Monthly Archives: April 2013

Kids Marketplace event draws new volunteers

Volunteer Arlington Day, sponsored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, provided an opportunity for VCE staff and Master Financial Education Volunteers to partner with staff from the Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and DoubleTree by Hilton Washington DC-Crystal City to provide a KIDS’ MARKETPLACE simulation at Randolph Elementary School.

On April 23rd 109 fourth and fifth graders at Randolph Elementary School in Arlington experienced this interactive program which introduces financial concepts in age-appropriate terms while having fun. The more than 20 volunteers staffed stations like Housing, Groceries, Sharing, Saving, and Animal Shelter and helped students make spending decisions based on the hypothetical jobs they were given.

This was great exposure for VCE to the corporate volunteers, many of whom were not previously aware of the many services we provide. Volunteers all requested to be asked to participate in future programs.KM Randolph 2013 009

Welcome to the new class of Master Financial Education Volunteers!

We are thrilled to announce an addition of sixteen more Master Financial Education Volunteers (MFEVs) to our Financial Education volunteer roster.  These MFEVs completed their 12 hour training on April 27, and are equipped to assist with teaching classes, provide one-on-one financial counseling, participate in youth financial simulations, and much more.  They are eager to put their training into practice.  Congratulations, Femeia, Terri, Tyrone, Angell, Jen, Janet, Erin, Esperanza, Cyndi, Geri, Carol, Jack, Sandra, Johana, Brittany, and James!

Master Food Volunteers Promote Local Produce at Arlington Green Living Expo

A healthy remake of the classic Waldorf salad prepared on-site by Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Master Food Volunteers was a refreshing treat for participants at the Arlington Green Living Expo on Sunday, April 21.

More than 60 exhibitors took part in the Green Living Expo and Arlington Earth Week Community Fair, sponsored by Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE) and George Mason University, and held at the university’s Arlington campus.

In a cooking demonstration promoting local produce, VCE Extension Agent Jennifer Abel and Master Food Volunteers Lise Metzger, Holly Rowe and Sue Gonzalez made and distributed samples of fresh apple salad. Visitors were also offered a copy of the recipe and a list of Arlington County farmers markets.

With only four ingredients – apples, raisins, walnuts and low-fat plain yogurt – this versatile salad is a great side dish, snack or even dessert. Making the salad an extra special treat at the expo were the wonderfully sweet Fuji apples, donated by Twin Springs Fruit Farm, located within two hours of the DC metro area near Gettysburg, PA.

Master Food Volunteers, Holly Rowe (left) and Lise Metzger (right), prepare fresh apple salad to distribute to participants at the Green Living Expo and Arlington Earth Week Community Fair.

Master Food Volunteers, Holly Rowe (left) and Lise Metzger (right), prepare fresh apple salad to distribute to participants at the Green Living Expo and Arlington Earth Week Community Fair.

By the end of the event, the Master Food Volunteers had chopped and mixed two crates of apples and given dozens of fair-goers a healthful, sweet start to this year’s Earth Week.

Written by: Sue Gonzalez, Master Food Volunteer

Home fermentation: add a kick to your local produce this summer!

Last spring, Master Food Volunteer and food preservation extraordinaire, Diane Blust, gave me the fermentation bug.


Diane Blust, Master Food Volunteer

I was always awed and a little scared of home fermentation. After all, I’m a registered dietitian and incredibly—sometimes overly—mindful of food safety. The thought of eating food that’s been breeding bacteria at room temperature for days or weeks on end made me prohibitively nervous.

But many of my favorite flavors come from fermented foods: miso, tempeh, kimchi, hot sauce, and of course Virginia wines. Armed with my love of these delicious foods, I was determined to master the art! With Diane as my inspiration and Extension food preservation resources as my food-safety net, I’ve been fermenting non-stop for about a year.

When I saw a display of gorgeous, enormous, bright-green fresh cabbage on sale at my local grocer, I knew it was time for another batch of sauerkraut.

On the first day, the ferment was bright green.

Sauerkraut day 1

Sauerkraut Day 1

The next morning, the healthful lactobacillus bacteria were noticeably hard at work. The cabbage was laced with pockets of carbon dioxide bubbles reaching for the surface.

Two weeks in, the bright-green colors changed to yellows and olive greens, which was great news. Green pigmentation in plants dulls and softens when exposed to acid. The beneficial bacteria were creating the desired lactic acid, which acts as a preservative and provides the tangy, vinegar-like taste in sauerkraut.  This batch will be done in the next week or two.

Ferment 2

Sauerkraut Day 14

How do you make your own sauerkraut? Follow the fermentation best practices from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s National Center for Home Food Preservation.

For extra flavor, I added dried spices like caraway seed, dill, and garlic. Any of your favorite pickling spices will do. Diane’s signature ingredient, juniper berry, adds fantastic complexity. For more inspiration, check out The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

Want to learn more? Look for hands-on classes from Extension this summer.

–Katie Strong, MS, RD, FCS Extension Agent

Five Financial Myths That Can Leave You Poorer

If the road to financial security sometimes feels like a donkey trail instead of a superhighway, then part of the reason may be widely held misconceptions that make us take a few wrong turns.  Here are five myths almost guaranteed to cause you to stumble.

Myth #1:  A home is your best investment.  Not necessarily.  Just ask the people who bought homes in 2006, only to see the value collapse in 2008.  While home values are recovering, they can fluctuate in the wrong direction when you want to sell.  In short, a home is not a liquid investment.

A home also means expenses that renters don’t have:  insurance, property taxes, replacement of dying furnaces, and weekends at Home Depot.  And that glorified mortgage interest deduction on your income tax return?  For every three dollars you pay in interest, Uncle Sam may reimburse you for one dollar, but that’s still two dollars of unproductive out-of-pocket expenditure.  The solution?  Go to your favorite search engine on the Web and type in “rent vs. buy.”  You’ll find sites that can help you decide if home ownership is right for you.  Just make sure you visit several sites to get the wide angle view of your situation.

Myth #2:  A bunch of credit cards makes you look more creditworthy.  You would think that a pile of credit cards would demonstrate that lots of people trust you to pay your debts.  In reality, multiple credit cards represent large potential debt, thus making a banker hesitant to make a large loan (for a car, house, or whatever) on favorable terms.  The solution?  Think like a banker.  Would you loan money to someone who can max out a lot of cards quickly?

Myth #3:  You should invest all of your money in one well-publicized company.  Yes, that company could be the next Apple Inc.  Or it could be the next Enron.  The point is:  even the experts get it wrong sometimes, which is why they usually don’t put all of their eggs in one basket.  If investing is difficult for pros with research staffs, what chance does the average person have?  The solution:  a diversified mutual fund having stocks in a variety of industries and low operating expenses.  It also helps if the fund hasn’t been in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s doghouse.

Myth #4:  To beat inflation, you must invest in high-yielding (and high risk) investments.   Financial salespeople will overstate the effect and duration of inflation to scare you into their investment products.  Yet, an inflation rate is merely a weighted average of various products, such as housing, fuel, and food.  If you don’t drive a car or are not looking for a new house, your personal inflation rate may be pretty low.  You don’t need to rush into any investment.

What’s the solution to all this pressure?  A little perspective helps.  In real dollar terms, we’re better off than we used to be.  Electronic equipment is better per dollar spent.  Medical care, while expensive, is far more advanced than even twenty years ago.  Cars last longer.

Make no mistake:  things will cost more tomorrow.  But that is no reason to invest in something that gains 20% each year for two years and then wipes out your gain in the third year with a 33% drop.  (Do the math; you’ll be surprised.)  Like the tortoise, slow but steady wins the race.

Myth #5:  You can always trust the advice of personal finance magazines.  A famous financial publication once declared a certain mutual fund as being best for the long run.  That fund’s parent company no longer exists.  Aside from bad predictions, personal finance magazines have an inherent conflict of interest because much of their advertising income comes from the same mutual funds that they write about.  How tough would you be on the hand that feeds you?  In fairness, the magazines do contain useful historical information.  But the solution to trusting them too much is to always be skeptical of their advice for the future.  After all, nobody has a reliable crystal ball.

– Phil Neel, Master Financial Education Volunteer

Master Food Volunteers at FAN Camp: Veggie Pinwheels, Banana Pudding in a Bag, and more!

Elementary students spent Spring Break mashing bananas, scraping cucumber seeds, and most importantly having fun!

Less than a week after graduating, five newly-minted Master Food Volunteers sprang into action to help Extension with FAN Camp (Food and Nutrition Camp) at Barcroft Elementary School in Arlington. MFVs Dorothy, Pat, Caroline, Geri and I worked with FCS Agent Katie Strong to teach hands-on cooking and nutrition to more than 40 students from pre-K through 5th grade.


Over two days, students played nutrition games and made tasty, age-appropriate recipes. Younger students colored MyPlate placemats, which volunteers laminated so the kids could take them home. Then, students learned about food groups and what makes a balanced diet. They guessed at fruit and vegetable riddles and sat down to make some healthy dishes.

On Wednesday, two classes of older students made veggie wraps: radishes, carrots, salad greens, herbs, low-fat cheese, yogurt and avocado wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla. The wraps were a big hit with the kids; one student made the recipe for her family the very next day! The younger groups of 4- and 5-year-olds had a ball making banana pudding in a bag (lots of squishing of bananas, yogurt, applesauce and granola inside a zip-top plastic bag).

On Thursday, the older students made mango salsa from fresh mango, black beans, green pepper, green onion, cilantro, and lime. While the MFVs prepared some of the more difficult ingredients ahead of time, students pitched in and prepared most of the dish themselves. In small groups under watchful eyes of MFVs, students took turns chopping the green pepper and cilantro and learning safe knife skills. The salsa was devoured with corn chips. The younger students enjoyed making apple wraps: a whole-wheat tortilla with a mashed banana and sunflower seed butter spread, sprinkled with diced apples and then rolled up. They were a big hit!

With just a little supervision, the students could easily make the recipes at home.


One of the challenges facing the volunteers was how to make the activities fun for a large group of kids on their spring break. But they needn’t have worried: the kids had a great time talking about food and chopping, mixing and eating the delicious and nutritious dishes.

We plan to return for more cooking fun in July, and we look forward to spending more time with the young fledgling chefs.

–Lise Metzger, Master Food Volunteer


30 Master Food Volunteers Complete Training

On March 22 thirty new Master Food Volunteers (MFVs) completed their 30-hour training and are ready to begin serving the community by teaching groups about good nutrition and healthy cooking. This is the largest group of MFVs trained to date and marks the second year that Katie and Jennifer have teamed up to organize this multi-county training. The volunteers will serve Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County by teaching cooking classes in senior centers, leading nutrition programs in schools, assisting with Cooking Matters courses, helping SNAP beneficiaries get to know about the wide array of produce available at farmers markets, helping low-income gardeners learn tasty ways to prepare the produce they are growing, helping with food preservation classes, and much more.
The volunteers come with a wide variety of skills and backgrounds. One thing they all have in common is a high level of enthusiasm for the volunteer work that they will be doing. They are eager to get started so keep a look out for their characteristic aprons in the community.
It is a lot of work to put together this training, especially for such a large group, and Katie and Jennifer would like to thank the following people for making it possible: Janet Al-Hussaini, Ginger Geoffrey, Catherine Hader, Saroj Khurana, Sue Lagon, Megan Mauer, Ellen Mathis, Desiree Morningstar, Patty Reyes, Debbie Roche, Kisha Simpson, Haregowoin Tecklu, and Octavia Walker.

4-H camp applications due May 1

As a reminder Arlington 4-H Junior Camp is still accepting applications for 4-H Camp 2013 until May 1. This year camp will take place July 7 –11. Don’t hesitate to submitt your application to the Fairfax Extension Office. You can find more information about 4-H camp at our website: under the news section.

Making healthy Foods your Friend

In April, VCE is offering several programs to support Arlington County Child Care Services. The Food Friends program, which teaches children to taste healthful new foods and develop motor skills, will be made available to child care providers in the county. Opportunities are available thanks to a partnership with the Arlington Healthy Communities Action Team. Further, Katie Strong is providing continuing education to childcare providers on the risks of sugar-sweetened beverages for preschoolers, along with practical ideas for serving healthful beverages and snacks.