Keep Your Cool This Summer

Author – Ann Henderson
Keep Your Cool This Summer. 12 tips to keep the utilities bill low during the heat.

I am definitely a spring and fall person who loves temperatures near 70 degrees. When the summer heat sets in, I’m thankful for air-conditioned spaces. To keep utility bills lower during the summer season, I’m always looking for cost saving strategies. If you are too, consider these ideas.


When summer utility bills rise, many families begin to look for ways to save money while keeping their homes cool. Here are 12 tips you can start using today that don’t cost a thing and some that require a small investment.

Tip #1 Close the blinds and curtains during the day to keep the sun from coming in. This is one of the best ways to lower indoor temperatures (10 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool).

Tip #2 Open the windows at night when the temperature outside is cooler than in the house. Place box fans in the north and east windows and set them to draw the cool outside air in, and in the south and west windows to blow the warm air out (10 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool).

Tip #3 Use fans to keep the air moving.  While fans don’t lower the temperature, the air movement makes you feel cooler (Gordon).  For a cooler breeze, place a bowl of ice or a frozen bottle of water in front of the fan (Melgren).

Tip #4 Run the dishwasher, dryer, stove/oven and other heat-generating appliances in the evening when it is cooler (Bond).  Use the microwave, toaster oven or outdoor grill for cooking. Dry clothes outside on the clothesline (10 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool).

Tip #5 Use compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs rather than incandescent light bulbs to reduce heat produced and energy consumption (10 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool).

Tip #6 Install white or light-colored shades or mini blinds. Mini blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50 percent (Bond).

Tip #7 Install a programmable thermostat (Main). Set the temperature between 70 and 75ºF when you are at home and 80ºF when you are away (Keep Your Home Cool).

Tip #8 Clean or change the air filters on the air conditioning system every month to keep air flowing freely (Bond).

Tip #9 Install awnings on south and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77% (Gordon).

Tip #10 Hang tightly woven screens or bamboo shades outside windows to keep sunlight from coming in (Bond).

Tip #11 Apply high-reflectivity window film to east and west-facing windows to help keep the house cooler (Gordon).

Tip #12 Plant trees on the south and west exposures of your home.  It will take a few years for them to reach their full height, but once they do they will be enjoyed for years to come (10 Ways to Keep Your Home Cool).

ann_hendersonAnn Henderson is an Extension Associate Professor for Utah State University in Box Elder County. She loves teaching and helping adults and youth find practical solutions to everyday problems related to financial management, nutrition and health, food safety, preservation and storage, and family relationships. She believes that when you strengthen families you strengthens communities.


Don’t Get Sick! Learn these Barbecue Food Safety Tips and Tricks!

Author – Darlene Christensen
Don't Get Sick! Learn these barbecue food safety tips and tricks.

Have you or someone in your family ever had food poisoning? I have, and I can tell you it is miserable! It’s important to remember that it is almost 100 percent preventable (if you are preparing the food yourself). Think about these tips and tricks next time you are out barbecuing or picnicking so that you have a great time and stay healthy.

Eating outdoors in warm weather can be a food safety challenge. Bacteria in food multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. Cooking in the summer heat makes knowing basic food safety principles especially important.
Wash hands.
“Hand washing is THE single most effective way to prevent the spread of disease,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s really simple — make sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. To help kids learn this, try singing the ABC song with them while they wash. Cleaning up is especially important after using the bathroom and before cooking or eating. Oftentimes you find yourself outdoors with no bathroom in the summer. You can use a water jug, some soap and paper towels. Moist disposable towelettes are also good for cleaning your hands.
Keep raw food separate from cooked food.
You take the raw meat on a plate to the grill, right? But remember that you do not want to use that same plate to put the cooked meat on. This is known as cross contamination and can cause food-borne illness. Keep utensils and surfaces clean.
Marinate food in the refrigerator, not out on the counter.
Marinating can make meat tender and tasty. But if you want to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a separate portion. Don’t reuse marinade that contained raw meat.
Cook food thoroughly.
A meat thermometer can really help in making sure meat is cooked to a safe temperature. Steaks should reach 145 degrees and then be allowed to rest for 3 minutes. Chicken should be cooked to at least 165°F. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160°F. If a thermometer is not available, make sure hamburgers are brown all the way through, not pink.
Refrigerate and freeze food right away.
It can be hard to remember while a party is going on, but food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill for more than 2 hours. It’s especially important to remember NOT to leave food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90°F.
Keep hot food hot.
Hot food should be kept at or above 140°F. Hot food should be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container – this will keep the heat in. If you have purchased something like fried chicken at a deli, try to eat it within two hours. Bacteria multiply rapidly after that and can make you sick. Don’t forget to pack your meat thermometer.  When re-heating food, be sure it reaches 165°F.
Keep cold food cold.
Cold food should be held at or below 40°F. Think about potato salad and similar foods. Keep them on ice in a cooler and don’t set them out for long periods of time in the heat.
Those are the basic tips to remember. If you have ever suffered from food-borne illness, you know how miserable it is. Follow these simple steps to keep your food safe and enjoy your summer barbecues and camping trips.

darlene_christensenAuthor Bio: Darlene Christensen is an Associate Extension Professor at Utah State University and serves as the family and consumer sciences/4H agent in Tooele County. She loves working with 4Hers and enjoys teaching adults.
US Food & Drug Administration, Barbecue Basics: Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness.


What You Cannot Can Safely at Home

Author: Melanie Jewkes

What you shouldn't can at home -

Did you know that the USDA has tested and approved many recipes to preserve foods at home? There are many foods you can bottle safely at home, as long as you follow USDA-endorsed recipes and procedures. Some unique foods include grapefruit and orange sections; cantaloupe pickles; pie fillings such as apple, mincemeat and green tomato; chicken, venison and fish; hot sauce and ketchup; a variety of soups and many more. (For such recipes and procedures, see the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.

Have fun trying out a new (USDA-endorsed safe recipe) recipe in your kitchen this season. But, remember the possibilities are not quite endless.

Be aware that there are many foods that cannot be bottle safely at home. Why is that? One reason is that home kitchens are limited. A boiling water canner or a steam pressure canner can only get so hot. Heat is one element that is needed to kill micro-organisms that could spoil your food. A higher temperature needed for low-acid foods (like vegetables, beans and meat) is only achieved at home through a steam pressure canner.

Industrial equipment is much larger and has a different ability to bottle foods than our own kitchens.

Olive oil factory, Olive Production

Canning: Mixed Race Young Adult Woman Preserving Homegrown Fruit

Some foods or recipes have not been tested, or have been tested and have NOT been found to be safe. In some instances, the lack of approved canning recipe is due to poor quality.  Here is a list of some common foods that are NOT safe to can and NOT safe to consume.

What NOT to can (accessed from: )

–          Butter. That’s right, butter. In some emergency preparedness sections of stores, you might see canned butter in a tuna-fish size can. But don’t get too excited to go home and melt butter into a jar just to stick it on your food storage shelves. For now, canning butter using any method is not recommended. Some methods are dangerous, at best; others are not backed up by science. Why can butter when it freezes so easily?

–          Hydrated wheat kernels (aka wheat berries). Wheat is a low-acid food that is susceptible to botulism if trapped in a low-acid, low-oxygen, room-temperature environment. In addition, the starch in wheat may interfere with the heat penetration during canning. Insufficient processing can result in botulism food poisoning. Instead of canning, store wheat dry until used, or if hydrated, refrigerated up to several days. You may also hydrate a batch and freeze in usable portions.

–          Quick breads (e.g. banana, zucchini, pumpkin). This idea likely started when people started baking quick breads in canning jars to create a nice round loaf. However, placing a lid and ring on the jar to create a vacuum seal as it cools does not kill botulism-forming organisms that grow in warm, moist, anaerobic conditions. These items should be either baked fresh and served or frozen.  For more information see this fact sheet:

–          Dried Beans (pinto, kidney, etc.). To safely can dried beans, they must be hydrated first (usually 12 to 18 hours) and then brought to a boil for 30 min. Hot beans are then placed into hot jars for processing. It is not safe to put dry beans covered with water into a steam pressure canner for processing.

–          Fresh homemade salsa. There are many delicious salsa recipes to enjoy with your fresh garden produce, but these are not formulated for canning. Remember that canning recipes are scientifically studied to account for enough acid and/or processing time to keep the food safe. Fresh salsas are not formulated for canning. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s Salsa bulletin, “Improperly canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been implicated in more than one outbreak of botulism poisoning.” Keep you and those consuming your salsas safe. Keep fresh salsas fresh, or freeze. Don’t experiment with canning your favorite fresh salsa. For tips on canning salsas safely, see:

–          Garlic, vegetable or herb-flavored oils. While these make beautiful gifts, infused oils have the potential to support the growth of C. botulinum bacteria, which grows into botulism food poisoning. These are best made fresh for use and not left at room temperature.

–          Pickled eggs. There are NO home canning directions for pickled eggs. There are some recipes for storage in the refrigerator, but in order to avoid botulism, do not leave at room temperature, except for serving time, and do not attempt to bottle for food storage.


Jewkes, MelanieAuthor bio: Melanie Jewkes works part time in Salt Lake County and has worked for USU for 6 years. The best part of her job is learning and relearning some of the things that matter most–loving and caring for marriage and family, living within your means, and growing, cooking and eating delicious, nutritious food. She is married with two adorable children and lives in Taylorsville.

Full Pantry and Nothing to Eat

Author: USU Food $ense Team

Basics to keep in your pantry -

Have you ever gone grocery shopping and filled your pantry or fridge, yet you still feel like you have nothing to eat? It’s easy to run out for fast food, but that can be costly on the monthly budget. Use the groceries you just bought and save a little money too with these quick tips!

Did you know salsa made the list of staples to have on hand too? Get the entire printable list of staples and meal ideas here.

Now enjoy using up what’s in your pantry. Your wallet will thank you!


usu food senseAuthor Bio: USU Food $ense Team



Lavender Tea Cookies Recipe

Author – Carolyn Washburn

These are a favorite of mine in the summer. Consider growing your own lavender flowers in your yard or garden this year. Containers are an easy way to do that and you’ll get a colorful addition to your summerscape as well as a useful plant you can enjoy in this cookie!

cookies recipe using lavender -

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
1 cup butter at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

  • In a mortar, grind lavender flowers with the pestle.
  • In a medium bowl, cream together ground lavender flowers, butter, sugar, vanilla extract and lemon extract.
  • Add flour and salt; mix until combined (dough should be soft but not sticky).
  • Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until dough is firm.
  • Remove dough from refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough approximately 1/4-inch thick.
  • Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 12-15 minutes.

Lavender Frosting:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
Lavender food coloring – optional

  • In a small plastic bag, combine powdered sugar and dried lavender flowers. Let stand at least 1 day before using.
  • When ready to use, sift the mixture into a medium-size bowl; discarding lavender flowers.
  • Add milk and corn syrup, mixing well.
  • NOTE: Additional powdered sugar or milk may need to be added (enough milk to make frosting easy to spread). Add color and spread on cooled cookies.


washburn, carolynnAuthor bio: Carolyn 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.

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit

Author: Carolyn Washburn

benefits of eating beans -

Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and birth defects.  Yes, those beans are a magical food. They are found in both protein and vegetable food sections on the MyPlate food guide, and the health benefits certainly make them a “magical” food. Remember how Jack traded a cow for them? Beans are full of fiber and nutrition and are a very economical food. The three healthiest beans are the black bean, the kidney bean and the lima bean.

Just how good are those beans?

  • Fight diseases – A report by nutrition experts at Michigan State University reviewed 25 years of bean research and concluded that beans are an often-overlooked food source that could be helping Americans fight a host of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
  • Lower risks – People who ate legumes such as dry beans at least four times a week had a 22 percent lower risk of heart disease than people who ate them less than once a week.
  • Lower death rate – Out of 41 countries, those with the highest bean consumption had the lowest death rates from breast, prostate and colon cancers.
  • Sustain Energy – Beans promote satiety and provide sustained energy, which helped individuals eat fewer calories and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Maintain Healthy Blood Glucose Levels – The high fiber content in beans helped people with diabetes maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Beans are also rich in antioxidant phytochemicals, which reduce the damage caused by free radicals and may also reduce the risk of cancer.


So, live to be an old fart, and eat those beans! For bean recipes, visit the USU Extension/ Washington County Home Matters site .


washburn, carolynnAuthor bio: Carolyn 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.

Marriage Survival

Author – Carolyn Washburn

How 6 hours can change your marriage -

Marriage is important to Americans. Married couples are healthier, wealthier and their children do better in school.  More than 90 percent of Americans will marry, however about 50 percent of these relationships will end in divorce.

Did you know that a game changer for your marriage might be just 6 hours?

Research tells us that couples who spend 6 hours a year in relationship enrichment maintain strong relationships.

This might be:

  • taking the time to attend a couple’s retreat or conference,
  • reading marriage enrichment materials,
  • trying marriage enrichment activities found online.

Making a commitment to keep your relationship strong will be the best gift you can give each other and your children. And, don’t forget that those weekly date nights are a critical component for healthy relationships.

Relationship Tip:  Kindness – the most important element in any relationship!

Relationships and kindness -

Check your local area for marriage conferences and classes or visit (link). Do you have a relationship tip? Share it with us and also check out our Pinterest board on relationships for more fun ideas, links and ways to creatively and easily spend time together.

washburn, carolynnAuthor bio – Carolyn 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.

7 Reasons to Check Your Credit Report

author: Suzanne Jorgensen

7 reasons to check your credit report -

Have you checked your credit report lately?  Below are seven reasons you should check it at least once a year.

1) It’s FREE! The only official free location to check your credit report is at You can also call toll free at 1-877-322-8228, or you can request it through regular mail by filling out an online form. Other companies may claim to have free credit reports, but their reports are not really free or they have “strings attached.”

2)  Information is power. Monitor your credit throughout the year by checking the report from one of the three credit bureaus. December near year end, April during tax preparation and August during back to school are good times to remember to request your reports. The key is to look for inaccurate or unauthorized activity. Examples might be a late payment showing on the report, even though you have paid off the balance and closed the account, or an account you did not open. You should contact the credit bureau and request that they correct the information. You can dispute credit bureau errors by writing a letter. Sample letters can be found online. The quickest way to dispute information is on the credit bureau website when you get your report. Follow the links provided on the website. The credit bureau has 30 days to correct the inaccurate information.

3) It’s Important. Check your credit score. When applying for credit, it is helpful to know that your report is in good shape and you have a good credit score. Unfortunately, your free credit report will not show your credit score for free. You can request your score for a fee from any of the three credit bureaus, but the best place to check your score is at since the FICO score is the score that companies usually use when you apply for credit.

4) There may be incorrect or fraudulent information affecting your credit.

5) You can take action to increase your score. It’s important to know your number.

6) It’s important to know your rights. If a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment based on information in your report, you are entitled to a free report under federal law, even if you have requested your free report within the past 12 months. You must ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address and phone number of the credit reporting agency. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, if you’re on welfare or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.

7) It is helpful. If you have been the victim of identity theft, request that the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies place “fraud alerts” in your file. This will let potential creditors and others know you have been the victim of fraud. Although it may delay your ability to obtain credit, a fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. You can place a fraud alert in your file by calling one of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. That credit bureau will notify the other two, and they will then also place fraud alerts in your file.

• If you suspect your minor child’s information has been used fraudulently, contact the credit reporting agencies directly and also report the illegal use of your child’s information to law enforcement. The credit reporting agencies do not knowingly maintain credit files on minor children, but to report fraud, you can give each agency your child’s complete name, address, date of birth and a copy of his or her birth certificate and social security card. They will need a copy of your driver’s license or other government-issued proof of your identity that includes your current address. They will also need a utility bill containing your current address. For additional information on identity theft, check online at


Jorgensen, SuzanneAuthor bio : SuzAnne Jorgensen works with adult and youth groups and individuals to educate them in the areas of canning, food safety, nutrition, finances, small business and many other topics related to home, family and business through Utah State University Extension in Garfield County.

Resource Roundup – Problems with Tomatoes

problems with tomatoes and solutions -


We’ve rounded up the resources that will give you the tips and advice you might be looking for to help your tomato crop be more successful this year. From splits, spots and more get clicking and pinning to find the information you need!

solutions for cracked tomatoes -


Ever have a problem with tomatoes cracking along the top? The Salt Lake County USU Extension office blog called The Organic Forecast addressed this issue. They say, ” Cracks or splits can happen in tomatoes either in a circular pattern (concentric) or they may radiate out from the stem. Tomatoes crack when the skin of the tomato does not stretch enough to accommodate growth or internal pressure.” They list the 2 main reasons for cracking is irrigation practices and pruning. Find out a few different ways to prevent it by clicking over HERE.

how do my tomoatoes get spots -


The Organic Forecast blog says, “Although rare because here in Utah, are climate is not humid and moist much of the time, we still can be affected by tomato bacterial spot… The pathogen that causes this disease may be introduced to a field on infected seeds or transplants. It can then survive up to a year on plant debris that was infected the prior year. The pathogen becomes active once temperatures heat to the 80s and 90s, and when several hours of moist conditions occur.” So what do you do about it? Click over to find out some simple tricks to getting rid of it.

tomato diseases -


Have you ever wondered why your tomatoes were spotty in color? The Utah PESTS identifies 3 different types of viruses that can affect parts of Utah – spotted wilt virus, Late blight and early blight. Click over to their article HERE for all the information.

 curly top tomotoes -


Commonly found affecting several different types of plants, tomatoes are not exception. Utah Pests has the symptoms, disease cycle information, management and more .

Want more information about Tomatoes? There is a great free publication listing best varieties to plant, soil prep, mulching, rows, FAQ’s, etc. Also, pop over to the TOMATO search on the USU Site.

Easy Fruit Parfait – Recipe

Author: USU Food $ense Team

Dessert can be easy with a few ingredients, especially if you have some basic staples on hand already like we mentioned a few weeks ago. Fruit becomes extra delicious as a simple parfait. Create one yourself, or get the whole family involved and let each member layer his or her own.

easy fruit parfait recipe ideas -

1. FRUIT – Choose one or more types of fruit. Wash and cut fruit into bite-sized pieces.

2. BASE –  Choose one or more base ingredients like yogurt (Greek), cottage cheese, oats or pudding.

3: TOPPING – Try granola, nuts, honey, crumbled graham crackers or use this crumble topping:

Crumble topping:

• ½ cup oats

• ¼ cup brown sugar

• ¼ cup whole-wheat flour

• 2 tablespoons canola oil

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

4. Layer base, fruit and toppings. Enjoy!

Click over to enjoy fruit easily in two other ways, plus get lots of ideas for different fruits to try. What are some of the ingredients you enjoy in a parfait?


usu food senseAuthor bio: USU Food $ense Team