Steps to Safely Fry a Turkey

November 24th, 2014

Have you ever thought about deep frying a turkey? It gives you very tender meat with a nice crispy texture, but in order to keep yourself and your food safe you need to follow some precautions.

  • Completely thaw your turkey or use a fresh turkey. Be sure to remove the neck and giblets bag before cooking.
  • Make sure that your surface where you are frying is flat and in a safe outdoor location that is far away from garages, decks and house siding.
  • Do NOT stuff your turkey.
  • Use a turkey that weighs 12 pounds or less.
  • Make sure your frying pot is large enough for your turkey to be covered by 1 to 2 inches of oil and that there is at least 3-5 inches space between the oil and the top of the pot, so the oil does not boil over the sides.
  • Heat the oil to 350° F. After it has reached this temperature slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. Constantly monitor the temperature of the oil and never leave it unattended.
  • It will take approximately 3 to 5 minutes per pound for the turkey to cook.
  • Use a meat thermometer to see if the turkey has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165° F. in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • If it has not reached that temperature return the turkey immediately to the oil to finish cooking.
  • When the turkey is finished cooking remove from the oil and place on a sturdy tray lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  • Let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
  • Be sure that the heat is turned off and the pot is put in a spot where nothing will disturb it.

By following these precautions your guests will enjoy a juicy turkey and you will have a safe Thanksgiving!

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Food Preparation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas, Household Equipment

Time to Thaw the Turkey!

November 20th, 2014


If you have not done so already, it is probably time to start thinking about thawing your turkey. There are three different ways to thaw your turkey, four if you count cooking it from the frozen state.

The first method is thawing the turkey in the refrigerator. This is perhaps the easiest method.  It is best to put the turkey on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator in a pan or cookie sheet.  This will turkey thawprevent drippings from the thawing bird contaminating other foods; especially ready to eat foods like fruits and vegetables.  Expect the turkey to thaw at a rate of 5 pounds for every 24 hours.  Plan to have the turkey thawed for no more than 2 days before cooking.  If you find your turkey thawing much faster than expected, you can refreeze overnight then continue thawing.  We never advise just setting the bird on a counter top for thawing.

Refrigerator Thawing Times

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

If you suddenly realize you were supposed to begin thawing the turkey several days ago and find yourself running out of time to thaw it, use the cold water thawing method. For this method, you will need to allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey. Be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag; this keeps the turkey from absorbing water.  Place the turkey in a sink full of cold water.  Change the turkey thaw2water every half hour—the water will get very cold—until the turkey is thawed.

Cold Water Thawing Times

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours

Not enough time for the cold water method? Try defrosting in your microwave. Follow the directions that came with your microwave.  Plan to cook it immediately as the turkey may have developed hot spots while defrosting.

Call us at AnswerLine if you have further questions about getting that turkey thawed.


Food Preparation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas

Pumpkin Pie–Do I Need to Refrigerate It or Not?

November 17th, 2014


Pumpkin pie ready for bakingOne of the questions we are asked a lot before Thanksgiving is “Do I need to refrigerate my pumpkin pie or not?” Probably the main reason for the confusion is seeing all the pumpkin pies at the grocery store just sitting on the shelves—stored at room temperature.  The main difference between the grocery store bakery pies and the ones that you make at home is the ingredients.  Those bakery pies are made with shelf-stable ingredients which can include preservatives and anti-microbials that won’t allow the growth of bacteria. If you read the label on the pie you may see a notation of RT; indicating the pie can be stored at room temperature. Leftover pieces of these pies should be stored in the refrigerator.  Remember to use the pie within 2-3 days.  If you need to store it for a longer time, consider freezing the pie.

When you make your own pie from scratch, you should refrigerate it as soon as it has had a chance to cool. Homemade pies have ingredients like milk and eggs which provide a great medium for bacterial growth. If you prefer a warm piece of pie, you can always warm the pie just prior to serving.











Food Preparation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas

Turkey Stuffing Safety Tips

November 13th, 2014



It’s time to start thinking about your Thanksgiving meal! If you are in charge of the turkey here are some safety tips if you plan on stuffing your turkey.

  1. If your stuffing recipe contains raw meat, poultry or shellfish cook those ingredients before making the stuffing.  If raw ingredients are used there may be a risk of foodborne illness since it takes longer for the temperature to reach safe level inside the turkey.
  2. Wet ingredients for stuffing can be mixed together and refrigerated but do not mix it with the dry ingredients until you are ready to cook the turkey.
  3. After combining the dry and wet ingredients spoon it directly into the turkey cavity. Allow approximately ¾ cup of stuffing for each pound of turkey. Be sure that you do not over stuff the turkey.
  4. Do not stuff any turkey that you plan to cook on the grill or in a turkey fryer.
  5. Make sure that the stuffing, in addition to the meat, has reached a minimum temperature of 165° F with a meat thermometer. If it is not at this temperature continue cooking until both are safely cooked.
  6. Once the turkey and the stuffing are at the safe temperature let the cooked turkey rest for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving.
  7. Be sure and refrigerate any leftover cooked turkey or stuffing within 2 hours of cooking and use within 3 to 4 days.

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Caulking to Save Energy

November 10th, 2014

person caulking window1According to the Iowa Energy Center the average Iowa family spends more than half of its annual household energy bill on heating and cooling. You can greatly reduce this number by doing some caulking around your doors and windows. Filling the gaps and cracks around windows and doors can make a difference in utility bills as well as helping to keep unwanted pests out of your house.

To caulk, the first step is to clean away any of the old caulk from the area. Apply the new caulk to a dry surface.  There are many different types of caulk available.  Some are for indoor use only while others are for outdoors, some are paintable while others are not.  Be sure to read the labels and choose the caulk that will adhere to the surface you are sealing.  Most caulks are applied with a caulking gun for easy application.  Simply cut about ½ inch off the end of the tip at a 45° angle and use a nail to puncture the seal.  Lay a uniform bead that covers both sides for a good seal.  You can use a dampened finger to smooth it out if needed.  If the opening is more than ¼ inch you may need a backing material added before caulking or use a spray foam sealer instead.  After you are finished if you have caulk remaining in the tube the nail can serve as a cap for the unused amount.

Some other places that you should check for air leaks include dryer vents, faucet pipes, electric outlets, chimneys, and the foundation sill. Taking care of these projects can extend the life of your home, lower your utility costs and make your home more comfortable in both the summer and winter!

If you are looking for more detailed information on caulking and winterizing throughout your house the Home Tightening, Insulation and Ventilation publication from the Iowa Energy Center will give you more detailed guidance.

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Housing, Winter

Make or can your own cranberry sauce

November 6th, 2014


Cranberry sauce2Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce is hard to imagine for some people. If you are feeling adventurous this year you may want to try something new. The cranberry is a very versatile fruit and in season now.

When you are shopping for cranberries, choose full, firm berries that are dark red or red and yellow in color. Cranberries that are soft, shriveled, and have dark spots should be avoided. Store them in the refrigerator when you bring them home from the store. The crisper drawer will help you keep them fresh for 3-4 weeks. You can also freeze the berries until you are ready to use them.  Wash the berries just prior to cooking. Discard any shriveled or damaged berries. Cranberries can be eaten raw or cooked. You can also add them to breads and muffins. Plan to stock up now while they are available.

Remember, you can change up a waldorf salad or any other fruit salad with the addition of cranberries.If you want to make your own fresh cranberry sauce this year, follow this recipe from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service.

For sweet cranberry sauce, use two cups cranberries to one cup sugar and one-half cup water. After the cranberries have been sorted and washed, put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar crystals completely. Boil gently for about 10 minutes, or until skins crack. Remove from heat and skim foam. Sauce may either be served hot or allowed to cool before serving.

You also have the option to preserve cranberry sauce  to enjoy throughout the year. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a recipe  for cranberry  sauce. Cranberry Jam is another fun and  easy project.

You have so many options to use and enjoy cranberries this season.


















Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Holiday ideas

Tips for teaching your kids to wash their hands

November 3rd, 2014

We hear it on the news almost every day. Remember to wash your hands, or hand washing can prevent the spread of disease.  But is it really that important?  The Center for Disease Control has a long list of the science behind the importance of hand washing.  It really can be a simple procedure; yet not everyone knows how to effectively wash their hands.  Below are some tips for teaching your children.

image1. Wet—get your hands wet with clean, running water. Using a basin filled with water can contaminate your hands even further, so turn on the faucet.  It doesn’t matter if the water is warm or cold, either is effective against germs but warm water is more comfortable and may make it easier to wash hands for the required time.

2. Lather—teach your children to rub their hands together with the soap. Lathering the backs of hands and in between your fingers is important.  Don’t forget to lather the nails—on children this area is often neglected. Teach them to sing Happy Birthday twice while they scrub to be sure they lather long enough.

3. Rinse—use plenty of water, remember warm is often more comfortable for children.

4. Dry-use either a clean towel or airs dry your hands.


It is also a good idea to review with your children when it is necessary to wash their hands. Below is a list from the Center for Disease Control listing appropriate times to wash hands.

  1. Before, during, and after preparing food
  2. Before eating
  3. Before and after caring for sick people
  4. Before and after treating wounds
  5. After using the toilet or changing diapers
  6. after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  7. after touching pets or handling their food
  8. After touching garbage

These tips may help cut down on sickness in your home this winter.










Child Development, Food Safety


October 30th, 2014

Halloween Safety

I have such fond memories of special Halloween celebrations with my two kids, who are young adults now. We would make “scary” treats, homemade costumes, attend school parties, trick-or- treat on beggar’s nights, etc.  I’m not sure who had more fun – the kids or me?

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control to help make the festivities safe and fun for all:

alphabet letter sSwords, knives, and other costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.

alphabet letter aAvoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

alphabet letter fFasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
alphabet letter eExamine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.


alphabet letter hHold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you. Always WALK and don’t run from house to house.
alphabet letter aAlways test make-upExternal Web Site Icon in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.
alphabet letter lLook both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
alphabet letter lLower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.External Web Site Icon
alphabet letter oOnly walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
alphabet letter wWear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.
alphabet letter eEat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.
alphabet letter eEnter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Only visit well-lit houses. Never accept rides from strangers.
alphabet letter nNever walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.
Keeping these suggestions in mind while planning and celebrating your holiday will help ensure everyone enjoys themselves and makes it home safely.  Happy Halloween to all!
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Child Development, Consumer Management, Food Safety, Holiday ideas, Textiles

A Mouse in the House?

October 27th, 2014

mouse white background2Cooler weather makes us think about winter and all the things we have left to do before winter strikes. Mice are not unlike people in this aspect; as the weather cools they begin to look for a way to spend the winter inside your home.

The two most effective methods of ridding your home from mice are exclusion and trapping. You can exclude mice by plugging cracks and holes in the siding or foundation of your home that are ¼ of an inch or larger. Mice need a hole or crack only as large as their head to enter your home.  Since mice are excellent climbers, pay attention to loose windows and holes that contain pipes or cables.  Stuff steel wool into cracks and holes to prevent mice from entering.  Remember that you will not only prevent mice from entering but you may also be lowering your heating bill by tightening up the outside of your home.

Trapping mice is the only way to eliminate the species of mice that spends all it’s time inside your home. Traps set in the center of a room will not be very effective.  Set traps along walls or in the small spaces that mice use to travel inside the home.  If you notice mice droppings, or have seen a mouse moving in a space then you will want to place a trap there. You have a choice between live traps and kill traps.  The simple, cheap snap traps are an effective way to kill mice.  If you want to be more humane, choose a live trap. You may want to set multiple traps to increase the odds of catching a mouse. Peanut butter, moist oatmeal, or chocolate are three of the foods that seem to attract mice.

No matter which style of trap you choose, remember to check them daily. If a snap trap is used, you may need to re-bait or empty the trap.  Live traps should be checked daily; this ensures that you mice will be handled in a humane fashion.  Remember that mice can travel quite a distance and you should release them a good, long distance from your home.





Cleaning, Housing


October 23rd, 2014


Gourds are a fun sign that fall has arrived! They come in all shapes, sizes and colors.   If you would like to use some for decorating here are some steps to preserve them.

FIRST determine how the gourd will actually be used. If they are for decorative use only just until Christmas decorating time, then just go through step 2.  If you want to keep them longer or use them for art projects then continue on to steps 3 and 4.

1 – Gourds should be picked when the fruit are fully mature. At maturity, the stem attached to the fruit begins to dry and turn brown.    Cut the gourds from the vines with a hand shears, leaving a few inches of stem attached to the fruit.  Handle the gourds carefully as the skin is susceptible to bruising or scratching.

2 – Gently wash the gourds in soapy water and rinse in a solution of water and chlorine bleach. This should destroy decay organisms which could lead to fruit rot.  Gently dry each gourd with a soft cloth.

3 – Dry the gourds by spreading them on several layers of newspaper in a warm, well-ventilated place such as a porch, garage or shed. Place the gourds in a single layer, spacing them so that they don’t touch one another.  Avoid sunny areas as colors may fade. Rotate them every 2 or 3 days, gently wiping with a dry cloth to remove moisture.  Promptly remove any which begin to rot.

4 – Drying or curing may take up to several weeks. To hasten drying of large decorative gourds, small holes may be made in the bottom of the fruit with an ice pick or nail. The gourds will feel lighter in weight, and the seeds will rattle when the gourds are fully dry.

Once cured, the gourds may be used in their natural state. The complete drying of gourds may cause them to lose the bright colors.  They may also be painted, waxed, shellacked or varnished for crafts.

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Holiday ideas, Horticulture