Baking bread

Baking bread is a creative outlet for me and satisfies that “need to bake”.  I started searching for the perfect white bread recipe last November.  I’ve been baking two loaves a week since then.  The first recipe I tried made a loaf that we thought was a bit dry.  I’ve been using this recipe since early December.  I like it and we always get a nice tender, light loaf.  It just takes me a short time to mix up the dough.  Proofing (or letting the bread rise) takes a couple of hours and baking takes about 35 minutes. 

I usually use my bread machine to make the dough for rolls and then take the dough out of the bread machine pan and shape and bake it. I like to use my mixer to knead the bread. Using the mixer for a specific time, 8 minutes for this recipe, ensures a similar result every time.

Of course, not every bread recipe requires kneading.  King Arthur Flour had this recipe as their recipe of the year last year.  My son made some when we were visiting last week and we enjoyed the nick crusty, rustic loaf.  If you want to try something super easy with guaranteed great results, give this recipe a try. This recipe would not be appropriate for a 4-H member to take to the fair if they allow it to raise for more than one day in the refrigerator.  Call AnswerLine if you have any questions about using this recipe.

I love to get some bread started early on a Saturday morning and let it proof while I’m doing laundry and other chores around the house.  This way we have some nice fresh bread to start the week, and a great treat of warm from the oven bread before lunch.  Try some homemade bread this weekend.  Or on a snow day.

 

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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Vanilla

If you have done a lot of Holiday baking you probably noticed the price of vanilla has risen substantially in recent months. Vanilla is the world’s most popular flavoring. You can purchase it in two forms – pure and imitation. Pure is derived from seed pods of vanilla orchid vines and imitation is made in a lab. One percent of the world’s vanilla flavor is real and the rest is imitation. There is definitely a big price difference between the two.

Part of the reason the price of vanilla has gone up goes back to 2017 when a cyclone wiped out 30% of the vanilla orchid crop on Madagascar. Madagascar is an island that produces about 80% of the world’s vanilla beans so that made a big difference for production.

By FDA definition, pure extract means the vanilla flavor must come only from vanilla beans. For pure vanilla, the vanilla orchids are hand-picked. After harvesting they are cured, sweated, dried, and conditioned to fully mature their flavor. The beans are then soaked in an alcohol and water mixture and the flavor is extracted from the pod. FDA regulations require pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol. Additional alcohol content is also allowed. Imitation vanilla contains less alcohol or none at all.

Synthetic or imitation vanilla is flavored primarily with synthesized vanillin. Vanillin is the main flavor component of cured vanilla beans. Vanillin that is synthesized in a lab is identical at the molecular level to vanillin derived from an orchid so the taste is the same. Caramel coloring is also usually added to imitation vanilla. As I mentioned earlier, the FDA requires pure vanilla extract to get its flavoring from vanilla beans only. That FDA requirement relates to flavor only however. Some may contain a little sugar or corn syrup. Pure vanilla extract that has been stored properly in a cool, dark area will remain safe indefinitely. If it has been exposed to high levels of moisture and light it may lose some of its potent aroma and flavor over time or develop a hazy appearance but it will still be safe to use. Imitation vanilla will remain safe for 3 to 4 years if stored properly.

It is interesting that a couple sites I referenced, Cooks Illustrated and Epicurious, did taste testing of products that were made identically except for using pure vanilla in one and imitation in the other. In many instances the people doing the taste testing preferred the imitation vanilla over the pure. I think that definitely relates back to the molecular level of the vanillin being identical whether it was made in a lab or came from the bean.

It is also interesting to note that the compounds that make up pure vanilla flavor can’t survive high-heat cooking. So pure vanilla in cookies adds little because they are baked @350 degrees. Using pure vanilla in icings/frostings, puddings, custards, milkshakes and frozen desserts makes more sense as they are not heated at all or not heated to a high temperature.

Vanilla is one of my favorite flavorings so I have definitely noticed the price increase. After doing this research though I will try and use the pure for things I am not cooking to a high temperature and use imitation for the rest.

Happy Holidays!

 

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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Rice Krispie Treats

I recently wrote about the inventor of the Green Bean Casserole. It piqued my interest in finding out more about other inventors of some of my families favorite foods. One of those foods is the Rice Krispie Treat. I love that it’s invention is credited to an Iowa State University graduate!

Kelloggs Rice Krispie Treats is a trademarked name. The recipe (cereal, marshmallows, butter and vanilla) has never changed. Many of us put our own twist on the treat by adding extra ingredients or toppings however.

Mildred Ghrist Day is the woman credited with developing the original recipe. She was born in 1903 in Marion County Iowa. She went to Iowa State University and majored in Home Economics. Even before she received her diploma she had a job secured at the Kelloggs cereal company in Battle Creek, MI. She tested recipes in the company’s large kitchen and conducted cooking schools for Kelloggs across the country.

Kelloggs Rice Krispies cereal was developed in 1927 and came on the market in 1928. By 1939, Mildred and a co-worker had created the Rice Krispies Treat. History has it that the recipe was possibly inspired by an earlier recipe that had puffed wheat and molasses in. Mildred felt marshmallows would be less messy than molasses and began experimenting. Mildred’s daughter, Sandra, remembers that about six months after the invention, Kelloggs received a call from a Camp Fire girls organization looking for ideas for a fundraising project. The Rice Krispie treat was originally known as marshmallow squares and Kelloggs decided to test-try the product for the Camp Fire girls request. They sent Mildred, with a giant mixer and huge baking trays, to the Camp Fire girls in the Kansas City area. Mildred made many batches of the then known as marshmallow squares. The mothers of the Camp Fire girls would wrap the treats then send the girls out to sell them door to door.

Although the recipe had been published in newspapers earlier, in 1941 Kelloggs put the recipe on the side of its cereal box for the first time. They remain popular to this day.

In honor and memory of Mildred, Iowa State University students created a gigantic Rice Krispies Treat as part of the VEISHEA celebration in 2001. It weighed 2,480 pounds and was made from 818 pounds of Rice Krispies cereal, 1,466 pounds of marshmallows and 217 pounds of butter. What an accomplishment!

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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Maple Syrup

December 17th is National Maple Syrup Day. I will try to recognize that day by using some delicious maple syrup I was recently given as a gift!

Even though you will find pancake syrup and maple syrup next to each other on your grocery store shelves, they are not the same thing. Maple syrup is a pure product and contains no additives or preservatives. The maple syrup we find in containers begins it’s life as sugar in the leaves of maples, produced by the process of photosynthesis. The sugars are transported into the wood for winter storage in the form of carbohydrates. In the spring they are converted to sucrose and dissolved in the sap to flow through the tree. After that sap is collected it is boiled down to reduce the water content and concentrate the sugars. Those sugars caramelize giving us the characteristic color and flavor of maple syrup. It takes about 43 gallons of sap boiled down to make a gallon of maple syrup.

Pancake syrup is a highly processed product. It is made from corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup. Pancake syrup also has coloring, flavoring, and preservatives added to it.

Sometimes you will hear maple syrup praised as being a “natural” sweetener and better for you than regular sugar. Maple syrup does contain more of some nutrients than table sugar but is definitely not considered a health food. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines have now recommended a limit of no more than 10% of your daily calories come from added sugars.

In March 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture implemented changes in the labeling system for syrup so it matches up with international standards. All maple syrup is now Grade A, followed by a color/flavor description. The changes are as follows:

Grade A Light Amber is now Grade A Golden Color/Delicate Taste

Grade A Medium Amber is now Grade A Amber Color/Rich Taste

Grade A Dark Amber is now Grade A Dark Color/Robust Taste

Grade B is now Grade A Very Dark Color/Strong Taste

Once you have opened a container of maple syrup you should store it in the refrigerator where it will last six months to a year. You can also freeze maple syrup which will keep it safe indefinitely. If you are going to freeze it, put it in an airtight container and leave a half inch of headspace to allow for the maple syrup to expand.

If your maple syrup develops an off odor, flavor, or appearance or mold appears you will need to discard it. You should also discard the maple syrup if the bottle it is in is leaking, rusting, bulging or is severely dented.

If you are a fan of maple syrup I hope you will enjoy some on National Maple Syrup Day!

 

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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Green Bean Casserole

Originally called “Green Bean Bake”, we know the recipe as Green Bean Casserole today. It is a favorite Holiday side dish at my house and in many others too I’m sure. You may not know that the inventor of this recipe recently passed away. Her name was Dorcas Reilly and she was 92 years old when she passed away on October 15, 2018.

Dorcas was working as a supervisor in the home economics department of a Campbell’s test kitchen in New Jersey in 1955 when she was given an assignment to create a recipe using ingredients any cook would have on hand at home including Campbell’s mushroom soup and green beans. The recipe she and her team came up with consisted of just six ingredients: Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans, and crunchy fried onions. She has said she and her team talked about adding celery salt and ham to the recipe but decided to just keep it simple with minimal prep time needed, affordable ingredients that could be stirred together, and a short amount of bake time. Plus the recipe worked well with canned or frozen green beans. Cheap, fuss-free cooking was all the rage for post-War America at that time. More women were entering the workforce and looking for easy-to-make meals. Convenience cooking was starting to take off since wartime rations had been lifted on canned goods and new innovations in canning and freezing made packaged foods more accessible than ever.

The “Green Bean Bake” became very popular once Campbell’s started printing the recipe on the side of their cream of mushroom soup cans. That was not the only recipe Dorcas and her team were credited for helping create however. She was also a part of the team that created the tuna noodle casserole and Sloppy Joe’s made from tomato soup recipes. Dorcas has been quoted as saying she was very proud of the “Green Bean Bake” recipe and pleasantly shocked when she realized how popular it had become. Her hand-written original recipe card even made it into the archives of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

Over the years people have changed the recipe a bit to make it a better fit for their family. Here are two lighter versions of the original recipe: One is from Campbell’s and one is from the American Heart Association.

I will be thinking of Dorcas this Holiday season as my family enjoys a traditional green bean casserole!

 

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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Homemade Eggnog Made Safe

Eggnog and holidays seem to go hand in hand.  While prepared eggnog is readily available at the supermarket, there is nothing like homemade eggnog.  But homemade eggnog has the potential to spoil holiday fun and cause Salmonella poisoning from the use of raw or undercooked eggs.  Salmonella bacteria is a potential risk even when refrigerated eggs with clean, uncracked shells are used.

Since eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, let’s look at someways to convert a special family recipe into a safe recipe.

Use a cooked egg base.  FoodSafety.gov  recommends a cooked egg base for eggnog. This is especially important if you are serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: young children and pregnant women (non-alcoholic eggnog), older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.  Eggs must be cooked to 160 °F to kill bacteria that may be present such as Salmonella.   A cooked egg base or custard is made by heating half of the the milk and/or cream to almost boiling and ever so slowly adding the beaten egg yolks (or sometimes the whole egg) and sugar (or any sugar substitute).  Continue to cook and stir the mixture gently until an internal temperature of 160 °F is reached.  At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon and remain separated when a finger is drawn through it. Do not let the mixture go beyond 160 °F as above that temperature, the eggs are likely to curdle.  (If curdling occurs, put the mixture in a blend and blend until smooth.)   Place the mixture in a bowl of  ice water to stop the cooking action and prevent curdling or further curdling and then refrigerate.

Use pasteurized eggs yolks. Eggnog may be safely made at home by using whole, liquid or pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes in place of raw eggs. Pasteurized eggs are found next to regular eggs at the store.  Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys any Salmonella that might be present without having a noticeable effect on flavor or nutritional content. Even if you are using pasteurized eggs for your eggnog, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety.  When egg substitute products are used, some experimentation might be needed to figure out the right amount to add for the best flavor.

Use alcohol to inhibit bacterial growth.  While alcohol will inhibit bacterial growth, adding alcohol (in amounts recommended by most recipes) will not be sufficient to kill bacteria.  However, if one wants to use alcohol, Cooks Illustrated suggests that 1 1/2 ounces of 80 proof liquor per egg and three weeks of aging in the refrigerator is sufficient to kill bacteria when dairy is omitted until ready to serve. Such was conclusively proven by microbiologists at Rockefeller University where salmonella bacteria was purposely added  to eggnog and analyzed over a three-week period. By the three-week mark, the alcohol had rendered the eggnog completely sterile.

Substitute egg whites.  If a recipe calls for adding beaten egg whites to the hot egg/milk custard, use pasteurized egg whites.  While pasteurized egg whites do not whip to the same volume as raw egg, they are safe.  It has not been proven that raw egg whites are free of Salmonella bacteria; NOR has it been shown that when adding them to the hot milk/egg custard, the custard remains hot enough to kill any bacteria.  Another good substitute is whipping cream whipped to soft peaks added at the time of serving.

Here’s to a safe and worry-free holiday!  Follow these suggestions for your favorite eggnog recipe to assure everyone can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worry of a foodborne illness.

 

 

 

 

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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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

from your friends at AnswerLine

Liz, Beth, Marcia, and Marlene

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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Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips

This is your friendly reminder to keep your friends and family safe this Thanksgiving. We speak a lot about food safety this time of year. Here are some tips to remember.

  1. Remember to wash your hands often. Use soap and wash for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Resist the urge to wash your turkey. Washing will not make it safer to eat and the splash of water from the turkey will cross contaminate other parts of your kitchen.
  3. The safest way to make stuffing or dressing is to cook it outside the bird.
  4. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. In some families, the tradition is to leave food out on the table all afternoon so people can nibble a bit more. This is a recipe for food bourne illness. Leave leftovers on the table for less than two hours. The clock starts ticking on the two hours as food comes out of the oven or refrigerator.
  5. Cool leftovers quickly. Store them in shallow pans separated in the refrigerator or freezer. Storing leftovers on the back porch or garage is NOT a good idea. Store them in a refrigerator set between 32°F and 40°F. Closer to 32°F is best.
  6. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, cooked meat, and vegetables.
  7. Keep that pumpkin pie in the refrigerator.
  8. Use a meat thermometer to know when your turkey is done. Cook to 165°F.
  9. Use or freeze your leftovers within 3-5 days.
  10. Call AnswerLine if you have any questions. We really do love to help.
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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Talkin’ Turkey

Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year at AnswerLine. Most callers eat turkey only one or two times a year and often do not’ feel comfortable preparing turkey for guests. We are always happy to talk turkey with callers.

We often get these questions:

  1. How large a turkey should I buy? You should plan on two and a half or three servings per pound. Buy a larger bird if leftovers are important to you.
  2. How soon can I buy a fresh turkey? Use your fresh turkey within two days. Call us for advice if you buy your turkey too early.
  3. How long does it take to thaw a turkey? Plan on 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of turkey. Remember to thaw it in the refrigerator.  Once thawed, use within two days.
  4. Oh my, I forgot to take my turkey out of the freezer. What can I do? You have two options. You can cook a frozen turkey, just remember to take the giblets and neck out of the cavity after an hour or so. Plan to cook the frozen turkey for one and a half times longer than a thawed bird. Or you can use the cold-water method. Thaw the turkey by leaving it in the plastic wrapper and place in a sink full of cold water. This method takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Change the water every half hour. I was a bit skeptical the first time I tried this method, but it does work well.
  5. What temperature should I set the oven for turkey? 325°F
  6. If you want to cook the turkey the day before Thanksgiving, call us for advice.

These are the top turkey questions callers ask every year. Please call us with all of your questions. We love to help.

 

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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Tips for Tri-Tip

Because I have family in California, I get the opportunity to visit now and again.  On one of my trips, I encountered one of the culinary delights of California–a cut of meat called tri tip.  Tri-tip is a tender, lean beef cut coming from the bottom sirloin that gets its name from its triangular shape. It is sold as a small roast or cut into steaks; there are only two of these cuts in each animal. What makes it so special is the full flavor it offers at an affordable price.  Roasting and grilling are the best preparation methods as the tri tip is considered a lean cut of meat.

While readily available nearly everywhere in California, tri-tip is not a common cut in the Midwest.  However, because I enjoyed it so much, I’ve frequently asked at different stores if it was possible to order and usually got a “no” response.  Recently I was shopping at my local Fareway store and there in the meat case was a sirloin tri-tip!!!  Right then and there, I made my first tri-tip roast purchase and profusely thanked the meat department manager for acquiring the cut.  (Manager said that they will continue to carry it as long as they can get it.)

Having never prepared a tri tip on my own, I wanted to do it right.  I looked at several recipes and blogs which offered a lot of insight.  Eventually I decided on an online recipe for Santa Maria Style Tri Tip. (Santa Maria is famous for their tri tip barbecue.)  My choice could not have been better!!  We enjoyed a succulent roast prepared on the grill.

Here’s some tips that I acquired from reading various blogs and recipes that may help anyone else who would like to try a tri tip roast should they see one in their meat counter.

  • Be prepared for uneven cooking.  Due to the triangular shape, the roast typically has thicker and thinner parts.  Because of the variation in thickness, the two parts of the cut will cook different, thinner faster than thicker.  This is offers pieces ranging from more well-done to medium-rare.  The flavor is the same regardless.
  • Use a rub and allow the meat to marinate with the rub for a minimum of three hours and up to three days.  The rub can be applied dry or with a bit of olive oil.  If oil is used, the recommended method is to apply oil lightly to the meat before the rub.  Oil can be used after the rub is applied but if the meat will be grilled, the oil may cause flash burning.
  • After applying rub, the roast should be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated until ready to grill or roast.  If grilling, bring the meat out 30-60 minutes beforehand.
  • Whether grilling or roasting, sear the roast on both sides to lock in moisture and flavor.  This can be done on the grill or in a skillet.
  • Stop cooking at a temperature a few degrees lower than the desired doneness.  Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat until it reaches 120-125°F for medium-rare or 130-135°F for medium.  Do not cook beyond medium as the cut contains very little fat.
  • Allow the roast to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.  Remove the meat from the grill and wrap it loosely in aluminum foil.  The foil will collect any juices that are released and also allow the meat to reabsorb some juice.  During this resting time, carryover cooking occurs and the internal temperature of the meat will rise (depending upon thickness, the internal temperature will increase 10 to 15 degrees during resting).  This is why it is important to stop cooking before the desired doneness temperature is reached with nearly any kind of meat.
  • Slice against the grain.  Per Traeger, a little-unknown fact about tri tip is that it is comprised of two different grain directions, making slicing it correctly slightly more difficult than other meats. Incorrectly slicing the meat can make a perfectly grilled or roasted tri tip tough and chewy.  Check the Traeger website for great tips and pictures for correct slicing.
  • While I have yet to try oven roasting tri tip, I will start with the Better Homes and Garden version and experiment from there.  The BH&G method does not include pan searing which many recipes and blogs recommend.  Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner is also a good resource for tri tip preparation tips.

By following these simple tips, I hope your first experience with tri tip will be as good as mine.  If you’re already a Tri Tip Queen or King, I’d love to know your tips for success, too.

A tri tip fact sheet is available from the Beef Board which includes nutrition and calorie information as well as additional cooking 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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