Safety First During the Holidays

Holiday Safety Graphic.jpgThe holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s important to keep safety in mind so you can avoid accidents and injuries. Consider these tips. 

Toy Safety

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 260,000 children were treated in emergency rooms in the United States for toy-related injuries in 2016 and 2015. Tips for selecting toys:

  1. Consider the age recommendations on the toy, combined with the child’s skill set and interests.
  2. Check out all safety labels to see if the item is flame retardant, flame resistant, washable, non-toxic, etc.
  3. Be sure to check warning labels for choking hazards and other concerns. The toilet paper roll test is a good one to use. If the item fits through a toilet paper roll tube, it is probably a choking hazard.
  4. Inspect all toys for sharp points, edges, materials used (glass, metal, brittle plastics) and any removable parts that may pose a hazard if lost or removed. Before giving toys with these hazards, carefully consider the child’s age, as well as the ages of younger siblings. This can be a particular problem with game pieces and parts that are safe for older family members, but could be dangerous if left around for babies and toddlers to find.
  5. Provide proper safety equipment such as helmets and knee pads for bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc.
  6. Are there strings, cords or ribbons that have the potential to cause strangulation? Long cords on pull toys could be a problem, as well as hanging mobiles in cribs and playpens.
  7. If paints, crayons or art markers are on your list, look on the packaging for “ASTM D-4236.” This means the product has been properly reviewed for potentially toxic contents.
  8. Inspect toys for damage and make repairs if needed. Keeping toys, play equipment and protective gear in good repair will also help protect children from injury.
  9. To receive notices of recalls, visit If you think you may have a toy in your home that has been recalled, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website at

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go to or call the CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772. You can also obtain news releases and recall information on Twitter @OnSafety or by subscribing to the CPSCs free email newsletters.


Electrical Safety

This time of year, there are far too many house fires associated with electrical mishaps. When buying and using decorations with electricity, consider these reminders:

  1. Only buy electrical equipment that displays a label showing a nationally recognized safety testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  2. Be sure to buy decorations and extension cords according to your intended use, whether outdoors or indoors.
  3. Do not overload extension cords and multi-plug power strips, and do not chain them together.
  4. Check for cords that are worn out, frayed or split.
  5. Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation.
  6. Do not remove the ground pin, use a converter to make a three-prong plug fit a two-prong outlet.
  7. Keep outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  8. Send warranty and product registration forms to manufacturers in order to be notified promptly in the event of a product recall.
  9. Keep decorations and cards away from fires and other heat sources such as light fittings.
  10. If you have old Christmas lights, consider buying new ones. Newer options will meet much higher safety standards.
  11. Don’t let children play with lights, as they could swallow the bulbs, and remember to switch off the lights when going out of the house or to bed.
  12. Consider LED lights. They generate less heat — which translates into greater energy-efficiency, but they are also less of a fire risk. LEDs are made with epoxy lenses rather than glass and are much more durable.
  13. If you have an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant.
  14. Be wise and cautious when using space heaters, and make sure smoke alarms are working.


Food Safety

While our food supply is one of the safest in the world, some 76 million people a year get sick from food-borne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Consider these food safety tips:

  1. Clean – hands, cutting boards, tools, etc.
  2. Separate – keep raw meats away from other foods, and use separate cutting boards for raw food.
  3. Cook properly – cook foods to the right temperatures, and use a thermometer. Reheat leftovers to 165 F.
  4. Chill – chill food promptly and properly. Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within two hours unless they are refrigerated. Quickly cool down large batches of soups, stews, etc., and store them in shallow pans. Thaw meats in the refrigerator.
  5. Be especially careful of higher risk foods, such as raw eggs. Eating cookie dough is probably not a wise idea, and neither is drinking homemade eggnog if the eggs used have not been pasteurized (find more tips on safe eggnog).

For further information, visit

This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator, 801-399-8200

More on Cooking for One or Two

Cooking for One or TwoDid you see our tips for cooking for one or two people last week? Here are a few more tips to help you cook food that is delicious and nutritious, and to cut down on wasted food.

Rethink your recipes.

Most recipes that serve four or more can be easily converted to produce a smaller quantity; however, having knowledge of kitchen measurements can be helpful for those tricky conversions that are not as straightforward.

Keep these recipe measurement conversions in mind:

1 cup 16 tbsp.
1 tbsp. 3 tsp.
1 cup 8 fluid ounces
1 fluid ounce 2 tbsp.
1 pint 2 cups
1 quart 2 pints

For example, to make half of a recipe, you would substitute the following:

Recipe Calls For: Use:
1/4 cup 2 tbsp.
1/3 cup 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp.
3/4 cup 6 tbsp.
1 tbsp. 1 1/2 tsp.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

Having a plan for leftovers can be a great way to increase variety in your eating, reduce boredom and eliminate food waste.

For example, a one-pan, roasted vegetable and chicken dish makes an easy first meal and the components can be used in a variety of ways for leftovers.

Sample Recipe: Honey Mustard Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Roasting a pan of vegetables at the beginning of the week can be an easy way to add in extra vegetables over the next couple of days. Leftover vegetables can be frozen for use at a later time. Here are some ideas for using leftover roasted vegetables:

  • Make roasted vegetable tacos. This recipe includes black beans for an inexpensive protein source, and the Mexican flavor profile mixes things up.
  • Create a roasted vegetable + leafy green + whole grain + flavorful toppings bowl. Leafy greens include spinach, kale or mixed salad greens. Try whole grains such as quinoa, farro or brown rice, and add crunchy or flavorful toppings such feta or blue cheese crumbles, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and/or walnuts and a vinaigrette dressing. Try this farro roasted root vegetable bowl.

Similarly, there are many uses for leftover roasted chicken.

  • Add roasted chicken to a soups or to a mixed greens salad.
  • Or, try the leftovers in chicken salad. This honey mustard chicken salad uses a similar flavor profile to the original sheet pan recipe. Substitute 2 tbsp. of light mayonnaise + 2 tbsp. non-fat Greek yogurt for the ¼ cup regular mayonnaise and you’ll pack in extra nutrition without sacrificing flavor.

Keep Food Safety in Mind

  • Remember to use good food safety practice when handling leftovers.
  • To start, food should initially be cooked to proper temperatures. Visit Food to find the proper cooking temperatures for various foods.
  • To cool cooked foods faster, place them in a shallow dish no more than 2 inches deep, and refrigerate promptly. (Foods should be kept in the temperature danger zone (40º-140ºF), or the temperature range that promotes bacterial growth, for less than two hours total.)
  • Never put warm foods directly in the freezer. Instead, cool them in the refrigerator and then put in the freezer.
  • Reheat all leftovers to 165 F. Stir food as it is reheating to make sure it is being heated thoroughly throughout, and test the final temperature with a food thermometer.
  • Keep a thermometer in your refrigerator to make sure the temperature remains at 40 F or below.
  • Refrigerated leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days or discarded. Frozen leftovers can be kept for a few months, depending on the type of food. Visit Food to find the recommended times to store different foods in the refrigerator or freezer.

This article was written by Brittany Bingeman, Extension Assistant Professor FCS, Washington County


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015). 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Retrieved October 5, 2017, from
  2. Henneman A. (2012). Planning Healthy Meals for One or Two – A Checklist. University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension. Retrieved from
  3. Allen R. Cooking for One or Two. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved from
  4.     Henneman A. Reducing the Size of Recipes. University of Nebraska Lincoln. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Retrieved from
  5.     McEntire JC. (2011). Handle Leftovers with Care. website. Retrieved from
  6. Storage Times for the Freezer and Refrigerator. Retrieved from

Cooking for One or Two

Cooking for One.jpgTry these strategies for planning balanced, nutritious meals when cooking for just one or two people. Stay tuned for more tips on this topic next week!

It can be tempting to think that it’s too much trouble to plan and cook a balanced meal for just one or two people, but think of maximizing your nutrition as part of your self-care routine. You deserve it! Here are some helpful strategies.

Use MyPlate to plan balanced meals.                                      

MyPlate is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provides evidenced-based recommendations for nutrition and health for Americans ages two and older. Key strategies to maximize nutrition include the following:

  • Fill half your plate with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose different kinds of colorful vegetables to provide a greater variety of nutrients.
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products for calcium and other important nutrients.
  • Eat a variety of lean, animal-based protein sources, such as lean cuts of meat, poultry and fish (including fatty fish), and plant-based protein sources, including nuts, seeds, beans, peas and soy products.
  • Choose whole fruits, including fresh, frozen and canned in 100 percent  juice, over fruit juice most of the time.
  • Aim to eat whole grains for at least half of your daily grain servings. Whole grains include 100 percent whole wheat products, brown rice and ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet and whole corn.

Create a grocery shopping plan to allow for nutritious meals, while eliminating food waste.

Here are some helpful hints:

  • Shop with a list. (A good guideline for everyone!)
  • Choose fruit according to ripeness based on when you plan to eat or use it. (I.e., buy ripe fruit only if you will eat it in the next day or two.)
  • Check the back of the grocery display for fresher produce.
  • Choose frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, which will keep longer.
  • Rethink buying in bulk. Yes, the unit price can be lower, but is it really saving money if part of it goes to waste? Sometimes, buying a smaller quantity (i.e., a 6 oz. container of yogurt) that you will actually use is less expensive.
  • Buy meats and poultry in larger quantities, prepare one portion, and immediately freeze the rest in individual portion sizes.

This article was written by Brittany Bingeman, Extension Assistant Professor FCS, Washington County


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015). 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Retrieved October 5, 2017, from
  2. Henneman A. (2012). Planning Healthy Meals for One or Two – A Checklist. University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension. Retrieved from
  3. Allen R. Cooking for One or Two. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved from
  4. Henneman A. Reducing the Size of Recipes. University of Nebraska Lincoln. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Retrieved from
  5. McEntire JC. (2011). Handle Leftovers with Care. website. Retrieved from

6. Storage Times for the Freezer and Refrigerator. Retrieved from

Resetting Your Holiday Expectations

holiday expectations square.jpg

We’re well into December, and holiday stress is mounting. Take a moment to reset your expectations for a happier holiday season.

While the holidays are still magical for children and some truly embrace the spirit of the season, most people find the holiday season just adds stress to their already busy life routine. Common concerns include worry about paying for gifts, finding time for all the extra festive activities, and for some, just trying to seem happy for the next month or two when they really just feel overwhelmed and tired. If that is how you feel, just know that you are not a Scrooge. In fact, you are very normal and very much in the majority. In fact, research suggests that the pressure to be happy can actually lead to sadness and even depression during the holidays.

With this in mind, take the time to reset the holiday expectations meter for yourself and your family. Consider these seven tips to creating a happier holiday.


  1. Don’t idealize the holidays. Real life is not a Norman Rockwell painting. The more you try to live up to that kind of expectation, the more frustrated, disappointed and unhappy you are likely to be with yourself and others.
  2. Accept people for who they are. Before being with family and friends this season, take a few moments and acknowledge what you wish they were like and how you would like them to act. Now, let that image go. Expecting others to be anything but themselves is unrealistic and will mostly likely increase stress.
  3. Recreate traditions. Traditions are wonderful ways to create memories and bring families close together, but traditions also often need to change over time. Take time to discuss your favorite traditions, and then plan only those traditions that best fit your current life circumstances and bring you joy.
  4. Set boundaries. Decide as a family how you will spend your time and money this holiday season. Don’t forget to schedule in some “down time” so you don’t get overburdened with activities. Once limits have been set, you might discover that holiday activities and time with extended family become much more enjoyable.
  5. Take care of yourself. It’s easy to get out of the habit of exercising, eating healthy and getting enough sleep during the holiday season. Don’t take the season off from your workout routine during the holidays. Going to the gym regularly not only helps you burn the excess calories you consume from holiday feasting, it’s also a great way to relieve stress and improve self-esteem. Activities involving the whole family can also be a great tradition. In addition to exercise, be sure to take time to relax and rejuvenate so you can stay healthy and keep your spirits high.
  6. Focus on the moment. Even after setting boundaries, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.  Slow down and enjoy where you are in that moment. If you feel tense, take a deep breath and take in what you are experiencing with all of your senses. Take a mental snapshot to create memories for the future. Remember, even the frustrating moments might make you laugh in the future.
  7. Take time to reflect and focus on the positive. Take some time to think about all of the positive things that have happened in the past year. Reflect on accomplishments, goals you or your family members have achieved or positive changes that have been made – no matter how small. Capture some of these reflections in a journal so you can remember them for years to come. If you want to go above and beyond (no pressure!), send a brief email or letter to share your reflections with loved ones.

This article was written by Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension professor


Flavorful Eating in the Later Years

Flavorful Eating.jpgLooking to amp up the flavor of your favorite foods? Try these simple tips.

According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data, there are more than 80 million people age 65 and older. This group comprises close to one-quarter of the total population of the United States. Numbers have increased significantly since the 1990s when they were only at 12 percent. This increased longevity has a variety of nutritional implications.

Oftentimes caregiving for these seniors falls to the younger generations which may include children or grandchildren.  Providing meals may offer a challenge for what seems like picky eaters or those with no interest in food. A little understanding or education can go a long way in making the process a bit easier.

Many seniors find that the foods they used to love just don’t taste the same anymore. It’s not their imagination; it’s a fact. Over time, our senses of taste and smell diminish, either naturally or as a result of medical treatments such as chemotherapy or medications. These losses can result in a decreased appetite, lack of interest in food, or even malnourishment. However, compensating for these losses is well within your control. Following are some ideas for making food more appetizing.

  • Arrange food attractively on the plate. Use simple plate patterns so food is clearly visible.
  • Vary shapes, textures, and temperature of the food. Take time to savor the food; smell it before you taste it and chew it thoroughly before swallowing.
  • Augment food’s flavor with a variety of herbs and spices.
  • Look for strongly flavored foods, if tolerated, such as garlic, onions, citrus fruits, and flavored vinegars.
  • Use fruit sauces or jams as well as concentrated flavors and extracts to stimulate taste buds.
  • Double the amount of herbs and spices added to recipes, but within reason. Black or red pepper shouldn’t be doubled automatically. Dry rubs and spice/herb combinations on meat and poultry add flavor without fat.
  • Use flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate to enhance savory foods or reduce perceived bitterness or acidity. MSG is lower in sodium than table salt and can boost the flavor of sodium-restricted diets.
  • Add small amounts of fat (creamy dressing, cheese sauce, bacon bits) to soften sharp-tasting foods.

The chemosensory losses associated with aging and medical treatments can be readily and easily managed. By using these simple tips, seniors themselves, or through their caregivers, may regain the enjoyment eating once had, leading to improved nutritional status and better overall health.

This article was written by Ellen Serfustini, FCS Agent, Utah State University Extension


Avoid Charity Scams this Holiday Season

Tis the season for increased awareness of and opportunity for charitable giving. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of the holiday season to tug at our heartstrings and try to get to our wallets. I stopped by Studio 5 to chat with Brooke about how a little research will help you avoid a scam and ensure that your gift goes to a reputable charity that will use the money as you intend.

Head over to to read Amanda Christensen’s list of things to consider before giving this holiday season.