Thinking outside the box: Part 2

Today we will consider two more kitchen appliances that have been around for a long time. Slow cookers or crock pots have been in our kitchens since the early 1970s. Around the same time, microwave ovens began to be sold commercially. This appliance, too, can be an enormous help when you are preparing so many different foods.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about using the Crock Pot is starting stew in it before I leave for work so we can eat pretty quickly after a long day at AnswerLine. Few people serve stew for Thanksgiving but there are still a number of ways to use the Slow Cooker that day.

Crock Pot with turkey
Turkey cooked in Slow Cooker

If you plan on a soup course for dinner, of course the slow cooker will be a great place to cook it. You can prep the ingredients the night before and start the cooker early in the morning. By dinner time, the soup will be ready.

No space in the oven for the traditional green bean casserole? Consider using the slow cooker for the green beans. This recipe will be ready to eat in three hours; get it started when you are getting the turkey in the oven.

We also have this information in our files for making dressing in a slow cooker:  

  • Never mix wet and dry ingredients until you are ready to cook the dressing.
  • Precook vegetables, such as onions or celery. 
  • Always use pasteurized eggs or Egg Beater type products for eggs.
  • Fill the cooker with the correct amount of food – never less than 1/2 or more than 2/3 full.
  • Stir once or twice during the cook time, if desired or the dressing may get crusty on the side.
  • Cook the dressing or stuffing on high for 45 to 60 minutes and then reduce heat to low and cook 4-8 hours.
  • Check the final temperature with an accurate food thermometer. The end temperature should be 165 degrees.

You can also use the Slow Cooker to hold a dish at a safe temperature for serving. If you won’t have enough room on the stove top to make mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes while the rest of the meal is cooking, make the potatoes ahead of time and use the Slow Cooker to keep it warm. Simply preheat the Slow Cooker by turning it on high after you have filled it with water. When you get the potatoes ready, dump out the water and fill with potatoes. At that point, you can turn the cooker to the low or keep warm setting.

The microwave can be used to cook most any part of the Thanksgiving meal. We often use it to heat up the green bean casserole and then when it is hot, we add the onion rings and put it in the oven to brown after the Turkey has been removed.

Reheating foods that were prepared in advance is another great use of the microwave. You can quickly reheat dishes that others brought to share, or those that you prepared the day before. The speed and convenience of the microwave will stretch your cooking space considerably

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.

More Posts - Website

Thinking outside the box

Every family has their own holiday traditions. The typical Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce is not standard at every celebration. Some families choose to pass on turkey and serve ham or roast beef instead. Usually, there are number of side dishes that accompany the entree. One common theme seems to be that there is often not enough oven or stove-top space to cook everything at the same time. This is when we need to start thinking outside the box.

We have been talking about this issue a lot lately at AnswerLine as we try to think of ways to stretch your cooking space. Over the last few years, it seems that the number of new kitchen appliances on the market has exploded. We can adapt our cooking methods to include newer appliances as well as older appliances. Slow cookers and toaster ovens are still useful. Multi cookers and Instant pots also solve problems.

This is the first of a three part blog examining some different ways to cook your Thanksgiving meal. Today we will focus on electric roasters. These appliances have been available for many years; they are very useful when you are preparing a large and varied meal.

The roaster will function in the same way an oven does, so you can either cook in the insert pan or place a smaller pan inside the roaster. Be sure to add some water into the bottom of the electric roaster underneath the insert pan for the roaster to function well.

Electric roasters can be used to cook turkey and any other type of meat. They function much like an oven but typically will not brown; if you want browned, crispy turkey skin you may need to put it in the oven or under the broiler for a bit after it is cooked.

You can bake potatoes inside the electric roaster or reheat a pan of make-ahead mashed potatoes. If you need a place to cook the green bean casserole or a pan of scalloped corn, the electric roaster can cook it evenly and fairly quickly. You can also cook dressing inside the roaster and there are even desserts that you can cook in it. Or, consider warming your rolls in the roaster.

Adding an electric roaster to your kitchen for the holiday, even a borrowed one, can make cooking Thanksgiving dinner a bit less stressful

Next Monday, we will examine ways you can use your crock pot to make Thanksgiving dinner.

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.

More Posts - Website

Thinking about Thanksgiving

cartoon illustration of turkey chef holding platter with pumkin, pie, nuts, fruits and autumn leaves

It is time to start thinking about Thanksgiving again at AnswerLine. We get so many Thanksgiving questions every November that we like to begin thinking about Thanksgiving early in the month. We like to review our turkey thawing and cooking directions and other information related to popular questions that callers ask.

One important dilemma that callers often have is not enough oven space for a turkey and ham or roast beef. Also, there are a number of common side dishes competing with the turkey for oven space. Callers often want to know how long ahead of time they can prepare and then reheat a dish.

This may be a time to think a bit outside the box for cooking methods. We have often heated our green bean casserole in the microwave to precook it and then added the onion rings and put the casserole in the oven when we took the turkey out. Since the turkey should rest before carving, it allows the green bean casserole top to brown and get a bit crisp before serving.

It seems that we all have multiple small appliances that we can use to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Many people have crock pots, instant pots, microwave ovens, toaster ovens, or electric roasters. If we take the time to think of all the options early in the month, then preparing Thanksgiving dinner could become less stressful. As always, call us at AnswerLine if you want to discuss your options.

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.

More Posts - Website

Preparing for winter

Winter scene
Winter scene

Weather forecasters are busy predicting a second winter storm for the north west.  After all the rain we have had this fall, I’m starting to think about getting ready for winter myself.  Over the years, I’ve learned that as winter approaches I need to check the pantry to make sure I have enough staples to make it through being snowed in for a couple of days. Since I live on a farm, we usually have a freezer (or two) filled with enough beef and pork to provide meals for several months. When the kids lived at home, we always had a big garden and canned and froze a variety of fruits and vegetables. Now that it is just my husband and myself, I always try to have a variety of commercially canned and frozen vegetables and fruits on hand. As long as I keep my flour, sugar, and oil containers reasonably full, I know that I can bake just about anything else we might need. Keeping powdered dry milk on hand also helps me avoid the grocery store when everyone else is rushing in to pick up that loaf of bread and gallon of milk. We don’t really enjoy drinking reconstituted milk, but when you need milk for baking it is great to have some in the house. We have blogged over the years about keeping a winter kit inside the car with items you may need if you get stuck in the snow. I try to check my kit before Christmas so that I have those things fully stocked when the first big storm hits. We have also blogged about understanding weather terms and just how to prepare your home and pets to stay safe. We are lucky to live in a time when it is so easy to wait out a winter storm and stay safe. I’m still waiting for those first snow flakes to fall.

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.

More Posts - Website

Time to put the garden to bed

Cleaning the garden

Now that we have had several frosty nights, it is time to think about getting the garden finished for the season. I have been reading some press releases from Richard Jauron a the Hortline at Iowa State University to remind me of everything I need to accomplish this week . If you want to speak with Richard directly, you can call him at 515-294-3108 any weekday between 10 to noon or 1 to 4:30.

I plan to follow his directions for getting my garden ready for winter. I will need to mulch my strawberry bed to prevent damage to the plants from repeated freezing and thawing. Temperatures much below 20 degrees F could kill the flower buds or damage the roots of the plants. I do have some time to get my mulch prepared as the advice for mulching includes letting the plants acclimate to the cooler weather before mulching. I plan to use chopped cornstalks as they are more readily available to me than oat, wheat, or soybean straw.

I have been trying to get all the garden debris cleaned out of the garden between rainstorms this fall. Removing garden debris helps control the spread of disease and prevents insects from overwintering in the dead plants. I took the tomato plants out when they stopped bearing tomatoes. The plants didn’t look very healthy at that point. The potatoes were dug early to prevent them from rotting in the ground. The onions were pulled early for the same reason. I’ll get everything else out later this week, but with a late harvest, I’m not sure my husband will be able to till the garden yet this fall. If he is able to get that done for me, the garden will dry out and warm up a bit earlier next spring.

If we have a warm weekend, I hope to clean up my garden tools. Richard advises removing that caked-on soil from shovels, hoes, and rakes. Wash the tools and coat with WD-40 to prevent rust. Blades and edges of hoes and shovels can be sharpened. If I have lots of time, and energy, I can sand the rough handles on both of my hoes. Both hoe handles are very rough and I don’t like the way they feel when I use them. Richard says that linseed oil will prevent cracking and drying of the handles. I have already put my hoses away for the winter. I drained and coiled them carefully to ensure that they will be in great shape next spring.

Hopefully, the time I take this fall to get things cleaned up will make gardening in the spring more enjoyable.

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.

More Posts - Website

October is Pork Month!

Pork loin chops

Although we are already part way through October, there is still plenty of time to celebrate Porktober19.  Pork is a very versatile meat and can be prepared many different ways.  Pork has been a part of my family’s life for many years as we raised a lot of hogs on our farm.  My husband and I continued the family tradition of raising hogs from farrow to finish (birth to market). After we made the tough decision to get out of the hog business, I worked for a neighbor as a herdswoman for an additional 5 years.  We always had pork in the freezer as we took a hog or two to the locker plant in town every year.  It is easy to make a quick work night supper with some ham steaks or pork chops or a special family meal with a pork loin roast. 

Whole pork loins

If you are in a rut and need some new and interesting pork recipes, the Iowa Pork Producers have plenty of new recipes that you may enjoy. If you are a new cook or have not had a chance to cook pork for a while, the National Pork Board has some great, quick videos covering multiple ways to cook or work with pork.  They demonstrate how to cook pork chops or how to cut down a large tenderloin into cops and roasts.  There is also a demonstration on how to correctly use a thermometer to check if the pork has been cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Enjoy some pork tonight.

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.

More Posts - Website

Substituting honey for sugar

We get calls all year long from consumers wanting to substitute honey for sugar.  Some people prefer the taste of honey, some feel that honey is a more “natural” product, and some think that honey is healthier than sugar.

Honey pot preserved with honeycomb on wood background

We help callers understand the facts surrounding honey and sugar substitutions.  If the substitution is in a baked product, you will substitute half of a cup of honey for one cup of sugar. Remember to decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey used.  Sometimes this substitution will affect the overall quality of the product.  The best option would be to start with a recipe designed to use honey. 

If you wish to substitute honey for sugar in a drink, such as lemonade, use half the amount as listed above, but do consider using a bit of hot water to help the honey dissolve into the drink.

Honey is a natural product produced by bees using the nectar from flowers to make honey.  Raw honey contains pollen grains but is usually available in the store as processed honey.  This product may have been heated or filtered.  Sugar is also a natural product made by processing sugar beets or sugar cane.  We should avoid using an excessive amount of either product.

For our callers that think of honey as a healthier option, it does have a small amount of minerals but overall it is not really much healthier than sugar. The American Diabetes Association states that there is no advantage substituting honey for sugar in the diabetic diet.  Most of us would benefit by limiting our sugar intake. 

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.

More Posts - Website

Holiday gifts for Canners.

It may seem early but I have some ideas for Christmas gifts for the Canner in your life.  We get lots of calls this time of year from people that need a resource that has tested recipes.  The So Easy To Preserve canning book from the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Georgia is a perfect gift.  All the recipes were scientifically tested and if the canner follows them exactly, they are guaranteed to have both a good and safe result.  This book is available through the UGA Marketplace on-line store.  If you purchase through the University of Georgia, the cost will be $20.00,which includes shipping and handling. 

So Easy To Preserve, our go-to book at AnswerLine.

Almost anyone with a hobby can use more tools.  Your canning friend may need an updated canner.  New canners are readily available this time of year and may even be on sale for the end of the season.  Remember that if you purchase a pressure canner with a dial gauge that the gauge should be tested yearly. Many county Extension and Outreach offices in Iowa perform the yearly tests. Call us at AnswerLine and we can help you find someone to test your gauge. Weighted gauge canners never need testing. Wide mouthed funnels make filling jars easier and headspace tools make it easy to have the correct amount of headspace inside of a jar. You may find these and other tools on sale, too.  

Often recipes call for amounts of vegetables by weight. A new digital scale that is easy to use and easy to clean would make a great gift. A new thermometer, digital and instant read can ensure your canning friends get ingredients to exactly the right temperature. These thermometers come in several styles. You can purchase a folding thermometer that has a thin probe, or a smaller one that can easily clip inside shirt pocket. Either one would be a handy addition to your canning friend’s tool kit.

While there are many other options for gifts, this list may help you get started finding something special for someone special in your life. Merry Christmas.

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.

More Posts - Website

Don’t wash raw poultry!

Washing raw chicken in the sink.  Please don’t do this!

The USDA sent out another press release a few days ago, reminding us not to wash raw poultry. This is a topic that comes up every so often with callers. Some callers resist our advice not to wash poultry. Washing raw poultry simply is not very effective. Splashing water and hands not washed well will spread bacteria from the raw poultry to many other places in the kitchen. This simply is not an effective method for ensuring a safe meal.

Callers often do not believe that they will end up with bacteria in their sink or counter tops that will not be easy to clean up. According to the USDA, 60% of people that washed raw poultry had bacteria in the sink after washing or rinsing poultry. About 14% still had detectable levels of bacteria in the sink after washing the sink. The researchers for the USDA also found that 26% of these people had also transferred bacteria to their ready to eat salads. Therefore, even if you try to clean up after washing poultry, there is no guarantee that you can remove it from the sink or be sure that it does not transfer to your salad. This is not an appetizing thought.

Even if participants in this study did not wash the raw poultry, 31% still managed to transfer bacteria from the poultry to their salad. Researchers speculated that this transfer occurred due to lack of handwashing and contamination of the countertop from the poultry. We often explain to consumers that it is hard to be conscious of the “little things” that we do to cross-contaminate in the kitchen. Consumers also tend to underestimate the value of handwashing.

We do remind callers to use a thermometer to check the temperature of poultry (and all other meats) every time. Thorough cooking will kill bacteria that is present on the meat. That is why we can tell callers that not washing poultry is safe. Cooking kills bacteria. Knowing we have reached the proper temperature inside the meat or poultry ensures a safe product.

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.

More Posts - Website

Plan now for county fair 2020

Just picked green beans.

Now that both County fair and State fair are over, it is time to start thinking about projects for next year in 4-H. If there is an area that looked interesting, now can be a great time to time to look deeper into a project area. If you are interested in food and nutrition projects, think about exhibits you can prepare ahead of time for the fair in 2020. An easy make-ahead project area would be food preservation. Many foods are ripe and ready to preserve now that may not be ready again before the fair next year. Green beans and tomatoes are plentiful now and would make a great exhibit for the fair. Be sure to use an approved recipe from Extension and Outreach, the USDA canning guide, or So Easy to Preserve. If you choose to make a jam or jelly, the insert from the pectin package contains approved recipes. It is important to only use a tested recipe for a canning exhibit; old family recipes may not produce a safe product.  Those recipes will be disqualified if you bring them to the fair.  Follow the tested recipe directions exactly, adjust the recipe for altitude if necessary, and compose the write-up now while everything is fresh in your mind. You will be grateful next summer that you took time now to complete a fair exhibit.

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.

More Posts - Website

AnswerLine

Subscribe to AnswerLine Blog

Enter your email address:

Connect with us!

AnswerLine's Facebook page AnswerLine's Twitter account AnswerLine's Pinterest page
Email: answer@iastate.edu
Phone: (Monday-Friday, 9 am-noon; 1-4 pm)
 1-800-262-3804 (in Iowa)
 1-800-854-1678 (in Minnesota)

Archives

Categories