Cupboard cleaning and expiration dates

Old, bulging can. Throw this away!

Our first prolonged winter weather has many callers cleaning and organizing their cupboards. We are always happy to answer caller’s questions about food safety.

The most common call we have about food expiration dates is the shelf life of eggs. We tell callers that the date marked on an egg carton is a sell by date not a use by date. We remind them they have an additional month to use the eggs.

Callers often want to know if a can of food they found at the back of the cupboard is still safe to eat. The quality of the food will decline over time, but the contents remain safe. The best if used by date on a can of food refers to the manufacturers estimation of the time frame that their food will be at peak quality if the food is eaten on or before the date marked on the can. If the can is dated within the past 3 years, the food inside should be safe to eat. However, if the can is dented, bulging, or rusty, the food should be discarded

Our new copy of the Joy of Cooking has a great chapter on Keeping and Storing Food. The book provides guidelines on storing pantry items, canned food, spices, cereals, oils, pasta, and other things you might have on hand. We also use a research based website for information on the safety of food.

We often get questions from callers about food that has been frozen for several years.Callers often ask about a date on the package that says use or freeze by a particular date. If the freezer has been continuously running below zero degrees, then the food inside the freezer will remain safe to eat. The quality of the food will decline over time, but the food will not make you sick from bacterial contamination. We often advise callers to have a back up plan for a meal they make from older frozen food, just in case it is not unpalatable.

Remember that we are just a phone call away if you have questions about food you find when you are cleaning. In Iowa, 1-800-262-3804 or Minnesota, 1-800-854-1678. If you have a phone that has neither Iowa or Minnesota area codes on it, call 515-296-5883. We look forward to hearing from you.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

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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Foods for Iowa 4-H Fairs – Quick Reference Guide

It may seem a bit early to be thinking about County Fairs, but the updated Foods for Iowa 4-H Fairs – Quick Reference Guide is now available in the Extension Store. Each year, for the past few years, we have updated this guide to assist 4-H members, their parents, 4-H leaders, and fair judges in preparing and evaluating exhibits. At times, the rules may seem confusing, arbitrary, or even unfair to some people. The rules are actually designed to ensure the safety of fair judges as they evaluate foods at the fair and the safety of the general public as they view exhibits and gain knowledge from the exhibits.

We get a lot of questions about what foods can be exhibited at both county fair and the Iowa State Fair at AnswerLine. We consult the publication and advise callers to the best of our knowledge. Often callers want to know why we did not list everything in the guide. It really would be impossible for us to list everything that a 4-H member might want to exhibit. We have tried to use broad categories to describe different food products. Listing the foods in the chart style allows for a quicker reference than reading through several pages listed in paragraph form.

The only two real changes for this year are the discontinuation of using the Ball brand books as safe tested resources for food preservation exhibits. At this time, Iowa is one of several states in the midwest disappointed at the direction the Ball brand has taken with research and development of their recipes. This year only, 2020, we will allow exhibits using the Ball branded information at the fair. The reasoning for this is that 4-H members may have already processed their exhibits for the 2020 fair in the fall of 2019 and it would be unfair to disqualify those exhibits. Next year, we will strictly follow the change in the rules that only allows USDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, and Extension information as trusted resources.

The other change is in frosting allowed on exhibits. We are waiting on some research being done by Kansas State University on butter cream frostings to ensure that frostings on baked goods will be safe when sampled at the fair. Many of the frostings that members choose have too much moisture in them and could potentially harbor bacterial growth.

Please call or email AnswerLine if you need some clarification on what foods are considered safe to exhibit at the fair 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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Move More

Young woman practicing iyengar yoga at home in her living room.

New Years resolutions are often broken by the time we reach mid-January. Last week we talked about the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website and all the amazing information you can access on that site. Today I wanted to mention the Move section of the Spend Smart. Eat Smart website.

The Move section details some of the many benefits of leading an active life. There is also information listing the different types of exercise and the amount of exercise you should do to live a healthy life. The site encourages movement and exercise and provides detailed explanations of the moves required to do the exercises with perfect form.

There are also several videos that you can watch and follow along to get in a good work out. Check this site out today if you feel your New Years resolution slipping away.

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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Feeding birds

Several birds are feeding around a bird feeder during a heavy snow. There is a red cardinal and some other birds on and sitting on a wire beside the feeder, in the background you can see the heavy snow with many trees of a forrest in the background. A very scenic and tranquil scene of winter and some lucky birds.

It has been such an odd winter, with temperatures rising and falling and no real snow cover. I always have my bird feeders out in the winter but the lack of actual winter weather had me wondering if it was still necessary to feed the birds. I wondered what information was available through our Extension and Outreach resources that could answer my questions.

I’ve learned that birds will eat from feeders all year and that birdseed is only a part of a wild bird’s diet. Habitat around the feeder is important so I’m grateful that we live out in the country and my feeder is placed at the edge of a pasture. The trees and bushes in the pasture provide shelter and a place to hide for the more timid birds. We often attract a wide variety of birds; Cardinals, Blue Jays, various Woodpeckers, Sparrows, Grackels, and Starlings.

I have often purchased bird seed without really understanding what I was buying. This chart provides information on which seed is preferred by different species of birds. I have a greater understanding of how the seed I have in my feeder affects which birds are attracted to my feeder. As much as I enjoy the Blue Jays, I will be sure not to feed peanuts as the squirrel is attracted to them.

Also, I did not realize that corn can be a source of aflatoxins which can kill birds. I should be cleaning and sanitizing the feeders on a regular basis. In the past, I have scraped out dried and crusted feed. Now I plan to take the feeder inside the house and wash it out. It will make it so much easier for the birds to use the feeder.

It looks like I have some work to do when I get home tonight. I hope the work helps the birds in my yard.

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

Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Man preparing a healthy meal at home

If you are one of the many people that resolved to eat better or lose some weight in 2020, we have a great resource for you. Did you know about the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website? This site is a great resource that everyone should check out. They have great recipes for healthy living. This site, as the name implies, also can help you save money on groceries.

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart website is so complete. They have information on shopping, reading food labels, videos with demonstrations on preparing vegetables, and also a smart phone app so you can have their information available while you are grocery shopping. So MUCH information, and all of it free for you. Take some time to check out this website. You won’t regret it.

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

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Homemade chocolate chip cookies

This is a great time of year for 4-H members to start working on their cooking projects. Often members start out by baking something very familiar; chocolate chip cookies. We were looking at some information on the Nestle company website today and found the following information about altering the Toll House chocolate chip recipe. These alterations are specifically for their chocolate chip cookie recipe. If you try these with other recipes, you might not get the desired result. We thought it may be interesting to you or a 4-H member in your family to see how small changes to the ingredients can change a cookie.

  • If you want cookies that are a standard chocolate chip cookie, follow the Toll House chocolate chip recipe exactly as written on the package.
  • If you want a softer and more chewy cookie, reduce the amount of white sugar to 1/2 cup and increase the brown sugar to 1 cup. Brown sugar has a higher moisture content which will soften the cookies and make them a bit chewy.
  • If you want a thin and crisp cookie, increase the amount of butter to 1 1/4 cups and increase the amount of white sugar to 1 1/4 cups. Added butter will make the cookies flatter and this results in a crisper cookie.
  • If you want a soft and cakey cookie, use 3/4 cup of butter and reduce the amount of brown sugar to 1/2 cup. This way, there is more flour in the cookies which results in a more cake like cookie.

Experimenting with these cookies may be a fun activity for a 4-H member and may be the basis of their exhibit for county fair. Remember that if you still have too many holiday treats left, these cookies will freeze well.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

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

Resolutions

New Year resolutions

New Years resolutions can be so hard to keep. If you have decided not to make any resolutions this year, consider resolving to use AnswerLine on a regular basis to answer your home and family questions.

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 Stain Removal

Adult Woman Doing the Laundry.

Just last week, I had a colleague ask me why we didn’t have any information posted on how to remove tree sap from clothing. This person had gotten tree sap from a Christmas tree on her shirt and needed directions for removing the sap. It seems like a good time for a few stain removal tips for the holiday season.

Tree sap can be removed by spraying or sponging some dry -cleaning solvent (such as Goof Off or Goo Gone) on the stain and then rubbing it with some heavy-duty laundry detergent and scrubbing the stain in hot water.

Candle wax can be removed by spraying or sponging some dry -cleaning solvent (such as Goof Off or Goo Gone) on the stain and then rubbing it with some heavy-duty laundry detergent and scrubbing the stain in hot water. You may be familiar with the technique of ironing a wax stain away. Ironing candle wax between blotting paper drives the stain deeper into the fabric. This process is widely used, but not recommended. It more permanently sets the dye from the candle and makes it difficult for the detergent or solvent to reach the wax portion of the stain

Cranberry sauce stains can be removed by washing with detergent in hot water. Do not use a natural soap.

Wine stains can be removed by washing with detergent in hot water. Do not use a natural soap.

Chocolate stains can be removed by rubbing the stain with a heavy-duty laundry detergent before washing the garment.

Of course, there are many other possibilities for stains this time of year. Remember, when you have a stain problem, AnswerLine is just a phone call away.

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

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from the AnswerLine staff; Liz, Beth, Marcia, and Marlene

Happy Holidays. AnswerLine is closed December 24 and 25 but we will be open and ready to answer your questions the rest of the holiday season.

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

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkey ready to carve

Happy Thanksgiving from the AnswerLine staff: Liz Meimann, Beth Marrs, Marcia Steed, and Marlene Geiger. Enjoy your day. We will return to work on Monday December 2.

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

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