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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

Tips for Storing Furits and Vegetables

September 15th, 2014

fridgeAre you wondering what should be stored in the drawers of your refrigerator?  It is important to know how to best use them to keep your produce at top quality for as long as possible!

Refrigerator drawers are designed to help you adjust the humidity level so it can be different from the rest of the refrigerator.  Many drawers have a control that allows you to increase or decrease the air flow coming into them.  Less air flow means higher humidity.  Since different produce require different levels of humidity it allows you to tailor the drawer to the produce inside and it will last longer.

Here are a few tips to store your fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator:

  1. Vegetables typically like high humidity and fruits like lower humidity.
  2. Leafy greens like high humidity (85-95%) and cold temperatures(32-40°F).   This includes lettuce, spinach, chard, collards, mustard greens and watercress. Bulbs like green onions, leaks and endive should also be stored here.
  3. Apples, grapes, cherries, apricots, nectarines and other tree fruits like less humidity and cold temperatures (32-35°F).
  4. Don’t put ripe fruits and veggies in the same crisper drawer since fruits give off ethylene gas.   Apple, pears, plums, cantaloupes and peaches are all high-ethylene producers. This can cause green vegetables to turn yellow, lettuce to get rust colored spots, potatoes to sprout and carrots to turn bitter.
  5. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruit can be stored in the main part of your refrigerator since they prefer even less humidity.
  6. Some fruits and vegetables do better outside of the refrigerator. Tomatoes, potatoes and onions prefer a cool, dark, dry place. (65-70°F).
  7. Wash your fruits and vegetables before eating, not before storing them.

By storing your foods properly you save money since your fruits and vegetables will remain fresh as long as possible!

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, Household Equipment

Vacuum Sealers

July 17th, 2014

vacuum sealer machineVacuum sealers are machines that are marketed for vacuum packaging food at home. There are many different models available but these machines are intended to extend the storage time of refrigerated foods, dried foods and frozen foods. I bought one to use with freezing meats and leftovers to keep the quality better for a longer period of time. The benefit of removing the air before sealing is the increased storage time of refrigerated, dried and frozen foods. If the air is not removed, oxygen can cause fats to develop rancid flavors and change the food’s color, texture and flavor. Vacuum seal bags are designed to help keep meat and other foods fresh in the freezer by preventing the loss of moisture and the development of freezer burn.

What vacuum sealers do not do is make a product that needs to be refrigerated shelf stable. The removal of oxygen from a food package doesn’t eliminate all bacterial growth; it just changes the type of growth that can occur. Temperature control is critical for safe vacuum-storage. If foods that require refrigeration are vacuum sealed then left at room temperature, there is a risk of harmful bacteria growing and causing illness. This also means that frozen items that are vacuum sealed should be thawed in the refrigerator, NEVER on the counter.

To avoid risks when vacuum sealing follow these safe food handling tips:

  • Vacuum sealing food does not replace the need to pressure can or water bath home canned foods that are stored at room temperature.
  • Keep vacuum sealed perishable items that need refrigeration (fresh produce, meat and fish, semi-dried foods, and moist bakery items), in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Use a vacuum sealer to extend the shelf life of properly dried nuts, fruits and vegetables and meat jerky. The removal of the oxygen will help these foods continue to taste fresh.
  • Wash your hands before and during the sealing process. Keep utensils, cutting boards and counters clean.
  • Don’t allow the food you are vacuum sealing to be out of the refrigerator before or after you seal it.

Remember to always follow safe food handling practices and enjoy the benefits of vacuum sealing foods.

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Food Safety, Household Equipment

CLEANING YOUR BARBECUE GRILL

June 5th, 2014

stock-photo-family-on-vacation-having-barbecue-95044429[1]

With Father’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been reminiscing about grilling in the backyard with my dad. He had an award-winning recipe for Grilled Stuffed Pork Chops and my mouth waters to this day just remembering biting into them. He was a livestock producer so we always had an abundance of fresh meat cuts to barbecue on the old Weber charcoal grill, along with fresh-picked Iowa sweet corn and my mom’s fresh garden vegetables. Such good memories!

Cleaning the grill was not such a fun memory, however. Like most people, I still don’t enjoy cleaning the grill; but a dirty grill can mean off flavors and/or excess smoke the next time you barbecue.  The following are  steps we can take to make this “dirty job” easier:

GRATES:

BEFORE lighting the grill, apply non-stick spray on the grates. This cuts down cleanup time later. The grates need to be cleaned completely after every use. Use a stiff wire brush (or if you don’t have one, crumpled up aluminum foil works for this). Most people don’t know that it’s actually better to do this AFTER you cook while the grill is still warm as cooling hardens the food on the grate.

CHARCOAL GRILLS:stock-photo-grill-138335288[1]

Many charcoal grills come with a handy ash catcher attached to the bottom. These grills still need to be cleaned after every use to help cut down on excess smoke and bad flavors. Simply brush out the ashes and cooked foods that have dropped to the bottom of the grill. Occasionally get in there and really scrape out that stuff that seems to develop on the bottom.. At least once a year, get out a bucket of soapy water and give it a really good clean and rinse.

 

 

 

timthumb[2]GAS GRILLS:

Your gas grill may have a “clean” setting on the knobs. I’m sorry to report that this is not how you clean your grill. It will burn up stuff that has fallen down into the grill, but it doesn’t really clean it. Like a charcoal grill, you need to clean your gas grill after each use by cleaning the grates and brushing off the sides and lid. Regularly lift out the cooking grate and clean off the barrier above the burners. This might be lava rock, briquettes, or some variation of metal plates, and cooked on grease and food particles should be cleaned periodically.

Once a year, do a more thorough cleaning on your gas grill. To do this, start by disconnecting the gas and then lift out the grill parts layer by layer. Once you get down to the burners, inspect them thoroughly. Make sure nothing is blocking the flow of gas. If a burner is clogged, it will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling. If you can clean it, do so, otherwise, replace it. If your grill uses lava rocks or ceramic briquettes you need to make sure that these are not too heavily encrusted with cooked on foods. If they are, replace them to avoid bad tasting smoke that dirty rocks can produce.

Take everything out of the gas grill and clean it completely with soapy water. Heat up the grill completely before you cook again to make sure that any leftover soap residue burns off.

One more handy tip: I use rubber or plastic gloves to clean my grill – it saves fingernails and keeps soot and grime off the hands.

Taking these steps to clean your grill regularly will help ensure delicious barbecued meals time after time.  Make memories in the backyard with your friends and family and enjoy the summer grilling season – it flies by quickly!

jill sig

Cleaning, Food Preparation, Home Environment, Household Equipment

Smelly Fridge??

March 10th, 2014

imageIf you have ever lost your power for a long period of time or had your refrigerator or freezer fail and food has spoiled, you know how hard it is to remove the odor.  Here are some steps to help you get your refrigerator or freezer odor free.

  1. Dispose of any food that has spoiled.
  2. Wash all of the shelves and drawers in hot water and detergent.  Then rinse using a sanitizing solution of 1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
  3. Wash the interior of the refrigerator and freezer with hot water and baking soda.  Make sure that you also clean the door and gasket.  Rinse with the sanitizing solution.
  4. Leave the door open for about 15 minutes to allow for air to circulate.  Remember if you have small children make sure that they don’t get trapped inside.

If the odor still remains try one or more of the following:

  1. Use equal parts of vinegar and water and wipe the inside of the unit.
  2. Leave the door open and allow the refrigerator or freezer to air out for several days.  Again take precautions if you have small children.
  3. Try stuffing both the refrigerator and freezer with crumpled up newspapers sprinkled with water.  Close the door and leave the papers in for several days with the appliance is running.  Next, remove the newspapers and clean with vinegar and water.
  4. Sprinkle coffee grounds or baking soda on cookie sheets or in shallow containers and put in several shelves of the refrigerator or freezer.
  5. Place a cotton ball soaked with vanilla in both the refrigerator and freezer.  Check in 24 hours for improvement.
  6. Look for a commercial cleaner.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

With persistence, most odors can be removed.  If you are unable to clean it and need to dispose of the refrigerator contact your local waste collector to find out what rules apply to disposing it.

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Oh the smell of burned popcorn…

March 3rd, 2014

imagePhew!  Have you ever burned popcorn in your microwave and wondered how to get rid of the smell?  Try mixing ½ cup of lemon juice and 1 cup of water in a bowl.  Cook in the microwave for 5 minutes.  The fresh lemon smell will go up and out of the vents, cleaning them, since that is where the odor is residing.  If the smell isn’t completely gone try adding more lemon juice and boiling it again!

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Cleaning, Household Equipment

Cloudy glassware?

February 20th, 2014

etchingIf you have cloudy glasses after they come out of the dishwasher it could either be from hard water filming or etching.  To identify the cause try soaking the glassware in undiluted white vinegar for about 5 minutes.  If the film is gone, the cloudiness is from hard water.  If it is not removed,  the glasses are etched.

Etching is a permanent pitting or eroding of the actual glass surface.  It usually appears as shades of blue, purple, brown or pink when the glass is held at an angle toward the light.  As the etching becomes more advanced it starts to appear cloudy or can even look frosted.  Unfortunately there is no way to restore glasses that are etched.

Here are some tips to help avoid etching on your glasses.

  1.  If all of the food is removed from the dishes prior to loading them in the dishwasher it increases the alkaline concentration of the dishwasher detergent and it increases the possibility of etching.
  2. Adjust the amount of detergent according to the level of water hardness.  If you have soft water less detergent is needed.
  3. Having the water temperature too high can also be a problem.  Water entering the dishwasher should be between 120° F – 140° F.

If the vinegar removed the cloudiness here are some steps to keep it from returning.

  1. Use the correct amount of detergent for the level of hardness in your water.  If you have extremely hard water it is very hard to get acceptable dishwashing results.
  2. If the water temperature is too cool it can also cause a film.  Try running the hot water in your sink before starting the dishwasher.  That will clear the cold water from the line.  This is especially important when using a shorter wash cycle.
  3. The use of a rinse aid improves the sheeting action of the water, allowing it to slide off the dishes more easily and not leave water spots.

Use these tips to keep your glasses looking new!

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Cleaning, Consumer Management, Household Equipment

Slow Cookers – Times, Temperatures and Techniques

February 6th, 2014

Crock Pot

Slow Cooker

Winter – long, cold, busy days demand easy,nutritious meals ready and waiting for us when we get home from work. This is the perfect time of the year to use our slow cooker. I have mine out almost on a weekly basis, not only enjoying the convenience of this great piece of equipment but also the delicious results of a long slow cooking method.  I have already made Beef Short Ribs in a Stout Sauce; Curried Pumpkin Chicken Soup and Steel Cut Oat Porridge with Dried Cherries, to mention just a few recipes used within the last month.

There are many different types of slow cookers on the market today, making it a good idea to read the instruction manual when you first get yours. The setting temperatures and times may vary according to manufacturer. To qualify as a safe slow cooker the appliance must be able to cook slow enough for unattended cooking yet fast enough to keep food above the danger zone.

In general, Low setting on a slow cooker = 190 degrees F and High setting = 300 degrees F.

When using a slow cooker, follow these guidelines.

1. Start with fresh or thawed meat–not frozen.

2. Use chunks rather than large cuts or roasts. Use pieces of poultry–not a whole chicken.

3. Cook meat on high for 1 hour and then turn cooker to low–rather than cooking on low for the entire length of time.

4. Only use recipes that include a liquid. Cooker should be ½ to ¾ full for best results.

5. Check internal temperature to make sure food reaches 160°F.

6. Do not delay starting time.

7. Do not reheat foods in slow cooker.

8. Keep the lid on.

We sometimes would like to turn one of our oven recipes into a recipe that will work in the slow cooker. A general conversion chart would be:

Oven Times                           Slow Cooker Times and Settings

15-30 minutes                      1 ½ – 2 ½ hours on High or 4 – 8 hours on Low

35-45 minutes                      3 – 4 hours on High or 6 – 10 hours on Low

50 minutes – 3 hours          4 – 6 hours on High or 8 – 18 hours on Low

We sometimes have callers concerned about the safety of their slow cookers. To determine if a slow cooker will heat food to a safe temperature, fill the cooker with 2 quarts of water. Heat on Low for 8 hours or the desired cooking time. Check the water temperature with an accurate thermometer (quickly because the temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees when the lid is removed).  - The temperature of the water should be 185° to 200°F. Temperatures above this would indicate that a product cooked for 8 hours without stirring would be overdone. Temperatures below this may indicate the cooker does not heat food high enough or fast enough to avoid potential food safety problems.

REF: Patricia Redlinger 1993; Pm-1523 free

Below is a conversion chart to illustrate comparative cook times for High and Low:

High Low
3 hours 7 hours
4 8
5 9
6 10
7 11
8 12

Typical slow cooker food loads and their respective cooking times:

Meat Cut Meat Weight Low cook time High cook time
Large pork roast 6-7 lbs 9 ½ hours 7 1/3 hours
Pork Loin 3-4 lbs 6 hours 5 hours
Poultry 6 lbs 7 1/2 hours 6 ¼ hours
Beef Roast 3-4 lbs 8 hours 5 ¾ hours
Stew meat 3 lbs 6 hours 4 ¾ hours
Fish 2 lbs 3 ½ hours 1 1/2 hours

All cook times are approximate. Appropriate cook time varies according to specific meat characteristics for fat content and connective tissue as well as other ingredients added to dish including liquid, size of meat cubes, type of vegetable, size of vegetable dice, how slow cooker is filled, etc.

Carolyn

Household Equipment, Winter

Keeping Pipes from Freezing

November 7th, 2013
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Protecting Pipes from Freezing

The temperatures have recently gotten much colder outside, making us think about water pipes freezing in our homes. There are certain precautions to take to prevent this and it is also good to know how to thaw frozen pipes safely just in case this happens to you.

Pipes that run along an outside wall of a house may be at additional risk, as are water lines in outbuildings that do not have a heat source.

Adding extra insulation to prevent the pipes from freezing is always a good idea, but is not always feasible. Sometimes all it takes is opening the cabinet doors below the sinks, allowing heat to get near the pipes. A shielded light bulb placed near water pipes can also be effective, but make sure it does not come in contact with combustibles.

If, by chance, your pipes do freeze it is important to thaw them in the correct way. The first step is to turn the faucet on, which in turn will relieve the pressure in the line. Next, apply heat to the frozen section of the pipe. This can be done by using a space heater, heat lamp, heat tape, hairdryer or towels soaked in hot water wrapped around the pipe. Always be cautious when using electrical appliances in wet locations and remember to thaw the pipe slowly! Take extra precaution if your pipes are made out of plastic instead of copper. Plastic pipes will become brittle and rigid at low temperatures and also have a lower melting point than copper pipes.

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Home Environment, Household Equipment ,

Crock Pot Tips

October 21st, 2013

Fall is here and as the days get dark earlier there is nothing better than to come home to a house filled with the aroma of dinner cooked in a slow cooker.  Slow cookers are wonderful appliances as long as you handle food safely.

Here are 10 tips to using your slow cooker.

  1.  Thaw all ingredients before putting them in the slow cooker.crock pot
  2. Start your food on high for the first hour then it can be turned down to low if necessary.
  3. Fill cooker no less than ½ full or no more than 2/3 full.
  4. Don’t lift the lid during cooking.  It reduces the temperature from 10-15 degrees and increases the cooking time by 30 minutes each time you lift the lid.
  5. Use the meat thermometer.  Poultry is done at 165°, Beef, Pork and Lamb at 160°
  6. Place the vegetables near the bottom because they cook the slowest.
  7. Don’t heat leftovers in the slow cooker.  Reheat leftovers on the stovetop then keep at serving temperature in a slow cooker that has been preheated.
  8. Keep perishable foods refrigerated until filling the slow cooker.
  9. Soak, rinse and cook beans before adding to the slow cooker.
  10. Don’t leave food to cool down in the slow cooker.  Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate immediately.

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Food Safety, Household Equipment, recipes