What to do about boxelder bugs

April 21st, 2014

boxelder bugsAre you being inundated with boxelder bugs?  Fortunately they are harmless, not disease bearing, they do not damage the house, its furnishings or occupants but they are definitely a nuisance and can be difficult to control!

According to our Iowa State University Entomologists during the summer months, they live, feed and reproduce on trees, shrubs and other plants.  They are not restricted to box elder trees as is commonly assumed, but will also be found on other trees, most commonly maples.  They feed on the sap from the host plant but do not cause significant damage to the plant.  They become nuisance pests in the fall when they leave the plant to find hiding places for the winter.  During their search for warmth they congregate on the south sides of buildings, trees and rocks.  From there they stray into houses through cracks in the foundation and siding, gaps along windows and doors and other small openings.  There they remain inactive while it is cold until they are warmed by the heat from a furnace or the sun and they crawl out into the rooms.

The best deterrent is to prevent their entry into your house by caulking and sealing possible entry sites.  Spraying with a lawn and garden insecticide (suggestions include Sevin, Diazinon or Orthene) or soapy water spray (5 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water) outside on the masses of bugs perched on and along the foundation in the fall can give some relief.  Repeated applications are usually necessary when using a soapy water spray.  Professional pest control operators can also be used for exterior treatment in the fall.

Once the boxelder bugs are in your house they are generally not killed by the “flying insect” aerosol household insecticide products.  The residual insecticides such as “ant and roach killers” also have not been shown to be of much benefit.   A sure control for bugs already in the house is to remove them as they appear by vacuuming, sweeping or picking them up and discarding.

For more information on insecticides available to homeowners please see “Insecticides in the Home Landscape and Garden” .

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Entomology, Home Environment

Eggs

April 17th, 2014
The "sell by" date is often stamped on the end of the carton.

The “sell by” date is often stamped on the end of the carton.

 Expiration Dates

We get a lot of calls about eggs and expiration dates. Remember to always purchase eggs before the “sell by” date stamped on the carton. Once you have the eggs home, they can be safely used for another 3 to 5 weeks. The “sell by” date will have passed during the storage time but they are still safe to use.

 
Floating Eggs

An egg will float in water when the air cell inside has enlarged enough to make the egg buoyant. This means the egg is older, but it may still be safe to use. Break the egg into a bowl to examine it for an off-odor or unsuitable appearance before you decide to use it or toss it away. A spoiled egg will have an unpleasant odor when you open the shell—raw or cooked. 

 

Eggs2

Be sure to check the eggs for cracks before purchase.

Cracked Eggs

Never buy cracked eggs; bacteria can enter an egg through the crack. If eggs crack on the way home from the store, break them into a clean container, cover tightly, and keep refrigerated. You must use them within 2 days.  Do not worry if the eggs crack during hard boiling; if they do the eggs are still safe

 

 

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Food Safety , , , ,

Cooking ham

April 14th, 2014

Ham and Easter go together at our house.  Whether you are having spiral ham, cooking a whole ham or a fresh ham the cooking times vary.  To help you figure out how long it will take to cook your ham use this chart below.

cooking ham times

Here is additional information on ham and food safety from the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

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Food Preparation, Holiday ideas

Dying eggs naturally

April 10th, 2014

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Are you interested in trying something new?  Try coloring your Easter eggs with a natural dye this year.  To make your own dye here are some foods that you can try and the color that eggs will turn.  Simply simmer the eggs in water to cover for 20 minutes with 1 teaspoon of vinegar and one of the following:

 

 

Food Resulting color
Yellow delicious apple peels green-gold
Fresh beets, cranberries and radishes pinkish red
Fresh oregano or mint beige
Red cabbage leaves blue
Blueberries blue
Walnut shells buff
Spinach leaves grayish gold/pink
Carrot greenish yellow
Onion skins yellow/orange
Orange peels delicate yellow
Celery seed or ground cumin delicate yellow
Ground Turmeric yellow
Strong brewed coffee beige to brown
Dill seeds brown-gold
Chili powder brown-orange
Grape juice gray

 

So be adventurous and see what beautiful colors you can come up with!

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Holiday ideas

Ham storage times

April 7th, 2014

If you are wondering how long you can keep ham in your refrigerator it depends on how the ham is packaged.  This chart from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service will help you determine how long it will be safe for you to continue eating it.

ham storage chartIf you can’t remember how long your ham has been in the refrigerator remember the saying “if in doubt throw it out!”

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Food Safety

Washing feather pillows

April 3rd, 2014

pillowDo you have feather pillows that need to be washed?  It can be done at home if you take a few precautions.  First make sure the ticking is in good condition.  We would suggest slipping the pillow into a pillow case and basting the case shut, for additional insurance against the ticking failing and releasing the feathers in your washing machine. When this is done fill the washer with warm water and the regular amount of detergent for normal load.  Agitate to dissolve the detergent in the water. (Dissolving the detergent is not as critical if a liquid detergent is used.) For a balanced load, wash two pillows at the same time or one pillow and enough bath towels to balance. Immerse the pillows in the suds until they are completely wet. Wash using gentle or soak cycle for 10 minutes. Rinse the pillows twice.

To dry, tumble in the automatic dryer using the warmest setting for one hour; reduce the heat and finish drying. Or hang on a line in a gentle breeze – occasionally “fluff” or move the feathers around within the pillow. This will take a few hours – then finish drying in an automatic dryer.

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Laundry

New staff member Jill

March 31st, 2014

Greetings!!  I’m Jill and the newest addition to the AnswerLine staff!  I will take Carolyn’s place as she has left us to pursue more family time and travels.  I have BIG shoes to fill, she will be sorely missed and we wish her the best of luck.  I am so excited to be here!  I was raised in Iowa and have lived in the midwest all of my life (Kansas City and central Nebraska included).  I attended Iowa State University and earned a degree in Food & Nutrition/Dietetics. I first became interested in nutrition from my dad, who was a “health nut” before it was even popular!  After ISU, I worked in the nutrition field in Kansas City area hospitals, then later with the Nebraska Beef Council.  I was then a stay-at-home mom (seriously the hardest but most rewarding job ever) to my two kids, who are now 21 and 18 for several years before opening a paint-your-own-pottery and glass fusion studio.  I’m currently a part-time fitness instructor, which I absolutely love!

I have an interest in fitness and endurance sports and have finished four full marathons and also participate in Olympic distance triathlons.  I just signed up for my first half ironman competition which, if you’re not familiar with the sport will be a 1/2 mile lake swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run!!! Yikes!  What have I gotten myself into???  That will take place in September, so I’m hoping to get many training hours under my belt this summer. :)

Other interests of mine include travelling, scuba diving, kayaking, mountain hiking, camping, and cooking.  I have a unique interest in serial killers and documentaries.  I know, strange!

These days I am focused on sports nutrition and training, but have always had an interest in general nutrition and cooking.  I love to experiment with new recipes and try new foods at restaurants and in my kitchen at home.  I look forward to sharing my nutriton knowledge and life experiences with you all and hope you will check in with us often  !!!

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Uncategorized

Pantry Pests

March 27th, 2014

Moths2There is nothing like the surprise you get when you open a package from your pantry and find “little friends” wiggling around inside. Finding insects inside stored food is a common problem.  There are many different types of insects that invade stored food. They eat a very small amount of food but most people find the remaining food unappetizing and unfit for consumption. Fortunately, the bugs do not fly, sting, or bite people.

Nearly all dry food products are susceptible to insect infestation, including flour, cake mix, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, cookies, seeds such as dried beans and popcorn, nuts, chocolate, raisins and other dried fruits, spices, powdered milk, and cured meats. Non-food items can be infested too.  Some of these include birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental seed and dried plant displays, ornamental corn, dried flowers, garden seeds, potpourri, and rodent baits.

The infestation can happen anywhere; at the food processing plant, during transport or food storage, at grocery store, or inside your home. Food products that are left undisturbed on the shelves for long periods are particularly susceptible to infestation. However, foods of any age can become infested. Stored food insects are capable of penetrating unopened paper, thin cardboard, and plastic, foil or cellophane wrapped packages. They may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams. Insects within an infested package begin multiplying and can spread to other stored foods or food debris that has accumulated in corners, cracks and crevices, and eventually the entire cupboard. All stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present simultaneously in infested products.

While it is not always possible to prevent an infestation, following these suggestions may limit your exposure to this problem.

  1.  Purchase dried foods in quantities small enough to be used up in a short period of time. Use oldest products before newer ones, and opened packages before unopened ones.
  2. Inspect packages or bulk products before buying. Packages should be sealed and unbroken. Also check the freshness packaging date. Look for evidence of insects, including holes in the packaging or wrapping.
  3. Store insect-free foods in tightly closed glass, metal or heavy plastic containers. Refrigerate or freeze small amounts of highly susceptible foods.
  4. Keep food storage areas clean. Do not allow crumbs or spilled food to accumulate. Remove and discard old, unused products and inspect the remainder.

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Cleaning, Food Safety

Repairing Water Rings on Furniture

March 24th, 2014
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Water Stain

I love beautiful wooden furniture – oak, maple, cherry, walnut, etc. - each wood has it’s own character and I love them all.  Though I try to be careful in preventing water stains, either from glasses left on wood without a coaster or from water leaking out of a saucer under a freshly watered plant, I have still had more than my share of water stained furniture. Water rings commonly appear as a filmy gray spot and can be easy to remove. Follow one of the following steps in repair:

1. Rub with wax and 4/0 (very fine) steel wool.

2. Rub spot lightly with a soft, lintless cloth moistened with camphorated oil. Wipe immediately using a clean cloth.

3. Dip a small piece of cheesecloth in hot water to which has been added two or three drops of household ammonia. Wring cloth out tightly and rub spot lightly.

4. Place a clean, thick blotter over the spot and press with a warm, not hot, iron. If this does not work, rub with a cleaning polish or wax.

• White Marks, Spots, and/or Rings — White marks, spots, or rings on furniture are generally caused by some change in the finish due to heat, alcohol or moisture. Successful removal will depend on sufficiently warming and blending the surface without making it rough. Remember that not all substances will work on all finishes. Begin with the mildest and continue to try stronger ones until the spot has been removed. Blemishes of this nature are similar to others listed. Usually the direct cause of the blemish is not known so that they are treated as one group.

1. Mix equal parts of boiled or raw linseed oil, turpentine, vinegar and rub the surface gently.

2. Rub lightly over the spot with a cloth dampened in a mixture of water and household ammonia (one part water to two parts ammonia).

3. Place a piece of blotting paper over the spot and press over it with a warm iron.

4. For varnished or shellacked surfaces (not lacquered) rub the spot with a cloth dampened in essence of peppermint, spirits of camphor, or turpentine and water. Watch carefully to see that the surface does not become tacky or sticky. When dry, apply a good wax furniture polish or polish with the oil and turpentine mixture.

5. Moisten a small cotton pad with alcohol or dilute shellac in addition to a few drops of raw linseed oil. Rub over the spot in the directions of the grain.

CAUTION: Use care in working with any treatment that requires a cleaning compound. Some products are highly volatile and inflammable. Provide some means of fresh air in the meeting room if possible. Caution the group about smoking while treatment is in process. Read manufacturers labels and heed their warnings. Replace caps immediately after pouring liquids. Do not let containers of flammable liquids stand uncovered. Place cover on container while you work. Place rags or papers used in metal covered cans after use. Or destroy them at once.

Carolyn

 

 

Source: Linda R. Adler, M.A., Extension Specialist for Home Furnishings, University of Kentucky, HF-LRA.048;

FURNSURF.2; Revised 12/96

Cleaning

Tender vs. Less Tender Cuts of Meat

March 20th, 2014

Tender vs. less tender meats. This can be a big subject but really it boils down to just a couple of simple concepts. If a muscle gets a lot of exercise in an animal it will be a less tender cut of meat. So the meat that comes from the front shoulder or hind end of either a cow or pig will be a less tender cut as as those animals do a LOT of walking around. Pork chops and beef steaks generally come from the rib or mid section of the animal. That area gets much less exercise than a leg or neck. Muscles that see little exercise are considered tender cuts.

The less tender cuts will be more flavorful than a tender cut or meat but require a bit of careful cooking to make a delicious meal. Less tender cuts must be cooked at a low temperature (325-350 degrees F), with moisture (but not necessarily a lot of liquid) and for a longer period of time than a tender cut.  This is why the less tender cut of meat called stew meat makes a delicious meal.  The same recipe made with sirloin steak would not be as flavorful.

The less tender cuts tend to be less expensive than the tender cuts. Just remember to plan a bit more time in your meal preparation to make the meat tender and delicious.

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Food Preparation, recipes, Uncategorized