Getting the Oven Ready for Holiday Roasting and Baking

Baking for the holidays is about more than sugar cravings. It’s about passing along family traditions, singing or listening to holiday music as you mix, roasting nuts and special meats, and delivering fresh-baked cheer to family, friends and neighbors.

Whether this is your first time for holiday baking and roasting or you’re a pro with the butter-stained recipe cards to prove it, it is a best practice to have your oven ready for what you have planned for it. Because some of us despise the chore of oven cleaning, ovens often become a culinary crime scene!  So before whipping out the ingredients, get that oven in tip-top shape.

Manufacturers recommend that ovens be cleaned every three to six months depending upon how much they are used and spiffed up in between when spillovers of food or grease occur.  Regular oven cleaning improves the quality of the food prepared in it; the aromas of old grease and spilled food can taint the flavor of what is being baked or roasted.

While few look forward to the chore, with the right knowledge and a little elbow grease, oven cleaning needn’t be an overwhelming chore.  Depending upon how the oven will be cleaned a few tools may be necessary—gloves, eye protection, newspaper, paper towels or old towels, cleaning clothes, synthetic scouring pad, and a large garbage bag. I also like the nylon pan scrapers that fit into the palm of your hand as they are excellent for helping to remove those hard-to-remove aged grease spatters and scraping up burned on residue.

Oven Interior

There are three primary ways to clean the oven interior—self-cleaning, chemical oven cleaners, and DIY with baking soda, vinegar, and water.

Self Cleaning.  If you have a self-cleaning oven, check and follow your owner’s manual for detailed instructions. Make sure to wipe up any spillovers or liquid grease to avoid excessive smoking during the cycle and setting off your smoke alarm. Remove any oven accessories and the racks before starting the cycle. The self-clean cycle takes about two hours (exact time varies by oven type) during which the temperature reaches 800-1000 degrees F. Because the extreme heat has the potential to destroy the shiny chrome finish on the racks, it is recommended that they be cleaned outside of the oven (instructions follow).  The oven gives off a tremendous amount of heat during the cycle as well as some toxic fumes. You should stay at home while the oven is self-cleaning just in case anything goes awry but you and your pets should stay out of the kitchen and vent the room as much as possible. When it’s over, you’ll see a white ash on the oven bottom that you’ll need to wipe out once the oven cools. 

Chemical Oven Cleaners.  This is the easiest, fastest process and will remove serious amounts of grease and grime. The caveat is that oven cleaners can be quite caustic, so if you’re sensitive to harsh chemicals or prefer an all-natural approach this is not for you.  There are low- or no-fume products on the market that do work quite well. Carefully follow the directions on the product and be sure to protect the area around the oven with newspaper, paper towels, or old towels.  Remove the racks for cleaning (instructions follow) as well as any other items in the oven.  Spray the entire interior being careful to not get spray on the heating elements of an electric oven or the gas inlet of a gas oven.  Lift the heating element and spray under it. Gloves and eye protection should be worn when using oven spray cleaners. Also be aware that it is possible that using an oven cleaner could affect the surface of the oven; you may experience white or grey discoloration of the surface. Also, due to the porous nature of the oven surface, some of the product may be left behind after the cleaning process and fumes will be detected the first time the oven is turned on.

DIY.  While this may not be the fastest way to clean the oven, it is by far the safest and is appropriate for any oven type.  Begin by removing everything from your oven and protecting the floor beneath your oven with newspapers, paper towels, or old towels.  Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to make a spreadable paste.  Spread the paste around the inside of the oven using fingers, spatula, or brush covering the entire interior including crevices. Keep the paste away from the heating element of an electric oven and away from the gas inlet of a gas oven. It is also possible to lightly mist the paste with white vinegar in a spray bottle which will cause the paste to bubble and foam.  Close the oven and allow the paste to sit for 30 minutes to 10 – 12 hours, or overnight depending upon the depth of cleaning needed.

After time has elapsed, glove up and begin to rub the surfaces with a synthetic scrubbing pad dipped in vinegar or a plastic scraper to loosen baked on grime.  Wipe down all surfaces with a damp cleaning cloth. If the paste is dry, spray with vinegar to soften and remove.  After all of the paste and grime has been wiped away, spray the oven with vinegar and wipe dry.

Racks

Racks can be cleaned with either chemical oven sprays, ammonia, or with baking soda and vinegar.  If oven sprays or ammonia are used, the work should be done outdoors with rubber gloves and eye protection.  Once the racks are cleaned, washed, rinsed and dried, replace them in the clean oven.

Chemical Oven Sprays.  Lay the racks on a garbage bag that has been cut open, spray the racks with the cleaner, cover, and tuck the bag tightly around the racks and let them sit overnight.  Spray wash them with a garden hose to remove the chemical residue and then wash them with dish detergent in either the kitchen sink or bathtub scrubbing as necessary. Discard the bag used by placing inside of another bag and putting in the trash.

Ammonia. This is the most dangerous method but one that is frequently used.  Place the racks in a large trash bag. Add 2 cups ammonia to the bag. Tightly tie or seal off the bag so that the ammonia cannot leak out and let them sit overnight lying flat. The racks do not have to be coated in the ammonia because the fumes will circulate and do the job. The next day, open the trash bag being cautious of the ammonia and the fumes.  (Avoid inhaling the fumes.)  Spray the racks with a garden hose and then wash with dish detergent followed by a rinse.  Dispose of the ammonia by mixing with water and pouring down the kitchen sink or toilet.  If you have a septic system, the ammonia should be neutralized with baking soda, cat litter, and sand and disposed in the outside trash.  The bag should be sprayed with the garden hose, bagged, and also put in the outside trash.

Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Hot Water.  Place the racks in the bathtub. Plug the tub and sprinkle baking soda on the racks and then pour vinegar on top creating a foam. When the foaming stops, run hot water until the racks are fully covered.  Allow the racks to sit in the water for 10-12 hrs or overnight. Remove racks from the water and scrub with a cleaning cloth, pumice, or synthetic scrubber until all grease and grime is gone.

Pat yourself on the back when the job is done. You might want to reward yourself with a holiday gift by investing about $10 in an easy-to-clean non-stick oven liner that catches spillovers and crumbs and helps prevent the fore mentioned ‘culinary crime scene’.  Be sure to use the liner correctly in your oven.

Lastly, give yourself a break and don’t stress if the oven doesn’t turn out spotless.  The object is to get it clean enough that the grime doesn’t taint anything that is baked or roasted in the oven and the aromas coming from the kitchen are pleasant.  After all, ‘tis the season for a little fun, too!

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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“Joy of Cooking” Rolls Out a New Edition

A new edition of America’s favorite, classic cookbook, Joy of Cooking, rolled off the press on November 12. This edition was nine years in the making under the guide of John Becker and wife, Megan Scott. John Becker is the great grandson of Irma Rombauer, the original author of Joy of Cooking. I look forward to getting a copy of the new edition.

I was first introduced to Joy of Cooking in my junior food science class at the University of Nebraska where I was a consumer science (then home economics) major. My instructor called it the ‘kitchen bible’ telling us that anyone could learn to cook using Joy as their guide. It had all the recipes one would ever need in addition to being a culinary reference with its “About” sections. So in addition to purchasing our course textbook, we were required to also purchase a copy of Joy of Cooking. While I don’t remember, it was likely the 5th edition published in 1964 by Irma’s named successor and daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker. In the many years since, my paperback copy of that edition has been lost.

The cookbook began eighty-eight years ago when Irma Rombauer, a German immigrant and recent widow, needed a means to support her family during the Great Depression. To do so, she compiled her favorite recipes, wrote a cookbook, and self-published it in November 1931. She enlisted the help of a St Louis, MO company that printed labels for shoe companies and Listerine mouthwash to print her book, a first for the company. She paid $3000 to print 3000 copies of the Joy of Cooking: A compilation of Reliable Recipes for a Casual Culinary Chat. The book was illustrated by Rombauer’s daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker.

As the 3000 copies began to dwindle, a commercial printer was sought and with it came, a second edition in 1936. This edition expanded to 640 pages and set a new style for writing recipes—a conversational style, later known as the “action method.” Instead of listing ingredients and following with instructions, ingredients were interspersed with directions appearing as they were needed. This edition became popular quickly prompting six printings and selling 52, 151 copies by 1942.

A third edition was rolled out in 1943 and included a collection of recipes that could be prepared in less than 30 minutes using canned and frozen foods. This edition also included information intended to help readers deal with wartime rationing. Once again sales were phenomenal with nearly 620,000 copies sold by 1946. As the WWII came to an end, an update was made to the 1943 edition in 1946 with the elimination of the rationing information and the addition of more quick recipes.

The newly released edition is the 9th edition of the cookbook and marks the first update in 13 years. Joy has remained a family project passing from Irma to her daughter Marion, to Marion’s son, Ethan Becker, and now to Ethan’s son, John and his wife, Megan Scott. Through the various editions, Joy has remained a mainstay of American home cooking by adapting and evolving to the popular tastes and trends of Americans yet remaining basic. Marketing of the 2019 edition touts ingredients from the wider world and chapters on sous vide, fermentation, and cooking with both traditional and electric pressure cookers. John and Megan developed more than 600 new recipes for this edition with a focus on international, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes and tweaked many of the classics of former cookbooks. Lastly, this edition includes information about food history and science.

Indications are that this new book will be more than a collection of recipes; it should also be a fascinating read. For anyone who loves reading cookbooks as I do, I think this just might be the one for me to have and perhaps share as a holiday gift, too.

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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Potato Peelings

We recently had friends spend a long weekend with us and they were telling us about a recent mishap at their house. They were entertaining friends for dinner and were preparing a potato dish. They put the potato peelings down the garbage disposer. You may have guessed what happened next – the drain got totally clogged. Typically things like that happen when it is holiday time and we are preparing food for more people than usual. Plumbers are usually not available at a reasonable price at those times as well!

There are foods you should never put down your garbage disposer. Sometimes it happens though that we forget or a helper in the kitchen is not familiar with foods that should not be disposed of in the garbage disposer. Our friends contacted a plumber but decided to try a few things themselves to unclog the drain and they were successful!

Many of us will probably be making potato salad this Summer so I thought it might be a good reminder to all of us to not put potato peelings down the garbage disposer and also to review some ways to try and unclog a drain on your own.

You may want to try the Baking Soda and Vinegar method: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and cover the drain if possible. Let set for a few minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to flush it. The combination of baking soda and vinegar can break down a clog and wash it down the drain. DO NOT use this method after any commercial drain opener has been used or is still present in the standing water.

Another method is using Salt and Baking Soda: Pour 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Follow with 6 cups boiling water. Let sit overnight and then flush with water. The hot water should help dissolve the clog and the baking soda and salt serve as an abrasive to break through the clog.

In order to keep your drain running smoothly you may consider pouring a kettle of boiling water down it on a weekly basis to melt fat that may be building up or to put some vinegar and baking soda down the drain to break up fat and keep it smelling fresh.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Knives

My son just purchased some new bread knives. It caused me to re-evaluate the knives I have in my own kitchen. Knives can seem like an expensive investment but having the right knife for the job can make your time in the kitchen so much more productive and efficient. Some people purchase knife sets. If you are going to use all the knives in the set, that is a good investment. For me there are three knives I find myself reaching for over and over. One is the Chef’s knife. It is very versatile being used for chopping vegetables, slicing meat, and mincing garlic and herbs. It can be from 5-8 inches long, typically 8 inches, and is considered the workhorse of the kitchen.

A paring knife is another knife I find I am constantly reaching for. It is usually 3-4 inches long and is perfect for peeling and coring as well as cutting small fruits and vegetables.

The third knife I use frequently is the serrated knife, or bread knife. It can be used for slicing crusty bread, of course, and also for cutting very soft fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes. They are usually 9-10 inches long and don’t sharpen very well so need to be replaced every now and then depending on how often you use them.

When you get ready to purchase knives, there are a few things to consider. Most importantly is your budget. Buy the best-quality knives you can afford and keep them sharp. A good knife, if cared for properly, can last a lifetime.

You will also want to hold the knife in your hand before you purchase. How it feels is basically personal preference. Look for a knife that feels like an extension of your hand. It should feel perfectly balanced, sturdy and comfortable in your hand with an ergonomic grip.

You may want to consider if the knife you are looking at is forged or stamped. Forged knives are created when a single piece of molten steel is cut and beaten into the desired shape. Forged knives have a sturdy blade with a heavy bolster (junction between blade and handle) and heel to protect the hand when cutting. They typically hold a sharp edge well. They are less flexible than their counterpart, stamped knives, and generally are more expensive than stamped knives. Stamped knives are created using a cookie-cutter type machine. They are usually the same thickness throughout, except at the cutting edge, and lack a bolster and heel. Their blades are generally lighter and more flexible and they do not hold their edge as well.

After you have purchased the knives that are right for your uses, remember to use them on the right cutting surfaces such as a plastic or wood cutting board. Using your knives on a plate, tile, countertop, etc will dull the blades. And using a sharp knife is much safer than using a dull one. Dull knives require more pressure to cut, increasing the chance the knife will slip with the force behind it.

You will also want to care for your knives correctly once you have invested in them. Leaving unwashed knives in the sink or putting them in the dishwasher are no-nos. Besides keeping your knives sharp, hand washing and drying them and storing them in protective sleeves will help your knives work their best and last as long as possible.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Electric Blanket Safety

With chilly nights becoming the norm, many are looking for warmer blankets and throws for cozy companions.  If one of those blankets or throws is electric, it should be inspected, regardless of age, before snuggling up for the season to make sure that it is safe.  Older blankets that have seen their better days are definitely a hazard but occasionally, a newer blanket or even one fresh out of the bag could have a wiring issue.  Reports from Perth Electrician mentions that Electric blankets and their 100 feet of wiring account for numerous fires, injuries and death each year.

When inspecting a plug-in blanket or throw, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends looking for cracks and breaks in wiring, plugs, and connectors.  Also look for dark, charred, or frayed spots on either side of the blanket.  If the blanket shows any of these characteristics or is more than 10 years old, it should be thrown away—DO NOT DONATE. (If you want to keep the blanket for some other use like covering plants in the fall, throw away the control unit to render it non-electrical.) Older plug-ins (10 years plus) are more likely to be a hazard because most operate without a rheostat.  The rheostat control found on most newer blankets and throws control heat by gauging both the blanket temperature and the user’s body temperature.  Lastly, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure the blanket has not been recalled.

If a new blanket or throw is to be purchased for self or as a gift, make sure it has been tested by and bears the label of a reputable testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).  Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions.  If the directions don’t match your intended use, do not purchase.  And again, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to make sure the blanket of consideration is not on the recall list.

Once the blanket or throw is in use, keep these safety tips in mind:

Keep the blanket flat while in use.  Folds or bunched-up areas can create and trap too much heat.  This also includes tucking ends in which can cause excessive heat build-up.  The blanket is also best stored flat or rolled which puts less stress on the coils.

Keep everything and anything off of the blanket.  This includes comforters/bedspreads, blankets, clothing, pets, and yourself.  No sleeping or lounging on top of the blanket either. Weight of any kind may cause the blanket to overheat.  Pet claws can cause punctures, rips, and tears which may expose or break the wiring and create shock and fire hazards.  If pets are a must, consider a low-voltage blanket.

Avoid washing.  Washing machines and electric blankets aren’t a given match.  Always follow the manufactures directions if washing is necessary and do not use the spin cycle.  There’s no guarantee that the internal coils in the blanket won’t get twisted or damaged or that the electrical circuitry will avoid damage in the laundry.

Heat and then sleep.  If the blanket does not have a timer, turn it off before going to sleep.  Most manufactures recommend the same.

Consider the bed.  Never use an electric blanket on a waterbed or adjustable, hospital-style bed.

Mind the cords.  Avoid running cords under the mattress as this creates friction that can damage the cord or trap excess heat.

Electric blankets and throws are great cozy companions but they need to be respected and used with care.  Today’s electric blankets are safer and more energy efficient than those of the past. Many of these innovations were developed as Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product-safety testing organization, came up with stricter safety standards for electric blankets, including warnings on the instructions.  With respect and care, these cozy companions are perfect for deflecting cold rooms and beds.

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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Amber Glass for Canning and More

I recently noticed the new Ball amber mason jars on a store shelf.  Since Ball has sold the blue and green collection jars in recent years, I didn’t think too much about it at first glance–likely thinking, another colored canning jar.  However,  these jars are not to be dismissed as just another decorative, colored canning jar.

Amber glass blocks 99% of UV rays providing excellent protection for preserved foods and allowing them to be shelf stable for up to 18 months1. This is important because UV rays can sometimes change the components of contents by photo-oxidation.  This is the phenomena that causes beer to go “skunky.”  Amber also offers superior blue light protection;  light of any kind has a photochemical affect on food and bacteria.  By blocking harmful food-damaging UV rays and light, amber makes it possible to store foods in lighter areas or even the counter top without loss of flavor, color, or nutrients.

Thus amber is ideal for canning jars.  Besides home canning, amber jars are great for storing bulk foods, baking ingredients, oils, herbs, spices, coffee, tea, or any food item that looses quality due to UV rays.  And given the natural qualities of glass, no harmful chemicals leach into the products stored in the jars as can be the case with plastic containers.

The Ball jars are conveniently wide-mouthed and available in 16-, 32-, and 64-oz sizes.  Presently they are available in cases of four, making them more costly than regular canning jars.  When used with proper canning lids and bands, they are safe for canning in hot water bath or pressure canners.

1 Freshpreserving.com

 

 

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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Care for stone countertops

In the last two years, several of the AnswerLine staff members have remodeled their kitchens and bathrooms. During the remodeling process, a big topic is always what sort of countertops are the best for my situation and what kind of maintenance will the countertops require. I have done a bit of research on several of the existing options.

Granite counters are very popular right now. They do not require a lot of maintenance but it is a good idea to wash the counters regularly with a soapy cloth to prevent stains. Blotting spills with paper towels eliminates the possibility that you will spread a stain while swiping it with a cloth. Acidic cleaners like lemon juice, ammonia, and window cleaner may damage granite counters. Instead, you can make your own cleaner with three parts of dish detergent and one part rubbing alcohol.

Granite countertops need to be sealed several times a year. Test yours to see if the previous seal has worn away. Place a few drops of water on the countertop and check for beading. If the water beads up, the counter does not need to be resealed. If it does not bead up, then seal the counter with a granite stone sealer. Follow the directions on the package. If you are sealing kitchen countertops, be sure that the sealing compound is non-toxic. Apply sealer to clean countertops and allow it to rest for a half hour or so. Sealing the countertop will not eliminate the chance of staining but it will help the granite be more resistant to staining.

Quartz countertops are also very popular right now. I chose them for my kitchen because they do not require sealing. Quartz is actually a manufactured product, made of quartz stone and a synthetic polymer. They are very easy to care for and do not require polishing. I clean my countertops with a warm, wet dishcloth. Clean spills and sticky foods as soon as the spill occurs to avoid stains. Glass and surface cleaners will not damage quartz surfaces. However, avoid bleach and harsh, acidic cleaners on quartz as well as granite surfaces. In addition, hot pans set directly on the quartz countertops can cause damage.

Marble countertops are not quite as popular as granite and quartz. Marble is a porous surface even though it is very durable. Remember to use only mild dish soap and warm water to clean marble. Test your marble counter top every couple of months to see if the marble needs to be resealed. Test marble in the same manner you test granite. If needed, apply the sealer over clean countertops and let it sit on the countertop for about 30 minutes.

Soapstone is another choice for stone countertops. This stone is very durable and hard to scratch or etch. Soapstone is a non-porous surface that is hard to stain and is tolerant of hot pans. Remember that soapstone can be damaged by dropping heavy objects on it. Soapstone is more likely to dent than scratch or chip. Soapstone does not need to be sealed, but like a butcher block counter, it does need to regular oiling. Oil the counter by spreading some mineral oil on the surface. Use a towel to rub the oil into the stone. Leave for 30 minutes and the remove excess oil. Not oiling the surface will result in dark spots showing on the surface of the stone—over time. Again, harsh or acidic cleaners are not recommended.

We are lucky to have so many different choices for countertops these days. Stone countertops do not require much more care than my old Formica countertops and I do enjoy the look of stone.

 

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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Gas Leak – How to Detect and What to Do

Millions of Americans use gas (natural or propane, i.e. LP) to heat their homes, heat their water, and cook their food.   Our family is one of them and in addition, a natural gas pipeline crosses our property.  While gas is safe, economical, clean-burning, and a versatile fuel when used properly, it is also highly combustible.  Thus, a gas leak can be a risk of a fire and explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. To help ensure that you live safely with gas, everyone in the family should be aware of the signs of a gas leak, never ignore even the slightest indication of one, and know what to do should there be a leak.  Because of our proximity to a gas line, our gas company provides information periodically on what to know and what to do.  The same precautions apply to propane gas.

Smell.  Because gases are colorless and odorless, a strong odorant that smells like rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal is added to alert or help consumers detect a possible leak.  If you aren’t sure of the scent, you can request a free scratch-and-sniff card from you supplier.

Sound.  A hissing or whistling sound near a gas appliance, meter or pipeline is also an indicator of a gas leak.

Air.  Another indicator would be blowing dirt or a breeze coming out of the ground.

Bubbles.  A leak in a gas pipe can sometimes cause bubbling in moist areas around the home.

Discolored or dyeing vegetation.  If you suddenly notice your grass or shrubs have changed color, looking more brown or rusty, that could be a sign of a leak. Plants near a gas leak will quickly become sickly and eventually die.

Feeling ill.   The symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning.  You cannot see, taste, or smell CO.

Fire coming out of the ground.

If you suspect or discover a gas leak:

  • Stay calm.
  • Leave the area immediately and evacuate everyone as well as all pets or animals from the home or building. Inhaling high concentrations of gas can lead to asphyxia in which your body is deprived of oxygen.
  • Go to a remote location and call your gas company or supplier. If they can’t be reached, call the fire department.  Program your gas supplier’s number into your cellphone so that it is readily available in an emergency.
  • If gas is blowing, call 911.
  • Move quickly. Don’t stop to look for the leak, open windows, turn switches off, or unplug equipment.  Leave the door open as you leave.
  • Don’t use anything that might create a spark, such as a cellphone, light switch, or garage door opener. These can ignite gases or vapors.
  • Do not return to the building until the gas company or fire department has given you the all-clear or the leak is fixed.

As always, being prepared in case of an emergency is key.  First and foremost, have the number of your gas supplier programmed into your cellphone.  If you don’t have a cellphone, have the number tucked into your wallet so you can quickly dial the number from another phone.  Secondly, know how to turn off your gas should you need to or be asked to do so.  Begin by knowing where your gas meter and/or emergency control valve is located.  For natural gas users, the emergency control valve should be next to the meter.   To turn off the gas supply, simply turn the handle a quarter turn so the lever is crosswise, perpendicular, or at 90 degrees to the upright gas pipe; a wrench may be required to turn the lever. Propane users should locate the main gas supply valve on the propane tank. Close the valve by turning it to the right (clockwise).  If you are unsure about where to find these valves or what to do, contact your supplier and have them show you.  And it is always a good plan to have your gas furnace and other gas appliances checked annually and serviced as needed for proper ventilation.

During winter, keep your gas meter and valve free from snow and ice using a broom, not a shovel, to remove snow or ice.  Make sure outside appliance vents are not blocked by snow and ice. Blocked vents can cause carbon monoxide  to back up into the building or shut down your system.   If your home or business has natural or propane gas appliances, a carbon monoxide detector should be installed.  When a gas appliance malfunctions, it can produce CO, that deadly, odorless, colorless, and tasteless silent killer.  And always, always call 811 before you dig!

Everyone should know how to detect and respond to a gas leak.  Make it part of your family’s emergency response plan.

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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Tips for Cleaning Electric Pressure Cookers

Recently a friend emailed me asking how to clean an electric programmable pressure cooker (EPPC) so that it didn’t retain the smells of previous cooked foods.  This friend is certainly not the only one asking this question.  In fact, after I got my own EPPC, I had the same concern.  In my search for advice, I encountered lots of stories and advice from other EPPC owners with one owner even claiming to have found maggots growing in the condensation collector!  True or not, there are at least eight parts of any EPPC that should be cleaned after every use and it only takes minutes to do:  the inner pot, base, trivet, lid, silicone ring, pressure valve, condensation collector, and the anti-block shield.  With the exception of the base, all of these parts are dishwasher safe with most manufacturers.  The cooker base must be kept dry but can be wiped with a damp cloth.

It is always best to consult the manual that came with the EPPC for the best way to clean the appliance, but we know how manuals get misplaced or sometimes really don’t provide much information.  Another source is to look online for the EPPC manufacturer and hopefully find care information; however, this may not be possible with some generic EPPC brands.   One EPPC manufacturer, InstantPot, provides great care and cleaning tips.  While the tips may be specific to InstantPot, they would be useful for other EPPCs as well if information cannot be found from a specific manufacturer.

If after all of these areas have been cleaned properly and a lingering odor is still detected, it is likely coming from the silicon sealing ring as it does hold food odors.  I have found three ways to help defuse those odors: soaking the ring in vinegar, turning the lid upside down between uses or leaving the ring exposed to air, and placing a small box of baking soda in the unit between uses.   Other suggestions I’ve read include putting the ring in the sun, wiping the ring with a stainless steel soap disc, soaking or steaming in lemon water and baking soda, or purchasing two rings, one for savory and one for sweet.  If one does opt for a second sealing ring or needs to replace a ring, be sure to get genuine manufactured parts to ensure the EPPC will work correctly and safely.

Another concern EPPC users have is with the gradual discoloration of the stainless steel inner pot.  If it is turning a blue-yellow, white vinegar will bring it back to it’s original luster.  The procedure is to let white vinegar stand in the pot for at least 5 minutes and then rinse with water.  If the bottom of the pot is dulled perhaps due to sautéing or hard water, I have found that a small amount of baking soda or a non-abrasive scouring cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend Liquid Cleanser on a damp cloth or sponge does an excellent job of bringing back the original shine after rinsing and drying. Don’t use anything metallic for scouring because it will damage the finish!

These are the suggestions that I gave my friend as they seem to work well for me.  If you are an EPPC user and have additional suggestions, I’d love to hear your tips!

 

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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Air Fryers

My sister-in-law is interested in purchasing an air fryer. It is a new concept to me so I decided to do some research on it for both she and I. The basic premise is you can fry foods in air rather than oil. I think we would all agree that if we could enjoy our favorite fried foods without all the extra fat calories from the oil we would be very interested in doing that!

Hot air frying machines work by circulating extremely hot air around food using a mechanical fan that cooks the food and produces a crispy layer on the outside while keeping the inside moist. This would be similar to the way convection cooking is done. The only oil needed is what is brushed on the food before air frying. They do caution to not overload the air fryer as the food wouldn’t cook properly and could even lead to unsafe foods by staying at bacteria-friendly temperatures for too long. So cooking in smaller batches would be a necessity.

If purchasing an air fryer you would want to consider several things like the amount of counter space the appliance will take up, the wattage required to run the appliance, the capacity and what settings are available. On the plus side, it seems an air fryer would be a lot safer as there would be no pots of boiling oil around. It would also be less work in the beginning, there would be no oil to dispose of, no lingering smell in the house, and you would not feel as heavy full after eating. On the minus side, you cannot replicate the texture or flavor of foods that were traditionally deep fat fried and the actual cooking time is significantly longer. Plus air fryers are a bit pricey.

The jury is still out for me to consider purchasing an air fryer but the concept is an interesting one!

 

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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