Vanilla and Its Uses During The Holidays

Author – Carolyn Washburn


Enhance the flavor of your favorite cooking recipes with the vanilla bean.

Vanilla flavoring is a desirable sweet flavor that is used in many recipes from cookies and candies to drinks. Vanilla comes as an extract, powder and paste. These forms of vanilla come from beans that are grown on an orchid plant. Growers pollinate the long pods and ferment them for about 6 months before harvesting. This laborious process results in the flavoring becoming one of the most expensive. To cook with vanilla beans, you simply split open the pod and scrape out the pulpy seeds inside.  Each pod will have tiny seeds that have a strong vanilla aroma.

An imitation vanilla extract is made from synthetic flavorings with alcohol and may not be quite as desirable as an authentic vanilla flavor.

Vanilla beans take on the flavor and aroma from where they are grown. The most common types of beans are grown primarily in Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. The Madagascar bean (also known as a bourbon bean) is very thin and very rich in sweetness. The thick skin covers many small seeds that provide a strong vanilla aroma. This accounts for about 80 percent of most vanilla extract. The Mexican bean is not as thin or sweet as the Madagascar bean. This bean has an earthy aroma and is more mellow in flavor. The Tahiti bean is plumper in size, darker in color and the least sweet of the beans. The perfect vanilla bean is 5 to 7 inches long and should feel moist and supple (not dry and brittle) when rolled between your fingers.

Fresh vanilla beans can be used in cooking as well as in making vanilla extract. One 2-inch piece of vanilla bean = 1 tsp. extract. Vanilla beans are made into an extract which is aged from 2 to 6 months and contains a minimum of 35 percent alcohol.

Vanilla beans will dry out and become brittle if left out in the air, so wrap them in foil, seal them in a zip-top bag and store them in a cool, dark area. They’ll last this way for at least several months.

Enjoy the flavor and aroma of the fresh vanilla bean!

Vanilla Bean Custard
2 cups milk
2 vanilla bean pods
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch

Bring milk to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the vanilla beans from the bean pod (split the pod and scrape them out with the tip of a knife).

In a bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, yolks and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly add about half of the milk to the egg mixture and then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the milk. Don’t heat the eggs too quickly or you will  have scrambled eggs in your custard.

Place the pan over medium heat and whisk well, making sure you get in the corners of the pan, until it comes to a boil and thickens. Cool, cover and store in the fridge.

carolyn-washburnCarolyn Washburn is a family consumer sciences agent for Utah State University Extension. Her responsibilities include financial management education, food safety and nutrition, healthy family relations, emergency preparedness and working with youth. Her goal is to help individuals and families become self-sustaining and resilient by being financially prepared and healthy for any emergency. She serves on the National Disaster Education Network and has just completed the new food storage manual for USDA. Her most cherished award is America’s Promise, awarded by Colin Powell.

Parents Empowered: Underaged Drinking

Author – Nikki Capener


Parents often believe that school policies or church teachings will keep their kids away from alcohol use, but too often that is not the case. New, disturbing research indicates that the developing adolescent brain may be susceptible to long-term, negative consequences of alcohol use. Adolescent alcohol use is a serious threat to adolescent development and health. Parents are the most powerful influence on their children. It is important to stay connected, monitor and create lasting bonds with your child.

Did you know?

  • In Utah, underage drinking now begins as early as elementary school.
  • The brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20s.
  • Negative effects of alcohol last far longer in a teen’s brain than in an adult’s.
  • Underage drinking can keep the good judgment and impulse-control part of the brain from properly developing.
  • More teens die from the results of alcohol use than all other illegal drugs combined.

But, did you also know?

  • Parents are the most powerful influence on their children’s behavior.
  • Children usually listen to their parents more than anybody else, including their friends.
  • Children who feel close to their parents are less likely to drink.
  • Knowing where your children are, who they’re with and what they’re doing helps prevent underage drinking.

Parents are often unaware of their child’s alcohol use. In a recent national survey, 31 percent of kids who had been drunk in the past year said they had parents who believed their children were nondrinkers. Take action! Start talking to your child about underage drinking before age eight. gives 3 research-proven skills to help prevent underage drinking.

  1. Bond with your children.
  • Create a positive, loving home environment.
  • Have daily positive interaction.
  1. Set boundaries for your children.
  • Set clear rules and expectations.
  • Help your children choose friends wisely.
  1. Monitor your children.
  • Know your child’s environment.

For additional tips and more information, visit


Nikki Capener is a student at Utah State University studying family and consumer science education. She is the family and consumer sciences intern in Box Elder County and has loved working with the Extension faculty and 4-H youth. Her experience working with Extension has been incredibly beneficial and she has learned much while working with Ann Henderson. Her hobbies include running, cooking, sewing and making crafts.

Holidays with the Diabetic in Mind

Author – Carolyn Washburn

Holidays with the Diabetic in Mind

Take Control of Your Diabetes

Those with diabetes can enjoy holiday eating and maintain a strong and healthy lifestyle by understanding and taking control of diet and exercise.

Diabetes is a complex disease that requires daily self-management, including making healthy food choices, staying physically active, monitoring blood sugars and taking medications as prescribed by the doctor. More than 8 percent of the American population have diabetes.

Our bodies need daily nutrients. We consume carbohydrates for energy, proteins for strength and fats for nerves and body functions. How much we consume of each is critical to understand. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose during digestion and raise blood glucose.

As you take control of your diet, you will need to understand portion size, the ingredients in products and to watch for added ingredients. Fiber is also an important component for diabetics. Fiber can help control blood sugar levels by slowing sugar absorption. Fiber makes you feel “fuller” and helps move foods through the digestive tract. With bright colors and flavorful textures, vegetables are an excellent way to add fiber, vitamins and minerals to your daily plan. Fill your plate half full of vegetables at meal time. Aim for 30 grams of fiber every day.

Finding out that you have diabetes can be discouraging and frustrating. It is a serious disease with many possible complications. However, research has shown that people with diabetes can live long and healthy lives. The way to do this is by managing glucose levels with diet, exercise and proper medications.

Proper eating habits are are extremely important for those with diabetes. It is critical to find ways to eat foods with lower sugars, salts and fats. We all know how good sugar, salt and fats taste. These three items greatly flavor most of our foods. When we minimize these three substances, we must make modifications, finding new ways to flavor foods. Learning to use herbs, spices, sugar substitutes, low fat and low-sodium products will make a difference to blood sugar levels.

During this holiday season, take the opportunity to eat high fiber foods, lower intake of fats, sugars and salts and enjoy smaller portion sizes of some old favorite foods. Try this salad as  a tart and tangy option.

No Sugar Added Sweet Fruit Salad

3 or 4 large apples, diced with peels left on

4 or 5 bananas, sliced

Other fruits as desired: peaches, pears and grapes work well

1 regular can crushed pineapple

1 tub of Crystal Light lemonade

1 package of gelatin-brand sugar-free vanilla pudding

Mix fruits in a large mixing bowl. Mix lemonade powder and gelatin together and blend over fruit. Chill and serve.

carolyn-washburnCarolyn Washburn is a family and consumer sciences agent for Utah State University Extension. Her responsibilities include financial management education, food safety and nutrition, healthy family relations, emergency preparedness and working with youth. Her goal is to help individuals and families become self-sustaining and resilient by being financially prepared and healthy for any emergency. She serves on the National Disaster Education Network and has just completed the new food storage manual for USDA. Her most cherished award is America’s Promise, awarded by Colin Powell.

Helpful Tips to Help Children Make Wise Choices

By Naomi Brower & Kyle Barth (WSU Intern)

Helpful Tips to Help Children Make Wise Choices

Parenting can be very difficult at times, especially when children make decisions that parents disagree with. If a child makes an unwise choice, it doesn’t mean the parent is a failure or the child will continue making unhealthy choices. The following are tips for parents on how to successfully help their children make smart decisions.

  •        The center of effective parenting is love. Fathers and mothers both have what it takes to be effective parents.
  •        Make the time you spend with your children count. For example, read books with them. This can also provide a way to talk about difficult topics.
  •        Allow your children to learn from their mistakes when the “prices” are affordable. Provide opportunities for them to make choices. Avoid protecting your children from natural consequences; allow them to learn from their choices.
  •        Teach your children how to set goals and solve problems instead of doing it for them. Set limits on behavior while helping them find solutions.
  •        Be honest and specific when praising and encouraging your child.
  •        Be aware of your children’s emotions, and help them label their emotions. Avoid telling your child how he or she should feel.
  •        Keep calm if your child comes to you with a serious problem. Be supportive, empathetic and let them learn from their choices.
  •        Be aware of your own emotions and recognize when you need to take a time out. Remember, it is okay to take time for yourself.
  •        Model the actions and behaviors you expect from your child.
  •        Responsibility cannot be taught; it must be “caught” by providing opportunities for children to be responsible.
  •        Use thinking words instead of fighting words. Fighting words: “Don’t talk to me like that.” Thinking words: “You sound upset. I will happily listen to you when your voice is calm.”
  •        Avoid “siding with the enemy” and communicate understanding.
  •        Offer your child choices. For example: “Bob would you rather sit in your chair, or would you like me to help you sit in your chair?” Don’t offer a choice to your child you are not willing to follow through on.
  •        Mean what you say and say what you mean.
  •        Discipline does not always need to occur in the moment. It’s okay to tell your child why the choice they made was wrong and let him or her know you need time to think about the best consequence.
  •        It takes a village along with parents to raise a child. Remember to utilize trusted resources such as community organizations or members, religious organizations or members, as well as family and friends.
  •        Remember, no parent is perfect, even those who appear to be perfect.


Cline, F. & Faye, J. (2006). Parenting teens with love and logic:  Preparing adolescents for responsible adulthood. United States of America: Piñon Press.

Gottman, J. (1997). Raising an emotionally intelligent child: The heart of parenting. New York,

NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc.  

brower, naomiNaomi Brower is an Extension associate professor for Utah State University. She has a master’s degree in family and human development from Utah State University. Often called the relationship guru by friends, Naomi is passionate about helping others improve the quality of their lives through creating and strengthening their relationships with others.


Turkey Talk – How to prepare your Thanksgiving Turkey

Author – Margie Memmott

How to Prepare Your Thanksgiving Turkey

So, you have this frozen turkey, now what do you do with it? There are a few ways to safely thaw your turkey. Make sure to take enough time to completely thaw it.

Thawing time in the refrigerator (40° or below): approximately 24 hours per 5 pounds (whole turkey). After thawing keep turkey refrigerated only for 1-2 days.

Thawing time in cold water: approximately 30 minutes per pound (whole turkey). Change water every 30 minutes to maintain cold temperature. Cook immediately.

Thawing in the microwave: microwave thawing is safe if the turkey is not too large for the oven. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the size turkey that will fit into your oven, the minutes per pound, and the power level for thawing. Cook immediately after thawing.

Roast the turkey, using the following instructions: Preheat oven temperature to no lower than 325 F. Place turkey breast-side up on a rack in shallow roasting pan. If you choose to stuff your turkey, fill the cavity loosely. Cook the turkey immediately. Use the following chart for the time to cook your turkey. The times are for thawed turkey in an oven at 325 °F. The times are approximate:

Pounds             Unstuffed          Stuffed

            8-12                 2 ¾ – 3 hrs       3 – 3 ½ hrs
            12-14               3 – 3 ¾ hrs       4 – 4 ¼ hrs
            14-18               3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hrs   4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hrs
            18-20               4 ¼ – 4 ½ hrs   4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hrs
            20-24               4 ½ – 5 hrs       4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hrs

Test the thickest part of the thigh with a meat thermometer to see that it reaches a minimum of 165°F. If you do not have a meat thermometer, make sure that the pop-up thermometer on the turkey has popped up.

Food Safety: Perishable foods, such as poultry, should not be out of the refrigerator more than 2 hours. Do NOT leave perishable foods out all day for “grazing.” Incidents of food borne illness increase during the Holiday season. Remember that young children, the elderly, and pregnant women are the most at-risk for food borne illness.

Wash hands, utensils, sink and anything else that has been in contact with the raw turkey with soap and warm water.

You can also sanitize utensils, sink, countertops, etc. with a chlorine bleach solution of 2 tbsp. per gallon of water.

Use leftover turkey in the following recipe shared by Darlene Christensen, USU Extension Agent in Tooele County:

Turkey tomato vegetable soup
quart turkey stock
1 quart stewed, unsalted tomatoes
½ cup barley
4 tsp. low-sodium chicken-flavored bouillon granules
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tbsp. dried basil, crushed
2 cups diced cooked turkey
1 ½ cups sliced carrots
½ cups sliced celery
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 10-ounce package frozen okra (or frozen vegetable of your choice)

In a large saucepan, simmer stock, tomatoes, barley, bouillon granules, garlic powder, pepper, oregano, parsley and basil for 1 hour. Add turkey, carrots, celery, onions, green pepper, and okra. Simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Makes about 16 cups.

Download our pamphlet – Preparing Your Holiday Turkey Safely by Darlene Christensen

For more information on food preparation and food safety, contact the Juab County Extension office at 623-3450 or visit

margie-memmottMargie Memmott has been serving families and communities for more than 20 years with USU Extension in Juab County. Margie earned degrees in family and consumer sciences from BYU and USU and loves to teach youth and adults valuable life skills. “What a great reward when others adopt these principles and apply the tools to improve their everyday lives.”  Margie and her husband Sam have four sons, three daughters-in-law and two grandsons. In her spare time she enjoys creative textiles/sewing, crocheting, music, technology, four wheeling in the ‘RZR’ and most of all, being with her family.

Ask a Specialist: What Causes the Leaves to Change Color?

Answer by: JayDee Gunnell, Utah State University Extension horticulture associate professor, with information from the USDA Forest Service article.

Ask a Specialist: What Causes Leaves to Change Color?

Once again the summer season comes to an end and crisp autumn days are upon us. Temperatures drop, the days get shorter and vibrant colors quickly spread across the mountains and valleys as trees prepare for long nights and frosty temperatures. The striking colors range from yellow to orange, hot pink to scarlet red and even purple hues. Color pigments found in leaves differ among plant species and can vary from year to year.

Colors are most vibrant when plants have had adequate moisture throughout the season followed by sunny autumn days and accompanying cool nighttime temperatures. However, the internal trigger that causes leaves to change color is the shortened day length.

When days become shorter and nights become longer, a process within the plant causes the cells around the base of the leaf, or petiole, to divide rapidly but not elongate. This process forms an abscission layer where the leaf will eventually separate. This abscission layer blocks or prevents sugars from escaping the leaves.

During the growing season, leaves are working constantly to produce sugars via photosynthesis, which is the conversion of light to energy. These sugars are shipped throughout the plant for growth and storage. It is during this active production time that the vibrant green colors are dominant. Chlorophyll (the green pigment) is found in nearly all plants and is a key component in photosynthesis. It breaks down readily in sunlight and is replaced constantly throughout the growing season. Consider the following information.

  • Carotenoids and xanthophylls (the orange or yellow pigments) also aid in photosynthesis and are produced throughout the season but are masked by the “green machine” of chlorophyll production. However, when photosynthesis slows and chlorophyll breaks down, the “hidden” orange and yellow pigments become more apparent and fade at a much slower rate. Quaking aspen, ginkgo, Norway maple, ash, birch and honey locust are a few examples of trees containing these pigments.
  • Anthocyanin (the pink, red or purple pigment) can vary from year to year. Anthocyanin is produced primarily in the fall and is found in species such as certain maples (like our native Bigtooth maple), burning bush, flowering pear, sumac and dogwood. The determining factors influencing the production of these pigments are the amount of sunny days and cool (but not freezing) nights.
  • Tannin (the boring brown pigment) is the last pigment to break down in a leaf before it falls. Oaks or other non-showy species, notorious for having leaves containing tannin, are the final reminder that winter doldrums are soon to follow.

Take a moment to get outside and enjoy the stunning color of these leaves while they last…before they bring on the ominous chore of raking.

Everything Cranberries! Fun Ways to use Cranberries

Everything Cranberry

Are you getting excited for the holidays? Are cranberries on your list of “must-haves” for holiday baking? If not, you are missing out! We’ve compiled a pamphlet Everything Cranberry! Fun Ways to Use Cranberries. In the pamphlet you will find salsas, juice, bruschetta, jams recipes and more!

Download the Everything Cranberry pamphlet here.

The Art of Pie Making

Easy as Pie! The Art of Pie Making | Live Well Utah

It’s that delicious time of year again! Squashes and in abundance, and apples never tasted so good. And, what better way to eat all that tasty food than in a pie? While we all love to eat pies, sometimes it is intimidating to actually make. Let us show you how to make a delicious pie for your family to enjoy.

Go download our pamphlet – The Art of Pie Making, Easy As Pie! The pamphlet contains all you will need to know about pie making basics, pie crust recipes, and plenty of tips.

What pie will you be making for Thanksgiving?

7 Tips for Tailgate Fun

Author – Susan Haws


With a chill in the air and the football season in full swing, it is a prefect time to have a tailgate party.  Remember to include these essential things.

  1.      Invite a group of friends, including some who are party starters mixed with those who are less outgoing. This will get you off to a good start.
  2.      Plan for any type of weather. If the weather is great, enjoy the sunshine. If the weather is bad or stormy, be prepared by having an awning or tarp for protection. A portable heater could come in handy on a really cold day.
  3.      Have enough food to feed your guests. Portable food that can be prepared in advance works best. Food can have a theme. Serve Kickoff Chili or Hammering Hot Dogs.
  4.      Don’t forget the little things that are essential, like plates, utensils, cups and napkins. Focus on keeping cold items cold and hot things hot. Have large garbage bags to help make clean up easy. If garbage cans are available, use them, but if not, be considerate and carry your garbage out, like when you camp or backpack.
  5.      Have some games, music or decorations to celebrate the occasion. Banners or team flags work great.
  6.      Chairs are a must. If people forget to bring their own, have some on hand. Be sure to tell people how to find you. Have a prearranged meeting place or you can tell them where you hope to set up and be early enough to get your spot.
  7.      Have fun!

Here’s a great tailgate recipe:

Kickoff Chicken Chili
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 garlic clove minced finely
1 tsp. onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder
2 cans kidney beans rinsed and drained
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, celery seed, pepper
2 cans pinto beans or black beans rinsed and drained
½ tsp. salt
1 can of diced tomatoes un-drained
⅛ tsp. ground turmeric
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 ⅔ cups whole milk
1 cup of chicken broth
2 Tbsp. chicken bouillon granules

Cook onions until tender. Add garlic, and cook one minute more. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Serve with cheese or better yet serve your chili over a small bag of Fritos that serve as a garnish and a bowl. What a deal!


How to Carve Out Time for Fitness

Author – Paula Scott

How to Carve Out Time for Fitness

As the dog days of summer begin to fade and the back-to-school season is underway, get back to basics and carve out time for fitness.

New Year’s resolution time is often considered the best time to implement a new exercise fitness program. But when it comes to getting organized and inspired to jump into a regular workout routine, now is the perfect time for you to create an exercise plan that suits your new family schedules.

While it’s tempting to think that back-to-school time is “too busy” to be fitness- focused, consider this: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, such as brisk walking, along with at least two sessions of strength-building workouts.  You need to fit that in somewhere!

How do you do it? Start by creating a weekly or monthly calendar of your work hours, school commitments, appointments and other responsibilities, then set times for exercise as you would any other activity. This will help you pinpoint the time each day when you have the most time to exercise. Brainstorm ways you can patch together time for fitness — preferably a half-hour or more on most days. You can spread your activity out during the week so you don’t have to do it all at once. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. It’s about what works best for you, as long as you’re doing physical activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.

According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 49.6 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 reported exercising for at least 30 minutes three or more days per week. People generally exercise more in the spring and summer and less in the fall and winter. Frequent exercise usually drops to its lowest point in December of each year and begins to improve again in January. The cold weather, short days and slowed metabolisms make finding the energy to work out harder than during any other season.

If you’re like a lot of people, all that stands between you and a greater fitness routine is an excuse or two. The number one favorite excuse for not exercising? I don’t have time; my schedule is crazy. Fitting regular exercise into your daily schedule may seem difficult at first but even 10 minutes at a time is fine. Lose the excuses and find your motivation to be active.

The benefits of exercise are well-known. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services acknowledges regular exercise as an effective way of preventing chronic illness such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Getting enough physical activity helps with weight management and prevents loss of muscularity and coordination due to aging. On a more short-term level, exercise enhances mood, reduces stress and contributes to a person’s overall feeling of well-being.

How to Stay Fit During Back-to-School Madness

In a NewsWise, University of the Sciences article, a kinesiology professor Karin Richards at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, says now is the perfect time for people to create an exercise plan that suits their new family schedules. Richards said that these healthy guidelines can be easily achieved without blocking off a large chunk of the day or needing a gym membership.

  1. Create a schedule: A weekly or monthly calendar of your work schedule, school functions, appointments and other responsibilities is a tangible source of planning that will help you identify the best time each day to fit in exercise.
  2. Break it up: Even if you only have three 10-minute breaks throughout the day to squeeze in a workout, it’s better than doing nothing. An outdoor walk during a lunch break is also a great way to include exercise into a busy schedule.
  3. Use your legs: Skip the elevator and take the stairs; be sure to lift your knees high during each step. Also, rather than drop off your children at the bus stop, take a family walk to the stop and add in calf raises off the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.
  4. Use your body weight: Push-ups, bridges, planks and squats are exercises that can be done in the privacy of your own home while watching television, listening to music or helping children with their homework. These exercises can be modified for beginners and advanced fitness levels.
  5. Stay active: Instead of sitting in the car or bleachers while your child is at sports practice or play dates, consider jogging around the field or park during practice. You can still pay attention, but you are also burning calories.

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Scott, PaulaPaula Scott is a Utah State University Extension associate professor.  She is the state director of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).  Paula is a master’s graduate of Utah State University.  She has worked in food and nutrition positions for approximately 20 years focusing on educating people in the community.  Paula co-authored a national nutrition education curriculum for nutrition paraprofessionals. She is a Certified Family Home and Consumer Scientist, with experience in food and basic nutrition, and has always been interested in exercise and fitness, promoting the importance of nutrition and physical activity.