Party Ideas

punchThe beginning of December is a great time to start thinking about holiday parties. It might be fun this year to serve punch as a beverage this year. Typically, we don’t have a lot of recipes at AnswerLine, but we do have quite a few punch recipes in the AnswerLine files.  I thought it might be fun to share them with you.

These punch recipes will go great with most foods.  They will be delicious with both sweets and savory foods.

If you are using a punch bowl, you may want make your own ice ring.  We suggest that you use some of the punch to make the rings.  Then, when the ring melts it does not water down your punch like a ring made of water.  If you wish a clear water ice ring, allow the water to set 10-15 minutes before putting it into the freezer.  Loosen your ice ring by running water over the metal ring.  Then slip your ring into a plastic bag. This will make placing it into the bowl much easier, and less messy.



CRANBERRY PUNCH                                                      8 servings

1 1/4 qt. cranberry juice cocktail

2 whole cloves

1 stick cinnamon, 2 inches

1 cup frozen orange juice concentrate

1 cup water

2 cups club soda

Heat 1 cup cranberry juice with spices. Simmer, covered 5 minutes. Remove spices. Add remaining cranberry, orange juice and water. Chill. Add club soda just before serving.


RASPBERRY PUNCH                                                       Yield: 2 1/2 quarts

2 pkgs. frozen raspberries or strawberries                       2/3 cup sugar

2 cups orange juice, fresh or frozen                                 1 can (6 oz.)  frozen lemonade

1 quart ginger ale

Thaw the berries, sprinkle with sugar and mash with a fork or potato masher. Mix berries with orange juice and reconstituted lemonade.  To serve, pour fruit mixture over ice and add the ginger ale.



HOLIDAY PUNCH                                                             Serves 80-100

12 -6 oz. cans frozen or canned orange juice                                1 -6 oz. can frozen or bottled lemon juice

8 quarts cranberry juice cocktail, chilled                        5 quarts bottles sparkling water or ginger ale

Reconstitute orange and lemon juice with 3 cans of cold water per can of juice and continue, following above directions. If fruit juices are combined ahead of time reserve the sparkling water and add just before serving.  Slices of orange, maraschino cherries and other fruits may be frozen in ring molds or other shapes and used in punch bowl for decorative purposes.



RHUBARB-LEMONADE PUNCH                                  Serves 10-20

3 cups sliced fresh/frozen unsweetened rhubarb           3/4 cup sugar

1 6-oz. can frozen pink lemonade concentrate            3 cups water

1 -16 oz. bottle (2 cups) sugar-free lemon-lime carbonated beverage

In saucepan combine rhubarb, sugar, lemonade concentrate, and water. Cook till rhubarb is soft, about 10 minutes.  Strain and chill the syrup. Just before serving pour chilled syrup over ice in punch



CHRISTMAS PUNCH                                                       Makes 3 quarts, serves 40

4 cups strained orange juice                                              1/2 cup lemon juice

1 quart cranberry juice cocktail                                        1 pint sparkling water

2 trays of mint ice cubes

Place juices and sparkling water in punch bowl. Add mint ice cubes.  let stand 10 minutes.  Garnish with orange slices studded with whole cloves.



PINK PUNCH                                                                      Serves  30 – 40 (5 – 6 oz punch cup)

1 large box banana strawberry gelatin                            2 Cups boiling water

4 cups cold water                                                                 1 Cup sugar

8 oz. bottle lemon juice                                                      48 oz. pineapple juice

2 quart 7-Up




CRANBERRY PUNCH                                                      Serves 25-30, Makes 2 1/2 quarts

1/2 cup sugar                                                                        1/2 cup water

2 cups cranberry juice cocktail                                         1 cup orange juice, frozen or fresh or canned

1/2 cup lemon juice, frozen or fresh or canned             1 quart ginger ale

Cook sugar and water together to the boiling point. Then continue cooking 5 minutes longer.  Cool slightly and mix with the three juices.




2 large pkg. gelatin, your flavor or color                         4 cups boiling water

4 cups sugar                                                                          9 cups cold water

2 cups bottled Real Lemon juice                                      2  46 oz. cans pineapple juice (not grapefruit juice)

Dissolve the gelatin in boiling water. Add rest of ingredients and freeze. Four hours before serving, remove from freezer.  To serve, add 2 large bottles gingerale. (If you use lemon gelatin, reduce lemon juice to 1 cup and increase water to 5 cups)  Serves 25-30.


Before choosing any of these punch recipes, look at the ease of making the punch and the amount you will need for your gathering.  A bit of advance planning will allow you to enjoy your gathering.  Enjoy!






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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Electric Pressure Cookers


Recently one of AnswerLine’s Facebook followers asked about electric pressure cookers and Instant Pot.  Not knowing much about either myself, I promised to do some research and share what I learned.  This is a timely question as Electric Programmable Pressure Cookers (EPPCs) have increased in popularity in recent years and Consumer Reports has included an electric pressure cooker in its Holiday Gifts for the Family Chef  article. With anything new, there comes lots of questions:  are EPPCs safe, is pressure cooked food nutritious, does cost equate quality, and are these cookers/pots all they are cracked up to be? The noted promise of an EPPC is to save you time so you can eat well.  So if you are thinking about putting an electric pressure cooker on your holiday list, here are some things you will want to know.

Pressure cookers have long been noted to decrease cooking time, reduce energy consumption, and retain nutrient quality equal to or higher than that of foods cooked by other methods.  In today’s world, the consumer has a wide choice of pressure cookers ranging from the conventional stovetop pot to the EPPCs known as the Third Generation of pressure cookers which are safer and easier to use with the big advantage of convenience over stovetop models—you don’t have to watch the pot!  A Cook’s Illustrated article points out some disadvantages of EPPCs to stove top models which included capacity, non-stick coatings, inadequate handles, weaker heating elements, and storage issues.

Nearly all EPPCs these days are multi-cookers that include slow-cooking, searing, sautéing, simmering, steaming, yogurt making, and warming functions.  An Instant Pot is simply one of many multi-cookers designed to replace a slow cooker, EPPC, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, and warming pot.   These cookers may be touted as “6 in 1” or “7 in 1” which really mean very little.  The multi-cooker that does what you want it to do is the most important consideration.  While there are many websites that provide information and/or recommendations on EPPCs or multi-cookers, Utah State University Extension tested five different cookers and compared several consumer considerations including safety features, ease of operation, cleaning, and special features.  Based on their tests, the following features were deemed the most important to consider before purchasing an EPCC:

  1. Look for a safety valve that locks the appliance while still under pressure.
  2. A spring-loaded venting system (quick-release vent) delivers the best and most consistent performance.
  3. Look for a pressure setting of 10psi or above.
  4. Detailed trouble shooting/safety sections and thorough instructions on use and care in the User’s Manuel is a must.

Last, but not least, I must address the difference between a pressure cooker whether it is a stove top  model, an EPPC, or a multi-cooker AND a pressure canner.  A pressure cooker is not a pressure canner and should NEVER be used for canning.  Often, the two are used interchangeably in conversation and I want to make it clear that they are NOT!  A pressure canner is designed to CAN  low-acid foods for storage in canning jars at a temperature higher than boiling water.  Pressure cookers are designed to cook everyday foods and as such heat up and cool too quickly to adequately process canned food safely.  Articles by Oregon State University Extension Service, Michigan State University Extension, and the National Center for Home Food Preseration provide great and detailed information on the difference between pressure cookers and canners and why cookers cannot be used as canners.

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 Thanksgiving

Turkey DinnerAs Thanksgiving approaches, the majority of our calls are about preparing for the holiday. So many people are stressed over preparing a big meal and having a large group over for Thanksgiving dinner.  It seems that in our busy everyday lives, we spend less time preparing food and more time ordering food from restaurants.

Preparing the holiday meal does not need to be overwhelming. The tradition in many families these days is more of a pot luck style; different family members contribute a dish or two.  Even if you must prepare the entire meal, there are many ways to make it easier.

Remember that many foods can be prepared and frozen a week or two before the big day. Cooling the food rapidly and wrapping it properly will ensure top quality food.  Make sure that you use containers or wraps designed for the freezer.  Careful packaging will eliminate the formation of ice crystals on the product.  Too much air inside the wrapping can also lower the quality of the food.

You may not be aware, but it is possible to make a pumpkin pie and freeze it unbaked.  Simply baking the pie on Thanksgiving or even the night before will eliminate the messy and time consuming process yet yield a fresh baked pie for the holiday.

RollsBaked goods that are lower in moisture freeze well and maintain their quality well. Consider making a batch of rolls now and freezing them.

Many foods can be prepared early. One of the AnswerLine staff members cooks her turkey the day before Thanksgiving and cuts the meat off of the bones. She lays the meat in a pan and covers it with broth; the meat is tender and moist on Thanksgiving and the cleanup is minimal.  Salads are often a great choice for early preparation.  Ingredients for salads or other dishes can be prepped and measured in advance and then combined on Thanksgiving or the evening before.

However, some foods will not be safe if prepared early. Preparing stuffing in advance and then putting the stuffing inside the turkey is risky as the time between preparing and baking would be long enough to allow bacterial growth.  For the same reason, potatoes should not be peeled ahead of time and cooled overnight before cooking.

House cleaning, table setting, and planning are steps that work well in advance. Making a master check list of tasks to be done and times to begin cooking foods will help destress the holiday.  And it will allow you to easily assign tasks to helpful family members.

Remember that we are here for you in the days before Thanksgiving. Give us a call and we can help you with tips and short cuts.  We can also help you calculate the amount of food you will need to purchase.  For your convenience, we will remain open over the noon hour on the three days before Thanksgiving.

We look forward to visiting with you and answering your questions.




Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Successfully Freezing Homemade Soup

slow-cooker-pork-chili_0There’s nothing like homemade soups and stews to enjoy during the fall and winter months. Soups and stews are also great ‘prepare ahead’ foods to freeze and enjoy at a later time when a quick meal is needed, relieve stress during the holidays, or share with elderly parents, neighbors, or college students.  While freezing is a great convenience, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Recipe.  Freezing will not improve the texture, flavor, or quality of food. It simply preserves food quality by stopping microbial growth.  Which brings us to the question, “will all soups freeze satisfactorily to assure a good product later?”  Most soup recipes can be used for freezing but one should check the listing at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for ingredients that do not freeze successfully.  Vegetable and meat based soups generally freeze very well; however, potatoes and pasta may need special consideration.    Joy of Cooking advises to add freshly cooked potatoes or pasta just before serving if a soup or chowder calls for such OR to undercook the potatoes/pasta if they will be part of the frozen soup.   Dairy-based soups and chowders can be frozen, too, but the outcome is not always as predictable as they tend to separate slightly when thawed and reheated.   This can typically be fixed by whisking in a little additional milk or cream or by stabilizing the cream with a slurry of arrowroot or potato power and water.  An immersion blender can be used to mix together a dairy-based soup that has separated. Using a modified starch suitable for low temperatures such as ThermFlow® or tapioca flour will help prevent separation of a thickened soup; Joy of Cooking suggests substituting 1 tablespoon tapioca flour for 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour for 1 cup liquid.
  • Cooling.  After preparing your soup, it must be cooled quickly to prevent a foodborne illness. Soup should cool from 140 degrees to 70 degrees in two hours or less and from 70 degrees to 40 degrees in four hours or less.  The University of Minnesota (Cooling Soup Safely) offers some great tips to cool soup safely such as placing the kettle in an ice bath, using shallow pans, dividing into smaller batches, and stirring to hasten cooling.   Regardless of method used, it’s most important to get the soup cooled by whatever method works best for you to get the temperature down as quickly as possible.
  • Packaging.  Once the soup is cooled, packaging appropriately becomes the next step.  How you intend to use the soup later, will dictate how you will package it.  If you want to freeze a large quantity, freezer bags with a zipper lock work very well and save space in your freezer because they are stackable after they have been laid flat and had time to freeze solid.  For individual servings, smaller freezer bags can be used.  Some of the plastic containers made by Ziplock® or Rubbermaid® work very well, too.  These kind of containers come in all shapes and sizes, each with a unique ability to seal, lock, stack, nest and are sturdy enough to travel with ease which is especially good if the soup is to be transported to and used by an older adult or college student. ½ – 1 cup is considered a snack size portion and 2 cups is a meal portion.
  • Freezing.  Always remove as much air as possible as you close the bag or container and leave ½ inch of headspace for pint-size- and 1 inch for quart-size-containers.  Clearly label each package with the name of the food, ingredients, packaging date, and any special instructions.  This information can quickly be typed and printed on mailing labels and attached to the individual packages.   Prepared packages or containers should be placed in the coldest part of the freezer allowing for good air circulation around each container.  After the product is fully frozen, stack to save space.  Soups containing starches or starchy vegetables should be placed in the back of the freezer where the temperature remains more constant to prevent slight thawing allowing starchy ingredients to absorb moisture and get mushy.
  • Defrosting and Reheating. To retain the best flavor, dairy-based soups should be consumed within two months of freezing and broth-based within three months.  Soups kept longer than these suggested times are still safe to eat but the flavor begins to fade along with some freezer burn.  Soups should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight; or if it is defrosted in the microwave oven, it should be heated and eaten immediately.  Pour the defrosted soup into a saucepan to reheat on the stove top; heat to boiling on low heat gently stirring until it heats through. Or pour soup into a microwave-safe dish to reheat in the microwave, again stirring occasionally to heat more evenly.  If your recipe calls for the addition of cheese just before serving, omit that prior to freezing and add during reheating.  Even though you can freeze cheese on its own, it reheats at a different rate than the soup contents.

I hope you’ll enjoy having homemade soup on hand for a quick meal or to share as much as I do.

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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Yam or Sweet Potato?

sweet-potato-a A question that AnswerLine often gets is “what is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?”  And connected to that is “which one is more nutritious? of which should I use?”  To begin, what you see in most U.S . supermarkets labeled as yams are really sweet potatoes. So when you thought you were eating a yam, you were really eating a sweet potato; and likely, you have never eaten a true yam.  There are two types of sweet potatoes commonly grown and sold in the U.S.  One has a pale, yellowish skin and is labeled ‘sweet potato’ and the other has a brownish or brownish-red skin and is usually labeled ‘yam.’  To add to the confusion, canned and frozen sweet potatoes are frequently labeled as ‘yams.’  Despite labeling, either sweet potato variety is nutritionally identical containing the same vitamins, minerals, and calories varying only by growing conditions.  They are fat-free, low in calories, high in fiber and great for people who are carbohydrate sensitive.  In general, one large baked sweet potato will provide almost three times the vitamin A an adult needs daily and two-thirds the vitamin C requirements.  The pale sweet potato is not sweet and after being cooked, the pale variety is dry and crumbly, much like a white baking potato.  The darker variety has a vivid orange flesh; it is sweeter, and when cooked, is moist and tender.

purple-sweet-potatoA third kind of sweet potato is the flavorful, lavender-fleshed cousin of the familiar orange variety, the purple sweet potato.   It is higher in antioxidants than its orange cousin.  The purple variety is used in many of the same ways you’d use a regular orange or white potato, and the striking hue adds a colorful twist to mashed potatoes, home fries, and soups.  They retain their color best if baked.

Sweet potatoes in general do not store well unless the perfect conditions exist so they should be used quickly.  Do not refrigerate.  Sweet potatoes can be used in a wide variety of ways.

Yams (true) are a thick, tropical tubers popular in South and Central America, the West Indies, and parts of Asia and Africa.  They are related to lilies.  Yams are similar to sweet potatoes in size and shape, but yams contain more natural sugar and have a higher moisture content.  Yams are an excellent source of potassium, folic acid, zinc, and some B vitamins.  They are not as rich in Vitamin C as sweet potatoes and contain no Vitamin A.  Depending on the variety, a yam’s flesh may be various shades of off-white, yellow, purple, or pink, and the skin from off-white to dark brown.  They may be found in some Asian and Latin markets in the U.S. and are usually sold in chunks by the pound.  Like sweet potatoes, they do not store well, should be used quickly, and should not be refrigerated.  Yams may be substituted for sweet potatoes in many recipes.

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 Select, Peel, and Use Butternut Squash

20161013_071946aButternut squash is by far the favorite winter squash and with good reason. Its sweet, nutty flavor and smooth texture, reminiscent of buttered sweet potato, make it a great multi-use squash for fall dishes, including those that call for pumpkin.  Further, butternut squash stores well for several months in a root cellar or cool, dry location.  And last but not least, it is very nutritious (Vitamins A and C), including the seeds.

Like all winter squash, butternut squash have a thick, hard skin and a seed cavity inside with large seeds. If you’re new to squash, it might be a bit intimidating to select, peel, and turn a hard-shelled squash into something delicious.  It doesn’t have to be.  Here are some helpful hints:

Begin by selecting a squash that has a smooth, even tan colored skin free of blemishes, cracks or soft spots. The stem should be brownish and woody looking. Look for the ones with the longest, fattest necks as this is the “meaty” part of the squash; the seeds are found in the bulbous lower part. Butternut squash come in various sizes weighing between 1 ½ to 5 pounds.  One pound of squash becomes roughly 2 cups of cooked squash or 2 cups cubed.

There are a number of ways to peel it. The method really depends upon the intended use.  If it is to be used as a puree, it is not necessary to peel it at all.  It can be sliced in half length-wise, seeds removed, placed face-down in a lightly oiled baking dish, and baked in a moderate oven (350F) until tender; it can also be microwaved in the same manner.  After cooling, the soft flesh can be scooped out and used for pumpkin pie, soups, breads, and desserts. (The pulp can also be run through a food processor if desired for an even smoother texture.)  If the recipe calls for cubed squash, then the peel needs to be removed.  Good Housekeeping offers an excellent tutorial on peeling and cubing squash.  Cubed squash can be roasted, steamed, cooked, or pureed.  Cubed butternut is typically added to recipes raw and it cooks with the other ingredients.  However, roasting butternut squash adds a new level of caramelized sweetness and is so easy to do. Simply season squash cubes as desired, place on a lightly oiled baking sheet/dish, and bake a 400F oven until tender and lightly browned (approx. 25-30 min).

Butternut squash keeps well for four months in a cool dry, well ventilated location. Even greater success is assured when the squash has been “cured” post-harvest.  This involves approximately 10 days of air drying in warm temperatures (80-85F).  If you have more squash than can be used at one time, it will keep up to four days in the refrigerator (cooked or fresh) or can be frozen for later use as a puree or cubed.  To freeze cubed squash, blanch peeled cubes of raw squash for 3 minutes—just until heated through, drain, and chill in cold water.  Keep blanched cubes in a colander while chilling to avoid their breaking apart.  Drain thoroughly and spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer; place in the freezer for at least 4 hours and then transferred to an air-tight freezer bag (Nebraska Cooperative Extension) (photos at  Frozen cubes can be added directly to your recipe.

There are a myriad of recipes and ways to use butternut squash. Some additional creative suggestions include:

  • Shave raw squash into ribbons (like carrots) and use in your favorite salad
  • Add a little puree to your breakfast oatmeal along with your choice of nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, flax seed, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup, etc
  • Blend puree or small chunks into your favorite hummus recipe
  • Add more texture to a soup by stirring in squash pureed in a blender
  • Add to smoothies, dips, or baked goods batter
  • Add cubes to pizza or make a pizza sauce with puree
  • Season cubes with cumin and/or coriander and top off your tacos

Lastly, don’t toss the seeds. They can be roasted as a garnish for soups or enjoyed as a snack.  Butternut squash seeds are smaller than pumpkin seeds so they are a bit faster and easier to prepare.  I learned a good tip from Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes to boil the seeds prior to roasting that really works well and seems to make the seeds easier to digest.

Butternut Squash is a member of the Cucurbita Moschata or “cheese” pumpkin family and as such other family members such as cushaw and winter crookneck can be prepared in the same way as the butternut.  Happy Fall and enjoy your squash!20161010_163428

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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Which apple to use?

applesIt is Apple Season! October is National Apple Month. There are so many varieties you may be wondering which variety is best for specific uses, how to store them for best quality, or how many apples are in a pound or bushel.

Apples are considered a great snack food as an average sized apple contains about 90 calories and is about 85% water. That makes them thirst quenching and a quick energy provider with their natural sugars, plus the bulky pulp makes the eater feel full.

Apples may be displayed in a fruit bowl at room temperature for a short period of time but that will dramatically reduce their usable life. Apples will last the longest when kept close to 32 degrees. For most of us that would mean the refrigerator. Apples stored near 32 degrees in perforated plastic bags or covered containers will last 8-10 times longer than if stored at room temperature.

One pound of apples equals 2 large, 3 medium, or 4 to 5 small which would make about 3 cups peeled and cut-up fruit. Two pounds of apples would be enough for a 9-inch pie.

One bushel of apples equals about 40 pounds. That would be enough for 20 nine-inch pies or 15-20 quarts of applesauce.

The best baking apples offer a balance of sweet and tart flavors as well as flesh that doesn’t break down in the oven. Granny Smith apples are generally thought of as the go-to baking apples but there are others that hold up under heat and balance the sweet-tart flavor. The crisp texture of the Honey crisp apple will hold firm when baked or caramelized. Pink Lady apples will retain a distinct shape when diced and added to coffee cake or muffins.  Jonathans are tart and tangy and have been pie favorites for many

years. Cooks Illustrated recommends the following six varieties of apples for pie baking: Sweet  – Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Jonagold; Tart – Granny Smith, Empire, Courtland.

Bred to be an eating apple, Red Delicious are unsuitable for baking. They are mild-flavored, sweet, and juicy. Other apples good for eating fresh are Gala, Fuji, and Braeburn.

Enjoy apple season this year and have fun experimenting with different variety combinations in your baking.

For more information go to the U.S. Apple Association for an apple usage chart.

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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Try Grilling Pizza

Have you ever tried using your grill to cook a homemade pizza? If you haven’t done it before you should try it!  Not only is it easy to do, the pizza has a wonderful crispy crust and you are not heating up your house cooking it inside!  I usually make a homemade crust but there are several options available at the grocery store if you want to save that step and purchase one.  If you use your favorite homemade pizza dough recipe spread both sides with corn meal to keep it from sticking to the grill grates.


You are then ready to put the pizza crust on a hot grill. The crust will cook quickly so watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t get to dark. Usually it will only take a couple of minutes. Once you see grill marks simply flip it over so both sides are cooked evenly. *We will be putting it back on the grill with the toppings for the final cooking.)  When finished the crust should have char marks on it.


When it is done remove the crust to a cutting board or cookie sheet. Now you are ready for your toppings. We like to be creative but you can use any toppings that you like. Our favorite is chicken, bacon, ranch with spinach. The ranch dressing is our pizza sauce   Make sure that your toppings aren’t piled too high since we will be returning it to the grill to finish cooking.


If you have a charcoal grill the last cooking will be done with indirect heat meaning that you will want to gather your coals to one side of the grill. The pizza will cook in the other side. I have a gas grill so I simply turn off one side of the burners. This indirect heat will be like putting it in your oven. The toppings will heat and the cheese will melt. The result will be a pizza that your family will rave about!



Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Using a Pressure Cooker

Pressure canner3Canning season is in full swing for many people. AnswerLine gets many calls about using a pressure cooker for canning. A pressure cooker is NOT designed for canning but it has many other great uses. I have friends who use theirs weekly for the time-saving convenience. Many of us are looking for that on busy weeknights!

Pressure cooking uses water or another liquid heated to boiling to produce steam. Water, as you know, boils at 212 degrees F. Steam is hotter than boiling water and can get up to @250 degrees F. Trapping that steam puts pressure on the food in the pan which cooks it 3-10 times faster.

Less liquid is required when pressure cooking as compared to conventional cooking. You will want to use at least one cup of liquid but never fill the pressure cooker more than half full with liquid. You can always use more liquid than the recipe calls for but never less. You can fill the cooker up to 2/3 full with food but not over that. If you are cooking foods that expand significantly (rice, beans, grains, soups) do not fill the cooker more than half full. The steam needs space to build up in the cooker.

Begin cooking over high heat for the pressure to build up then lower the heat so pressure is maintained without exceeding it. Timing is as important as building up the steam when pressure cooking. I recommend you set a digital kitchen timer for the recommended cooking time. It is always better to undercook than overcook. You can always cook in additional 1-5 minute intervals if the food needs to be cooked longer.

Foods should be cut into uniform sized pieces for best results. If you are cooking meat, potatoes, and vegetables start with the meat. Cook until half done, release the pressure and add the potatoes. Cook them for 2/3 their recommended time, release the pressure and lastly add the quicker cooking vegetables.

To release the pressure from the cooker, follow the manufacturer’s directions for your particular model. Some recommend the Natural Release method and some the Quick Release method.

Pressure cooking is virtually fat-free since the steam cooks the food so no added fats need to be used. The quick cooking in an almost airless environment helps retain nutrients and the high temperature steam intensifies the flavors so less seasoning needs to be used.

Pressure cookers are best suited for cooking foods that are naturally tough or require long cooking times but you can cook almost anything in them. Just remember – pressure cookers are NOT for canning! Pressure canners must be large enough to hold 4 quart sized jars!

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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Which butter for baking?

IMG_8023 - CopyWhen I go to the grocery store I am finding more and more options for butter. That has made me wonder which butter is best for baking when my recipe just calls for “butter”. I consulted King Arthur Flour to find what differences there are among butters.

According to King Arthur Flour, Grade AA butter has the most buttery flavor. It has 18% water, at least 80% butterfat, and 1%-2% milk solids. It is great for baking and spreading.

European style butter (i.e. Kerrygold) has less water and is higher in fat, ranging from 82%-86%. In baking it can create a more greasy or sometimes drier product if European style butter is not specifically called for in the recipe.

Whipped butter  is aerated with a special type of gas to make it more spreadable. It also contains additives that keep it from going bad. Whipped butter is not recommended for baking.

Cultured butter (i.e. Organic Valley) is slightly tangier because it is inoculated with live bacteria that release lactic acid. Cultured butter is also not recommended for baking ~ but it is delicious ON baked products!

The salt in Salted butter acts as a preservative and masks any potentially off flavors. Because of that, it often sits on grocery store shelves longer than unsalted butter does. Most brands of salted butter contain about 1/4 teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup stick.

So – the recommended butter to use in most baking recipes is AA unsalted butter. That way you are able to control the amount of salt in your recipe and have the most buttery flavor.

If you choose to use margarine in your baking, choose one with 100 calories per tablespoon. If it has less calories than that, it means water has been whipped into the margarine which will affect your finished product. Typically that is the store brand.

Happy baking!



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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