Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fall Cleaning the Refrigerator

My Summer of activities are over and I am able to take some vacation time.  This is the time of year I usually do my "Spring" cleaning.  My list is long, but I really did not have a desire to get started, but an accident inside the refrigerator motivated me to tackle one of the items on my list.  A bottle of wine leaked causing the doors to stick.

Regular cleaning of the refrigerator is important to make sure the food you serve is safe and tasty.  Spills should be wiped up when they happen and weekly the refrigerator should be checked for leftovers that seem to disappear into the back.  Doors and handles should be wiped down weekly.

Many home organizing experts offer tips for cleaning a refrigerator in 5 minutes a day.  I believe that even with a good cleaning routine, it is important to completely take apart the refrigerator and clean shelves and walls at least once a year.  So yesterday was the day at our house.

Ideally, bring an ice chest or two in to store the food while you clean. Remove shelves and wash with hot soapy water.  If you have food residue that does not remove with soapy water, scrub with a baking soda paste.  Don't forget the shelves in the door.

After shelving is clean, wash the inside of the refrigerator with warm water and baking soda.  Don't forget to rinse!  This will help your refrigerator smell better too!  Pay attention to the seal around your door.  Wash with hot soapy water.  If mold is starting to form add a little bleach to your water.

When dry, put your shelving back in and then start putting the food back.  Wipe the bottles of condiments with a damp rag.  Be sure to check the dates and throw out all expired items and of course any old leftovers.

Once your refrigerator is clean, help keep it that way by defrosting food on a tray and setting up a schedule to clean a shelf every few days.

After you finish the refrigerator portion, move to the freezer, following the same steps.  You may need to turn off the freezer while you are wiping down the inside, so your water does not freeze on the sides.  Be sure to check the food for freezer burn and rotate older food to the front or top to be used right away.

The final step is to wash the outside of the refrigerator with warm soapy water or an all purpose cleaner.  Then stand back and enjoy your shiny new refrigerator!  It is worth the effort.  Ours is done just in time for a weekend of cooking and storing food with chile. 

Monday, August 15, 2016


Get Moving Quay County 5K Fun Run/Walk is scheduled for October 1, 2016. This gives you time to begin preparation.  These tips were prepared for your use in preparing for this event, if you choose.  Good luck and we’ll see you October 1st!

1) Current research shows that stretching is not best performed until after exercise. To avoid injury, begin a gradual warmup of 5-10 minutes. This should consist of marching in place, kicking the legs forward and back, several body weight squats, and swinging the arms like a windmill. Finally, a few jumping jacks or short bursts of jogging will complete the warmup, provided you have no joint pain in the knees/hips.

2) Drink 8-12 ounces of water 30-60 minutes prior to your exercise, and consider keeping additional water with you. You may want to ingest 4-8 ounces of water each additional 20-30 minutes, but remember to sip and consume slowly to avoid bloat and cramps.

3) Be prepared. While we never want to turn someone away from a last minute decision to workout, do not attempt to exceed your preparedness. If you have 4-6 weeks to prepare, utilize it. Start by attempting to run or walk ½ of a mile and tack on 1/8 of a mile every other day.

4) Know your surroundings. Preparedness is the best defense against any accident or injury. When possible locate things like water, alternative routes, fenced (or loose dogs), and areas without cell phone reception. Gaze at the ground for snakes and imperfect flooring. 

5) Remember the importance of footwear and proper clothing. Wear a walking or running shoe/sneaker and dress in comfortable fitting clothing, preferably a cotton or cotton blend top, with sweat pants or athletic mesh shorts. Avoid sun burns and poisoning by applying sunscreen when necessary. You may also want a hat or sunglasses, depending on whether or not you are facing the sun. Consider heat and forecasted weather to ensure the best experience possible.

Prepared by:
Phil Tafone, MS – Director of Fitness & Wellness
Mesalands Community College

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Extend the Life of Your Produce

Often when I visit the Farmers' Market, I am excited to see the fresh produce and purchase more than my family can eat in a few days.  If you have this same problem, here are a few tips to help you store your produce for a longer shelf life.

Refrigerate ripe fruits and vegetables to slow down the enzymes that begin to break down produce once it is picked.

Refrigerate fruits and vegetables in perforated plastic bags to help maintain moisture yet provide air flow. Unperforated plastic bags can lead to the growth of mold or bacteria. If you don’t have access to commercial, food-grade, perforated bags, use a sharp object to make several small holes in a food-grade plastic bag (about 20 holes per medium-size bag).

Wash produce before you use it, NOT when you bring it home! Fresh produce has a natural protective coating that helps keep in moisture and freshness. Washing produce before storage causes it to spoil faster. Remove and discard outer leaves.

Vegetables such as potatoes and onions should be stored in a cool place in a bag that allows air flow.  Do not store where they will freeze.

Consider freezing excess produce for use later.

Before using any produce rinse under clean, running water just before preparing or eating. Don’t use soap or detergent as it can get into produce and make you sick. Rub briskly — scrubbing with a clean brush or hands — to clean the surface. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Cut away bruised and damaged areas.  Rinse fruits and vegetables even if they have a peel which will be removed (such as melons and citrus fruit). Bacteria on the outside of produce can be transferred to the inside when they are cut or peeled.

Make Plans To Walk With Us!

Only Three Days Until The County Fair!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Red Onions Everywhere

We received a 35 pound bag of red onions from a neighbor today and learned that an onion truck was in a wreck.  Then several people mentioned that they had onions to give away.  What can you do with this many onion?  We enjoy sauteed onions and vegetables, but don't want them every day.  Red onions are also a nice additions to salads and great for making salsa and pico de gallo.

Dry bulb onions should be kept in a cool, dry, well ventilated place. Do not store whole onions in plastic bags. Lack of air movement will reduce their storage life. They should kept a month or two.  Sweet onions have a higher water content than storage onions, making them more susceptible to bruising, and a shorter shelf life than storage varieties. One way to extend the shelf life of a sweet or high water content onion is to wrap each one in paper towels or newspaper and place them in the refrigerator to keep them cool and dry.

To reduce tearing when cutting onions, first chill the onions for 30 minutes. Then, cut off the top and peel the outer layers leaving the root end intact. (The root end has the highest concentration of sulphuric compounds that make your eyes tear.)  Slice the onion from the top, leaving the root until the end.

 With all of the activities coming up I decided we should preserve some of ours and looked up the directions.  I have never tried this, but what do we have to loose.  The manuals do not recommend freezing because the quality is poor.

To freeze onions for use in soups and casseroles: peel and clean as for eating then water blanch the whole bulb for 3 to 7 minutes until the center is heated.  Cool promptly and drain.  Then package in a freezer appropriate container with 1/2 inch head space.  This sounds easy.

To make onion rings: wash, peel, and slice onions.  Separate into rings.  Water blanch for 10 to 15 seconds.  Cool promptly in ice water, drain and coat with flour.  Dip in milk.  Coat with a mixture of equal parts cornmeal and pancake mix.  Arrange in a single layer on a tray.   Freeze.  Pack into containers using plastic wrap to separate layers.  Seal and Freeze.  To prepare fry frozen rings in 375 degrees oil until golden brown.  I plan to try this over the weekend.

A great way to preserve onions is by drying them.  Remove outer paper shells and wash.  Remove tops and root ends, slice 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  You do not need to blanch, just lay on trays in a single layer.  Dry 3 to 9 hours in a dehydrator.  I plan on trying this tomorrow night.

Onions can also be pressure canned or pickled.  Call the Extension Office, for details on how to can onions.

So just for fun, you may even want to make this for the fair next week, here is a recipe from the National Onion Association.  I bet red onions would make a tastier cake.

Caramelized Chocolate Cake

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup vegetable oil, divided
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar
Easy Fudge Icing (recipe follows)
Melt chocolate in saucepan, stirring over low heat, or in microwave oven. Caramelize onion by sautéing over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes in 2 tablespoons oil in skillet until soft. In large bowl, beat remaining oil with sugar, eggs and vanilla until thoroughly mixed and fluffy, about 2 or 3 minutes. Beat in warm melted chocolate and caramelized onions. Mix flour with baking soda and salt; stir into batter alternately with milk. Divide batter evenly into 2 well-greased and floured 8-inch round layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until a pick inserted into center comes out dry. Cool 15 minutes then invert onto wire racks to thoroughly cool. Spread on icing. Makes 12 servings.

Easy Fudge Icing: melt 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate with 1/2 cup butter in saucepan, stirring often over very low heat. Mix in 1/2 cup hot water then turn into mixing bowl. Beat in about 5 cups powdered sugar, a portion at a time. (Adjust as needed to make a good consistency.) Quickly fill and frost cake while icing is still warm. If some icing gets too cool to spread easily, place it in microwave safe bowl and microwave shortly just until softened and lustrous. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Why Fiber Is Important To Your Diet

What can fiber do for you? Numerous studies have found that diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber are associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, diabetes, digestive disorders, and heart disease. However, since high-fiber foods may also contain antioxidant vitamins, phytochemicals, and other substances that may offer protection against these diseases, researchers can't say for certain that fiber alone is responsible for the reduced health risks.   Recent findings on the health effects of fiber show it may play a role in:

CANCER: A 1992 study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that men who consumed 12 grams of fiber a day were twice as likely to develop precancerous colon changes as men whose daily fiber intake was about 30 grams.

DIGESTIVE DISORDERS: Because insoluble fiber aids digestion and adds bulk to stool, it hastens passage of fecal material through the gut, thus helping to prevent or alleviate constipation. Fiber also may help reduce the risk of diverticulosis, a condition in which small pouches form in the colon wall (usually from the pressure of straining during bowel movements). People who already have diverticulosis often find that increased fiber consumption can alleviate symptoms, which include constipation and/or diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, and mucus or blood in the stool.

DIABETES: As with cholesterol, soluble fiber traps carbohydrates to slow their digestion and absorption. In theory, this may help prevent wide swings in blood sugar level throughout the day.

HEART DISEASE: Clinical studies show that a heart-healthy diet (low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain soluble fiber) can lower blood cholesterol. In these studies, cholesterol levels dropped between 0.5 percent and 2 percent for every gram of soluble fiber eaten per day.

As it passes through the gastrointestinal tract, soluble fiber binds to dietary cholesterol, helping the body to eliminate it. This reduces blood cholesterol levels, which, in turn, reduces cholesterol deposits on arterial walls that eventually choke off the vessel. There also is some evidence that soluble fiber can slow the liver's manufacture of cholesterol, as well as alter low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles to make them larger and less dense. Researchers believe that small, dense LDL particles pose a bigger health threat.  In a Finnish study, each 10 grams of fiber added to the diet decreased the risk of dying from heart disease by 17 percent; in the U.S. study, risk was decreased by 29 percent.

OBESITY: Because insoluble fiber is indigestible and passes through the body virtually intact, it provides few calories. And since the digestive tract can handle only so much bulk at a time, fiber-rich foods are more filling than other foods--so people tend to eat less. Insoluble fiber also may hamper the absorption of calorie dense dietary fat. So, reaching for an apple instead of a bag of chips is a smart choice for someone trying to lose weight.