Saturday, June 24, 2017

Quick Meals - No Time to Defrost

Tip #8 - Forgot to defrost something for dinner?  This is a common problem at our house.  We get so busy, no one remembers to get food out of the freezer.  Defrosting takes time we often don't have, so we would end up going out.  

To save your budget and have a healthier meal, experiment with cooking food directly from a frozen state.  Many foods can be cooked this way with a delicious outcome.  We have been trying these ideas with great success.

Utilize your oven to cook fish or chicken breasts from frozen.  Place the pieces in a baking pan with a little margarine, to start.  Place in your oven and turn it to 350 degrees.  After about 30 minutes, remove from the oven and season as you would like and finish cooking.  This usually takes about 45 minutes for thick pieces, but be sure to check with a thermometer to make sure they are done.  Depending on the thickness of the fish, it may cook much faster.

Ground beef can be browned in a pan over low heat with some water which produces steam and helps it thaw faster.  Use about 1/2 cup of water and be sure to break up the big pieces as you can.  This is great for a quick taco or burrito meal, spaghetti, or a skillet meal.

Roasts can be cooked from frozen in your oven as well.  Set your oven to 325 degrees and put the roast in a roaster pan with a liquid of your choice and your favorite herbs.  The roast will be done in a couple of hours, but if it is a tough roast, turn the oven down to 225 degrees after the two hours and slow cook it for several hours.

A great appliance to have for quick meals, is a pressure cooker or one of the new multi-cookers.  There are many varieties, so be sure to read the directions.   Some go from slow cook to fry, these work similar to a slow cooker.  If you are going to cook from a frozen state in one of these be sure to use a bake or roast setting.  The pressure cooker is an excellent way to quickly defrost and cook meat.  Be sure to follow the directions that come with your appliance for proper times.  Products from the pressure cookers are usually tender and moist.  The pressure cooker cooks by raising the cooking temperature above boiling, so food defrosts and cooks quickly.

It is not safe to defrost food in a slow cooker or crock pot.  Bacteria grows quickly when food is between the temperatures of 40 to 140 degrees for more than 2 hours.  Crockpots or Slow cookers do not get hot enough to defrost and heat the food to safe levels and keep the out of the danger zone for less than two hours.

Food Handlers Training Course in Logan Tuesday

Here is a great chance for those of you who live in Logan and serve food at your church, the American Legion, or a school concession stand.  The ServSafe course will be offered Tuesday, June 27 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm at Logan School's Board Room.  The course is $17.00 if you want a book or $12.00 if you already have a book.  Please bring a check or cash.  In order for me to have enough tests, please call the Extension Office at 461-0562 to reserve a spot.  This class will be taught by Brenda Bishop, Quay County Extension FCS Agent.  Currently, the pass rate for those taking this class from Brenda is 93%.

Friday, June 9, 2017

An Abunance of Apricots

At our class last night, one of the ladies had sacks of Apricots to share.  Often our fruit trees freeze, so fresh apricots are a rarity.   She is expecting to have a lot of apricots over the next couple of weeks.  Apricots make a great snack, dessert or breakfast item.  In addition to Vitamin C, apricots are very high in Vitamin A.  Six medium fresh apricots can supply more than 1/3 of the normal daily requirement of Vitamin A.  One apricot has approximately 16 calories and is one of the best fruit sources of minerals like iron.

Apricots are a delicate fruit and need to be handled with some care. Avoid dropping or setting items on apricots.  Store fully ripened apricots in the refrigerator, which will slow down the ripening process, keeping the fruit fresh longer. To ripen slightly green apricots, store them in a closed paper bag in a warm room. Fresh fruit should be washed under cold water to remove any dirt or bacteria before eating. Fresh apricots should maintain their quality for 2 to 5 days depending on their condition.  They can be eaten raw or cooked.  Some people cook and puree them for use in breads and cookies.  They also make great jams and preserves.

Freezing apricots is a quick and easy way to have apricots all year long. To freeze apricots submerge the fruit in boiling water for ½ minute to keep the peel from toughening. You do not have to peel apricots. Slice in half and remove the pit. Treat to keep them from turning brown with a commercial solution of ascorbic acid or by dipping fruit in unsweetened pineapple or lemon juice.

If you want sweetened apricots, a good way to freeze apricots is in a sugar pack.  Make the pack by mixing prepared fruit with sugar and ascorbic acid in a large bowl. Use ½ to 1/3 cup sugar to each quart of prepared fruit. Gently stir until the fruit is coated and the sugar is dissolved. Pack the fruit into a freezer container and freeze.  Frozen apricots are delicious in pies, crisps, and cobblers. 

Another great way to preserve apricots for later use is by drying them.  They make nutrient packed snacks to take on the go.  Fruit may be dried in your oven or a food dehydrator.  For details on how to dry, freeze or can apricots, check out these pages from NMSU's Extension Service.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Quinoa Salad With Mediterranean Flavors

We have many new products in our grocery store and one of those is Quinoa.  We even have choices in type of Quinoa or seasoned mixes with Quinoa.

Quinoa is a “pseudo-cereal.”  A food is cooked and eaten like grains and have a similar nutrient profile. Botanically, quinoa is related to beets, chard and spinach, and in fact the leaves can be eaten as well as the grains.  Quinoa is actually a seed.

It’s not surprising that quinoa supports good health, as it’s one of the only plant foods that’s a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids in a healthy balance. Not only is the protein complete, but quinoa grains have an usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain. (For comparison, wheat germ comprises less than 3% of a wheat kernel.) Quinoa is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure.

What’s more, quinoa is gluten free, which makes it extremely useful to the celiac community and to others who may be sensitive to more common grains such as wheat – or even to all grains in the grass family.

Quinoa is all the rage and has become the hottest trend in restaurant side dishes.  Dishes made with Quinoa are highlighted in many cooking shows. Today, an amazing range of products are made with quinoa, from breakfast cereals to beverages.   Quinoa pasta is popular among those following a gluten-free diet, and the grain is a favorite ingredient in granolas, breads, and crackers. Home bakers can try “ancient grain” blends or cook with quinoa flakes and flours.

Quinoa has quickly become a favorite of whole grain cooks, because its tiny grains are ready to eat in just 15 minutes!  You can tell when it’s done, because you’ll see that little white tail– the germ of the kernel – sticking out. Like couscous, quinoa benefits from a quick fluff with a fork just before serving.

Quinoa has a subtle nutty taste that marries well with all kinds of ingredients. But make sure you rinse it well before cooking: quinoa grows with a bitter coating, called saponin, that fends off pests and makes quinoa easy to grow without chemical pesticides. While most quinoa sold today has had this bitter coating removed, an extra rinse is a good idea to remove any residue.

For more information on Quinoa, read this article from the Whole Grains Council

 Here is a link to a tasty salad that will be the hit at your next BBQ and it can be ahead of time.

Quinoa Salad With Mediterranean Flavors - Recipes Article

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Never Fear Pine Sap Again

Summer means camping trips!  And in New Mexico that means mountains and pine trees.  Kids and pine trees often create a laundry challenge as sap gets on clothing.  Sap can be a challenge to remove, but the American Cleaning Institute has created a video to help us out with an easy way to remove pine sap.  Check it out!

Link to video on Cleaning Pine Sap

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Prevent Falls With Better Balance

Over the past two weeks, I have presented a program on Balance.  As we get older we tend to have more balance issues and we begin to fear falling.  

One reason we have fear is that about 90 percent of osteoporosis-related hip fractures and more wrist and pelvic fractures result from falls.  We tend to lose bone as we get older.  We also lose our ability to stay in balance.  These combined changes dramatically increase the risk of falls and fractures.  Health statistics show a rise in fractures for women starting around age 45.

Losing your balance is a part of life. It happens all the time.  As we get older, however, things such as vision problems, inner ear problems, or weakened hips and ankles can throw off our balance more often. When young people get off balance, they can react quickly. Muscles kick in to stabilize us and we don’t fall down. But as we age, we have to work a little harder to keep those muscles strong.  Each year, more than one-third of people age 65 or older fall. Falls and fall-related injuries, such as hip fracture, can have a serious impact on an older person's life. If you fall, it could limit your activities or make it impossible to live independently.

Balance exercises, along with certain strength exercises, can help prevent falls by improving your ability to control and maintain your body's position, whether you are moving or still. Strengthening and balance exercises work together.  The process of balancing will help strengthen core muscles and stronger muscles will improve balance.  Spending just 5 minutes a day will help you improve your balance and prevent falls.

Balance exercises are easy and can be done at any level.  Balance exercises are done slowly.  Have a chair or counter close by so you can hold on.  As you become stronger, slowly lighten your grip as you do the exercises.  Before you know it you will just be using a couple of fingers and then no hands at all.  As you progress you can do the same moves and increase their complexity by closing your eyes or moving your head or moving your arms.  

Good balance depends on vision, fitness and agility.  During this program we participated in screening tests that ruled out possible causes for poor balance and rated current balance.    Balance exercises work our brain as much as our body.  As we work on balance, we actually strengthen our core muscles. Research shows that balance training can reduce falls in older men and women by about 50 percent.

The good news is that balance improves quickly by practicing daily.  Here are a couple of exercises to get your started.

Flamingo Stand
Stand with feet together and arms relaxed at sides. Hold onto a chair for support if needed.
Bend one knee to lift the foot slightly off the ground and balance with your other leg.
Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with other leg.

Single Limb Stance With Arm
Stand with feet together and arms relaxed at sides. Hold onto a chair for support if needed.
Raise your left arm overhead and raise your left leg forward and off the floor.
Hold for 10 seconds then repeat on other side.

If you live in Quay County and have a group that would benefit from this program, call the Extension Office at 461-0562 to schedule a program.