Prebiotics and Probiotics

It seems some topics circulate around periodically. I recently heard a dietician talking about prebiotics and probitoics on TV. They rise to the forefront in nutrition news every few years it seems. I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do a little research into prebiotics and probiotics and their relationship to one another.

They are both considered nutrition boosters and are both found naturally in food. They are both also found in supplement form. Whenever possible I recommend getting your nutrition from food rather than supplements though as they are more readily digested and absorbed that way.

Probiotics are probably most familiar to us. They are active, living cultures considered “friendly bacteria”. They are found naturally in your gut and they help reintroduce or change bacteria in your intestine. They help maintain healthful bacteria in the intestines and improve immune health. The best known source is probably live-cultured yogurt. Other sources include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, green pickles and tempeh.

Prebiotics are not living bacteria.  They are nondigestible and are usually fibers found in raw food. They promote the growth of friendly bacteria in probiotics and help protect the intestines from unfriendly bacteria. Prebiotics selectively feed good gut bacteria. Sources of prebiotics include asparagus, garlic, onion, wheat bran, artichokes, bananas, aged cheese and soybeans.

Prebiotics and probiotics are generally recognized as safe and few people experience side effects. If you have a compromised immune system however, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before adding them into your diet. Studies suggest adding these into your diet helps support a strong immune system however there is potential danger in promoting overgrowth of good and bad bacteria in patients with weak immune systems.  If you do decide to add them into your diet, try to include a combination of both prebiotics and probiotics in the same meal. They work together to help improve your gut health. A yogurt parfait with a banana in would be an example of combining probiotics and prebiotics.

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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The Canning Police?

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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 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.  Why take unnecessary risks with the health of your family and friends?

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.

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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Poke Bowls

We had friends just return from Hawaii who were raving about the Poke Bowls they enjoyed there. I had never heard of them but they piqued my curiosity enough to do a little research on them.

Poke (pronounced po-kay) is a sushi-like raw seafood salad. Poke is a Hawaiian verb meaning to slice or cut – which is what you do to the fish. Poke bowls were created in the Hawaiian Islands with a Japanese influence. The most popular are made with ahi tuna or octopus but you can use any fresh-caught fish or seafood you enjoy. If you do not care for eating raw fish or don’t enjoy it’s texture, you can certainly grill the fish/seafood you are using. They are a light and healthy meal and can be made low carb, gluten-free, and grain-free. They are also a great source of protein.

Poke bowls have been in Hawaii since the 1970’s and became popular on the mainland six or seven years ago. You can find them many places today including restaurants that only serve poke, poke bars in grocery stores, food trucks and you can buy prepackaged poke bowls  at the grocery store to take home like the one pictured. Poke bowls are easy to make at home as well. Many people start with a base of sushi rice, cauliflower rice, or lettuce. The poke is placed on top of that containing the fish, some onions (Vidalia or green onions work well, soy sauce and sesame oil (or tamari) along with some spice like Sriracha sauce. On top of the poke most add raw vegetables and slices of avocado.

The National Restaurant Association named poke a hot trend last year. It may be a refreshing and healthy choice for lunch or dinner on some of these hot Summer days. Enjoy!

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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Grilling Fruit

Summer and grilling just seem to go together at my house. Typically it is meat we are grilling but I have recently been interested in branching out to grilling fruit to complement the meat or use as a side or dessert.

As I was researching grilling fruit I was amazed at how many fruits lend themselves to be grilled. Peaches, melons, pineapple, pears, avocado, bananas, figs, grapes, watermelon and mango are all recommended. The key is to use fruits that are firm and barely ripe. You will want to grill them right before they are considered ripe enough to eat.

Grilling fruits intensifies their flavor by caramelizing the natural sugars. Juicy fruits will get even juicier and the grill marks make the fruit look very appealing. To maintain structure, cut the fruit into large chunks, slices, or wheels. If you are grilling smaller fruits, put them on a skewer so they don’t fall through the grates.

To prepare the grill for grilling fruit, preheat it to medium high for at least 10 minutes. Scrape and oil the grates to prevent sticking. Using a neutral tasting oil that is suitable for high heat is best so it does not affect the taste of the fruit. You may oil the fruit, if you wish, to also help prevent sticking but most people find they get better grill marks on the fruit without oiling the fruit itself. You can also sprinkle a spice on the cut fruit before you grill it if you want to. Many people recommend sprinkling white or brown sugar on the cut surface to help with the caramelization.

When grilling your fruit it is important to let it sear before trying to turn it to help prevent sticking. A general rule of thumb is to let the fruit sear for three minutes, flip it, then let it cook another one to three minutes more. If the fruit seems to be sticking before you turn it for the first time let it sear for a little bit longer and it should release. Denser fruit takes longer to grill  i.e. pineapple will take longer than peaches. You can put the lid on the grill to help keep the heat in if you wish. Check the fruit every few minutes to prevent overcooking. Your goal is for the fruit to be hot in the middle with beautiful grill marks on it.

Grilled fruit is delicious by itself but pairs nicely with ice cream and/or whipped cream. I’m looking forward to experimenting with grilling some fruits as more and more fruits are coming into their season.

 

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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Watermelon

When I remember eating watermelon as a child in suburban Chicago, I remember it as a rare treat. Thinking back, I can only remember eating watermelon in a thick, flat slice. It was always in the shape of half a watermelon.

I think that we see watermelon in the store almost year-round these days. I know that I have eaten watermelon in lots of different shapes. Sometimes scooped out with a melon baller, sometimes cubes, or small triangular slices. Watermelon is one of my husband’s favorite treats and I like to buy at least a half melon and cut it up so it is easy to grab a bit and enjoy it any time.

Here are two of my favorite ways to cut watermelon. One reason that they are my favorite methods is that they are quick and the other reason is that it is easy to enjoy a quick bite between meals.

The first method is also a great way to cut a melon for a picnic or pot luck dinner. This method leaves a bit of the watermelon rind on the outside of the slice, thus keeping your hands from becoming too sticky.

Place the cut side of the melon down and cut slices from stem end to blossom end roughly an inch apart.

Next cut slices perpendicular the first slices, also about an inch apart.

 

Now you have watermelon sticks that are easy to serve and easy to eat.

 

 

 

 

 

The second method is nearly as easy. In this method, you will start with a quarter of a watermelon. Using a large knife simply cut between the melon flesh and the rind. Start on one side and then move to the other side. The object is to free all the melon flesh from the rind. Do not worry that you will not get every bit of usable melon. You can add that to your cubes when you are finished.

 

 

Next cut slices from blossom to stem end about an inch apart. Do this on the flat side. Flip to the other flat side and repeat the process. Then slice down through the melon from top edge to rind. You can now dump out the cubes. Feel free to clean up the rind if you find you have left more melon there than you like.

 

 

Enjoy.

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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Beware of New Medicare Card Scams

The Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) began mailing new Medicare cards to Medicare beneficiaries in April and will continue with mailing for the coming year. As the cards began to go out, so did the scams. Here are some things to know and to share with those in your life who are Medicare recipients to prevent them from becoming victims of fraud or scams:

No action is needed. The new cards will be mailed to the address on file with the CMS. Beneficiaries do not need to provide any additional information to anyone claiming to need more.

A temporary card is not needed. The existing card may be used until the new one is received.

There is no charge for the new card. CMS does not charge for the new card.  It is free.

CMS does not call recipients. If anyone calls about the new Medicare card, hang up.

There will be no change in your health care benefits.  Ignore anyone threatening to cancel your health benefits due to the change in Medicare numbers and cards.

Never give out personal information on the phone unless you are 100% certain who you are talking to.   This includes the new number on your new Medicare card, social security number, and bank account information.

Once you get your new Medicare card, carefully destroy your old card right away.  The card should be shred or cut into small pieces rather than tossed into the trash.

You can learn more about the new Medicare card by visiting the CMS website or reading a previous Answerline blog.  If you get a suspicious call, contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227); TTY: 1-877-486-2048.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Celebrating Iced Tea Safely

June is National Iced Tea Month!  I didn’t know we celebrated iced tea nationally but after reading that iced tea makes up 85% of all tea consumed in the U.S., I concur that Iced Tea should be celebrated.   Further, I learned that iced tea was born in America.  Wikipedia relates that iced tea started to appear as a novelty in the U.S. during the 1860s.  (Prior to that, very little tea was consumed as it was thought to be unpatriotic after the Revolutionary War.)  By 1870, iced tea was quite widespread as it was available on hotel and railroad station menus.  Its popularity increased quickly after being introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis by Richard Blechynden.

Iced tea is my ‘go to’ summer beverage as an alternative to soda.  With the popularity of iced tea, we now have a large assortment of teas to use to make our cherished iced tea.  While some manufacturers have developed specific blends or formulations for iced tea, just about any tea can be enjoyed cold.  Until recently, iced tea was made by either brewing with hot water or brewing with the sun.  For years, I used the natural rays of the sun to make sun tea as the mild heat of the sun seemed to enhance the flavor of the tea and cut down on the tannins.  Well, no more!  Since 2011, the Centers for Disease Control have highly discouraged making sun tea as it is the perfect medium for bacteria growth.  Sun tea gets warm enough to brew tea, but it does not get hot enough to kill a ropy bacteria called Alcaligenes viscolactis that may be present in the water or in the tea or herb leaves.  Ropy bacteria is commonly found in soil and water.  If tea containing the bacteria is consumed, it has the potential to cause abdominal infections and illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and the National Tea Association recommend the following for brewing tea:

Brew tea by steeping tea at 195 degrees F for three to five minutes. Some tea drinkers complain that when tea is brewed with hot water, the tea becomes cloudy. The cause of the cloudiness may be due to tannins from the tea being released into the solution when the tea is cooled too rapidly or by chemicals or minerals in the water supply. One way to avoid cloudiness due to the tannins is to gradually bring the temperature of the steeped tea down with cool water before refrigerating or adding ice.  If chemicals in the water are causing the cloudiness, let the water sit for several hours to evaporate the chlorine.  Tap water containing minerals may need to be replaced with distilled or reverse osmosis water to eliminate the problem.  While cloudy iced tea may not be desirable, it is not a health risk.

Tea can also be brewed safely in the refrigerator by putting tea in cold water for six hours to overnight depending on the strength of the tea desired.  It can also be made more quickly with the Cold Brew formulations now available.

One should only brew enough tea to be consumed within a few hours.  When tea is not in use, it should be refrigerated.  If you use an iced tea maker, be sure to wash, rinse and sanitize the equipment regularly.

So get out your tall glasses and ice cubes and celebrate the warm weather by pouring yourself a safely home-brewed glass of iced tea be it plain, sweetened, flavored, or spiked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice tea certainly offers a healthier alternative to soda which is our country’s #1 beverage of choice.

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Marinating for Summer Grilling

Summer weather arrived early this year and many of us have enjoyed quite a bit of grilling already. Although it is not only for grilling, many people like to marinate meat before cooking it. To marinate means to soak or steep food in a flavored liquid. Usually that liquid is acidic which helps tenderize the meat and enriches the flavor. Because the liquid is acidic, it causes the tissues in the meat to break down which has a tenderizing effect and once the tissues are broken down the meat can hold more liquid making it juicier.

The two most important things to remember when marinating are to always marinate your meat covered in the refrigerator (not on the counter top) and never reuse the marinade. If you want to use part of the marinade as a sauce, set aside the amount you need for the sauce purposes before you use the rest.

When choosing a container to marinate the meat in, select glass, stainless steel, or food grade plastic bowls or bags. Using zip top food grade plastic bags makes for easy clean up when you are finished. They also allow you to easily flip and massage the food to make sure it is all covered with the marinade. To be safe you may want to place the plastic bag inside a container just in case there are any leaks.

How much marinade do you need? One half cup marinade per pound of meat should cover the meat sufficiently.

How long to marinate? Longer does not always mean better when it comes to marinating. It is certainly convenient to marinate meat in the refrigerator overnight but you can get similar results in a much shorter amount of time. Fifteen minutes to two hours is sufficient for small pieces of meat like boneless chicken breasts and shrimp. Steaks, chops and vegetables can be marinated in one to three hours. If you have a very large piece of meat such as a brisket, pork shoulder, or turkey you will probably want to allow 24 hours for them to marinate.

It has happened to all of us that we have planned ahead and then plans changed at the last minute. If you have meat marinating and that happens to you, you will be safe to allow the meat to continue marinating. You can store marinated poultry in your refrigerator for up to two days. Beef, veal, pork, plus lamb roasts, chops and steaks can be marinated up to five days. A word of caution though – although the marinating meats will be safe, over marinating can cause animal proteins to become tough or mushy.

The basic ingredients in a marinade are acid (vinegar, lemon juice, wine), oil (any good cooking oil), and flavorings (fresh herbs or spices from your pantry). Start with three parts oil to one part acid, add salt and pepper, then experiment with your herbs and spices. You can add a little sweetness with sugar or honey if you like. If you don’t have time to make your own marinade, bottled Italian salad dressing works well.

And finally, cook your meat safely. Use an instant read thermometer and cook poultry to 165 degrees, ground meats to 160 degrees, and steaks and roasts to 145 degrees and allowing a 3 minute rest time.

 

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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Sunscreen stains on leather

Just yesterday, a caller wanted to know how to remove a sunscreen stain from a leather car seat. Leather can be tricky to clean and stains easily, so I had to do some research to find an answer for the caller. Since the weather has been hot and sunny lately, I thought other people might have the same problem.

If you want to clean it with materials you already have on hand, follow these directions:

  • First, blot up any excess lotion on the seat. Be careful to blot and not wipe. Wiping the stain can spread it and make a larger stain.
  • Next, get some cornstarch or some baking soda. You will need enough to sprinkle over the entire stain. Before you apply the starch or soda, lightly rub the spot. Friction can heat the stain and allow you to adsorb more of the lotion before sprinkling the starch or soda.
  • Once you have covered the stain with cornstarch or baking soda, allow it to sit on the stain overnight. The next morning, check the spot. If the cornstarch or baking soda have yellowed, then they have adsorbed some of the stain. If you can still see some of the stain, you can repeat the treatment.
  • If the stain remains, it may be time to use a leather cleaner.
  • You can always contact the dealership that sold you your car as they often have leather care kits for use on the seats. If they do have a kit available, use both the cleaner and then the conditioner after cleaning the seat.

Don’t let a stain keep you from protecting your skin with sunscreen this summer.

 

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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Flag Etiquette

Happy Flag Day!

We are currently doing some landscaping work at our house and are contemplating adding a flag pole and U.S. flag into our landscaping. We want to do it correctly so have been researching any laws or rules for displaying a flag. There is a U.S. Flag Code that was published on June 14, 1923 and adopted by Congress in 1942. It is a set of rules – not law. It is purely advisory but a very good guide.

The flag should always be treated with respect and honor. If flags are wrinkled, faded or damaged they should not be displayed. Flags should not touch the ground or any items below them such as a chair or table when they are being displayed. Most flags today are made of nylon but if the flag is not made from all-weather fabric it should not be displayed on days when there is inclement weather.

Flags are customarily flown from sunrise to sunset. They can be displayed 24 hours a day however if they are properly illuminated at night.

If your flag becomes damaged or worn out and is no longer fitting for display you should destroy it in a dignified manner. Typically flags are destroyed by burning. There are some organizations that offer planed flag retirement ceremonies. The American Legion and the U.S. Scouting Service Project are two organizations to check with to see what they offer for properly destroying flags.

There are many instances when the flag is flown at half-staff. One of those instances is on Memorial Day when it is customary to fly the flag at half-staff until noon.

Although Flag Day is not an Official Federal Holiday it is nice to take a moment and honor our American Flag today.

 

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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