Bonfires and Cocoa

By Michelle Plummer

There is something magical about a bonfire, from the crackling wood to the flames of color jumping about while the red embers quietly smolder below providing warmth and comfort on a chilly autumn night.  As you look in to the fire and recall memories of camp outs with scouts, family and friends there is one thing these memories have in common… hot cocoa!

Hot cocoa is one of my favorite foods and really what is not to love?  Warm milk, chocolate and whipped cream… ooohhhh, well not all of my hot chocolate memories are like this. There was the camp out that we burnt the milk and used water, chocolate and sugar and topped it off with whipped cream—-horrible! Or the time I ran out of milk and mixed milk and water (who would notice) and added whipped cream as a thickener to the cocoa and sugar and well never mind…one more disaster!  And my personal favorite of trying to melt chocolate bars over the fire into a cup of warm milk…why you ask?  Because it took much too long to melt the chocolate in the milk together, the chocolate burnt into the fire and I was left with warm milk and whipped cream…not bad, but not what I had envisioned around the campfire!

However, many years later and lots of practice I have developed delicious hot cocoa that is perfect for any group, any fire and even perfect near the indoor fire pit (fireplace)!

Homemade Hot Cocoa  (serves 10)

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
1/2 gallon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon instant coffee

1 cup half and half

Whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, chocolate shavings, peppermint sticks, marshmallows

In large saucepan combine sugar, cocoa powder, salt and coffee together.  Add water and stir until blended.  Whisk milk in gradually; add chocolate that has been chopped.  Heat until very warm; add vanilla and half & half.  Place on stove to heat again until warm.  Place in thermos for the bonfire or place in crockpot on low for a crowd or simply ladle into large mugs, garnish as desired and go to your best memory of past bonfires or build a new memory with a delicious cup of cocoa.

Quickie Cocoa

Open an envelope of cocoa mix, add warm milk and stir in your favorite mug.  All the benefits of cocoa plus the milk nutrition and it done in just a minute and you will not miss one crackle or spark!

Pizza Month

By Brittni the Intern

One of the oldest and most loved foods is Pizza.  October has been designated as National Pizza Month to celebrate the history and love of this delicious food.  Pizza is one of the most popular foods eaten by Americans.  Whether you like pepperoni, veggies, pineapple, or even just cheese, there is a pizza out there that satisfies nearly everyone’s taste buds.

Pizza has been in existence for centuries in many different forms.  In fact, most pizzas started out as sweet treats instead of the savory dishes we commonly eat today.  Pizza started out as a “peasant’s” food.  It was commonly sold on the streets to lower class people.  It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that pizza was prepared by chefs and then it became a staple for all!

Pizza eventually made its way to America via Italian immigrants.  Vendors would walk up and down streets selling pizza to anyone who would buy.  However, pizza was mostly only eaten by Italians.  It wasn’t until the 1940’s that pizza became more popular with other nationalities.  Troops stationed in Italy during WWII became tired of the boring food they were fed and tried the common Italian cuisine.  Since then, pizza has found a home in American kitchens.

According to the website,  Pizza Marketplace, there are over 70,000 pizzerias in the United States alone; and 9,000 of those restaurants are in New York.  Many changes have occurred since the common pizza was served only to poor people of Italy.  Americans order over 3 billion pizzas each year and the average American eats 46 slices of pizza annually.

Pizza has become a staple in the American diet.  Through all the changes and travel pizza has made over the centuries, it still has a place in our hearts, and our stomachs.  What better time than National Pizza Month to satisfy the taste buds with one of the nation’s favorite treats.

Fall Festivals and Farm Fun!

Courtesy of

By Mary Nicholson

The dog days of summer are now behind us, and maybe we’ll have an Indian summer yet.  But there’s no doubt that it’s fall – time for football, turning leaves, campfires, and fall festivals.  What a great time of year for a little day trip!

Apple orchards have always been a favorite with my family, although this year might be a little different.  The mild winter combined with the hard frost might make apple picking a little slim this year.  So before you head out the door, check out what’s going on with your favorite orchard.  At many orchards, there’s so much more than apples!  Some have corn mazes, hay rides, homemade pies and other baked goods, and even live music.

Many of us thought the drought of the summer would certainly affect the fall colors of the trees.  The last 2 weeks I’ve spent a fair number of hours behind the wheel, and I’ve seen some spectacular colors that I really didn’t expect to see.  What a pleasant surprise!

There are also a great many fall festivals all around the state.  Here’s a handy guide to find one that’s close to you.  There are so many different kinds of celebrations that involve everything from covered bridges, corn, and harvest to the Renaissance, beans, cars, and even Elvis! There’s certainly something for everybody.  The Parke County Covered Bridge Festival is known outside of Indiana.  Growing up in southern Illinois, I’d even heard about it!

Courtesy of

One thing that’s not really a festival, but certainly worth a little drive, is a farm tour at Kelsay Farms in Whiteland.  Have you ever seen a working dairy farm?  Here you can see just how milk gets from the cow to your grocery store.  And if you’re lucky, you might even get to see a calf!  Open daily from October 8 – 19th, and all weekends through October 28th, there are other special activities including a corn maze, a baby barnyard, corn hole games, pumpkin bowling, hayrides, and the MooChoo Express.  You can even go trick-or-treating in the corn maze on October 27!

That’s another favorite thing about autumn – Halloween is right around the corner.  More about that another time!

Moldy Cheese Day?

By DeDe Hausmann

You know that there seems to be a day for just about anything.  Well hold onto your hats for -October 9th has been designated as NATIONAL MOLDY CHEESE DAY!

OK let’s make it clear.  Some natural cheeses are injected with a Penicillium Rogueforti Bacteria to produce a mold spore that helps the cheese ripen and develop a distinctive flavor, as in Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Maytag and other cheeses.  And most cheeses have a small amount of internal and surface mold that we don’t see.  BUT if you purchase a cheese and it later develops a mold while it’s refrigerated at home, that moldy area on that cheese is NOT OK to eat!

Mold can develop on any cheese once the product is exposed to air.  Shredded, cubed and sliced cheese can develop mold faster than chunks of natural cheese because they have a greater surface area.

To help delay the formation of mold on cheese, make sure you store the cheese in air-tight packaging.   Once the cheese is exposed to air though, expect mold formation to begin.

And once that mold forms it can spread quickly throughout the cheese.

Do know that you can eat cheese from a chunk of cheese that has mold spores on it.  JUST DO NOT EAT ANY OF THE MOLD.   Cut the mold out of the cheese making sure not to touch the mold with the knife.   If I find mold on a natural cheese, as in cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, and Swiss, I cut a wide area around the mold and ditch it immediately and then clean the knife WELL before using it again.

So what happens if you find mold in a liquid-based cheese (or other dairy) product?  This includes cottage and ricotta cheese, sour cream and yogurt.  The mold can and will contaminate the liquid that flows throughout the product so do not eat any of it.  Pitch it out!

Make sure to check the package dates on cheese products.  If I plan to keep a cheese around for a while, I chose a package with a date far in the future.  If I’m preparing a dish with cheese for immediate use, I don’t worry with that.

So you’ve learned that it’s OK to eat naturally moldy cheeses, as in Blue, Roquefort or Gorganzola, but if your Cheddar, Colby, Swiss or whatever develops mold after it’s opened and stored, remove all the mold and more before consuming! If by chance there’s lots of mold, go by the old saying, “when in doubt, throw it out”!

And if you are a cheese lover like me you rarely will find moldy cheese in your refrigerator because you eat it before mold can form!  I LOVE CHEESE, DON’T YOU?!

World Teachers’ Day

By Diane Ruyack

“If you know how to read, thank a teacher!”  How true this is!  Let’s honor and respect teachers all over the  world. Respect is what teachers crave.  Some feel like they are at the bottom of the education totem pole.

World Teachers’ Day, held annually on October 5th since 1994 – when it was created by UNESCO – celebrates teachers worldwide. Its aim is to mobilise support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.

Respect can mean different things to different people. But basically, respect means to show regard or consideration for someone or something. It is critical for our children to understand the importance of respect, so that they can communicate effectively with others throughout their lives. It is important to distinguish between respect and obedience.

The best way to teach your child about respect is for you to show respect to yourself, your child, and others. Kids are greatly influenced throughout their day by adults – whether it be a parent, teacher, or coach. Observing respectful adult behavior helps your child learn the value of respect and how to use it to her advantage. Some ways to show respect are to

All teachers appreciate students who have good manners in school and who work well with them, but they especially appreciate when a student takes the time to say thank you. Other ways to show respect is to be on time to class, don’t talk when the teacher is talking, raise your hand before blurting out, be involved in class discussions, bring in completed homework and be kind to others.

I guess the moral of the story is to treat everyone respect, adults, children alike.

Get organized without the stress!

By Kimmi Devaney

Did you know this coming week is ‘Get organized week’? This probably sounds stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. I read The Happiness Project last year, and it had a section about getting organized. By the way, if you haven’t read it yet, I would highly recommend it. Getting organized can be as easy as cleaning out the closet, leaving an empty shelf and keeping similar items all in one place.

The closet is an easy place to start. I am notorious for having too many tank tops. At one point in college, I owned about 100 of them. Yes, 100. Yikes. The book helps a lot with this. It recommends having three piles: stuff to throw away, clothes to donate and clothes to keep. After culling unneeded clothes, get rid of unnecessary hangers. Ironically, as the book points out, having fewer clothes—but clothes that you actually wear—gives you more choices. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of Diabetes

By Diane Ruyack

Diabetes can be controlled not cured.  With the prevalence of diabetes in children and adults here in the United States, the American Diabetes Association will launch a socially-focused initiative, “A Day in the Life of Diabetes”, to demonstrate the increasing impact diabetes has on families and communities nationwide.  ADA wants to focus on the issue of diabetes and those who live with it each and every day. Successfully managing diabetes can be a monumental task, making what might seem like an otherwise ordinary life rather extraordinary.  Who do you know is a diabetic? Here are some statistics that are staggering:

  • Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
  • Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Recent estimates project that as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless we take steps to Stop Diabetes.

The Toll on Health

  • Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults.
  • The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for people without diabetes.
  • About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.

Cost of Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $174 billion.

  • Direct medical costs reach $116 billion and the average medical expenditure among people with diabetes is 2.3 times higher than those without the disease.
  • Indirect costs amount to $58 billion (disability, work loss, premature mortality).
  • Further published studies suggest that when additional costs for gestational diabetes, prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes are included, the total diabetes-related costs in the U.S. could exceed $218 billion.
  • The cost of caring for someone with diabetes is $1 out of every $5 in total healthcare costs.

Raising awareness of this ever-growing disease is one of the main efforts behind the mission of the American Diabetes Association.