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Cranberries: a Healthy Holiday Choice

The health benefits of cranberries, combined with their unique taste, versatility and ease of use, make them a wise fruit choice not only during the holidays, but year round.

Since the peak harvest season is October through December, cranberries are used most often during the holidays, and once purchased, fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator crisper for up to 4 weeks. They also freeze well and will last almost a year in air-tight freezer bags. Cranberry juice, sauce and dried cranberries can be found in grocery stores year round.

Because cranberries contain such high amounts of vitamin C, early sailors took them on long journeys to prevent scurvy. Cranberries also contain antioxidants and bacteria-blocking compounds that help prevent urinary tract infections, ulcers and gum disease.

Cranberry juice is the most common form of its use. During the holiday season, cranberries can be found in stuffing, dressing, relishes, and of course, cranberry sauce.

            Consider these tips on cranberry selection and use.

            * Choose fresh cranberries that are full, plump, firm and dark red or yellowish-red. Avoid cranberries that look bruised or shriveled.

            * Before use, rinse fresh or frozen cranberries and discard any that are damaged. It is not necessary to rinse before freezing, and there is also no need to clean dried cranberries. 

            When cooking, heat cranberries just until they pop. Further cooking will result in a more bitter taste. Raw cranberries are tart, but using them fresh or dried adds color and nutrition to recipes.

              * Cranberries are versatile and can be combined with many other flavors. Try mixing cranberry juice with other juices such as apple, orange or grape. Dried cranberries can be used in place of raisins, added to nuts, granola or oatmeal. Fresh or dried cranberries work well in quick breads such as muffins and in sweet breads and yeast breads. For a color and flavor mix up, try adding fresh or cooked cranberries to green salads, roasted vegetable medleys, fruit salads, whole grain bowls or to sauces or meat marinades.

Fresh cranberries can be preserved and used to make such novel canned items as spicy cranberry salsa and cranberry orange chutney. They can also be dehydrated at home.

For cranberry recipes and more information, visit http://livewellutah.org/2014/10/27/everything-cranberries-fun-ways-to-use-cranberries/.

By: Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences faculty, 385-468-4838, melanie.jewkes@usu.edu




Thinking Outside the Box for 2020 Thanksgiving

Recent recommendations from Governor Gary Herbert have stated that the Thanksgiving holiday must be different this year if we are to lower our record-high COVID-19 numbers. These recommendations can leave us wondering how to manage the changes while still keeping our family traditions alive and staying close to loved ones. Consider these tips.

Talking to Loved Ones about Gathering

* Recognize that your family members may not agree with your choice to attend/not attend gatherings this year. However, it is important to express your needs and feelings, focusing on keeping everyone safe and healthy. Always be kind, and express how you feel using “I” statements, such as I feel____ because____. Also, don’t forget to listen.

* Before talking with family members, engage in self-care and make sure your head is clear. Remember that you cannot control how other people think, feel, or act; the only person you can control is yourself. For more information on having difficult conversations, visit           

https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/how-to-communicate-during-stressful-times

Preparing Food

* Simplify as much as possible. It’s okay (and necessary) to cut back this year – from the menu, to the activities, to time spent at another house or the time people spend at your house. This is a good year to keep it short and have people head back to their own homes for a nap, a movie or a puzzle. Consider regrouping later over FaceTime or playing an interactive game through a video call.

*  The state suggests avoiding potlucks, and, instead having one person prepare all the food. To avoid burdening the host or the person doing all the cooking, consider assigning foods out that are pre-packaged or pre-wrapped from a store or restaurant, such as rolls, pies or salads.

Another option is to encourage those coming to make and bring their own plate of food (remember, we are thinking outside the box this year!). The food can either be homemade or picked up from a local grocery store or restaurant.

* Avoid buffet-style or family-style serving. One person should be assigned to dish out and serve the food. This person should wear a mask and serving gloves. Purchase pre-packaged condiments such as butter and salad dressing to limit the time the server has to spend dishing up each person’s plate.

* Place hand sanitizer in multiple places so it is readily available for guests.

* Rearrange furniture prior to the gathering to provide more space between guests. 

Planning Alternative Gathering Activities

* If the weather permits, consider taking your activities outdoors. Bundle up and go on a walk. Take advantage of the opportunity to share what you’re grateful for, play a game of neighborhood “I spy” or just enjoy the fresh air.

* If there isn’t snow on the ground, break out the sidewalk chalk. Create a work of art, write a list of what you’re grateful for or make an obstacle course. If there’s snow in your area, bundle up and make a snowman, scoop your neighbor’s driveway or tie-dye the snow.

* If you live near a loved one who is not able to attend the gathering, consider going for a Thanksgiving drive-by with those in your household. Stay in your car and wave, or drop off food in a sanitized container.

* The governor recommends that all guests wear masks indoors and outdoors when gathering. If guests are coming to your house, remind them to bring a mask, but also have masks on hand in case someone forgets. One way to make mask-wearing fun is to turn it into an activity. Have a station set up with markers, stickers and other supplies in a large room, the garage or outdoors where everyone can decorate their own face covering.

* If you have guests who want to video conference into the gathering, but you are limited on space or cool tech toys, you can use a big sheet as a projector screen and your phone as the projector. Here is a 10-15 minute DIY project you can do ahead of time:

https://www.techbout.com/turn-phone-into-projector-421/.

Staying in Touch

* If you choose not to visit family this holiday season and gather virtually instead, it is still important to follow up after the holidays and stay connected, especially this year. Reach out via phone, text, email and video chat. You can use these platforms to laugh with your loved ones, compliment them and listen to them. You can also share goals and ideas for the future. Though things are different, enjoy those things that you can do, and plan to do them often. And don’t forget snail mail as a way to communicate. Everyone loves to get something in the mail that’s not a bill!

* Express your feelings of gratitude for family members. Expressing gratitude can improve your mood and the mood of those around you. Learn more about cultivating an attitude of gratitude here: https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/cultivating-an-attitude-of-gratitude.

* Though we can’t hug everyone, we are still able to hug those in our immediate household. The power of touch provides physical and emotional responses that are difficult to replicate. Touch releases oxytocin which enhances a sense of trust, attachment and even love. Touch also reduces levels of stress hormones and lowers heart rate. For a boost of oxytocin, hold/hug the members of your immediate household for an extra-long time, multiple times a day. You will both benefit physically and mentally. For more information, see the article at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201303/the-power-touch.

* For more tips and resources on staying happy and healthy during COVID, visit https://stayhappystayhealthy.usu.edu.

Writer: Julene Reese, 435-757-6418, Julene.reese@usu.edu

Contacts: Utah State University Extension faculty: Gabriela Murza, Ashley Yaugher, Tim Keady, Melanie Jewkes and Emma Parkhurst




Four Tips to Help You Be a Savvy Holiday Shopper

Many retailers are promoting month-long Black Friday deals and will continue to flood us with advertising until Christmas. But before jumping the gun and diving in blindly to holiday spending, consider these tips to help you be a savvy shopper this season. 

Tip 1: Start early to help spread out the holiday costs rather than having everything hit your bank account in December or January. This also helps with giving thoughtful gifts, which is usually our intent, but sometimes we run out of time and pull the trigger on something less meaningful or more expensive than we had planned. Start early so you have time to plan, then check things off your list and unplug from the holiday hubbub to enjoy the rest of the season.

Tip 2:Create a holiday spending plan. Don’t forget to include such things as work gift exchanges, neighbor gifts or traditional activities that may have costs associated with them. Once you’ve listed everything, set a per-person (or per-activity) spending limit. Free apps such as Santa’s Bag and others can help track per-person spending and visually show your progress. A per-person spending limit can help focus on getting the best bang for your buck within the spending limit.

Tip 3: Keep good records so that if an item you’ve purchased goes on sale at a better price later in the season, you can return it or ask for the difference in store credit. Physical receipts can be kept in a coupon/gift card organizer. Digital receipts can be difficult to track, as they can get buried in your email, but you can create a “Christmas 2020” email folder and drag all online order confirmations into that folder.

Tip 4:A savvy consumer takes advantage of the sales and knows when to stop spending. The “good deals” will keep coming through November and December, so once you’ve reached your per-person spending limit and checked everything off your list, be done. Unplug. Last-minute impulse buys can be big budget busters. The sale season will only work for you if you use self-control and quit buying.

For more financial tips, visit utahmoneymoms.com. To sign up for the PowerPay Money Mastery online course, visit powerpay.org.

By: Amanda Christensen, Utah State University Extension associate professor
and Accredited Financial Counselor, Amanda.christensen@usu.edu(801) 829-3472




Final Fall Pruning and Projects

Before giving up on gardening for the season, it’s important to finish strong by properly preparing your yard and garden for a long winter’s nap. Consider these tips.

Pruning – Do not prune fruit trees in the fall. They are not completely dormant yet, even if the leaves have dropped. Pruning delays dormancy at every pruning wound. If winter cold comes suddenly, it can damage the trees. Stone fruits such as cherries and peaches are especially susceptible. 

The only exceptions to pruning in the fall include cutting out dead branches, diseased branches or branches that pose a safety hazard to people. Also, do not fertilize fruit trees in the fall. They are best fertilized in early spring and possibly again in May.

Ornamental Trees and Shrubs – Avoid fall pruning for all of the same reasons listed for fruit trees. Exceptions also include pruning out dead branches, diseased branches or branches that pose a hazard to people.

Do not fertilize woody plants in the fall. Ornamental trees and shrubs usually require less fertilizer than fruit trees. If they are healthy, they also do not need to be fertilized in the spring. If they are unhealthy, fertilizer may or may not help them. Contact your local county Extension office for specific advice.

Annuals and Perennials – Annuals die at the end of the growing season or only live for 12 months. Perennials come back in the spring for at least three years. Cut perennials back after they have gone dormant or the stems and leaves are frozen by hard frost. Cut them within a few inches of the ground.

Divide spring blooming perennials in the fall, if needed, and divide fall-blooming perennials in early spring, if needed.

Once annuals are killed by hard frost, remove the tops from flowerbeds and compost or recycle the green waste.

Lawns – When mowing the lawn for the last time of the season, cut the grass to a height of 1 ½ inches. This will help prevent it from falling over under the heavy snow. If the grass falls over, it makes the lawn much more susceptible to snow mold, a potentially harmful lawn disease that occurs while the snow is on the ground. Another way to prevent snow mold is to avoid piling snow in shaded areas.  Snow mold is usually worse where snow stays on the lawn for longer periods of time.

Lawn roots will best absorb nutrients if you fertilize in late October or early November. This helps the lawn green up more quickly in the spring and gets it off to a good start.

For lawns planted on clay soil or that have heavy traffic, consider aerating in the fall as well as the spring. This is best done in late September or Early October, but is also okay if done later.

For further yard and garden tips, visit garden.usu.edu or see the KSL Greenhouse show on KSL.com.

By: Taun Beddes, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, 801-851-8460, taun.beddes@usu.edu




Tips for Staying Positive and Healthy During the Pandemic

For many people, the pandemic has caused disarray and uncertainty, and it is easy to become anxious and skeptical. However, there are many things we still have control over, and one of those is our attitude. A positive attitude can go a long way in times of stress. Author Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Consider these tips to stay positive and healthy.

1. Stay connected. Physically distancing does not mean we have to be distanced emotionally or socially. Find creative ways to stay connected to family, friends and coworkers, especially when you feel alone or sense that others might be in need. Ideas to be social while distancing or staying home include:

· Meet up via video conferencing on computers or smartphones. Besides talking and catching up, there are also many fun, entertaining virtual games and activities available.

· Pick up the phone and call loved ones when you think of them.

·  Write letters or send cards via email or through the mail. With all the technology available, there is something exciting about receiving a physical letter in the mail.

·  Send text messages with funny memes or videos with a note that you are thinking of them.

·  Compile a COVID-19 care package and send it to a loved one.

·  Make front-porch visits, decorate front doors or draw with sidewalk chalk on a loved one’s driveway or sidewalk.

·  Pick your quaran“team” – people who are also limiting social interaction who you can spend time with.

2. Take care of yourself. Fill your cup to foster positivity and resilience. Try positive self-talk, and write down your strengths. Start a gratitude journal. Make a list of your hopes and goals for the future. Reminisce on some of your favorite memories and pastimes. Plan a fun activity or vacation for the future. Other self-care tips include:

·  Allow yourself to feel discouraged or to have a melt down every once in awhile. It’s okay.

·  Take a break from work and engage in relaxing activities you enjoy.

·  Spend time learning a new hobby or creating something.

·  Take a break with no expectations of yourself.

·  Create a short list of things you can do daily to break up the monotony of at-home routines or feelings of loneliness. Walk the dog for 30 minutes, read a book, cook a new meal for dinner or listen to a favorite podcast or song.

3. With skyrocketing numbers, remember COVID-19 safety.

·  Wear a mask anytime you are around people you don’t live with. It’s one of the simplest ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

·  Wash hands frequently, especially before eating, when returning home, after using the restroom, before leaving your house and after sneezing, coughing or touching your mouth. The CDC has established that washing hands is the number one best way to reduce the spread of germs and disease. In conjunction with masks, it will help reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.

·  Stay home if you feel sick. Even if you don’t have COVID-19, being sick can likely mean you have a suppressed immune system, which could make you more susceptible to COVID-19 if you come in contact with it. 

·  Maintain a 6-foot space between you and others when outside of your home.

·  Limit time in stores and other enclosed locations. Use online shopping and curbside pickup when possible.

4. Build and maintain a healthy immune system.

·  Get adequate sleep. Most adults need 7 or more hours of sleep per night. Turning off technology at least 30 minutes before bed can improve sleep quality.

·  Eat a variety of nutritious foods, including 2 ½ – 3 cups of vegetables a day, whole grain foods, fruits and a variety of plant-based proteins. These contain vitamins and minerals that help the systems in the body work together for better health and minimize the risk of inflammation.

·  Stay hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water each day.

·  Exercise regularly for at least 30 minutes a day. In addition to the many health benefits, studies show exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage stress and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

By: Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension associate professor, family and consumer sciences, melanie.jewkes@usu.edu

       Gabriela Murza, professional practice Extension assistant professor, health and wellness, gabriela.murza@usu.edu