Ask an Expert // Parenting Tips to Help Keep the Holidays Happy

parenting tips holidays ask an expert

Keep your holidays happy with these six tips from USU Extension family life specialist David Schramm.


 

The holidays can be a magical time of year with great food, movies, traditions and decorations. But they are also a busy time that can cause stress. And when the kids are out of school, they can become tired, argumentative and overexcited, which in turn can cause frustration for parents. It’s important for parents to keep things in perspective so the holidays stay happy.

 

Consider these tips for dealing with holiday stress:

 

  • Set realistic expectations. Not everything will go as planned around the holidays. The food may not turn out as planned and things can get spilled or broken. Be positive, flexible and open to changes and messes. Try not to overschedule activities to the point that it becomes more stressful than enjoyable.

 

  • Pay attention to bids for connection. Children thrive when their parents give them attention, affection and connection – especially during the excitement of the holidays. Plan to give them your dedicated time at least once per day, offering full attention for whatever they want to do (board games, playing in the snow, reading books, etc.).

 

  • Hold up the emotional mirror. Many parents will see a range of emotions from children around the holidays. Mirror their excitement, show understanding when they are sad, and express empathy when they are upset.

 

  • Grant in fantasy what you can’t grant in reality. Instead of squashing your children’s holiday dreams or their gift list, let them know you hear them and understand. Phrases such as, “Wow, that would be fun!” or “I wish we could do that too!” can give them the next best thing to what they want, and that is knowing you understand what they want.

 

  • Don’t use unrealistic threats such as “Christmas will be cancelled if…” or “Santa won’t bring you toys if…” Strive to be positive, but still follow through with rules and unacceptable behavior.

 

  • Take care of yourself or your happy holiday may turn into a Noel nightmare. When parents are stressed out, it often spills over and children feel it. Take time for yourself. Exercise, get adequate sleep, take some deep breaths and try to see the bigger picture. Make positive memories and enjoy the moments, because they don’t last long.

 

This article was written by David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist. See more from Dr. Dave on Facebook.




Ask an Expert // How to Care for Holiday Plants

How to Care for Holiday Plants PoinsettiasGardening experts Sheriden Hansen and Michael Caron share the origins of some common holiday plants, plus give some tips on caring for them in today’s post.


 

When cold weather settles into Utah, we tend to put our gardens to bed and turn our focus to our warm, comfortable homes.  But who says that gardening can’t continue through the cold winter months?  There are many options for bringing gardening inside during the holidays.  Most of the plants that we use during the holidays have specific symbolism or meaningful stories, and some can last for months or even years in our homes with some special care.

Living Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holidays.  It originated as a Christmas tradition in Germany about 400 years ago, but was not common in the USA until the 1890’s.  One of the most recognizable Christmas trees, the Rockefeller Center tree, was first placed by construction workers in 1931.  The following year, the tree was placed again, but this time it was adorned with lights.  The tree has been tradition since that first humble year in the Depression Era, but is much larger and now boasts over 25,000 lights.  When bringing home your own tree, make sure the needles are flexible and remain on the tree when lightly tugged on.  The tree should have a fresh smell and the base should be re-cut before you take it home.  Healthy, active, fresh-cut trees can drink up to a gallon of water a day, especially during the first week, so use a sturdy stand with a large water reservoir. Place the tree in a cool location and keep it well-watered to ensure the needles last through Christmas. Fresh trees that are allowed to dry out will begin to shed needles quickly and become a fire hazard.  Fresh, cool water is all that is needed – It is NOT recommended to add sugar, bleach, or any other additive to the water reservoir, or spray any preservatives on the tree itself.

Poinsettia

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and are the most popular potted plant in the world. With several colors and forms available, they add a festive feel to any room.  Joel Roberts Poinsett, U.S. Minister to Mexico from 1825 to 1829, introduced the plant to the United States.  Poinsett was a botanist and was one of the first to argue for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. Poinsettias dislike wet soil and should be watered when the soil becomes lightweight and is dry to the touch.  Pot-covers should be removed, and the soil allowed to completely drain.  Placing plants in the sink or tub can be an easy way to accommodate watering.  Poinsettia require a rather specific daylength in order to produce flowers and can be difficult to get to rebloom.  If you decide to keep the plants for reblooming, prune them in April by cutting the stems to about half their length. Fertilize every two weeks with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, and place in a location that gets no artificial sunlight after sunset in September. The idea is to provide 12 or more hours of uninterrupted darkness in September and October. If conditions are right, you can move your plant to a living area in your home in November, and the bracts will color for the holidays.

Christmas Cactus

These hardy succulents can last for years and will rebloom every year, if cared for properly.  Christmas cactus like bright, sunny east or south facing windows.  Although these plants are succulents, they come from the tropics and need moist soils that are allowed to dry slightly between watering.  Flowers that fail to open are the result of lack of water and warm soil temperatures.  To get plants to rebloom, place in a cool location (40 to 50⁰F) in the early fall, reduce watering, and move the plant to a location where it receives about 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day.  Plants should be fertilized with a houseplant fertilizer monthly from April to October to promote growth and bloom.

Amaryllis

The word Amaryllis literally means “to sparkle”, which makes this showy bulb a perfect fit for the holiday season.  The Portuguese name for this plant translates to “St. Joseph’s staff” referencing the legend that the staff of St. Joseph burst into bloom as a sign that he was selected as the spouse of the Virgin Mary.  This bulb produces long-lived, beautiful flowers in red, white, pink, and variegated colors and are usually forced indoors beginning in October.  If you didn’t pick up bulbs in the fall, there is no need to worry, plants already forced and actively growing can usually be found in local nurseries and grocery stores.  To care for one of these magnificent plants, place in a bright sunny location, watering periodically to keep soil moist but not wet.  As the stem elongates, rotate the plant a half turn each day to prevent it bending toward the light source.  Staking stems with large flowers may also be required.  Once flowers are spent, cut the stalk but keep the leaves and continue to water the plant as needed.  Allow the plant to go dormant in the late summer by halting watering.  Remove yellow leaves and store the plant in a cool, dark, and dry location until October, when you can repot, begin watering, and start the blooming process again.

Paperwhites

Paperwhites, like Amaryllis, are a bulb that will need to be forced to bloom in time for the holidays.  Paperwhites are a type of Narcissus and are related to daffodils, but have smaller, less showy blooms and a distinct floral fragrance.  Their white blooms are used during the holidays to signify rebirth and renewal, as they are often one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring landscape.  Look for bulbs that are firm, without blemishes or soft spots.  Bulbs should be set in a well-drained container with clean potting soil and watered in.  Place the container in a dark location with temperatures between 50-60⁰F for two weeks and then move to a sunny, warm location.  As stems lengthen, they often need to be staked with a small piece of bamboo.  Unlike Amaryllis, paperwhites are usually a one-time use bulb, and can be difficult to rebloom, even with the best care.

Mistletoe

You may have seen mommy kissing Santa under the mistletoe, but did you know the use of mistletoe dates back to the Druids nearly 2,000 years ago?  Mistletoe was hung in houses to bring good luck, ward off evil spirits, and used as a symbol of fertility.  It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology, which is where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe originated.   Mistletoe is a parasitic plant with sticky seeds usually spread by birds.  Mistletoe plants grow roots into the stems or leaves of their hosts where it removes water and nutrients for its own growth.  Something to think about next time you get the chance to kiss under the mistletoe!


This article was written by Sheriden Hansen and Michael Caron.




Ask an Expert // Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving with the Family

surviving thanksgiving logo.jpgIt’s that time of year when family members travel from far and wide to gather, give thanks and eat a large meal together. Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time filled with traditions, famous family recipes and catching up with each other’s lives. However, some view Thanksgiving with concern about how everyone will get along.


 

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help your family have a better chance for a peaceful, enjoyable Thanksgiving this year.

 

What Not to Do

 

  • Don’t talk politics or bring up other “hot topics.” Often the urge is to help family members “really understand” your position or understand why their position is irrational and wrong. Too often, this ends with slamming doors and someone crying in another room or the car.

 

  • Don’t be sarcastic, critical or give subtle jabs. These can cause emotions to escalate quickly, and feelings can get hurt.

 

  • Don’t try to fix each other’s problems over one meal. Also, don’t discuss the problems of other family members who aren’t there. The Thanksgiving meal is not the time to suggest someone get out of a relationship, sell a house, be a better parent or start exercising.

 

  • Don’t take things personally. Some family members are more “prickly” than others, but choose not to get defensive. If someone does start fishing for a reaction, don’t take the hook.

 

What to Do

 

  • Take charge of seating. Set the table for success by separating conflicting personalities. Set the conspirators near you so you can put out fires and guide the conversation.

 

  • Remind yourself why you are doing it. You love your family (most of them?), and ultimately, people are more important than problems.

 

  • Ask others about their lives. Don’t talk about yourself the entire time.

 

  • Give kids responsibilities, but then turn them loose. Kids simply aren’t going to enjoy being trapped at a table for long periods of time. They get restless and whiny. It’s okay if they run off after trying most of the foods. Don’t turn it into a battle. Have something for them to do after the meal.

 


This article was written by David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, david.schramm@usu.edu




7 Tips for Safe Slow Cooking

7 Tips to Slow Cook SafelyAre you a fan of slow cooking? Ensure that the food you slow cook isn’t just easy and delicious, but also safe to feed your family with these seven tips.


7 Tips for Safe Slow Cooking

  1. Thaw meat or poultry thoroughly to ensure proper cooking time.
  2. When using a commercially frozen meal, follow the instructions from proper cooking.
  3. Fill slow cooker one-half to two-thirds full for best results.
  4. Follow safe food handling guidelines according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA 2012) and remember to wash, keep food chilled, and separate foods—especially if using meat
  5. Preheat the slow cooker before adding food, or cook on high for the first hour to provide a rapid heat start, shortening food’s exposure to the temperature danger zone.
  6. Place vegetables on the bottom or around the side with the meat on top because vegetables take longer to cook.
  7. Use a calibrated thermometer to test for doneness. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone. Safe internal temperatures include 165℉ for poultry, 160℉ for ground beef, pork, and lamb, and 145ºF for whole cuts of beef, pork, and lamb with a 3 minute resting time (USDA FSIS, 2011).

Learn more about slow cooking here.


Source: Using the Convenient Slow Cooker Safely by Susan Haws, Associate Professor, Utah State University, Summit County 




6 Tips to Finding Work-Life Balance

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Sometimes life is crazy. An excess of stress may create feelings of exhaustion and emotional burnout. These six helpful tips can help you balance your life and handle stress.


Are you feeling a bit out of balance? You’re not alone. Balancing demands of work, family and the rest of life can be a challenge and create stress. Additionally, too little sleep, lack of exercise and infrequent personal time can add to stress. When stress is not managed well, individuals can become overwhelmed and experience emotional exhaustion, burnout or other negative feelings. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with work-life stress and aim toward a more healthy balance. Consider some of the following tips to find balance:

 

  1. Prioritize. Setting priorities will help in deciding how to best spend your time. Use a calendar and schedule the most important things that reflect your priorities first, such family activities or a date with a significant other. Discuss goals and schedules with family members and significant others often so everyone is invested. Remember, there is no “right way” to prioritize, but rather you have to decide a balance that is comfortable for you and your family.
  2. Be here now. In this age of technology it is easy to get distracted by things other than our priorities, especially when work or social media is just a click away. Taking a break from electronics and focusing on living fully in the moment, wherever you may be, will help to reduce stress.
  3. Set realistic goals and expectations. Let’s be honest, as much as many of us would like to give everything to everyone all the time, it’s unrealistic and thinking that way will cause conflict and stress. So, instead, examine your priorities and adapt your goals and expectations to fit your current situation. If married or in a relationship, be sure to include your partner in this process and discuss the roles that each of you will take. Revise plans and goals that don’t work—achieving balance is an ongoing process.
  4. Share the load. Some people try to reduce stress by taking control and doing everything themselves; but doing so can sometimes keep them from reaching their most important goals. Consider your support system and how others might be willing to help lighten the load. Remember, delegation is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  5. Take care of yourself. It can be challenging to eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep, let alone squeeze in a few minutes of “me” time, but taking care of yourself will help you in all areas of your life. Make a goal to take at least 15 minutes of “me” time every day even if it’s to take a quick walk on a break at work, or to read a book. Remember you can also include family or friends
  6. Keep a sense of humor. Humor can help to manage stress when things don’t work out as planned. Consider, “How will I think about this situation in a year from now?”

While there are many approaches to creating balance, what works for one individual may not work for another, and life challenges and possible solutions may change with time. Creating and maintaining a balance in life is an ongoing process; if the current approach isn’t working, try something else. The balance may not always be perfect, but small efforts toward balance can still have a tremendous impact on life satisfaction.

Want more? Join us September 22 at the Weber State University Davis Campus for the Celebrating Women Conference, an event designed to promote wellness and balance in the lives of women. Workshops will be provided by professionals from northern Utah including topics such as life balance, self-care, body image, and communication.  For more details see www.celebratingwomen.usu.edu

 


References:

This article was contributed by Naomi Brower, an Extension Associate Professor in Weber County specializing in helping others improve the quality of their lives through creating and strengthening their relationships.  Contact Naomi at naomi.brower@usu.edu or check out videos and other content at relationships.usu.edu.




Ask an Expert // Preventing Wildlife Attacks: Let Common Sense Overrule Curiosity

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Summer and autumn are gorgeous seasons for outdoor activities. Camping and visiting national parks are some of the most popular. Who doesn’t love spending time in the great outdoors?

While you’re soaking up the sun and enjoying time with the family it’s important to remember that you’re a guest in nature. Be sure to exercise caution and avoid wild animals!


 

Recent media reports of wildlife attacking humans have many people concerned and reconsidering their time spent outdoors.

 

Utah wildlife species that have been implicated in attacks on humans, livestock and pets include black bears, mountain lions, moose, elk, mule deer, coyotes, raccoons, turkeys, rattlesnakes and bison. Negative interactions with large ungulates are becoming more common place as humans are increasingly recreating in animal territory, and it’s important to not let human curiosity overrule common sense.

 

Recent altercations in Yellowstone National Park attest to the value of common sense over curiosity. In June, a bison gored a woman in the Lower Geyser Basin. Before the attack, the woman and other people were within 10 yards of the animal as it crossed a boardwalk. The animal became agitated and charged. Also in June, and in the same area, two women were attacked by a cow elk when they got between the cow and her calf; the cow was defending her calf.

 

Since 1980, Yellowstone National Park has had over 100 million visitors. During this time, 38 people were injured by grizzly bears in the park. Though this is more than anyone wants, according to the Park for all park visitors combined, the chances of being injured by a grizzly bear are 1 in 2.7 million. For Park visitors who remain in developed areas, roadsides and boardwalks, the risk decreases to 1 in 25.1 million. For those who camp and travel in the backcountry, the risk increases to 1 in 1.4 million for those who stay overnight and 1 in 232,000 for those who travel in the back county.

 

Although there will always be risks, they can be managed by using common sense and following simple rules.

  1. First and foremost, always remember that Utah is wildlife country. It is home to an abundance of wildlife, which is why so many people are drawn to our state.
  2. Should you encounter wildlife while hiking, biking or camping, remember that distance is your best friend. Most of the attacks reported occur because someone wanted to get that once-in-a-lifetime selfie. Always give the animal a clear path to escape.
  3. If you do encounter wildlife, stay calm and do not run. Pick up children or pets with you. This is the one time that you can be as obnoxious as possible outdoors. Puff up you chest, shout and stomp your feet. Back away slowly. And again remember, do not run!
  4. If a moose, elk or deer knocks you down, curl up in a ball, protect you head and lie still until the animal moves away.
  5. If attacked by a large predator, fight back!
  6. If you encounter a rattlesnake, stop, listen to locate where the rattle is coming from and back away to allow the snake to escape.

Follow these rules for camping:

  1. Keep a clean, odor-free campsite by storing food, drinks and scented items securely in wildlife-proof containers at least 100 yards from your tent. Keep trash away from your campsite, and do not burn it in your fire pit.
  2. Clean your tables, stoves and grills to remove food or odors that could attract wildlife.
  3. Keep your pets leashed in camp and stay with them on the designated trails. Do not let your pet chase or “play” with wildlife, as your pet may be viewed as food.
  4. Always hike, jog and camp with companions.
  5. If you find a wildlife carcass, stay away from it. You could be perceived as messing with a predator’s food, which could cause them to become aggressive.

If you have an encounter with aggressive wildlife, alert the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources office nearest you. For further information on wild animal attacks, visit wildawareutah.org.


This article was contributed by Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist.
terry.messmer@usu.edu




Creating Staycation Memories

staycation

Don’t let money stand in the way of creating precious family memories. Take a staycation this summer! Staycations are a great way to save money while still having fun with the family.


Though the kids will be back in school soon, there is still plenty of time to make summer memories. Family vacations are a great way to connect and make memories that can last a lifetime, but they can be pricey. Having fun as a family is possible at a fraction of the cost by taking staycations — vacation activities close to home that reduce the need for hotel stays and travel costs. Staycations = vacation fun for less money.

Because home is often considered base camp, it may be helpful to set some ground rules as a family to help your staycation feel like a true vacation. Consider the following:

 

Decide on a budget. Deciding ahead of time how much you can afford to spend can help you decide what activities will fit into your summer without creating financial stress or debt.

 

Make a plan. Decide when your staycation is beginning and ending and what activities you will be doing. Aim to incorporate something that will be fun for everyone. No matter what you choose to do, just remember that staycations are about spending time together and making memories.

 

Pretend you aren’t home. Although you may sleep or eat some meals at home, pretend you are not at home. For example, if you were on vacation you probably wouldn’t be doing house chores, going to a friend’s house, or checking work emails, so the same rules should apply to the designated time for your staycation.

 

Unplug. While it can be fun to share pictures and memories with others, set boundaries about electronic use in order to focus on each other rather than the outside world.

 

Keep it simple. While staycations may mean a full day of travel and activity or even staying overnight somewhere, it doesn’t have to. For families with young children, going to a museum or waterpark close to home and then coming home for naptime or nightly routines may make a much more enjoyable vacation than full day adventures.

Staycation ideas are virtually endless and really depend on your location, interests, and budget, but consider these 11 ideas to get you started:

  1. Get beachy at Bear Lake. Relax on the beach, play in the water, make sandcastles, or rent a kayak. While you are in the area, watch a play, go for a bike ride, check out the Minnetonka cave or get a famous raspberry shake.
  2. Go river rafting on the Colorado River, Green River or other river close to home. There are many guided tours available and lunch or admission to other attractions are often included.
  3. Enjoy free tours, museums and parks or activities organized by your local library. For a great listing of ideas see http://www.enjoyutah.org/2011/12/free-utah-events-activities-and-places.html
  4. Turn Salt Lake City into a large scavenger hunt as you complete challenges and solve clues to discover overlooked gems in the city and learn about local history. See http://www.visitsaltlake.com/listings/Amazing-Scavenger-Hunt-Adventure–Salt-Lake-City/62850/ for more information.
  5. Play in Park City for the day. Take a tram to the top of a mountain to enjoy the view and then hike, zip line, or slide down. Check out the Utah Olympic Park freestyle shows and museum or go shopping at the outlets.
  6. Enjoy a tasty day on a Cache Valley food tour https://www.explorelogan.com/food-tour.html. While in Logan, check out some historical sites, go for a hike in Logan Canyon, or visit the Willow Park Zoo.
  7. Plan a year worth of fun with the “Connect Pass” which allows entrance to 13 select attractions including Discovery Gateway, Thanksgiving Point, Hogle Zoo, Clark Planetarium, The Leonardo, Natural History Museum of Utah, museums at Thanksgiving Point and more. See http://www.visitsaltlake.com/things-to-do/connect-pass/ for more information.
  8. Visit Heber Valley to snorkel, swim, or soak in the geothermal spring. While you’re in the area, take a tour of the Heber Valley cheese factory.
  9. Check out reduced price days at local arcades/fun centers or movie theatres. Many have special pricing on attractions for the summer months.
  10. Enjoy local free offerings such as movies, art, science, or music in the park, farmer’s markets, or free days at local attractions. Check out these links for additional information in the Ogden area: http://ogdenamphitheater.com/#, https://scienceintheparks.org/, http://www.webercountyutah.gov/County_Commission/ramp/2018/RAMP%20tax%20summer%202018.pdf
  11. Enjoy the great outdoors. Utah is full of state and national parks, not to mention all of the beautiful canyons, lakes and mountain areas. Go for a hike, a bike ride, have a picnic, and explore what people come from all over the world to see! Check out the free entrance days at the national parks https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm

Staycations are a wonderful tool to connect with each other and strengthen family relationships while playing and creating treasured memories. Wishing you a wonderful summer of family fun and adventures.

-Naomi Brower


Naomi Brower NewNaomi Brower is an Extension Associate Professor in Weber County specializing in helping others improve the quality of their lives through creating and strengthening their relationships. She earned her master’s degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University and she is a Certified Family Life Educator. She enjoys hiking, traveling (especially anywhere green) and playing with her husband and adorable little boy.  Contact Naomi at naomi.brower@usu.edu or check out videos and other content at relationships.usu.edu.




Ask an Expert // Four Tips to Help You Eliminate Food Waste and Save Money

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Did you know that the average American throws away hundreds of pounds of food every year? That’s a lot of wasted food and a lot of wasted money! These helpful tips from Melanie Jewkes, USU Extension associate professor, will help you cut back on food waste. 


The average American throws away nearly 275 pounds of food each year. The USDA estimates between 30 to 40 percent of America’s food supply is wasted. Not only is good food wasted, but good money, too, equating to about $390 per year per person. While no one should eat unsafe food, consider these strategies to minimize food waste—and put the saved money toward a financial goal.

1. Use fresh foods first. Most fresh and perishable foods that have to be thrown away are simply forgotten. Shop with a list and a plan how you will use the food you purchase. It can be easy to over-purchase when there are sale items, or when many fruits and vegetables are in season, so be realistic about how much your household will eat. Place fresh items at the front of the fridge so you see them when you open the door. Make a list of your fresh foods and place it in a prominent place on the fridge. If you find yourself throwing away fresh produce often because it spoils too quickly, purchase reusable containers or bags that ventilate the air and keep water from sitting on the produce.

2. Store fresh foods properly. Apples can cause nearby produce to ripen or decay more quickly, due to a harmless ethylene they contain that causes food to ripen. To prevent this, keep apples in a produce bag or store them alone in a drawer in the fridge. Onions, potatoes and tomatoes last longer when NOT refrigerated. For storage tips, visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

3. Understand food “expiration” dates. These dates are not created equal, are not required by federal regulations (except infant formula) and do not necessarily mean food is unsafe or expired. Save money and minimize food waste by knowing the difference.

a. The “sell by” date simply tells the store how long to display the product. Consumers should eat or freeze within 3-5 days of the date printed on fresh meat packages.

b. The “use by” dates refer to peak quality, but are not safety dates (except infant formula). They are found most often on fresh and chilled foods like bagged salads.

c. “Best if used by/before” dates indicate when food will have the best quality or
flavor. Even if the “best if used by” date has passed, it should be safe if stored and handled properly. Moisture, time and temperatures affect how quickly food spoils.

4. Use safe methods for preserving foods. Freezing is the quickest way, and most foods freeze nicely. Dehydrating, canning and freeze-drying are other options. Don’t preserve food that is going rotten, as this will affect the quality of the final preserved product. Be sure to follow safe USDA-approved food preservation and storage recommendations. Check out USU Extension’s website extension.usu.edu/canning or contact your local county Extension office for further information.


This article was contributed by Melanie Jewkes, USU Extension associate professor.
 Melanie.jewkes@usu.edu




Aged Fruit Cake

fruitcake

Do you have a surplus of canned fruit in your pantry? Use it up with this delicious fruit cake recipe! And remember, always practice proper food safety when preserving and using canned goods.


 

This is an old Extension recipe for using up your bottled fruit.  This cake is more like a pudding cake, rather than a light and fluffy cake.  If old fruit is not available, canned fruit of any age, or fruit cocktail, works well.  Serves 16-20. 

Ingredients:

1- quart fruit, with juice
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins, nuts, or coconut (optional)

Instructions:

Blend fruit with juice in a food processor or blender (or use a potato masher—it need not be a fine puree).  Add sugar and oil to fruit and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix.

Pour batter in a non-stick 9×13 baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Cake is rich and can be eaten plain, but if frosting is desired, a butter cream or cream cheese frosting pairs well.


Need a refresher? Click here for canning safety tips!




Ask an Expert: Eight Reasons to Consider Canning

food canning

Canning your produce can make your harvest go a long way. The practice is economically beneficial and preserves your gardening efforts!


 

Now that gardens are planted and fruit trees are showing signs of small fruit, many people begin planning how they will preserve the harvest – canning, freezing, drying and even freeze-drying. However, even die-hard food preservers may ask at times if the efforts of growing produce and preserving are really worth it. Here are eight things to consider.

            Emergency preparedness – Preparing for potential job loss, earthquakes or other natural disasters serve as incentives for many to participate in food storage and preservation.

            Economically beneficial – Whether food preservation actually saves money depends on several factors: if you are able to grow your own high-quality produce; if you own the correct equipment in very good to excellent condition; the cost of electricity, natural gas or propane; and the cost of added ingredients and supplies such as sugar, pectin, lids, bottles or freezer bags. A first-time food preserver may find it cost prohibitive to purchase a new pressure canner, dehydrator, or water-bath canner along with all the containers, etc., but those can be purchased over time.

            Time saving – When considering this factor, it is important to think beyond the actual time to harvest, prepare and preserve the food. The time savings actually comes into play down the line when the convenience of having a bottle of stewed tomatoes or frozen chopped onions and peppers on hand to make spaghetti sauce alleviates a trip to the grocery store or time spent preparing these items fresh.

 

            Quality control – Time from harvest to jar or freezer is minimized when you can pick peaches in the morning and have them canned that same afternoon. Sometimes several days go by between harvesting/picking in a commercial orchard to the processing plant. Also, when it’s your hands sorting through the produce to make certain everything is cleaned and unwanted pieces are discarded, you are more confident in the overall quality of what you preserve.

            Flavor – In general, it is difficult to find commercially preserved foods without added salt, sugar, spices and in some cases dyes and firming agents or other additives. To a large degree, home preserved foods can be prepared with reduced salt/sugar and added spices in your preferred amounts.

            Health benefits – Those who have food allergies must always be on the watch for commercially prepared foods that have possible contamination from tree nuts, gluten and other potentially harmful allergens. Besides the freshness factor, when food is preserved at home, you are in control and can ensure that foods are properly prepared for your family. Reduced sugar recipes for diabetics and lowered salt content for family members with high blood pressure can also be used.

           Reduced food waste – Home gardeners often produce more food than can be harvested and used fresh. For example, rather than having many stalks of ripened corn go to waste, cobs can be shucked, then cobs or kernels may be blanched and frozen. Remaining stalks can then be donated to a farmer to be used to feed goats or other livestock.

            Emotional satisfaction – The idea of producing high-quality foods for future use – and from scratch – can be very satisfying. The best way to feel totally confident in what is sitting on the shelf or in the freezer is to simply follow the approved guidelines and steps established by science and research; not necessarily from a blog, Pinterest or a Facebook post.

For more information on home food preservation, contact your local USU Extension office or visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at www.nchfp.uga.edu.

 


This article was written by Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or 435-586-8132