Plastic Straw Ban

There has been quite a controversy lately surrounding the reduction in use or ban on plastic straws. The goal, of course, is to help protect the environment. Straws are a small fraction of all plastic waste but the movement to ban plastic straws is definitely growing. Major corporations (Starbucks, American Airlines) have announced they will phase out plastic straws. Seattle recently became the first major city to institute a ban on plastic straws. California became the first state to officially adopt plastic straw regulations. The food service industry there is being banned from making plastic straws available unless requested.

The merits of a plastic straw ban depend on who you ask. Those pushing the idea consider plastic straws to be a “product of convenience” or a “symbol of waste”. They would like all straws to be biodegradable and have offered some alternative materials – paper, pasta, bamboo, and hay – for straws to be made out of. Criticism has come from disability advocates. Paper straws can cause difficulties for those individuals who have difficulty swallowing. Reusable straws, like those pictured above, can be potentially hazardous.

The University of Georgia was recently awarded a grant to develop a totally biodegradable straw. It will be interesting to follow this story. It will take time for them to develop some prototypes and go through the approval process however.

As a consumer, I think it is important to research ahead of time what our options might be if straws do indeed disappear.

 

 

 

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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Bed Bugs

A single bed bug on a blanket fiber There is a lot of moving going on in the area I live. Many leases are turning over August 1st or September 1st. I have seen lots of furniture on the curb for free and there are several places that offer furniture swaps or sell the used furniture at bargain prices. There are also a number of people giving their used furniture away to friends they know that could use it.

I had a caller yesterday concerned about her college-aged son getting a free couch from a friend. Her main concern was if bed bugs might be present. She did not want him to be affected by that or to introduce bed bugs into his apartment. That is a legitimate concern for sure.

Bed bugs are a headache and can be difficult to get rid of on your own. The first thing you need to do is make sure there really are bed bugs present. The EPA and the University of Kentucky have great websites with pictures for identifying, preventing, and getting rid of bed bugs. It can be very difficult to get rid of bed bugs yourself. Most often it is necessary to contact a pest control company to come and rid your infested areas of bed bugs.

Besides being concerned about used furniture you might pick up, traveling can also be a concern. The EPA has tips for travel when you are staying in a hotel room. Since bed bugs are most active at night when you are sleeping it is a good idea to be diligent when you check into your room. It takes only a few minutes and can prevent a lot of hassles for you.

Bed bugs were practically eradicated a few decades ago but infestations have increased dramatically in recent years due to changes in pest control practices, less effective insecticides due to bed bugs being more resistant and the general population not being as vigilant as we should be.

Bed bugs do not favor any socioeconomic class or level of cleanliness. They can be anywhere. I hope none of us ever has to personally deal with them but if you do or know of others who are dealing with them, I hope the research based sites mentioned above are helpful.

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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Tangzhong

I enjoy browsing my favorite internet sites on a regular basis to see if there is anything new in the world of “home economics”. While doing that, I recently came across an article talking about how to convert a bread recipe to Tangzhong. I was unfamiliar with that word so had to look into it more fully.

Tangzhong is an Asian technique that makes your yeast bread and rolls soft, fluffy, moist, airy and tender. In addition to affecting the texture of the yeast products you are making, this technique also helps extend the shelf life.

To accomplish this technique you start by pre-cooking a portion of the flour and liquid (water or milk) very briefly and letting it cool to room temperature before adding to the rest of the ingredients in your recipe. This slurry/pudding/roux type mixture helps the starches in the flour absorb more water. Flour can absorb twice as much hot liquid as cold so pre-cooking makes a big difference here. The flour/liquid mixture also creates structure which helps the bread be able to hold on to the extra liquid.

In order to use Tangzhong, you want the hydration in your yeast bread/roll recipe to be 75%. That means the liquid should equal 75% of the weight of the flour. Before I started doing the math on my favorite recipes, I decided to find a recipe that was already based on the Tangzhong method. If you are looking for a softer yeast roll, I hope you will give it a try.

 

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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College Bound

The end of July always signals a new beginning for another school year to me. It is an exciting time for students, teachers, and parents.

Many families are preparing to send a student off to college for the first time. That whole experience can be an emotional roller coaster for both the students and parents. With a plan in place it is easier to ease college-bound students, and their parents, into the next phase of their lives.

An important part of that plan is keeping the lines of communication open between parent and student about the realities of college life as a college freshmen. There may be more or different pressures as new social situations are encountered. Many college freshmen feel pressured into deciding what they want to do, picking a career path and planning for their futures. Students and parents both feel pulled between the past, present and future. It is important for parents to remember the foundation they have worked to build and provided their child with for the last 18 years will stay with their child. Provide wings they need to develop but also trust they have strong roots.

As students head off to college, parenting styles will change. Teenagers still need love and support but both sides are working on building an adult relationship with each other. Parents especially, but students too, need to accept there will be a void. The joy everyone is feeling may also be mixed with longing. Parents and college students may both feel left out at times. Parents will be less privy to all aspects of their child’s life but again it is vital to keep the lines of communication open. It is a good idea to make a plan about how and how often you are going to stay in touch. It is a time in your student’s life when they are wanting to assert their independence but also feel connected to family. As parents make changes at home after the student moves out, it is helpful to keep the student informed. This gives them a sense of security and belonging.

College life for both students and parents is not harder or easier than high school – it is just different.

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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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

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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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

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

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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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

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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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

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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National Dairy Month

June is National Dairy Month and to recognize that at our house we are planning to make homemade ice cream! National Dairy Month started out as National Milk Month back in 1937. It was initially created as a way to promote drinking milk and a way to distribute extra milk during the warm months of the Summer. It was changed to National Dairy Month in 1939.

Dairy foods – milk, cheese, yogurt – have many nutritional and health benefits. They contain 9 essential nutrients. There are 8 grams of protein in just one serving of milk.  They help improve bone health especially in children and adolescents and according to the National Dairy Council are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure in adults.

The homemade ice cream we will be making for National Dairy Month has plenty of milk and cream in it but also has eggs. As I was growing up we had a favorite homemade ice cream recipe that used  raw eggs. We did not think anything about eating those raw eggs at the time but over the years we have learned much more about the possibility of bacteria, especially salmonella, getting into the eggs through the hen’s ovaries. Eating raw eggs that are not pasteurized is not recommended in any dish i.e. ice cream, cookie dough, Caesar dressing, eggnog and smoothies. So we will be purchasing and using pasteurized eggs in our homemade ice cream. You will find pasteurized eggs in the refrigerated section of the  grocery store right next to the regular eggs. You can buy them in the shell just like regular eggs. Pasteurized eggs are heated to a precise temperature that heats them but does not cook them for an exact amount of time to kill any bacteria present. Due to that heating process you may notice the whites are a little cloudy but otherwise they look exactly like other raw eggs and are used in the same way. It is not necessary to use them in baked products or if you are scrambling an egg but you certainly may if you wish. Because pasteurized eggs are usually a little more expensive than regular eggs, most people only use them when they are preparing something that calls for eating raw eggs.

If your diet allows dairy products I hope you will make and enjoy some of your favorite dairy recipes this year during National Dairy month!

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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