Oatmeal: It’s a Keeper!

 

Jar of oats

Hot cereals, such as oatmeal, are money-saving breakfast foods. Not only do they cost much less than cold breakfast cereals, but they also keep longer on the shelf. A box of oat ring cereal, for example, has a shelf life of 6–8 months. A box of oatmeal can last up to three years! This means that if you’re an oatmeal fan, you can buy it in bulk and not have to worry about it “going bad.”

To ensure the longest shelf life for all cereals, keep them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place where the temperature remains stable. Changes in temperature can cause moisture to condense from the air inside packages. Moisture can cause mold to grow. A dense box of whole grains generally lasts longer than a box of cereal rings, flakes, or puffs because it contains less air.

For more tips on safely storing grains and other dry foods, visit the website www.eatbydate.com/grains/.

Buying Fresh Produce? Keep It Fresh?

Fruits and vegetables come in terrific colors and flavors. Just as their nutritional benefits differ, the way in which you store fresh produce differs too! The required storage temperature and humidity level varies depending on the type of fruit or vegetable. Avoid placing produce in a sealed plastic bag on your countertop. This slows ripening and may increase off-odors and decay. Use the guides below to store your garden bounty.

fresh produceStore these at room temperature, making sure they are clean, dry, well ventilated, and away from direct sunlight:

  • Tomatoes, onions, potatoes, melons, bananas, pumpkins, and winter squash

Ripen these on the counter, then store in the refrigerator:

  • Avocado, kiwifruits, peaches, nectarines, pears, and plums

Most other fresh produce keeps best stored in a clean refrigerator at 40°F or below.

  • Store fruit in a different refrigerator crisper drawer than vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas, which can shorten the storage life of vegetables. Some vegetables give off odors that can be absorbed by fruits and affect their quality.

Source: Amy Peterson and Alice Henneman from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Leftovers Don’t Last Forever

leftoversSometimes “leftover night” can be a fun game of take-your-pick for dinner! However, it might not end up so enjoyable if the food is no longer safe to eat. Follow these tips for safe leftovers:

  • Set your refrigerator temperature at 40°F or below. When storing hot foods, store them in shallow containers no more than 2” deep, so that the food cools to 41°F (or lower) quickly.
  • Follow the “4-Day Throw Away” rule: if the leftovers are not eaten on the fourth day after storing, throw them away! Download the 4-day Throw Away app at www.4daythrowaway.org for your smartphone.
  • Leave a pen and sticky notes near the fridge. Label leftovers with the date when you prepared them.
  • Make a “use-up” list. List the leftovers you have in the refrigerator and the freezer. Post it on your fridge. Create meal combinations to use up the leftovers while they are still safe to eat.

Sources: ISU Extension and Outreach Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website, www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings

ISU Extension and Outreach Food Safety website, www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety

Herbs and spices – part II

Last week we talked about the distinctive flavor of spices and herbs. Here’s some information on how to use them when cooking fruits and veggies and details on how to substitute fresh for dry or vice versa.

Can I substitute fresh for dry herbs and spices?

  • ¼ teaspoon powdered = ¼ to 1 teaspoon dried crumbled = 2 to 3 teaspoon fresh
  • Chop fresh herbs fine to allow for more flavor to be released.
If you are cooking: Try flavoring it with:
Asparagus Caraway, mustard, nutmeg, tarragon
Beets Bay leaf, caraway, cloves, ginger
Berries Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla
Broccoli Mustard, nutmeg, oregano, tarragon
Cabbage Caraway, celery seed, cumin, curry, fennel
Carrots Cinnamon, cloves, dill, ginger, marjoram
Cauliflower Cayenne, celery seed, chili powder, nutmeg
Corn Celery seed, cumin, curry powder, onion, parsley
Cucumbers Chives, dill, garlic, mint, parsley, vinegar
Green Beans Dill, curry powder, oregano, tarragon, thyme
Greens Onion, pepper
Melons Cardamom, ginger, mint, pepper
Peaches Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
Pears Anise, cinnamon, mint, nutmeg
Peas Dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage
Rhubarb Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla
Spinach Cinnamon, mint, nutmeg, oregano, sage, thyme
Summer Squash Cloves, curry powder, nutmeg, rosemary, sage
Tomatoes Basil, bay leaf, dill, onion, oregano, parsley

How long should I keep spices and herbs?

As a general rule, keep herbs or ground spices for 1 year; keep whole spices 2 years.

  • Buy a smaller container until you know how fast you’ll use a spice or herb. If it smells strong and flavorful, it’s probably still potent.
  • Rub a small amount of an herb or ground spice in your hand. If the aroma is fresh, rich, and immediate, it can still flavor foods.
  • Check a whole spice—such as a clove or cinnamon stick—by breaking, crushing, or scraping it before smelling it. Avoid smelling pepper or chili powder as they can irritate your nose.
  • Label date of purchase on container with a permanent marking pen and store away from any sources of heat (e.g., oven, stove top) to maintain their quality.

Source: University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Storing Whole Grains Safely

Because whole grains retain their healthful oils, they are more susceptible to oxidation and need to be stored to prevent deterioration. Heat, light, and air can trigger storing grainsoxidation of the oil in the germ of whole grains.

If you’re shopping in the bulk section, don’t be afraid to sniff the grains, which should have a light sweet scent or no scent at all. If the bin smells oily or moldy, the grains may be rancid.

Once you bring your whole grain home, store it directly in the refrigerator or freezer. You can either keep it in its unopened package or transfer it into an airtight container or plastic zip-top bag.

Since different grains vary in fat content (from about 1.7% for wheat to about 6.9% for oats), the shelf life of the flours made from them varies. In general, most whole grain flours keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 months, and in the freezer for 6-8 months. It is recommended to keep flour in a sealed container to prevent picking up stray odors and tastes from the refrigerator or freezer.

Grains, because their oil is sealed in the original grain kernel and cannot easily oxidize, can keep much longer than flour. Most will keep for several months in a room- temperature cupboard, and for a year in the freezer. Commercially processed whole grain products such as breads, crackers, and pasta are commercially processed to be shelf stable and can be stored in the same manner as those that are not whole grain. General advice on grains and flour: try to buy what you’ll use in 2-3 months.

Safe Storage, Grain by Grain

Whole Wheat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months
Oats – airtight seal, freezer, 3 months
Oat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 2 months Cornmeal – airtight seal, freezer 4-6 months Kernels or Popcorn – airtight seal, freezer, 1 year Rye Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months
Spelt Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 6 months Buckwheat Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 2 months Barley Flour – airtight seal, freezer, 4 months
Brown Rice – airtight seal, cupboard, 5-6 months; freezer, up to a year
Brown Rice Flour – airtight seal, refrigerator, 4-5 months; freezer, up to a year

The Appeal of Apples

Winter brings to mind the aroma and flavor of spiced cider, apple crisp fresh from the oven, taffy apples, and the crunch of biting into a crisp, juicy apple. Enjoy our Hurry-up Baked Apples as a quick, tasty dessert, a snack, or side dish.

apples

How should I store apples to keep their quality as long as possible?
  • Apples like cool temperatures and high humidity. Refrigerate or store in a cool location.
  • Avoid storing apples with bananas or tomatoes. The ethylene gas these fruits naturally release causes apples to soften.
  • To store apples in an unheated shed or basement, leave them in a cardboard box out of direct sunlight.
  • Apples bruise easily so handle them gently to avoid fruit decay.

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