Keeping Asparagus Fresh

While fresh asparagus from the garden season should be nearing an end, the asparagus in my garden is just getting into full swing; like me, I think it has been looking for warmer temperatures and sunshine which have escaped us for much of spring. At any rate, I recently picked more than we could use so shared some with a couple of friends. Both asked, “how do you keep it fresh?”

The method I use for keeping asparagus garden fresh is to put the spears in a small amount of water in the refrigerator.  I use a wide-mouth pint or quart jar depending upon the size of the spears. I bundle a group of asparagus spears with a rubber band, pop the bundle, cut-ends down, into the jar and add about an inch of water. I place the jar of spears inside a loose fitting plastic bag to minimize moisture loss and prevent odors from getting to the spears before placing in the refrigerator. The spears seem to keep very well for at least two weeks and often longer.

The same procedure works well for purchased asparagus. However, I trim about an inch from the dry ends before placing them in the water. Depending upon the age of the asparagus at the time of purchase, I find that 7 to 10 days is the maximum time purchased asparagus stays fresh.

Another method is to wrap the ends of the spears with a wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag.

You will want to watch your asparagus and use it before it goes bad. Asparagus is no longer fresh when the heads start to droop or get soft. If the heads are simply drooping and are not soft, use immediately. If the heads are soft, the head can be removed and the rest of the stalk used; stalks make great asparagus soup. When the stalks become limp and start to slack, the asparagus is no longer good and should be discarded.

The garden asparagus season will soon be over.  Harvest should be stopped when the stalks are the size of a pencil or less.  Make the season last as long as possible by keeping your spears fresh and usable long after the last cutting is taken.

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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Keeping Your Clothes Dryer Safe

Most people don’t think about their clothes dryer as being a potentially dangerous appliance in their home.  Unfortunately, dryers are the source of thousands of house fires each year as well as some household mold issues.   With just a little regular cleaning and maintenance, you can protect your family and home from these dangers.

It doesn’t matter if you have an electric or gas clothes dryer.  The problem is lint.  Lint builds up in the lint trap, inside the vent hose and duct work, and inside the vent.  Whenever this happens, there is a reduction in air flow resulting in reduced drying efficiency.  Lint is also responsible for causing humidity levels to increase around vents and duct work which in turn can cause mildew and mold to develop in walls and insulation.   And most importantly, lint is combustible and causes fires.  Failure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of home dryer fires.

Here’s some tips for keeping your dryer, duct work, and vent as lint free as possible.

  • Clean the lint trap after every load or at the very least, at the end of a laundry cycle.  If you use fabric softener sheets, check the screen for clogging as some sheets will emit enough residue that the screen becomes clouded and tacky.  Should the screen be clogged, submerge the lint screen in hot water, soapy water and clean the screen with a bristle brush to get rid of the residue.
  • Invest in a dryer lint brush.  These long-handled flexible brushes are available at most hardware stores and allow one to clean areas that cannot be reached by hand down inside of the dryer, hoses, and ducts.  You may be surprised by the chunks of lint that the brush pulls out.  After removing the lint filter and cleaning with the brush, run the dryer on “air only” after using the dryer brush.  This will bring up any lint that might have been dislodged but didn’t cling to the brush.
  • Unplug and pull the dryer out at least once a year and vacuum any dust and lint that might have accumulated around the dryer, back of the dryer, floor, cabinets, etc.  While the dryer is out, remove the duct hose or duct.  You may need a screwdriver or pliers to remove the connecting clip or steel clamp.  Use the dryer brush inside the dryer opening to remove the lint accumulation.  Do the same with the hose or duct.  If you have a long duct to the outside as I do, you will have to rig a longer handle onto the brush.
  • Replace the duct hose if you have a white or silver vinyl duct hose.  All building codes now require metal or aluminum ducting for clothes dryers.  The ducting may be rigid or flexible.  If flexible aluminum ducting is used, it should be cleaned more often as it tends to collect more lint along the ridges.
  • Lastly, clean the exterior vent.  This is usually done from the outside of the home by lifting the flaps.  Using your hands or a brush, removed as much lint as possible.  Most of the flaps on the exterior vent can be removed to make cleaning easier.  Replace the flaps if they have been removed and make sure that they open properly.

A little dryer cleaning in a timely manner will greatly reduce the risk of fire.  Further, avoid starting the dryer before going to bed and running it while no one is at home.

For more information see the safety alert from the Consumer Products Commission,  https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/118931/5022.pdf

Additional flyers like the one at the beginning of the blog are public domain publications and available for download from FEMA at https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/clothes_dryers.html

 

 

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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Liquid Smoke, that Controversial Condiment

Liquid smoke is a condiment that invites controversy.  Barbecue purists roll their eyes and say “no way.”  Health groups consistently voice concern over possible health risks. Yet despite all the ‘nay’, there is a strong ‘yay’ with marketing trends showing that the condiment is growing in popularity as a flavor additive.

Liquid smoke is made by channeling smoke from smoldering woodchips through a condenser that quickly cools the vapors causing them to liquefy.  The water-soluble flavor compounds in the smoke are trapped within the liquid while the insoluble tars and resins are removed by a series of filters.  The results is a clean, all natural smoke-flavored liquid that provides a cookout-like flavor when outdoor grilling isn’t an option.

Ernest H Wright is credited with introducing liquid smoke in 1895.  As a teenager, he worked in a print shop and noticed the liquid dropping from the stove pipe that heated the shop tasted like smoke.  Years later as a pharmacist, he experimented and perfected the process of condensing hot smoke from a wood fire to create Wright’s Liquid Smoke which is still sold today and remains as a pure product, smoke and water.

Unless liquid smoke has added chemicals or ingredients, it is an all-natural product—just smoke suspended in water. (It should be noted that some brands add molasses, vinegar, and other flavorings so read the label to be sure that it is just smoke and water.)  Liquid smoke is used as a flavor additive in a whole host of foods beyond the little bottles on the grocery shelf.  It is the source of the smoky flavor in commercial barbecue sauces, bacon, hot dogs, smoked meats, cheeses, and nuts to name a few.  The process of adding liquid smoke or smoked flavorings to foods is justification for the use of the word “smoke” on package labeling.

What about the health risks?  Smoke, no matter the source, contains cancer-causing chemicals.  Some of those chemicals persist even in the extracts making liquid smoke a potential cancer risk.  Studies have shown that the amount of carcinogenic chemical found in liquid smoke depends on the type of hardwood used and the temperature at which it is burned. Other studies have shown that liquid smoke is less risky than food charred and cooked over smoke. A researcher at NYU found that controlled smoking plus an ensuing filtering process removed most, if not all, of these compounds. Therefore, most experts contend that the concentrations of the carcinogenic molecules in liquid smoke are far too low for any genuine health concerns as one would need to consume far more liquid smoke than most recipes call for to see any effects. Moderation is key with this magical ingredient, so use a light amount (1/4 teaspoon) in dishes for the safest route and if sediment is detected, let it settle and use only the liquid above it.

Liquid smoke has zero calories, zero fat, and most brands are low in sodium (about 10 mg per teaspoon), but it still brings an intense flavor like bacon.  Knowing that we should use it sparingly, it may be brushed on meats to add a depth of flavor or added to foods that generally rely on saturated fats and salt to bring out their flavor; thus it may add flavor for those on restricted diets who find that their food lacks flavor. Just a dash imparts that distinctive meaty, salty flavor that we know and love.   Taste of Home says “there is almost no sauce that wouldn’t benefit from a few drops of liquid smoke.  Adding a few drops to everything from your BBQ sauce to vinaigrette to your ranch dressing will help elevate your burgers, salads, and everything in-between.”

I’m inclined to agree with the barbecue purists–liquid smoke does not replace true smoke, but I enjoy using a little liquid smoke now and again when smoking or grilling is not possible or to step up the flavor of foods and sauces.

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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Olive Oils

A frequent question at AnswerLine is “what kind of olive oil should I use?”  The question is often asked by those who are new to olive oil or those who have been advised to consider a Mediterranean Diet.  As they begin to navigate new territory, they find that there are a variety of olive oil choices. Choosing the olive oil depends on how much flavor is needed, what the cooking usage will be, and the available budget. It also helps to understand the classifications and common marketing terms used on olive oil labels.

Here’s a quick primer on olive oils from Fooducate, a blog sponsored by the North American Olive Oil Association.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the most flavorful and the healthiest olive oil, because it is naturally produced without heat or chemicals. It retains healthy antioxidants from the olives. The range of flavors is very broad, similar to wines. The oil may be strong and peppery, mild and buttery, or anywhere in between. The natural variations result in a wide smoke point range, from about 350 degrees Fahrenheit to about 410 degrees Fahrenheit. This range is high enough for most at-home cooking. Extra virgin olive oil can be used for sautéing, grilling, roasting, baking and pan-frying. To highlight the many flavor profiles, extra virgin olive oil does best in cold applications like drizzling, dipping, dressings and marinades.

 First Press, Cold Pressed or Cold Extracted – Extra Virgin Olive Oils may use these marketing terms. Extra virgin olive oil is produced by crushing the olives without adding any heat or using any chemicals and in fact, all extra virgin olive oil is produced this way even if the label doesn’t call it out. Extra virgin olive oils might list the type of olive or olives the oil was made from, as well as the country or region the olives were grown. Like wine, these indicators help suggest the typical flavors consumers might expect from that oil. Some manufacturers blend different extra virgin olive oils together in order to offer a consistent flavor profile all the time. Also like wine, the best way to determine which ones to buy is through trying different oils with different foods.

Refined Olive Oil – During production, oil with high acidity or flavor or aroma defects will be refined to remove the defects, resulting in Refined Olive Oil. Refining removes odors and flavors using heat and physical or chemical processes. Most seed and nut oils are solvent-extracted and then refined; refined olive oil begins with the natural extraction from the olives and the following refining process for olive oil does not involve solvents such as hexane.

Olive Oil is a blend of refined olive oil with some virgin or extra virgin olive oil added back for flavor. Olive oil has a mild olive flavor, making it a great oil to substitute for other common cooking oils like vegetable oil and canola oil without changing the taste of the recipe. Because it is mostly refined, olive oil has a higher and more consistent smoke point range from about 390 degrees to about 470 degrees Fahrenheit. Baked goods made with olive oil have a light texture and stay moist longer than those made with other common cooking oils. Olive oil’s subtle flavor and heat resistance make it well-suited for dressings, marinades, sautéing, grilling, roasting, baking and pan-frying.

Classic or Pure Olive Oil is the same as Olive Oil and always refers to a blend of refined oil with some EVOO or Virgin Olive Oil added for flavor.

Other things to know about olive oil:

  •  The fat and calories are the same in ALL grades of olive oil.
  •  Olive oil does NOT get better with age. Look for the furthest out “best by date” when purchasing.
  • Store olive oil in a cool, dark place and tightly covered; under these conditions, it should remain fresh for about 18 to 24 months.  An open bottle of olive oil can also be refrigerated to extend its shelf life and such is especially recommended in hot, humid environments.  Refrigerating olive oil may cause the oil to become cloudy and even solidify; this will not affect the flavor or quality.  At room temperature, the oil will return to its normal consistency and color.  When stored properly, olive oil will be safe to consume after the “best date”.
  • Oil should be discarded if an off odor, flavor, or appearance is detected.
  • Olive oil is very high in monounsaturated fats and contains a modest amount of vitamins E and K. True extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of which have powerful health benefits.
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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REAL ID for Travel

Does your driver’s license fly?  Beginning October 1, 2020 (just 18 months from now) air travelers will need a driver’s license or ID card known as a Real ID to board commercial domestic flights and enter certain federal facilities such as military bases.  A passport or certain other federal documents (those issued by the federal government’s Trusted Traveler Program) may be used as an alternative to a Real ID for travel or entrance to federal facilities.

Since the inception of the Real ID in 2005, states have been gradually implementing the security-enhanced features required by federal law.  So what is the Real ID and how do you know if you have one?

Used with permission, © Iowa DOT

A Real ID looks the same as any other driver’s license, contains the same information, is made of the same materials, and has the same security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication.

To determine if you have a Real ID,  begin by checking your driver’s license.  Most compliant states have issued the Real ID in conjunction with the state issued driver’s license; those licenses that are compliant will have a gold or black star in the top right corner. If you see that, you are likely good to go!

While that sounds simple enough, there is a lot of confusion.  Most states are now compliant with federal regulations, but 12 states remain as non-compliant or have been granted an extension to a given date.  Four states (Hawaii, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah) issued compliant IDs without a star.   Arizona and Kentucky have given citizens the option of a Real ID also known as a Voluntary Traveler ID or an old style driver’s license (non-compliant).   If for any reason your license does not have a star in the upper right corner, check with your state DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or local driver’s license bureau for more information.

As of this writing, driver’s licenses issued by Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota are compliant.  To learn more about Real ID and state compliance, check out REAL ID/Homeland Security.  Bottom line, if you plan to travel by air or enter a federal facility requiring ID, you will need a Real ID unless you have other proper identification; for travel, that would be a passport.  If you do not anticipate either scenario, a Real ID is not needed.

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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How to Store Fresh Ginger

Fresh ginger, also known as ginger root, adds a flavorful punch to many foods and beverages.  However, usually only a small amount is needed to season and that leaves one with, “what do I do with the rest?”

To begin, 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger is the equivalent of 1/8 tsp dried ground ginger.  Keep this equivalency in mind when purchasing fresh ginger.  Since it is usually sold by the pound, choose a rhizome that fits your needs as closely as possible.  That aside, the piece that you have may still be more than needed.  Ginger will be okay on your kitchen counter for a day or two but it is better stored in the refrigerator.  To store in the refrigerator, place the rhizome in a storage bag or container; it will keep 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator.  Do watch the rhizome for molding, softness, discoloration or off smell or appearance; these are signs of spoilage and if detected, the rhizome should be disposed.  Like other fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh ginger contains enzymes that break down its starch and pectin over time.

If longer storage is needed, fresh ginger can be frozen.  To freeze, peel the skin off the rhizome if desired (peeling is done more for aesthetics than need).  Removing the skin may be easier by scraping with the edge of a spoon or knife rather than with a vegetable peeler due to it’s gnarly and irregular shape.  Ginger may be frozen in pieces, grated, or finely chopped.  Pieces should be wrapped tightly in foil or a freezer bag with as much of the air removed as possible.  Grated or chopped pieces freeze better by making small piles on a parchment lined baking sheet or in an ice cube tray and placed in the freezer for a couple of hours; once frozen, put the small piles in individual freezer bags or into a freezer bag, again removing as much air as possible.  Fresh ginger will maintain its best quality in the freezer for about 3 months but will remain safe well beyond that time; in fact, ginger that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep indefinitely.

Another method that some use to preserve fresh ginger is to submerge pieces in alcohol.  Cooks Illustrated experimented with this process by using vodka and sherry and compared the flavor and texture to frozen ginger.  After four weeks, the submerged samples were grated and cooked in a stir-fry.  The samples retained their ginger flavor and grating ease as well as the frozen ginger; however, the ginger stored in sherry picked up sherry flavor.  The takeaway on the experiment was that fresh ginger stores as well in vodka as freezing.  A note of caution here as the same may not be true beyond the four weeks used in the experiment.

Even though we have ginger year-round in our markets, ginger has a season.  Young ginger is usually more readily available in the spring (April and May) and is not as strong flavored or as tough and fibrous as ginger that has been stored for year-round availability.  It is juicy and plump, has a fresh lively taste, and a pink blush; the skin is so thin that peeling is generally not necessary.  If you are a fresh ginger fan, this would be the time to pick up a large quantity and freeze it for future uses.

 

 

 

 

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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Where to Get Income Tax Assistance

Tax season is upon us.  The last day to file for most taxpayers is April 15 unless an extension is filed.  Most people find the tax rules complex and confusing.  If you need assistance with tax preparation, free preparation and advice is available from AARP (American Association of Retired People), the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), volunteer organizations, and some commercial tax advisors.

Here’s a list of tax preparation assistance resources as identified by AARP:

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax preparation assistance February 1 through April 15 to low- to moderate-income taxpayers—especially those 50 and older—at 5000 locations nationwide.  This service is open to all (no AARP membership required) with service provided by IRS-certified volunteers. Check the Tax-Aide Site Locator  or call 888-227-7669 toll free to find a nearby site.  Federal and state tax assistance is available at most locations. One should contact the site to confirm availability and check hours before going.  And also check this AARP site for what documents to bring with you.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). A federal grant program provides tax preparation assistance to those 60 and older from IRS-certified volunteers. Many of the TCE sites are operated by AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. For more information, call 888-227-7669 toll-free or check here for a nearby site.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Under another federal grant program, IRS-certified VITA volunteers provide tax-preparation services to older Americans, low- and moderate-income filers, people with disabilities and those with limited English language skills. Generally, taxpayers must have an annual income below $55,000 to qualify. Call 800-906-9887 or check here to find a nearby VITA site.

IRS Free File.  Taxpayers with incomes below $66,000 are eligible to file federal tax returns online through IRS Free File using software from select partners like TaxAct and TurboTax. To browse options and confirm eligibility, visit Free File Software Offers.

IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). Help is also available at local IRS offices that host a Taxpayer Assistance Center. An appointment is necessary and services vary by office. Check the IRS site to find a nearby location.

MilTax Filing Service.  Mil Tax from Military OneSource and the Department of Defense provides easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software to active duty military personnel and select others, including spouses, dependent children and survivors. Consultants are available to provide 24/7 phone assistance at 800-342-9647. Check the Military OneSouce site for more information.

Do-it-yourself online options. Several for-profit tax providers (H&R Block, TurboTaxCredit Karma TaxTaxActDIY Tax and TaxSlayer Simply Free) offer online filing tools.  Check their individual websites to see if their offerings fit your needs.

A local tax professional. The National Society of Accountants says nearly 90 percent of accountants and tax prep professionals offer free client consultation. To make sure that the consultant is qualified, check the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications for a listing of preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

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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Making Homemade Noodles Safely

“What is the best way to store homemade noodles?” was an AnswerLine question.  The caller related how her grandmother used to make large batches of homemade noodles, cut, and dry them on a clothes drying rack or on dowel rods between the kitchen chairs.  After the noodles were thoroughly dry, they were packaged in large tins and placed in the pantry for future use.

That was the method of yesteryear.  NOT today. The University of Illinois has a great publication on the ease of making homemade noodles and how to store them properly.  Here are some highlights from that publication that pertain specifically to homemade noodle food safety:

  • Noodles are pasta but different from other pasta because noodles contain eggs or egg yolks while other pasta does not. The FDA stipulates that a “noodle” must contain 5.5% of the total solids as egg solids which makes the raw egg ingredient a food safety concern.
  • Homemade noodles should be used right away or refrigerated for up to three days.
  • Fresh noodles may be dried.  At room temperature, they should only be allowed to hang for drying no more than two hours to prevent possible salmonella growth.  A food dehydrator may also be used to dry noodles; recommendations for drying in a food dehydrator are to dry for two to four hours at 135F.  Once noodles are dried, they should be packed in an airtight container or plastic bag and stored in the freezer for three to six months for best quality.  I usually add an extra step when I make noodles for the freezer; after allowing them to air dry for 2 hours, I scatter them on baking sheets and place them in the freezer for a couple of hours before packaging.  With the extra step, the noodles are easier to use as they usually don’t stick together.

Here are a couple of other food safety issues to consider when making homemade noodles:

  • As with any dough that contains raw eggs and flour, the dough should never be tasted.
  • Avoid contamination by having a clean working surface, clean hands, and clean equipment.  A cutting board that has been used for raw meat or poultry should not be used for noodle rolling and cutting.
  • Just like other foods that are left at room temperature for longer than two hours, cooking or reheating noodles may not make them safe to eat.  When food items are left out too long or not handled properly, some bacteria can form a heat-resistant toxin that cooking simply can’t destroy.

Homemade noodles are easy to make and are a delightful addition to soups and casseroles.  One only needs to practice a few food safety tips to avoid any potential risks.

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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Chili – What is it?

Chili is a favorite soup or stew but no one seems to agree on what chili should be. There are as many ways to make chili as there are people who make it.    Some like it hot, some like it mild, some like it on top of a baked potato or mound of spaghetti, some say beans, others say NO beans.  However you like it, chili, served with a side of cornbread, cinnamon roll, oyster crackers, sour cream, cheese, or plain, is an American comfort food. To that end, chili even has its own national celebration day; the fourth Thursday in February is designated as National Chili Day.

While little information was found on the origin of Chili Day, it appears to have had a long history.  On the other hand, the origin of chili is credited to a mixture of chili peppers and meat known as chili con carne, Spanish for chili with meat.

In today’s world, there is no agreement on what chili should be or look like.  Many recipes use a combination of  tomatoes, beans or no beans, chili peppers and/or peppers, meat, garlic, onions, and cumin but the variations are endless and even include vegetarian and vegan varieties.  Despite popular belief, chili does not come from Mexico. Recipes have certainly been influenced by Mexican culture, but also incorporate elements from Native American and Spanish culinary traditions. Many historians believe chili originated in Texas where all three of these cultures intersected. Cowboys and the American frontier settlers made chili from a chili brick cooked in a pot of boiling water along the trail or in the frontier home for a hearty meal.  The brick consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt, pounded together and dried giving the mixture a long shelf life. Chili was a popular food offering at the Worlds Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago where the San Antonio Chili Stand introduced Texas-style chili con carne to attendees.  Prior to World War II the popularity of chili lead to small, family-run chili parlors (also known as chili joints) popping up throughout the US with Texas leading the way.  Each parlor had its own claim to fame featuring a secret recipe or ingredient.

Chili adapts easily to quantity cookery making it a great food for crowds.  It also makes a great centerpiece for entertainment or as a fund raiser in the form of a chili cook-off.   Cook-off participants prepare their carefully-guarded and best chili concoctions to battle for judges’ or visitors’ approval to declare their recipe a winner!  While many chili cook-offs are a local event with prizes and recognition, it may also be a sanctioned contest leading to international fame with large prizes.

There are many ways that people enjoy the great taste of chili—soup, burgers, dogs, fries, just to name a few.  There are also regional ways to enjoy chili.  Cincinnati Chili is a favorite of many Ohioans.  Chili is spooned over pasta, usually spaghetti, and topped with shredded cheese, kidney beans, crushed crackers, and onions.  In New Mexico, one would commonly enjoy a bowl of Green Chili Stew or Chili Verde made with cubes of pork, Hatch chilies, tomatillos and other seasonings; it may be served over rice or corn tortillas or not.  St Louis also has a chili favorite known as the St Louis Slinger—a dish made with a ground beef patty, hash browns, and eggs covered with chili and topped with cheese and onions.  If one starts with a basic chili and adds a generous dose of Cajun seasoning and Louisiana hot sauce, one has an unforgettable New Orleans-style chili. Finally, there is the no-beans, no tomatoes Texas Red made with chunks of beef, beef suet, a variety of peppers, and seasonings.

Because chili ingredients vary so much, it is not possible to give exact nutritional information.  When meat, beans, peppers, onions, and tomatoes form the base of the soup, nutritional benefits may include vitamins A and C, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.  Whatever the nutritional value, style, or recipe, chili is definitely an American classic and favorite to be enjoyed in various styles.

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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Baby Carrots – Myth and Facts

“Is it safe to eat baby carrots that have a white film on the outside?” This was a question from an AnswerLine caller who had read on social media that the white film was a chlorine residue from processing that could cause cancer.  This is an internet myth that has been making the rounds for years.

True facts.  The white film on baby carrots is safe.  It is little more than white blush which is a thin layer of dehydrated carrot.  The film develops when the baby carrots are exposed to air and the outside becomes dry.  Baby carrots do not have a protective skin to prevent them from drying.  Most baby carrots are cut and shaped from larger deformed carrots really making them baby ‘cut’ carrots.  According to a researcher at McGill University ”moisture loss from the carrot surface roughens the outer membranes causing light to scatter which in turn results in a whitish appearance.”

While it is true that carrots may be rinsed in a dilute solution of chlorine to rid bacteria, this has nothing to do with white blush.  Instead of representing a cancer health hazard, carrot processing with chlorinated water is a health-protective step recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent foodborne outbreaks. The amount of chlorine used in processing is many levels below the allowable limit for drinking water.1  Prior to packaging, the little carrots go through a plain tap water rinse.

If white blush is undesirable for fresh carrot eating, they are still great for cooking.  Besides showing white blush, baby carrots may also get rubbery if packages are not sealed. Rubbery carrots are safe to eat and may be used for cooking should they not make great snacks.  Finally, baby carrots that go beyond rubbery to soft and slimy should be tossed.

Here’s some great baby-carrot storage facts from StillTasty.com

  • How long do baby carrots last? The precise answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – keep baby carrots refrigerated.
  • To maximize the shelf life of baby carrots, refrigerate in covered container or re-sealable plastic bag or wrap tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
  • How long do baby carrots last in the fridge? Properly stored, baby carrots will last for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Can you freeze baby carrots? Yes, to freeze: (1) Blanch (plunge into boiling water) baby carrots for two minutes and chill quickly in ice cold water; (2) Drain off excess moisture, package in airtight containers or freezer bags and freeze immediately.
  • Frozen baby carrots will soften when thawed and are best used in cooked dishes.
  • How long do baby carrots last in the freezer? Properly stored, they will maintain best quality for about 12 to 18 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
  • The freezer time shown is for best quality only – carrots that have been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
  • How to tell if baby carrots are bad or spoiled? The best way is to smell and look at the baby carrots: discard any carrots that have an off smell or appearance; if mold appears, discard the baby carrots.

So put the internet myth to rest and enjoy your baby carrots!

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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