Has the Weather Changed Your Entertaining Plans?

SnowyWinter weather and entertaining do not always go hand in hand. If you are preparing food and your guests get delayed or can’t make it at all do you know how to handle your food safely?  Here are some tips from AnswerLine and The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on how to handle foods safely when the meal is cancelled or delayed.

Here are some winter scenarios and what to do to handle food safely:

Meat is thawed for dinner. Guests are coming…but not tonight.

  • Raw meat can be refrozen ONLY if it was safely thawed in the refrigerator. You may find some texture differences if it was previously frozen but if it was handled correctly it is not a safety risk. If your guests are coming tomorrow instead then you could refrigerate your meat but if they reschedule for next week put the meat in the freezer. (FSIS)

The food is ready but your guests are delayed.

  • FSIS reminds us to keep hot food hot and cold foods cold. Don’t let any food enter the danger zone – between 40° F and 140° F for more than 2 hours.
  • If you have a meat dish in the oven use a meat thermometer in the center of your dish and adjust your oven to maintain the 140° F minimum temperature. Covering the food with foil will help to keep it from drying out. (FSIS)

My turkey has thawed but my party is 3+ days away.

  • Thawed turkey is safe for only 1-2 days in the refrigerator.
  • You can cook the turkey and cut the meat off. Place it in a casserole dish with broth and place in either your freezer or the refrigerator (for up to 4 days). When you are ready to eat place the foil covered dish in your oven at 325° F until your meat is heated to 165° F again.

I have soup ready and the weather report is advising no travel. What should I do with the soup?

  • If you want to store the soup transfer to smaller containers that are shorter and wider to help the soup cool down faster. It is not safe to keep it in the big pot and place it in the refrigerator. It would take a long time for the soup in the middle of the pan to cool to a safe temperature and it would make it unsafe.

I have run out of refrigerator space and I want to store food in my garage or porch.

  • Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean that a garage or porch is cool enough to store food. A better choice would be a cooler with ice. We MUST store food below 40° F to keep it safe.

If you have any questions about food safety when weather messes with your entertaining plans give us a call at AnswerLine. We will help to answer your questions and keep your food safe!

Beth Marrs

I graduated form 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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Prepare for winter storms!

Another winter storm is on the horizon; what steps should we take to be prepared?slippery sidewalks

  1. Understand the terminology:
    • Outlook: winter storm conditions are possible in the next week
    • Advisory: winter conditions are likely to cause inconvenience and could possibly be hazardous
    • Watch: winter storm conditions are likely in the next 36-48 hours; you should be aware of changing conditions and make preparations
    • Warning: severe weather conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours.
  1. Check your supplies to be sure you have snow melt, rock salt, shovels. Go to the grocery store to be sure you have enough food in the house. Remember that if the power goes out, you will want to have some food that does not require cooking.
  2. Fill your flashlights with fresh batteries, find your candles (and matches) and extra blankets. If you have these things in a place you can easily locate you will be grateful if the power goes off after dark.
  3. Minimize travel. Eliminate unnecessary trips. Remember to pack an emergency kit in your car in the event your car stalls or gets stuck in the snow.  You may want to fill your gas tank before the storm hits.
  4. Prepare your pets for the storm. Be ready to bring outdoors pets inside if the weather gets really bad. Have extra pet food on hand.
  5. Locate your weather radio if you have not used it since tornado season. Have fresh batteries for it, in case the power goes out for a prolonged period.
  6. Have a family emergency plan in case you are not together when the storm strikes.

Be prepared and watch the weather this week.  Stay safe through the storms.

Liz

Liz

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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The Dos and Don’ts of Candy Making

candy making

We get many questions this time of year about making candy. I thought it might be helpful to list some dos and don’ts to help your candy making be successful.

Do

  • Choose a dry day to make your candy. Just like my grandma always said, never make candy on a humid day! Your candy will not set properly and will be sticky.
  • Use a candy thermometer to check for the correct temperature. Make sure it is immersed below the syrup but not touching the sides or the bottom.
  • Calibrate your thermometer before you use it. To do this insert it in boiling water. It should read 212 degrees F. If it reads above or below adjust the temperature accordingly when making your candy.
  • Cook to the correct stage. Use this link for a list of stages and temperatures. https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar-stages.html
  • Cook all candy in a heavy, smooth, deep and clean pan.
  • Measure all of your ingredients accurately.
  • Be careful when handling the hot mixture. Take precautions to avoid painful burns.
  • Stand back from you pan when adding additional ingredients to your hot mixtures. Many times a burst of steam will occur which could burn you.

Don’t

  • Don’t cook the sugar too fast. When it says “bring to a boil” do it slowly rather than turning your burner on high.
  • Don’t use a metal spoon to stir your candy. It will conduct the heat and get too hot to handle. A wooden spoon works well.
  • Don’t substitute ingredients. Use the ingredients listed in your recipe in the same amounts.
  • Don’t double a batch. Make separate batches if you need more than one batch will make. Changing amounts of ingredients will change the cooking time and will result in a failed product.
  • Don’t scrape the sides of your pan when pouring out the mixture. This could cause your candy to crystalize.

If you are looking for some more steps for successful candy making as well as some recipes check out this publication from the University of Illinois Extension on Candy Making. https://web.extension.illinois.edu/elrww/downloads/38877.pdf

 

Beth Marrs

I graduated form 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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Confused by Clothing Care Labels?

care labelThis year for Christmas new clothes were on everyone’s list. As I was getting them ready to be washed I looked at the care label and found that some of them only had pictures rather than written directions for washing.  Some of the symbols were easy to interpret but with others I didn’t have any idea what they were telling me!

Here is what I found out when I did some investigating on clothing labels. In 1971 the Federal Trade Commission issued the Care Labeling Rule.  This rule said that manufacturers must have a tag in their clothing with at least one safe cleaning method.  Beginning July 1, 1997, manufacturers could use certain care symbols in place of the words on these care labels.  The symbols and their written meaning were required for the next eighteen months.  After January 1998 either written or symbols must be provided by the manufacturer but they don’t have to put both on.

So if you have an item to wash and the label only shows symbols print this helpful chart and keep it in your laundry area for your reference. If you have any questions about laundry and stain removal give us a call at AnswerLine.  We would love to help you!

 

Beth Marrs

I graduated form 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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New 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

DGlandingpagebanner_0The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture share a responsibility to the American public to ensure that advancements in scientific understanding about the role of nutrition in health are incorporated into the Dietary Guidelines on a regular basis. Therefore, every five years the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases a new set of  2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are designed to improve the health of the U.S. population. The 2015-2020 guidelines were released January 7, 2016, and map out a clear path for people to follow to optimize health and prevent chronic disease.  What does this mean for us as consumers and educators?

There are some key takeaways from the new guidelines.

  • Eat for Health and for the Long Run

This means that a healthy eating pattern can be established for an individual’s lifetime and can help a person reach/maintain a healthy weight and can help prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. There is more than one type of healthy eating pattern, and various examples are included in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

  • Focus on Variety, Nutrient Density, and Amount

To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.

  • Limit Calories from Added Sugars and Saturated Fats and Reduce Sodium Intake

Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.

  • Start with Small Changes

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the idea of changing what we eat. By focusing on small improvements over time, eating healthy becomes more manageable. With so many choices to make every single day about what to eat and drink, each choice is an opportunity to make a small but healthy change. An example of this would be switching to whole grain brown rice from refined white rice.

  • Support Healthy Choices for Everyone

Everyone can play a role in encouraging easy, accessible, and affordable ways to support healthy choices at home, school, work, and in the community. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes examples of strategies to employ that support these healthy choices. Learn more about how you can help support healthy choices.

See the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for more detailed information.

contributed by Jill Jensen, former AnswerLine Specialist

Beth Marrs

I graduated form 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 Organizing Toys

Toys3The AnswerLine staff has been thinking and talking about getting more organized in 2016. Recently, I was visiting with my daughter as she was organizing her sons’ toys.  As she was adding Christmas toys to the boys’ rooms; she was removing some toys they don’t play with much anymore and making sure the remaining toys are age appropriate.

 

Here are some tips to help you organize toys at your house:

  1. Choose a time when children are away, sleeping, or otherwise occupied.
  2. Make 3 boxes for toys labeled: dispose, donate, store.toys1
  3. Dispose of broken toys and those that can’t be safely repaired.
  4. Remove toys that you seldom see the children using.
  5. If an older child has outgrown a toy, recycle it to a younger sibling, relative, or a box to be used when younger children visit.
  6. Rotate toys you don’t want to be without. Plan to remove some toys for a season or 3 months. Exchange these toys with other seasonal toys at that time.
  7. Consider investing in some clear, plastic storage boxes. You can group toys according to theme; farm toys, train toys, play dough. This makes storage and room cleaning so much easier.
  8. Older children may want to help choose which toys to remove, donate, or dispose.  This can be a great learning experience.
  9. Remember, some toys are favorites and it may be better to organize than remove them.Toys5

Hopefully, reorganizing your children’s toys will bring a less cluttered and more enjoyable 2016.  I plan to reorganize the grand children toys at my home this weekend.  I will buy some more boxes for the train toys to help the grandkids find what they need more easily.  I won’t dispose of any trains or accessories as they are a favorite with all my grandchildren.

Liz

Liz

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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Making your own baby food

baby-food-224x300In less than 7 weeks we will be blessed with the arrival of our first grandchild!  Needless to say we are all very excited!!  We have been shopping for car seats, strollers and porta cribs but one of the best gifts that I plan to give my new grandson is healthy and nutritious baby food that I have prepared and frozen just for him.  Although solid foods are not introduced to babies for several months I am starting to plan what I can grow and make into tasty baby food.  When you make it yourself not only do you know that the food you are feeding your baby is nutritious but it also costs much less than buying jars at the grocery store, especially as the baby grows and starts eating more!

Here are some tips to remember when making your own baby food:

  • Make sure everything is clean. This includes washing your hands, washing the fresh fruits or vegetables (even when you are peeling them) and using clean equipment.  Babies’ immune systems are more vulnerable to bacteria so practicing safe food handling methods is especially important.
  • Use fresh fruits and vegetables or frozen ones that have no added sugar, salt, flavorings or preservatives.
  • Cook fruits and vegetables to soften them with a small amount of water unless they are already soft like bananas. Save the cooking water to use if foods are too thick when pureeing.  Use a food processor, blender or immersion blender to get the food to the correct consistency.
  • Use ice cube trays to freeze the baby food. Each cube will be approximately 1 ounce.  Once frozen empty the contents of the ice cube tray into a freezer bag.  Mark the outside of the bag the contents and the date when frozen.  When ready to use always thaw in the refrigerator not on the counter.
  • Always throw away any uneaten leftover food in the baby’s dish.

To watch a video on making baby food, use this link from Spend Smart Eat Smart.  If you are wondering when to introduce food to your baby here is some great information from WIC.

Feeding your family healthy and nutritious foods is a priority for everyone.  I can’t wait to spoil my grandson with my homemade baby food made with lots of love.

Beth Marrs

I graduated form 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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Healthier Soups

Chili made to enjoy later.January is National Soup Month and what a great time to experiment with making those soups and stews more healthy for you and your family.

Here are some great tips for healthy soups:

  • Use lean meats with lots of vegetables and beans.
  • Choose tomato-based or broth-based soups like minestrone or vegetable, instead of cream-based soups.
  • Use ingredients like cheese, sour cream, or bacon sparingly as a topping or garnish or choose healthier substitutes like reduced-fat cheeses, low-fat sour cream, non-fat plain yogurt, or lean meats.
  • Substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product – such as using whole wheat pasta, barley, brown rice, or quinoa.
  • Use low-sodium broth, stock, or soup base for the foundation to keep sodium levels lower.
  • Experiment with flavorful herbs and spices in place of salt, such as garlic, curry, cumin, dill, basil, ginger, onion, etc.

Happy Cooking and stay warm this month!  If you need healthy soup recipes to try, give us a call at AnswerLine. We are always willing and able to help!

contributed by Jill Jensen, former AnswerLine Specialist

Beth Marrs

I graduated form 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 New Year

imageIt’s that time of year again.  When we all sense a new beginning and an opportunity to fix things in our lives.  We thought it might be fun to see what is on the minds of the AnswerLine staff as the new year begins.

Here are our resolutions for 2016:

  • Jill Jensen:  In 2016 I would like to learn to better prepare seafood.  ( I tend to overcook it)  I would like to include more fish in my overall diet. Also, I plan to keep my new home decluttered by donating items to charity on a weekly basis and tossing unnecessary items on an ongoing basis.
  • Beth Marrs:  My resolution is to get my freezer cleaned out and organized so that I know what foods I have stored in there.  I am going to try and maintain a list of foods I have so that I will use the items in a timelier manner!  I also plan to organize our attic.  There are many items that I am no longer using that could be donated and put to good use by someone else!
  • Liz Meimann:  My resolution is to organize, declutter, and donate items from my home.  I want to do one room each month to avoid burnout.  I plan to start on the worst room, my basement, in January and proceed from there.

We wish you all the best and happiest of years in 2016 and we look forward to visiting with you soon.

-The AnswerLine staff

Beth Marrs

I graduated form 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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Don’t get scammed!

It seems like everyone has had this happen. An email appears in your in-box with a scary message.  Something (they never seem to say just what) has happened to your credit card.  Just reply to the message and give them your private information and they will make the problem disappear.  This could actually be the start of your problems.

imageYour best option is to leave the email alone; delete it or don’t even open it. Please don’t add a password or any personal information.  If they are posing as a credit card company, look on your card and call the company.  Most likely, they are scammers fishing for personal information.

If you have the option to preview the email message, you should be able to do this safely. Look for some of these red flags to a scam:

  1. Check the email address. It may not have anything to do with your credit card company.
  2. Examine the company logo, it may look “off”, as if it is a bad copy of the logo.
  3. Look for misspelled words or awkward phrasing in the body of the email.

If you have doubts and questions, call the company or log into their official website. Don’t follow a link in the suspicious email; go to the website directly.  Don’t open the suspicious email or fill out any forms.

Do report this email to spam@uce.gov.  You should also report the scammer’s email to your credit card company.

Be smart and protect yourself.

Liz

Liz

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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