. You can get really big bags of flour, pasta, and rice shipped right to your door. Check the prices for various online vendors.

By spending money for a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco you can end up saving a lot. Unless you have a huge family or are planning to feed the neighborhood in an emergency, don’t buy the 5 gallon jar of mayonnaise and stay away from the frozen prepared foods. But these warehouse clubs are a great place to pick up restaurant size containers of spices (which will help you and your family adjust to a different way of eating). You can also save a lot on paper products, personal hygiene, and even bottled water there.I’m lucky enough to have a son who lives very nearby who is already a member of a warehouse club so I just give him a list.

Coupons are another fantastic way to save money. Many stores will double and sometimes even triple the value of your coupons. We’ve all heard about the people who come home with hundreds of dollars in food and have only spent $10. I’m not saying you’ll be able to save that much but every dime you save on one item is a dime you have to spend on another. The number one source of coupons is the Sunday paper. Get the coupons from as many Sunday papers as you can. Don’t buy 50 newspapers (you’ll probably spend more on them than you’ll save) but if there are great coupons in the paper it may be worth buying a few extra. Another source is neighbors, family, and friends who may not use the coupons and will give them to you. Magazines also sometimes have coupons. Food magazines are your best source for food coupons but you can find food coupons in what I call “all purpose” magazines like Better Homes and Gardens. You can also find coupons for non-food items that you’ll want to stock. There are many, many sources of coupons online. Most require that you download their “coupon clipper” but you can find coupons from everything from food items to detergents. Manufacturers also put coupons right on their websites. This is especially true of the really big companies. And don’t forget the grocery stores themselves. Two of our local grocery stores have little coupon clips right on the shelves beneath the items the coupons are for and others have a coupon area by the bulletin boards. A lot of stores also print coupons right on the receipts. And never overlook the “save now” coupons attached to items you’re buying. Manufacturers often have coupons that peel right off the item that can be used immediately. Get creative. Check out your local recycling center to see if you can go through the papers left there. Some coupons come in the mail. Also check the trash bins of party stores and gas stations late on Sunday. If some of the papers don’t sell the store will just throw out the extras along with the coupons they contain. Just be sure to organize your coupons and to keep track of those that expire. Don’t miss the chance to save some money by letting coupons “go bad.”

Farmer’s Markets are one of my favorite summer visits. I’m lucky because I have at least six of them within a 20 minute drive. If you don’t know how to can, this is the time to learn. Be sure to follow only approved recipes. Buy bushels of tomatoes, vegetables, and fruit at a farmer’s market and fill your store with food you’ve canned yourself. Also look into CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) in your area. These are not only a source for fruits and vegetables but you can find honey, meats of various types (beef, lamb, rabbit, chicken, etc.), and even eggs. Many require you to purchase either an annual, seasonal, or weekly share but they can provide you with non-GMO produce and non-commercially raised meat and eggs.

Another way to save money on food for long term storage is sharing. You can buy items in bulk and split both the food and the cost with someone who is also storing food. If you buy #10 cans of items to split I recommend using Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and desiccant packs. When opened, #10 cans can be stored for an advertised 5 years but it’s more likely you’ll use up whatever the items is in less time than that.

Remember to plan, compare prices, and shop sales. Remember coupons savings can really add up. Don’t feel you have to buy the latest “prepper” storage containers or gadgets. Don’t forget to research inexpensive ways to accomplish the same goals as the expensive solutions. And, as always, feel free to ask us questions or leave your comments.