Millipede (and Friends) Invasion

Recently the following question came to the AnswerLine inbox: I have little worm-like bugs, both dead and alive, in my basement; they are especially found in the corners and damp areas. How do I get rid of these?

AnswerLine replied: Without a picture, we cannot be certain. However, something that is common and fits your description is a type of millipede. They are found in damp areas around foundations, basements, etc. Here is an Extension publication from the University of Minnesota that has some photos and management instructions: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/sowbugs-millipedes-centipedes/

Reply: It is Millipedes.  Thanks for the help.

With the unusual wet conditions that the Midwest is experiencing this year, it is quite possible that many will be seeing millipedes and their counterparts (sowbugs, centipedes, pillbugs, roly-polys) in basements and crawl spaces, around foundations, and damp places in the yard this year.

Spirobolid millipedes gathered on a piece of tree bark

Millipedes and company are unusual arthropods or a many-legged relative of insects. Millipedes, usually dark brown in color, have worm-like bodies with two pairs of legs per body segment and a pair of antennae. When they die, they usually coil because coiling is their first means of defense. Dead or alive, they can simply be swept or vacuumed and disposed of outside.

While they do frighten people, they are more of a nuisance than harmful. They do not bite or pose any danger to humans, transmit diseases to plants or animals, or cause damage to the home or food per information provided by Colorado State University Extension. They often move into the home in the spring and fall but unless they find moisture, they will usually die within two days.

These many-legged insect relatives are actually beneficial in the landscape. They feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insect pests and, like worms, recycle decaying organic matter.

If infestation is a problem, the University of Minnesota and Colorado State University Extension publications linked above provide management information.

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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Blanching?

We are starting to get calls about freezing and blanching fruits and vegetables. We often explain to callers that blanching is a quality step and not a safety step. Blanching vegetables will kill the enzymes present that will continue to soften the food even in the freezer. Blanching will also protect the color of the vegetable. The directions for blanching are often confusing for callers.

We tell callers to blanch vegetables in small batches; work with a quart of product at a time. Start water heating on the stove and when it boils, add the vegetables. Wait until the food returns to a boil to begin timing the blanching time. When the time is up, remove the vegetables from the boiling water and plunge them into ice water. The ice water will stop the cooking process. Plan to cool the vegetables for at least as long as the blanching time. Cooling for a bit longer will not hurt the quality of the food and will help it cool much faster in the freezer. Callers can choose from freezing in a container or freezing on a tray and then transferring vegetables into a freezer bag or container after 24 hours. Tray freezing will allow the caller to enjoy any amount of vegetable at a time without thawing an entire container of food.

Happy blanching!

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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Keeping Asparagus Fresh

While fresh asparagus from the garden season should be nearing an end, the asparagus in my garden is just getting into full swing; like me, I think it has been looking for warmer temperatures and sunshine which have escaped us for much of spring. At any rate, I recently picked more than we could use so shared some with a couple of friends. Both asked, “how do you keep it fresh?”

The method I use for keeping asparagus garden fresh is to put the spears in a small amount of water in the refrigerator.  I use a wide-mouth pint or quart jar depending upon the size of the spears. I bundle a group of asparagus spears with a rubber band, pop the bundle, cut-ends down, into the jar and add about an inch of water. I place the jar of spears inside a loose fitting plastic bag to minimize moisture loss and prevent odors from getting to the spears before placing in the refrigerator. The spears seem to keep very well for at least two weeks and often longer.

The same procedure works well for purchased asparagus. However, I trim about an inch from the dry ends before placing them in the water. Depending upon the age of the asparagus at the time of purchase, I find that 7 to 10 days is the maximum time purchased asparagus stays fresh.

Another method is to wrap the ends of the spears with a wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag.

You will want to watch your asparagus and use it before it goes bad. Asparagus is no longer fresh when the heads start to droop or get soft. If the heads are simply drooping and are not soft, use immediately. If the heads are soft, the head can be removed and the rest of the stalk used; stalks make great asparagus soup. When the stalks become limp and start to slack, the asparagus is no longer good and should be discarded.

The garden asparagus season will soon be over.  Harvest should be stopped when the stalks are the size of a pencil or less.  Make the season last as long as possible by keeping your spears fresh and usable long after the last cutting is taken.

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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Summer Baking with Kids

Summer is nearly upon us and many of us will be looking for fun things to do with the children in our lives. One thing I love to do with my grandchildren is bake. I recently attended a cookie decorating class in hopes of picking up a few tips about some new techniques or products to use. The cookies we used were homemade (which are always fun to do with children) but if you find you don’t have enough time to do everything, using refrigerated cookie dough works just fine. There is a wide range of cookie cutters available on the market today for most any interest your children would have. If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for, trace a pattern and make your own!

 

Once your cookies have baked and cooled, frost with your favorite sugar cookie icing. Buttercream and Royal frostings are always popular. Experiment with making different colors of frosting using gel or powdered coloring. Put the prepared frostings in a baggie, cut one corner of the baggie diagonally and let the children use their creative skills to add frosting to the cookies.

The class I attended introduced me to Sprinkle Pop which is one of many brands of sprinkle type toppings available on the market in many different forms. Some of the varieties include sanding sugar which is translucent and quite fine and delicate; crystal sugar is also translucent but has larger, coarser crystals; nonpareils are round; quins come in many different shapes; edible glitter; and dragees which have a hard outer shell. It is important to be a good label reader when purchasing decorations for your cookies to make sure they are all edible. Some decorations will be labeled for use as decoration only and should not be consumed. They should be removed before serving the cookies. The FDA advises to avoid the use of non-edible food decorative products.

 

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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Tree Sap?

Parking your car underneath a tree can actually do permanent damage to the finish of your car. It seems that we have all experienced parking under a tree and discovering some sap on the hood or trunk of the car. I always thought this was just a minor inconvenience in life and never worried too much about removing the sap. According to Consumer Reports magazine, “Heat accelerates how sap sticks to the paint. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remove.” Sap left on the car can actually eat through the paint.

The magazine recommends using rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth to remove sap. Test it on an inconspicuous area of the car before attacking the sap on the hood. If rubbing alcohol does not seem to work, some specialized cleaners remove both sap and bug stains. As we do with stains on clothing, wash the car after using either of these products. Waxing the car will help to further protect the finish on the car.

If you find sap on the windows of the car, remove it with a plastic scraper. If necessary, a single edged razor blade can also remove sap. Just be careful not to scratch the glass.

I will look more carefully at my parking spots if I need to park under a tree at my grandsons’ baseball games this summer.

 

 

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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Potato Peelings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

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

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Allergies

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has deemed May National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. In addition, the third week in May is designated Food Allergy Awareness Week. Allergies have become really important and can mean life or death to the nearly 15 million people in the US who are affected by food allergies. The Centers for Disease Control estimate four to six percent of children and four percent of adults are affected by food allergies.

A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system perceives a certain food as dangerous or harmful. The body reacts by causing symptoms. Those symptoms are an allergic reaction and can range from mild to severe. The foods that cause the allergic reactions are called allergens. There are eight major food allergens: Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Wheat, Soy, Fish, and Crustacean Shellfish. There is currently no cure for food allergies so avoiding the food with the allergen is the most effective way to not suffer a reaction. Food allergies are most common in young children but can appear at any age. Some of the allergies are occasionally outgrown but not always. The most common ones that are occasionally outgrown are milk, egg, wheat and soy. Children with food allergies are two to four times more likely to have asthma or other allergic diseases.

Most food related symptoms occur within two hours of ingesting the food. Sometimes the reaction can happen within minutes. An initial reaction may produce mild symptoms but that does not guarantee all reactions will be similar. The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. It is life-threatening and can effect breathing, blood pressure and heart rate. Because it can be fatal it must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine. You may know people who carry an EpiPen with them because their reactions can be so severe.

If you suspect you or someone you know has a food allergy it is important to have testing done by a board-certified allergist.

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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Freezing Strawberries

I have been seeing strawberries in the grocery store since mid-winter. Before we know it, strawberries will begin bearing in our area. When strawberries are ripe, we get many calls asking for directions to freeze strawberries. So, if you need directions and AnswerLine is not open now, read on.

Freezing or any type of preserving of food never improves the quality of the food. So choose only fully ripe and firm berries. Look for a nice deep red color on the berries. Do not freeze anything that is immature, green, or damaged. Always wash produce well before freezing. Remove the caps from the berries.

Often, the recommendation for freezing fruit includes using a sugar syrup. The reason for this is to preserve the color and texture of the food. We do not use syrups to make the berries sweeter. There are several different syrups to choose. You will want to choose the one that best fits how you will use the strawberries once you have thawed them. Whole berries are best to freeze in syrup.

 

Syrups to use when freezing fruit

Type of syrup Percent syrup Cups of sugar Cups of water Yield of syrup
Very Light

10%

½

4

4 ½ cups
Light

20%

1

4

4 ¾ cups
Medium

30%

1 ¾

4

5 cups
Heavy

40%

2 ¾

4

5 1/3 cups
Very Heavy

50%

4

4

6 cups

 

You can also freeze whole berries in a sugar pack. Simply add ¾ cup of sugar to a quart of strawberries. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves or you can let it stand for 15 minutes. Place into a container but allow enough room so the strawberries can expand in the freezer without pushing the lid off.

If you prefer sliced berries, use the sugar pack after you have prepared and sliced the berries. Stir until the sugar dissolves or let them sit for 15 minutes. Freeze and 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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Cupcakes

Cupcakes made by Beth Marrs

One of my favorite hobbies is baking. Now that I am an “empty nester”, there is a limit on how often and what sort of foods I can bake. Baking bread every week helps satisfy that need to bake but I also love reading about cooking and baking. Yesterday I read an interesting blog on the King Arthur Flour website. The blog had directions for making cupcakes out of your favorite cake recipe. This blog included some information that I had not heard before so I thought that it would be fun to share that information.

Most cake recipes will make great cupcakes. I had never thought of making angel food cupcakes or chiffon cake cupcakes and apparently, they do not make great cupcakes. I think with the difficulty of making those cakes, you would be happier with the full sized version.

It has been a while since I have needed to make cupcakes so I had not realized the variety of cupcake pans available. When the kids were home, I think that the mini cupcakes would have disappeared too quickly. Making jumbo cupcakes might have made the kids happy but would not have made enough cupcakes for everyone to have more than one.

It does not matter what size pan you choose, you will want to fill the wells in the pans most of the way full. King Arthur Flour says to fill them about 4/5 full. I did not know that the baking temperature affects the shape of the top of the cupcake. Using a lower temperature like 325° (but a slightly longer baking time) will yield a flatter topped cupcake. Sometimes this is desirable depending on how you want to decorate the cupcake. Baking at a lower temperature will also allow the outer rim of the cupcake to brown a bit. If you want a nice, domed top to the cupcake, bake at 375°. This higher temperature activates the baking power in the cake and results in a more even crumb inside the cake. You will also shorten the oven time for the cupcakes.

I have always wondered how to calculate the baking time for cupcakes and King Arthur Flour has some tips for that, too. They say to reduce baking time by 5% if your recipe called for 9” pans and you plan to bake at the same temperature listed in the recipe. If your recipe called for a 9”x13” cake pan, reduce baking time by as much as 40-50%. However, the most important thing they recommend is recognizing when the cupcakes are done cooking. The surface should be lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center should look crumb free when removed. The cupcakes should spring back if lightly touched. If you have a thermometer, you can insert that and if the temperature is between 205° and 210° the cupcakes are done.

This makes me want to leave the office and go home and bake some cake. Or cupcakes.

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.

More Posts - Website

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