Artichokes

photo by Sharon VanHorn Reuter

photo by Sharon VanHorn Reuter

A goal for many people in the summer is trying a new fruit or vegetable they have not seen or eaten before. If you have not tried an artichoke, I encourage you to do so. In a study done by the USDA, artichokes rank as the number one vegetable in antioxidant count. Production occurs year round but 1/3 of the crop is harvested between March and May. 99% of all commercially grown artichokes are grown in California.

The artichoke is considered an edible thistle and was prized by ancient Romans as food of the nobility according to The New Food Lover’s Companion book. Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region of the world.

When purchasing artichokes choose those that have a tight leaf formation, a deep green color and that are heavy for their size. In general, the smaller the artichoke the more tender it will be and the rounder it is, the larger its heart. Artichokes are best used the day of purchase but can be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 4 days. Wash just before cooking.

Cook artichokes in stainless steel, glass, or enamelware only to prevent discoloration and off flavors. Artichokes can be steamed, boiled, or microwaved and are done when the bottoms can be pierced with a knife tip.

Artichokes are low calorie, fat and cholesterol free, low in sodium, and a good source of fiber, vitamin C, folate and magnesium.

Try some this week.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Cleaning oven racks

Dirty ovenPart Two of oven cleaning addresses how to clean oven racks and the oven window. Again, always remember to remove the oven racks before cleaning your oven.  Failing to remove the racks can cause permanent damage to them.

You are going to want to cover the oven racks with hot water. Many people put them in the bath tub to do this. Once the racks are covered with very hot water, add ½ cup powdered or liquid dishwasher detergent to the water. Swish around until the detergent is dissolved. Let soak 4 hours or overnight. Rinse, dry, and replace in your clean oven!

Enjoy clean oven racks without all the hard work.

Of course, no oven is clean without a little attention to the window.  Harsh cleaners or scrubbing pads can damage the surface of the window.  You may want to try warm sudsy water  or a solution of vinegar and water to clean the oven window.

It won’t take long and your oven will be sparkling like new.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Oven Cleaning

Dirty oven      clean oven

Tis the season for Spring cleaning! For many of us that includes the oven. It is suggested to clean your oven monthly and wipe down the oven door weekly. Dirty ovens are less efficient at reaching temperatures and crusty buildup can impact the taste of food.

AnswerLine’s recommended way to clean an electric oven is to preheat the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and place a bowl of boiling water on the bottom shelf and a bowl of ammonia (about ½ cup ) on the top shelf. Close the oven door and let set overnight. Wipe down and scrub with a nonabrasive scrubber if necessary the next day. This procedure is not recommended for gas ovens with pilot lights for safety reasons. For gas ovens place a bowl of water in the oven and turn the oven on high for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the steam to loosen dried on food and grease overnight.

If spills do happen, sprinkle salt on the spills when warm and scrub with 3 tablespoons washing soda (which can be purchased at the grocery store) mixed into 1 quart warm water.

The next blog will address the recommended way to clean oven racks.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Spring cleaning for glassware

If you are “thinking spring” and cleaning in your kitchen, here are some tips for cleaning glass items.

If the sparkle is gone, warm up two cups of white vinegar in the microwave for about two minutes. Pour into a bowl large enough to place at least two of your cloudy glasses. Soak for about three minutes. Rotate the glasses to ensure all areas have been cleaned. Rinse and dry.

If spots remain, scrub with a damp cloth dipped in baking soda. This will not scratch the glasses but may remove stubborn spots. White paste toothpaste will also work to scour the glasses, scratch free.

Vases or narrow bottles can be difficult to clean. Follow these directions for cleaning your vase.vase Fill the vase half full with really warm water. Add a squirt of dish soap and two tablespoons of ammonia. Next, add ½ cup of uncooked rice. Swirl the vase to allow the rice to scrub the area you cannot reach. Let the vase rest for a few minutes and swirl again. When you have removed the stains, rinse well with warm water. Set the vase upside down to dry.

If you find you have wax covered candle holders, soak them in a sink of hot water. Next peel or gently scrape off the softened wax. You can scrub with a terry cloth dish cloth to remove the remaining wax. Then wash in hot, sudsy dish water and dry.

I hope that these tips will help refresh some special glassware that you need to clean.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Grow your own pineapple

One of my many hobbies is gardening and growing houseplants. I’ve filled my sewing room and quilting studio with plants as well as the AnswerLine office.  We have some really good growing conditions in our office and we have successfully grown a wide variety of plants.  We have started seven avocado plants and a sweet potato vine.  The avocados (all but one) have gotten too big and spindly for the office.  Our sweet potato vine grew and grew until the vine was up in the ceiling tiles.  We had to dispose of those plants.

I’m always on the lookout for something new and fun to grow.  I was at my local quilt shop a couple of weeks ago and saw this pineapple plant growing.  The owners have some seriously Pineapplegreen thumbs; I’ve never seen a potted pineapple with fruit growing on it.  Guess I’ll have to buy a fresh pineapple when I am at the grocery store this weekend.

If you, too, are thinking of starting a pineapple plant, follow these directions from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Hortline.

Cut off the top of the pineapple about 1 inch below the cluster of leaves. Trim away the outer portion of the pineapple top, leaving the tough, stringy core attached to the leaves. Also, remove a few of the lowest leaves. The pineapple top then should be allowed to dry for several days. The drying period allows the moist core tissue to dry and discourages rotting. After drying, insert the pineapple top into perlite, vermiculite or coarse sand up to the base of its leaves. Water the rooting medium. Keep the rooting medium moist, but not wet, during the rooting period. Finally, place the pineapple top in bright, indirect light. Rooting should occur in six to eight weeks.

When the pineapple has developed a good root system, carefully remove it from the rooting medium. Plant the rooted pineapple in a light, well-drained potting mix. Water well. Then place the plant in bright, indirect light for three to four weeks.

After three to four weeks, the plant can be placed in a sunny window. Keep the potting soil moist with regular watering. Using a soluble houseplant fertilizer, fertilize the pineapple once or twice a month in spring and summer. Fertilization usually isn’t necessary in fall and winter. The plant can go outdoors in late May, but must come back indoors before the first fall frost.

I’m looking forward to getting our pineapple plant started.

 

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/article/yard-and-garden-grow-plants-fruit

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Getting Your Groceries Home Safely

As the weather gets warmer it is always a good idea to review safe food handling when shopping and bringing foods home from the grocery store. I wanted to share with you some tips to make sure your foods are handled correctly both for food safety and for best quality.

Here are some things to think about at the grocery store:

  • Look over any fresh produce you are interested in purchasing. Make sure they are not bruised or soft. If you are purchasing precut fruits or vegetables only buy if they have been refrigerated.
  • Do not buy any canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusty. Many stores sell dented cans at a discounted price but there is a risk of the food in the can being contaminated so do NOT buy those!
  • Keep foods separated in your grocery cart. Raw meats, seafood, and poultry could cause cross-contamination if their juice comes in contact with other foods you are purchasing. Make sure that meats are bagged separately when checking out.
  • Look at the dates on the foods. “Sell by” is a date the store should sell the product by.  “Best If Used By” means the manufacturer says the product will remain at peak quality until this date. It is not a safety date. “Use by” means the product should be eaten or frozen by this date.
  • Put the refrigerated and frozen items in your cart last, so they don’t have time to warm up when shopping. Many times the grocery store is where I see friends and food can warm up quickly when it is sitting in a grocery cart while you are talking!
  • If you have hot foods have them put in a double paper bags to maintain their temperature.

So we have handled the food safely at the grocery store now we need to safely transfer it home!

  • Make sure that the grocery store is your last stop. Run your other errands before you get your groceries. The key to all perishable foods is to refrigerate within 2 hours.
  • Put your perishable foods in the coldest part of your car. This is not necessarily your trunk unless it is open to the back seats. If your travel time home is more than a half hour think about bringing a cooler along to store your refrigerated and frozen foods. If the weather is above 90° F. food needs to be refrigerated within 1 hour.
  • Unload your car as soon as you get home. Don’t get distracted! Put the perishable foods away first.

Following these tips will help to keep the food you purchase safe and will prevent food waste and illness.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Tips for buying (or selling) at a garage sale

It’s that time of year again; garage sale signs are springing up everywhere. You may also be thinking of holding a sale of your own.  Here are some things to consider when buying, or selling at a sale.

  • Beware of bike helmets. They are designed to be discarded after they have been in an accident. It may be hard to tell if this particular helmet was used in a crash.
  • Used car seats for a baby; these too may have been through a crash or they may be outdated. Safety for your child is nothing to short cut.
  • Used cribs can also be a danger to your child or grandchild. Know what the current standards are for a safe crib.
  • Personal items that hug the body may not be a good purchase. It is hard to know, even with hot water washes, that the item is clean.
  • Mattresses are also a questionable purchase. Who wants to buy bed bugs or some other problem?
  • Electronics like TVs, computers, and tablets. It is hard to know, just by looking, how much longer these items will last. Buy with caution.
  • Reconsider buying old, worn dishes or pans. Cast iron can be rejuvenated but some other surfaces may not be safe for cooking. Of course, you can always use them decoratively out in the garden.
  • Used makeup should be avoided. There can be bacteria growing in the old makeup that will make you sick.
  • Beware of stuffed animals. You may not be able to clean them sufficiently for use by small children.

Hard surface toys can be washed in the dishwasher or sanitized by washing and dipping into a sanitizing solution.

Sanitizing solution:  Use 1 Tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of cool water or use ¾ teaspoon of bleach in a quart of cool water.

Follow these tips to safely buy (or sell) at a garage sale near you.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Caring For Your Electric Blanket

The weather is starting to electric blanketwarm up during the days and into the evenings so I determined that it is time to take off the flannel sheets and the electric blanket! Have you ever wondered how to wash and store your electric blanket so that it is ready to use next winter?  Here are some suggestions to keep it in top working condition.

Laundering an electric blanket is as easy as laundering a regular blanket. Follow the specific manufacturer’s care instructions for best results; generally manufacturers indicate electric blankets should not be dry-cleaned. Dry-cleaning solvents will cause deterioration of the wiring insulation. Consumers should select the laundering method most suitable for them.

  • Machine wash for a limited period of time; generally one to five minutes is suggested. Dissolve detergent in the suggested water temperature before placing the blanket in the washer. Do not use bleach. Evenly distribute the blanket in the washing machine. Use a gentle cold water rinse and spin cycle. If a conventional washing machine is used, do not use a wringer to extract the water.
  • Hand wash by soaking the blanket for 15 minutes in detergent and lukewarm water. Squeeze the suds through the blanket. Rinse in cold water at least twice. Do not vigorously twist or wring the blanket.
  • Machine dry by preheating the dryer at medium temperature. Add the blanket and allow it to tumble dry for ten minutes. Most manufacturers suggest the blanket finish drying by draping the blanket over two parallel clothes lines. If the blanket is dried completely in the dryer or dried at a Laundromat, blanket shrinkage and damage to the thermostat could result.
  • Line dry by draping the blanket over two parallel lines, gently stretching it to the original length and width. Do not use clothes pins as they will damage the blanket wires.
  • Store electric blankets by folding and placing them where heavy objects or other blankets will not be put on top of them. It is not necessary to use moth preventive sprays or materials as synthetic fibers are not consumed by moths. Also, moth preventive chemicals could cause deterioration to the wire insulation in the blankets.

These tips should help you keep your electric blanket in good condition and it will be ready when you want to use it again next year!

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Many people celebrate the 5th day of May but do you know why?  Here is some information from ABC news to give you a little history of what happened on this date.

 

If you are planning a party let us help!  Give us a call at AnswerLine!

 

 

 

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Introducing Marcia

For today’s blog post I would like to introduce myself as the newest member of the AnswerLine team. I am a native Iowan and graduated from Iowa State University in 1973 with a degree that was then called Home Economics Education. I taught in the public school system for 33 years before retiring.

I have been with AnswerLine for about a month and am enjoying working with the experienced ladies in the office who I learn so much from every day as well as talking to all of you who call in. Thank You for using AnswerLine! I have enjoyed helping with answers to your questions. You inspire me!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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