Got “Coconut” Milk?

When a recipe calls for coconut milk, who knew that getting the right “coconut milk” could be so confusing?  It should not be but with grocers offering so many different incarnations of this tropical nut that go by the same or very similar names, confusion abounds.  And to make selecting even more daunting, the different products really aren’t interchangeable.  Touted as the ultimate non-dairy beverage, bursting with health benefits that run the gamut from aiding with weight loss to preventing heart disease to balancing cholesterol levels, one needs to know which to use for what.  So what is coconut milk and all of its incarnations?  Which should we use for what?

Coconut milk is the real deal and the one you want for cooking.  True coconut milk comes in a can and is  found in the international aisle usually near the Asian food items.  It is a thick, fatty liquid made from steeping shredded coconut in hot water at a 1:1 ratio resulting in a thick, pourable product.  Good brands will have a thick cream that separates and rises to the top.  The more separation and thicker the cream, the better the product.  It has a coconut-y flavor making it a key ingredient in many Asian and Indian dishes.

Light coconut milk is merely a watered down version (1:2 ratio) of full-fat coconut milk.  Light coconut milk does not separate to give coconut cream.  It may be substituted for half-and-half in recipes with approximately half the fat of half-and-half.

Coconut water is a hip new drink made from the liquid that is naturally inside the wild, immature coconut nut.  Drink it, but do not cook with it.  Being high in potassium, it is a popular post-workout beverage due to its nutritional value.  It is also an excellent substitute for liquids used in sorbets.  Coconut water is blended with coconut cream to create coconut milk.

Carton of coconut milk is a beverage usually found in the dairy section of the store next to the other non-dairy milks.  It may be unsweetened or sweetened (with sugar) and is used as you would dairy milk for sipping, splashing on to cereal, with coffee, or in recipes.  Coconut milk beverage can be used as a substitute for low fat or whole milk in a 1:1 ration for general cooking and baking.  However, it should not be substituted for canned coconut milk when a recipe calls for such; they are simply different products.  The difference is mainly lots of water. To make the refrigerated version more drinkable, palatable, and comparable as a beverage alternative, manufacturers add water. So much so that it dilutes the calories from about 450 calories per cup to about 45. Some varieties also have added sugars, gums, and thickeners.

Coconut cream is the most concentrated version of coconut milk.  With a high fat content and low water density, it is incredibly rich and will make any recipe creamier.  It can be used to thicken soups or to make vegan whipped cream.  Sold in cans, it is also found in the international aisle near the Asian food items.

Sweetened cream of coconut is coconut cream that has been sweetened.  It is incredibly sweet and intended for cocktails like a Pina Colada or to be used in a frozen dessert.

Coconut milk has erroneously gotten a bad rap because it is high in saturated fats.  Research reveals that coconut milk has unique fatty acids which provide a healthy source of fat, thereby contributing to the fore mentioned health benefits.  Further, new research finds that people who include healthy fats in their diet, like those found in coconut milk (medium-chain triglycerides), eat less than those who do not.

In a ‘coconut’ shell—with a little coconut milk knowledge, choosing the right milk for the job does not have to be confusing nor do you need to be overly concerned about the saturated fat found in coconut milk.

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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Preventing Unwanted House Mouse Guests

Cool, fall weather has arrived and along with leaves and nippy mornings, bugs and rodents are scurrying to find warmer quarters.  Often times, those warmer quarters are in the home.  Of these invaders, the common or European house mouse is one of the most troublesome and definitely an unwanted house guest.

Droppings, fresh gnawing, and tracks are usually the first signs of mouse activity.  Other signs might include nests made from shredded paper or other fibrous material and their characteristic musky odor.  They are most active at night but it is not uncommon for them to be seen during the day, too.  Common locations for these critters are under the sink, in cabinets or drawers, on the counter, and under furniture with their trails usually running along the baseboards.

These little critters require minimal space to invade a home.  Mice can squeeze through openings slightly larger than ¼ inch, just enough space to get their whiskers and head through.  They are excellent climbers and can run up any rough vertical surface.  They are also “tight rope artists” in that can run horizontally along very thin wires, cables, or ropes.  According to Dennis Ferraro, Nebraska Extension Wildlife Specialist, mice can jump straight up two and half feet and across three feet or drop vertically eight feet and keep running at a speed of six miles per hour.

Further, mice have a tremendous reproductive capacity.  In a year’s time, a female may have five to ten litters of usually five to six young born 19-21 days after mating.  Mice reach reproductive maturity in six to ten weeks.  The life span of a mouse is usually nine months to one year.

So with these facts in mind, prevention is key and involves three components—mouse-proof construction, good sanitation or removal of sources of food and water, and population reduction.

Mouse-proof construction.  The most successful and permanent form of house mouse control is to prevent them from entering in the first place by eliminating all openings through which they can enter.  Conduct a thorough inspection of your home—inside and out.  Look for gaps in siding where the siding meets the foundation or where pipes and other utilities enter.  Cracks in foundations and loose-fitting doors without proper weather stripping are other obvious places where mice can get in.  Since mice are good climbers, don’t forget to check openings around the roof, including attic vents.  Use rodent-proof materials to close all openings such as steel wool, hardware cloth, galvanized sheet metal or metal flashing, cement mortar, caulking, and spray foam insulation or combinations of these materials.  For how-to-do details, see Rodent-Proof Construction and Exclusion Methods prepared by Cornell, Clemson, UNL, and Utah State Universities.

Sanitation.  Eliminating their food and water source is critical to controlling them.  Mice are opportunistic feeders that will eat any food discarded by humans.  Therefore, clean up spilled food or remove open food in cupboards, drawers, counter tops, and floors under stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers.  Place all accessible food in mouse-proof containers such as glass or store in the refrigerator or freezer.  Store pet and bird food in sealed containers.  Keep cabbage can lids tightly sealed.  Remove pet food and water dishes when not in use and do not leave a glass of water or dirty dishes sitting in the sink.

Outdoors, remove clutter and debris from the perimeter of the house.  Keep grass, shrubs, and other vegetation trimmed around the house.  Remove any container that could hold water.

Population reduction. Population reduction can be done through a combination of rodenticides, trapping, or by professional extermination.  Spring traps are the preferred method; baiting with peanut butter usually works well as long as you put the bait far enough in that the mouse has to work for it.  Baits or poisons used indoors should be avoided if possible.  Often pets and children are unintended victims of baits and poisons.  And mice usually die in the walls or some other hard-to-get-at location where they discompose for a month emitting a foul smell, shedding bacteria, and attracting maggots. Should you need to clean up after a mouse infestation, follow these tips.

A few steps now can prevent those troublesome and unwanted house mice from becoming your guests!



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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Is My Well Water Safe? FALL Into a Pattern of Routine Testing

Sometimes we need reminders to do routine chores and sometimes it helps to designate those chores to a certain time of the year to make sure we get them done.  For me, one of those chores is getting our well water tested and I have found FALL is a great time to make sure our well is in good shape and providing safe drinking water.

Even if you believe that your well water is safe to drink, it’s important to periodically sample and test your water to assess any health related concerns the water may create. The information you receive from the test will help you make informed decisions on well maintenance and water treatment. It will also help you determine if you need to call a certified well contractor or seek an alternative source of drinking water.

At a minimum, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommends bacteria and nitrate testing be performed at least once per year.  Nitrates pose a threat to infants and pregnant or nursing mothers, while the presence of bacteria indicates a pathway to disease-causing bacteria to enter the well.  You may also want to have your well water tested if you notice any changes in color, taste, odor, hardness, corrosion, sediment, etc.  Water can also be tested for naturally occurring contaminants like arsenic, fluoride, and radium.

To assist families with well water testing, nearly all of Iowa’s counties participate in the Grants-to-Counties Well Program. The Grants-to-Counties program can provide free or cost-sharing for water sampling and analysis to qualifying private drinking water systems. To find out if your county participates in the Grants-to-County Well Program or to arrange sampling of your water system, please refer to the pdf list of County Environmental Health Sanitarians on the DNR page and contact the Sanitarian’s office in the county where the well is located.

The grant program also assists with the cost of filling abandoned wells.  Old wells pose a safety hazard as well as a hazard to ground water contamination.  State law requires old abandoned wells to be properly filled to eliminate any hazards.

Minnesota residents can find more information on how to sample and test well water at the Minnesota Department of Health’s pages, Owners Guide to Wells – Well Management Program and Water Quality/Well Testing/Well Disinfection – Well Management Program.

The South Dakota Water Resources Institute (SD WRI) no longer provides interpretation of water analysis and recommendations for the suitability of water. However, their website offers a variety of analysis options and analysis packages which include analysis for the most commonly occurring water quality issues.

So if you have well water and haven’t set a time aside for routine testing, perhaps you, too, would like to schedule it for FALL to establish a routine.


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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