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Have a safe Thanksgiving

Now that thanksgiving is nearly here, there are a few things that we need to keep in mind. Sometimes with all the family present and the confusion of so many people working in the kitchen it can be easy to lose track of time and allow food to sit out longer than two hours.

Remember that food should be refrigerated as soon as possible after the meal is served. Ideally, we want food to be either hot (above 140°F) or cold (below 40°F) within two hours of being served. Set a timer or an alert on your phone or watch to help you remember. The concern is that bacteria, which grow exponentially at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, will grow to a level that may sicken someone that eats that food. Bacteria love the foods that we typically serve at thanksgiving.

It is important to understand that the first people that get sick from food poisoning will be the very young, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women. In most of our families, those people are pretty special to us.

Now that you are thinking about refrigerating the food to keep it safe, follow these simple tips.

    • Don’t be tempted to store the food outside or in the garage. Even on days below zero, a sunny day can warm the food to unsafe levels
    • If you are afraid to put warm food directly into the refrigerator, cool it in a pan sitting in a sink full of cold water. Stir the pot occasionally. You will be surprised at how quickly foods cool off.
    • Package the food into smaller containers. Small containers cool quickly. Place the containers on different shelves and allow as much room as possible for air circulation around the containers.
    • Consider freezing some of your leftovers if you won’t be able to use them within 5 days. Remember that you have 3-5 days to use up leftovers. If you wait 3 or 4 days before you freeze the leftovers, then you will need to use them the same day you thaw the leftovers.

Remember to enjoy this time with family and friends and have a safe thanksgiving.

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 Cooking Tips

I recently wrote a post on things you can do ahead of time to help make Thanksgiving a little more stress-free. As the holiday approaches ever closer, I thought it would be a good time to refresh our memories on the actual cooking of the turkey and a couple of traditional side dishes.

AnswerLine recommends cooking your fresh or thawed turkey at 325 degrees for 12 minutes per pound. When using your meat thermometer it should register 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh and 165 degrees in the breast or stuffing. You will also want to allow a 20-30 minute rest time before serving.

If you have purchased a frozen turkey, you will want to thaw it for 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. Thaw it in the refrigerator in it’s packaging until the night before you are going to cook it then place it uncovered on a large roasting pan overnight in the refrigerator to dehydrate the skin. You can massage the skin with softened butter right before cooking.

You should plan on 1 to 1 and 1/2 pounds of turkey per person which would include seconds and leftovers. A twelve pound or larger turkey is recommended as smaller turkeys usually have less meat on the bone.

When deciding which type of potato is best for your mashed potatoes here is a quick guide:

For fluffy mashed potatoes, starchy russets work best. For chunky mashed potatoes, waxy red bliss potatoes work best. For creamy mashed potatoes, Yukon Golds work well. It is not a good idea to mix the different types of potatoes as they cook at different rates. To cook the potatoes begin by cutting them into 1 inch chunks and cover them with cold salted water. Bring them to a boil then lower the heat and simmer uncovered about 20 minutes. When you are ready to mash the potatoes, a ricer or potato masher work best. Blenders, handheld mixers, and food processors tend to overwork the potatoes which causes more starch to be released which results in more gluey mashed potatoes.

To make gravy, melt 1/2 cup butter, stir in 1/2 cup flour to make a roux then add 8 cups of a combination of drippings and broth. You can pour the drippings into a liquid measuring cup and once the fat floats to the top you can spoon it off.

A basic cranberry sauce can be made by adding 2 Tablespoons of water and 1 cup of sugar to a 12 ounce bag of cranberries. Cook over low heat until the berries pop – about 10-20 minutes. This will keep in the refrigerator about 1 week.

AnswerLine will be answering calls from 9:00-4:00 (even over the lunch hour) the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Please call us with any questions you might have! We love to talk with you and help in any way we can!

 

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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Pumpkin Pie!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and for my family that means enjoying pumpkin pie. If you are planning to do some preparation ahead of time you can pour your cold pumpkin pie filling into a chilled unbaked pie shell and freeze it. When you are ready to bake the pie you can bake it without thawing at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 325 degrees to finish it.

You can also freeze baked pumpkin pie. Best quality will be maintained for 1-2 months. Make sure to wrap the pie tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap or place it in a heavy-duty freezer bag. The texture may change somewhat when the pie is thawed but the taste should not be affected.

If you find yourself without any pumpkin pie filling on hand when you are ready to bake your pie but you have regular solid canned pumpkin you can make that work. For 30 ounces of pumpkin pie filling, open two 15 ounce cans of pumpkin and take out 1 and 1/3 cups (save that for another use). To the remaining pumpkin add 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cloves and 1 teaspoon salt.

If you are without pumpkin pie spice, you can easily make your own as well. For each teaspoon needed of pumpkin pie spice, mix together 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Betty Crocker has a similar DIY pumpkin spice that makes a larger amount you can have on hand for your Fall baking: Mix together 3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves.

Pumpkin pies can be stored loosely covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Pumpkin pies should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees.

I hope you enjoy baking with some pumpkin during this Fall season!

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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Canner Load Guidelines

Canning season is peaking right now and we recently had a question concerning canner loads for pressure canners. You don’t always have a full canner load when you are ready to can.
You must use a pressure canner that can hold at least 4 quart size jars even if you are never going to can quarts. That size is needed for the come-up and cool-down times to be accurate.
In 2016, Ball Canning issued new pressure canning guidance about the number of jars in a pressure canner load. Their new rule is a pressure canner load must consist of at least 2 quart jars or 4 pint jars at a time. This is to ensure proper pressure and temperature is achieved for safe processing.

If you have canning questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or e-mail. We are happy to help!

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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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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Oh No, my freezer is out!

We tend to get calls about freezers going out any time during the year; but most often during winter storms. I was surprised recently when I discovered that my nearly 40-year-old freezer quit while my husband and I were away on vacation. We had nearly a quarter of a beef, several frozen pizzas, a whole chicken, and a pork tenderloin in the freezer. It was a shock as I’d never had this happen before. It is possible to claim food losses on home owner’s insurance but we chose not to make a claim. At the time I discovered the freezer had quit, enough time had lapsed that all the meat was totally thawed and was cool but not cold.

When you discover that the freezer is not working, it is important to determine why it is no longer working. Some of our callers find that the freezer was accidently unplugged, or a fuse has blown, or someone has left the freezer door open. It is not uncommon during an ice storm to have the power off for several days. It the problem can be fixed—plugging the freezer cord back into the outlet, or tripping the circuit breaker, check to see if the freezer contents are still completely frozen or partially frozen. If the contents have at least some ice crystals remaining it will be safe to refreeze the item. Ice cream would be an exception to that rule as the thawed ice cream will refreeze with much larger crystals resulting in a food that would not be enjoyable.

If the freezer outage is due to a power outage you will want to do what you can to keep all the food from thawing. When callers have this problem, we have a few questions that we typically ask. If the outage is not expected to be more than 12-24 hours, the freezer can be covered with a blanket or bags of ice can be added to help keep the temperature down inside the freezer. Avoid opening the freezer to keep it cold inside longer. If a longer outage is expected, the caller can take the food to a meet locker if available, or purchase some dry ice to keep the contents cold for a longer period.

Here is some advice from the National Center for Home Food Preservation on what to do with thawed foods. Some thawed foods can be re-frozen. However, the texture will not be as good. Other foods may need to be discarded.

  • Meat and Poultry: Re-freeze if the freezer temperature stays 40°F or below and if color and odor are good. Check each package, and discard any if signs of spoilage such as an off color or off odor are present. Discard any packages that are above 40°F (or at room temperature).
  • Vegetables: Re-freeze only if ice crystals are still present or if the freezer temperature is 40°F or below. Discard any packages that show signs of spoilage or that have reached room temperature.
  • Fruits: Re-freeze if they show no signs of spoilage. Thawed fruits may be used in cooking or making jellies, jams, or preserves. Fruits survive thawing with the least damage to quality.
  • Shellfish and Cooked Foods: Re-freeze only if ice crystals are still present or the freezer is 40°F or below. If the temperature is above 40°F, throw these foods out.
  • Ice Cream: If partially thawed, throw it out. The texture of ice cream is not acceptable after thawing. If its temperature rises above 40°F, it could be unsafe.
  • Creamed Foods, Puddings and Cream Pies: Re-freeze only if freezer temperature is 40°F or below. Discard if the temperature is above 40°F.
  • Breads, Nuts, Doughnuts, Cookies and Cakes: These foods re-freeze better than most. They can be safely re-frozen if they show no signs of mold growth.

All of the food in my freezer was totally thawed and beginning to not have a very pleasant aroma. I’m now spending some of my free time shopping for a new freezer. If the new one lasts as long as my old one, I should not have to replace it.

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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Canning Salsa

August is a great month. By now the gardens are producing tomatoes, onions, and peppers. All the ingredients you want for a great salsa. We talk to a lot of people about salsa in August.

Tested canning recipes are designed to be followed exactly as written. It is important not to change the volume of low acid vegetables like onions or peppers. It is important not to add other ingredients not listed in the recipe such as beans or corn. The recipes were tested to ensure that here is enough acidity in the product to protect against the botulism bacteria.

These restrictions often frustrate callers and until a couple of years ago, the only recourse callers had was to freeze the salsa instead of canning it. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has come out with their Choice Salsa recipe. This recipe allows for a bit of creativity in your canned salsa. You must still follow the requirements for pounds of tomatoes or onions or peppers but you can customize the recipe a bit. We still do NOT recommend adding corn or black beans to your salsa. If you feel that salsa without those ingredients is just not salsa, consider separately canning those ingredients and adding them when serving. Remember you should heat the corn and beans and then let them cool before adding to the salsa.

Remember to follow those recipe directions carefully and enjoy that salsa.

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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Grilling those summer veggies

Now is the time to enjoy all of the great fresh vegetables from our gardens or the farmers markets. There is plenty of time left this summer to grill and you may want to try something different. Grilled vegetables are great with some grilled meat and can make any meal special.

Starting with a clean grill grate will ensure both good tasting and safe vegetables.

Be sure to wash all of your vegetables before cutting into them. Slice or cut your vegetables so that they are thicker than the grill grate openings. Pieces cut too small will slip through the cracks. Vegetables that contain the most water do best on the grill. Consider using summer squash, onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, or corn on the cob. If you want to use more dense vegetables like onions or carrots, pre-cook them to avoid burning the outside of the pieces before they are cooked soft enough to eat.

There are several options for cooking your veggies once they are prepared. You may want to make kebabs by using a wooden or metal skewer. You can use a grilling basket which allows you to use smaller pieces or cook them on aluminum foil or in an aluminum foil packet. The first three methods will truly grill the vegetables, the foil packet will steam the vegetables more than grill them.

It should take about 15-20 minutes for your vegetables to cook. Grilled vegetables are best if they are cooked enough to become tender but not cooked long enough to become mushy. Turn the vegetables only once; this will keep the vegetables looking their best.

You can brush the vegetables with plain olive oil, or add some red wine vinegar to make a great tasting marinade. Bottled Italian salad dressing—the oil and vinegar kind—also tastes great on grilled veggies.

After writing and thinking about grilled vegetables this afternoon I’m ready to go home and fire up the grill after work today.

 

 

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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Safely canning green beans

Green beans are a popular home-grown garden vegetable and are really producing right now. They produce so well we often end up with more than we can eat or share. Many people turn to canning the green beans to enjoy at a later date. Just like with any other home-canned food, it is important to ALWAYS use tested recipes/recommendations and proper procedures.

We have recently received calls from people still wanting to can their green beans in a boiling water bath. Green beans MUST be pressure canned. They are a low-acid food and require the higher temperature to destroy any botulism that may be present.

Botulism is a potentially deadly food poisoning. The Clostridium Botulinum spores that are common in soil can be heat activated and then turn into cells. Those growing cells can create a toxin leading to botulism in oxygen-free canned foods.

Just this week I had a caller say they understood all that but wondered if anyone had actually gotten sick or died from botulism. The answer is yes. The National Center for Home Food Preservation references a case of a nurse in her 30s and her two young children that were sickened by botulism in home-canned green beans. The mother had to be placed on a ventilator. Early signs of foodborne botulism, according to Mayo Clinic, include dry mouth, facial weakness on both sides of face, blurred or double vision, drooping eyelids, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps, progressive difficulty in speaking and swallowing, and paralysis. Signs and symptoms typically begin between 12 and 36 hours after the toxin gets into the body. But the start of symptoms can range from a few hours to several days depending on the amount of toxin ingested. It is indeed serious. Please do not put your health at risk by under-processing your green beans.

Tested recipe sites include the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Preserve the Taste of SummerSo Easy to Preserve from the University of Georgia, the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, and the Ball books with a copyright of 2009 or later. I have included a link to the National Center for home Food Preservation’s site for safely canning green beans: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_04/beans_snap_italian.html

We so enjoy and appreciate all our callers and want you to all be safe this canning season!

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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How to pack your cooler

Summertime often means picnic, beach, and car trip time for us! We often take a cooler with us in the car for snacks and beverages. It is important to keep foods cold and that is best achieved with a full cooler. If your cooler is not full you may want to consider adding extra ice cubes to fill it up. If your cooler doesn’t have a thick well-insulated lid you may also want to consider packing a thick towel on top of everything under the lid. If you can chill your cooler ahead of time that will help keep cold foods cold longer. If you do not have time to chill it, room temperature is more helpful than packing a warm cooler you have just retrieved from your garage or attic.
Place your food and drinks, which should be in leak-proof resealable containers or plastic bags in the bottom of the cooler first then put the ice on top. You should plan on about 1/2 pound of ice for every quart your cooler holds. Foods and drinks should be packed pre-chilled.
As the ice melts you may be tempted to drain the water out of the cooler but there is no need to do that as the cold water will also help keep the contents of the cooler chilled.
Summer is my favorite season and I am looking forward to packing up a cooler and heading out many days!

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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