What’s in a Seed?

August 27th, 2015

Have You Had Your Seeds Today?image

My kids accuse me of turning into a bird with all of the seeds I include in my diet. The health community has paid more attention in the last few years to seeds that are on the market such as chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin and others.  Seeds are nutritionally dense and are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and healthy fats.

The little guys can be tossed into salads, used in recipes or added to breakfast smoothies.  Here’s a run-down on just a few of the different seeds available in most markets and the nutritional value they bring to the table.

CHIA           Rich source of ALA omega 3 fatty acids. One tsp. of chia has 2.5X more protein than kidney beans, 3X more iron than spinach, 6X more calcium than milk, 7X more vitamin C than oranges, 8X more omega 3 than salmon, 27% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) for phosphorus which promotes bone health, and 15X more magnesium than broccoli. One serving provides 33% of the RDI for fiber. Soak chia in water and use as egg replacement.  They are also high in soluble fiber which lowers cholesterol and lowers blood sugars.
FLAX           Also high in ALA omega 3 fatty acids, one tablespoon provides more omega 3 than the RDI.  They reduce inflammation, promote bone health and may help reduce blood pressure.  Flax seeds contain lignin which may help prevent certain types of cancer. These seeds are Flax seeds are also high in soluble fiber for lowering cholesterol and blood sugars., playing roles in the prevention and management of both heart disease and diabetes.  NOTE:  Flax seeds should be ground to obtain the nutritional benefits from them! Whole flax seeds pass through the intestines undigested and the nutrients are not absorbed.
HEMP         These seeds contain all 9 essential amino acids making hemp a source of complete protein.  They are also good sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber, omega 3 fats and fat soluble vitamins A, D and E.  Hemp seeds are safe and do not contain psychoactive ingredients.
POPPY SEEDS         These seeds come from the plant that produces opium. Rich in cholesterol-lowering oleic and linoleic oils, they spoil quickly.  They’re high in B vitamins, iron, copper, potassium and zinc as well as both soluble and insoluble fiber.
PUMPKIN           Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, copper, B vitamins and vitamins K and E.
SESAME            These are also high in calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and other antioxidants. They also contain fiber. Two unique substances, sesamin and sesamolin, part of the lignin family, have been shown to lower cholesterol and protect the liver from oxidative damage.

How much of these nutrition-packed little gems should you eat? Amazingly, just 2 tablespoons of seeds will provide heart healthy-benefits.  So sprinkle some seeds into your meals for an easy healthy addition.

jill sig

Food Preparation, Nutrition

Cookie Troubleshooting

August 24th, 2015

Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

We often get calls from consumers that are having problems with baking cookies.  I thought it might be good to share some of the common problems and what they might be caused by.


Excessive spread, loss of shape

  • Use of the wrong margarine. Make sure that your margarine has 100 calories per tablespoon. Light margarine, tub or corn oil margarine contain too much liquid and will make the cookies spread.
  • If you are using butter make sure the dough is cold. Butter has a lower melting point and if the dough is warm the butter melts before the cookie is baked and they will spread more.
  • Do not place dough on a hot cookie sheet. The dough will start to melt before they are baked and will be flatter.

Tough texture

  • Overmixing of the dough.
  • Too little sugar or fat. If you want to reduce sugar or fat look for recipes that have been tested with lower sugar and fat. It doesn’t always work to just reduce fat and sugar and have them turn out.

Bottom crust too dark

  • Cookie sheet not centered in the oven.
  • Dark cookie sheet used. The dark color absorbs the heat.
  • Crowded oven.

Dry and crumbly

  • Wrong proportion of ingredients.
  • Incorrectly measured.
  • Rack position not centered.
  • Oven temperature wrong


  • Overbaked.
  • Using flour that is too high in protein (bread flour).

Off flavor

  • Rancid shortening, nuts or coconut.
  • Poor quality of ingredients. This could include old flour.
  • Too much baking powder.
  • Storing cookies improperly causes cookies to become stale and pick up off odors.

If you are having problems with your cookies give us a call at AnswerLine.  We would be happy to discuss with you what the problem might be.

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Food Preparation, recipes

Cleaning Windows

August 20th, 2015

imagePearl, my weimeraner dog, liked to leave her mark on any window she was near in our house and vehicles.  Nose prints to be more specific!  It was a constant struggle to keep windows clean and the outside world visible.

Here at AnswerLine we frequently receive calls about window cleaning and what cleaners are best to use. Here are a few solutions for making those windows sparkling clean again. Too much chemical or soap solution causes streaks and leaves residue on the windows.  Ammonia cuts heavy grease and soil and vinegar helps remove hard water spots.


  • Mix two tablespoons of ammonia OR white vinegar with two quarts of warm water.
  • Mix one tablespoon liquid dishwashing detergent with one quart water.
  • For a heavy duty cleaning solution mix one-half cup ammonia, one pint of 70 percent rubbing alcohol and one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent. Add enough water to make one gallon of solution.


  • Wipe really dirty windows with a damp cloth. Don’t rub dirt because it will scratch the glass. A vacuum cleaner with an attachment will work for this job, too.
  • With a clean sponge or cloth lightly wet the window. Don’t flood it!
  • When using a squeegee, tilt at an angle to the glass and wipe the blade of the squeegee after each pass with a damp cloth.
  • You may use a cloth or paper (such as newspaper) to clean also.
  • Don’t clean windows in direct sunlight – the window may dry too fast and streak.
  • Exterior windows should be first washed with a hose or clean water to remove grease and grime.
  • Wash windows side to side on the inside and top to bottom on the outside. If there are streaks, you will know which side they are on.
  • Change wash and rinse water often.
  • Vacuum screen to remove dust, etc.
  • Outside screens can be scrubbed with warm water and rinsed with clean water. Allow to air dry.
  • Choose a “hard” paper towel (soft ones leave lint) or cotton cloths such as old t-shirt or socks. Micro-fiber cloths also work well for cleaning windows.

Using the right tools and cleaners helps the dirty job of washing windows much quicker and easier.  I hope these tips help you clean those nose and finger prints, grease and grime off of those windows so you can get back to doing the activities you enjoy!

jill sig

Cleaning, Home Environment

Why are we such sticklers at AnswerLine when it comes to canning advice?

August 17th, 2015

BWB1Why are we such sticklers at AnswerLine when it comes to canning advice?  Callers are sometimes a bit frustrated with us when we answer canning questions.  We often have to tell a caller that the old family recipe for a canned product is not safe.  We must advise them that oven canning, canning low acid vegetables in a water bath canner, and using “any old recipe” for pickles are not safe practices.

Times have changed since Great Grandma was canning for her family.  We now have recipes that have been scientifically tested to ensure a safe product.  They are available through several resources.  Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has the Preserve the Taste of Summer series of recipes, The National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia has both a website and a cookbook “So Easy to Preserve”, the USDA has a Home Canning Guide, and the Ball company has the Ball Blue Book (new expanded edition this year) as well as their Complete Book of Home Preserving.

The recipes and procedures in these books have been scientifically tested in a laboratory to ensure the coldest part of a canning jar gets hot enough long enough to kill the botulism bacteria if present.  We don’t want you to cut corners and put your family at risk.  Botulism can be a deadly disease and those at the greatest risk are those who are often most dear to our hearts; the elderly and the very young.  Pregnant women and those people with a compromised immune system are also at great risk.

We sometimes don’t enjoy our role as the “canning police” but our main goal is to help you keep your family safe for years to come. Please contact us if you have any canning questions or need some tested recipes.


Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Freezing Fruits

August 13th, 2015

imageFreezing is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables.  It is quick and easy to do and if you follow the directions you will have a high quality nutritious product.  We have talked in previous blogs about the enzymes that are contained in fruits and vegetables.  If these enzymes are not inactivated they can cause a loss of flavor, color and nutrients.   Blanching is essential for high quality vegetables to stop the enzyme activity.  Fruits are usually not blanched.  Instead ascorbic acid or a commercial mixture of ascorbic acid and citric acid are used to control the enzymes and to keep the fruit from turning a dark color.

Today I am going to focus on different ways to freeze fruits.  Fruits can be frozen using a syrup pack, sugar pack or dry pack.  Many fruits have a better texture if they are frozen using sugar but it is not a necessity if there are family members that cannot eat sugar.  The way that you preserve the fruit depends on how you will be using it when it comes out of the freezer.  Fruits in a syrup work well for desserts that are uncooked.  Dry pack or unsweetened fruits are best in cooked recipes.  Remember always use fruit that is of optimum maturity.  Freezing does not improve the quality of fruits that are either over ripe or under ripe.

  • Syrup Pack

The sweetness of your fruit is will help you determine the proportion of sugar to water syrup to use.  A light syrup is best for mild-flavored fruits and a heavy syrup works well for sour fruits.  To make the syrup, dissolve the desired amount of sugar in water.  Allow ½ to 2/3 cup syrup for each pint.  Add fruit and cover with additional syrup leaving ½ inch headspace for wide top pint jars, 1 inch for wide top quart jars, ¾ inch for narrow top pints and 1 ½ for narrow quart jars.  To keep the fruit from turning dark add powdered ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) to the cold syrup.  Keep the fruit submerged in the syrup by using a piece of crumpled parchment paper or freezer paper to press the fruit down in the syrup before closing the container.  This will ensure that the fruit is not out of the syrup where it could turn dark.

  • Sugar Pack

Peaches, strawberries, plums, cherries and other soft fruits work well when freezing in a sugar pack.  Simply sprinkle sugar over the fruit and mix gently until the juice is drawn out and the sugar is dissolved which usually takes about 15 minutes.  Dissolve the ascorbic acid in 2-3 tablespoons of cool water and add it to the fruit before you add the sugar.

  • Dry Pack

Berries work well freezing without any added sugar.  To freeze this way put the fruit in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with freezer paper.  Put the sheet in the freezer for a few hours or until the fruit is frozen then transfer it to a freezer bag.  The fruit will be frozen individually so if you want to grab a handful to put on your cereal you will be able to, without thawing all of the fruit in the freezer bag.  If the fruit you are freezing in a dry pack typically darkens, dissolve ascorbic acid in 2-3 tablespoons of cool water and add to the fruit before freezing.

  • Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar substitutes can be added either prior to freezing or just before serving.  They give a sweet flavor but they do not provide the benefit of color protection or thickening of the syrup like sugar does.  Use the directions on the sweetener to determine how much you should use.

By preserving fruit in the freezer you will be able to enjoy it year round, but for best quality use within 8 to 12 months of freezing.

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Food Preservation

Substituting Ingredients

August 10th, 2015

One of the most frustrating things that can happen is when you are trying to make something to eat and you don’t have all of the ingredients.  Many times there are substitutions that can be made with ingredients that you have at home.  I thought it might be helpful to go over a few of the more common questions that we get.

  • My recipe calls for vegetable shortening and I don’t have any. What can I use?

The best substitute for vegetable shortening would be butter or margarine.  To substitute one cup of shortening you would use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine.  Liquid oil cannot be used to substitute for a solid.

  • My recipe calls for self-rising flour and I don’t have any? Is there any way to make my own?

To make 1 cup of self-rising flour use 1 cup of sifted all-purpose flour and add 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

  • I need baking powder but only have baking soda. Is there a way to substitute this?

Baking powder actually consists of baking soda plus an acidic ingredient to create carbon dioxide bubbles when moistened and heated in your recipes.  Here are the substitutes that you can use.

  • ¼ teaspoon of baking soda + ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda + ½ cup buttermilk, sour milk or plain yogurt (to replace ½ cup liquid in recipe)
  • My recipe calls for large eggs but I only have medium. How many should I use?

Most recipes use large eggs.  Based on the total number of eggs you are adding to a recipe you might need to add additional eggs if the ones you are using are smaller.  Use this chart from the Egg Council to determine if you need to add additional eggs to your recipe.

egg chart


If you have a recipe that you need help with give us a call at AnswerLine.  If there is a substitution we will help you find it!

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Food Preparation, recipes

Which fruit will ripen after picking?

August 6th, 2015

imageMy favorite part of summer is the abundance of fresh ripe fruit available.  It is so nice to have a variety of fruit available at a reasonable price.  For me, this is the easiest time of the year to meet the daily requirement for fruits and vegetables.  Remember that a serving of fruit is roughly ½ cup of fruit or an entire medium sized fruit.

We always like to choose the ripest fruit available when grocery shopping but sometimes it would be nice to have fruit that is dead ripe later in the week.  Often at AnswerLine we get questions about which fruits will ripen at home and which can be purchased a bit under ripe that will ripen further.

These fruits will continue to ripen at home:

  • Avocados
  • Papayas
  • Bananas
  • Honeydew melon
  • Mangos
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes

You can speed ripening by placing the fruit into a brown paper bag.  Adding a ripe apple to the bag can speed ripening. Be sure to check the fruit daily for ripeness. Wait until the fruit is ripe to refrigerate it. Bananas can be refrigerated or frozen.  The peel will turn brown but the fruit inside will remain light colored.  You can prolong the life of your bananas with refrigeration.

These fruits will not ripen further after picking.  You can store them in the refrigerator when you bring them into your home.

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Citrus fruit
  • Grapes
  • Pomegranate
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Enjoy the bounty of summer.  Remember that you are able to freeze or home can many of these fruits to enjoy this winter.


Food Preservation, Nutrition

Picky Eaters

August 3rd, 2015

JerryDo you have a toddler that is a picky or fussy eater? This can be a huge problem for young families. It seems that everyone has a different opinion about what caused this and how to “fix” it. If you or someone you know is having this problem, we have a few tips that may be useful.


  • Remove tempting snack foods from your home. Try not to buy these foods, or make them hard to find so the toddler is not aware they may be an option for a meal or snack. Research has demonstrated toddlers tend to eat foods that are easily available.
  • Since easily available foods are more readily eaten, keep healthy snacks like fruit and vegetables on the counter tops or prepared in the refrigerator (peeled, sliced, or individually portioned).
  • Remember that food is food, not a punishment or a reward. Try to avoid making some foods seem like punishments or others seem more special. Vegetables are not for punishment and ice cream should not be a reward.
  • Remember young small bodies cannot hold large quantities of food and snacks are often necessary. Just help them understand that a snack is a snack and not the meal. Studies show that children that eat regular meals have healthier weights and that planning snacks can teach healthy eating habits.
  • Filling a child’s plate-restaurant style- can help mealtime choices seem less overwhelming.
  • Encourage your child to help plan meals, grocery shop, and prepare food. They are more likely to try food they have helped fix.
  • Learn to savor and enjoy food. A quiet table with family conversation will encourage eating and enjoyment of food.

Helping your child or grandchild develop a healthy attitude towards food is a skill that will help them for the rest of their lives.


Child Development, Food Preparation, Nutrition

If my honey has darkened, is it still safe to eat?

July 30th, 2015

HoneyI stopped by my parent’s assisted living apartment on the way to work today. They were enjoying breakfast when I arrived, so I sat at the table and visited with them while they ate. I noticed that the honey packets in the center of the table had darkened and I was thinking about honey on my drive in to work today.

We often get calls when people discover their honey has darkened or crystallized. Improper storage of honey can cause this problem. Honey should be stored in a cool, dry area inside a tightly covered container. Over time the honey will darken and flavor will change but it will be safe to eat indefinitely. As it darkens, it may lose some flavor or become cloudy. As the honey becomes cloudy, you may even notice crystals in it. This will not make the honey unsafe as long as it has been stored properly. Honey stored in the refrigerator will crystallize more quickly.

If your honey has crystallized, you can place the container in warm water and stir the honey until the crystals dissolve. Resist the urge to use boiling hot water to melt crystals as this can damage the color and flavor of the honey. If your honey foams or smells like alcohol, discard it as it has spoiled.

Those darkened packets of honey at assisted living will be safe to eat for some time to come, but the dining room staff may want to look into another way to store their honey supply. This reminds me to go home and check my own jar of honey.




Food Safety

Prevent Box Elder Bugs

July 27th, 2015

boxelder bugsIt seems really early in the year to be thinking about Box Elder Bugs but this is the time of year to work at preventing an infestation next fall.  Use a tube of calking to seal up sites where the bugs can enter the house.  Check cracks in the foundation or house siding and gaps around the windows or doors.  It may seem like a big job, but with the arrival of nice weather you can break the job down into smaller parts.  Perhaps do one side of the house every week this month.

Later in the year, you can spray massing box elder bugs with Sevin, Diazinon, or Orthene.  You can also make a spray of soapy water using 5 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water.  This is a very effective spray but does not have any residual effect.

Take a little time this summer to slow or eliminate the entry of Box Elder Bugs into your home.





Cleaning, Entomology, Housing