A New Year, a New You: Strategies to Simplify Your Life in the Kitchen

simplify your kitchen.jpgHave you made the goal to simplify your life in the new year? Try these strategies to simplify your life in the kitchen.


Keep shelf-stable items and utensils that you frequently use visible in the kitchen. Move spices you use often to the front of the cabinet and invest in a tiered tower or spice rack so everything is visible at once. Store dry goods such as flour, sugar, grains, and beans in airtight glass jars or plastic containers on the counter or on a visible row of the pantry. Store cooking utensils in a holder on the counter or in a drawer next to the stove (Bittman, 2014).

Stock Up

Having basic pantry, refrigerator, and freezer staples on hand can make it much easier to throw together a quick dinner. If the thought of purchasing all of the items at once seems overwhelming, add a few items to your list each week and in a couple of months, you will be set. Here is a basic list to get you started (Bittman, 2014):

  • Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, and/or vegetable oil
  • Vinegars – balsamic, red wine or sherry, and/or white wine
  • Dried herbs and spices – salt, black pepper, chili powder, curry powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, sage, rosemary, tarragon, dill, basil, and thyme
  • Dried grains – brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, dried whole-wheat pasta
  • Dried and/or canned beans – garbanzo, black, kidney, navy, and/or cannellini
  • Canned tomato products – tomato paste, canned tomatoes (diced, crushed, whole)
  • Nut butters*
  • Brown sugar, honey, maple syrup
  • Flours – whole-wheat white flour, white flour, cornmeal
  • Baking soda, baking powder
  • Nuts and seeds* (walnuts, almonds, etc.)
  • Chicken and/or vegetable stock or bullion

*refrigerate to preserve quality

In addition, stock up on frozen vegetables – corn, mixed vegetables, peas, spinach, edamame – and fruit when items are on sale.

Plan Ahead

Planning several days or a week of meals at once may seem like an overwhelming task, but once you get into the routine, you will likely find it saves a great deal of time. There will be less trips to the grocery store and less time spent thinking about what’s for dinner.

Tips to get started:

  • Ask your family for favorite meal ideas.
  • Start small. Select one or two recipes you know how to make and add one or two new recipes per week.
  • Need help choosing recipes? Think about your weekly schedule. Are there going to be late nights at work or sports games to attend? If so, you may want to plan a slow cooker meal or a meal you can remake from leftovers for this busy night. Look at what is on sale at your local grocery store and consider what produce is in season, which means it will likely be less expensive.
  • Gather your recipes for the week and create a grocery list. First, check to see which items you already have at home. Include the other ingredients on a list. Organize your list according to the sections of the grocery store: produce, dairy, meat/seafood, dry goods/spices, and the freezer section.
  • Make notes about which recipes your family likes and dislikes. After a month or so, you’ll have a substantial list you can use to create a rotating meal schedule and you can add in new recipes if you choose to.
  • Visit Choosemyplate.gov for more grocery shopping and meal planning tips.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

  • Grains: Double a batch of grains, such a rice. Immediately separate, cool, and refrigerate the extra portion. Use the leftovers the next night in a stir-fry or casserole.
  • Meat/Protein: Roast extra chicken, pork, or beef. Use it the next night in a soup, tacos, or green salad.
  • Beans: Cook extra beans and use the leftovers for bean burritos or taco bowls.
  • Roasted vegetables: Roast extra vegetables and use the leftovers for a pureed soup or hearty vegetable stew. Or try roasted vegetable tacos or a roasted vegetable grain bowl topped with nuts, seeds, or crumbled cheese.

Remember to follow food safety rules for leftovers. 

  • Cool and refrigerate food in shallow containers promptly (within 2 hours of cooking).
  • Cold food should be stored at 40 F or lower.
  • Discard refrigerated leftovers after 3-4 days.
  • Remember to label and date frozen items. Store frozen items in containers such as gallon freezer bags or freezer grade plastic or glass containers and ensure that your freezer remains at 0 F or less.
  • Thaw frozen items in the refrigerator or microwave. Never thaw food on the kitchen counter or at room temperature.
  • Remember to reheat all leftovers to 165 F throughout.
  • Visit Foodsafety.gov for recommended freezer and refrigerator storage times or the National Center for Home Preservation’s Guide to Freezing Prepared Foods for more information on freezing leftovers. Additional information from the USDA on food safety and leftovers can be found here.

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


  1. Bittman, M. (2014). How to cook everything fast. New York: Double B Publishing, Inc.
  2. Kitchen Timesavers. (2017). In Choosemyplate.gov. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget-time-savers.
  3. Leftovers and Food Safety. (2013). In United States Department of Agriculture

Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/leftovers-and-food-safety/ct_index.


Safety First During the Holidays

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

Toy Safety

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

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

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


Electrical Safety

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

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


Food Safety

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

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

For further information, visit www.foodsafety.gov.

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

More on Cooking for One or Two

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

Rethink your recipes.

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

Keep these recipe measurement conversions in mind:

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

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

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

Cook Once, Eat Twice

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

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

Sample Recipe: Honey Mustard Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

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

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

Similarly, there are many uses for leftover roasted chicken.

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

Keep Food Safety in Mind

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

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


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015). 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Retrieved October 5, 2017, from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
  2. Henneman A. (2012). Planning Healthy Meals for One or Two – A Checklist. University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension. Retrieved from https://food.unl.edu/documents/Cookingfor1or2.pdf
  3. Allen R. Cooking for One or Two. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved from http://www.frontierdistrict.k-state.edu/health-nutrition/food-preparation/docs/Health%20Nutrition%20Cooking%204%20One%20Or%20Two.pdf
  4.     Henneman A. Reducing the Size of Recipes. University of Nebraska Lincoln. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Retrieved from https://food.unl.edu/reducing-size-recipes-0
  5.     McEntire JC. (2011). Handle Leftovers with Care. FoodSafety.gov website. Retrieved from https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/leftovers.html
  6.   FoodSafety.gov. Storage Times for the Freezer and Refrigerator. Retrieved from https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html

Cooking for One or Two

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

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

Use MyPlate to plan balanced meals.                                      

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

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

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

Here are some helpful hints:

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

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


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015). 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Retrieved October 5, 2017, from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
  2. Henneman A. (2012). Planning Healthy Meals for One or Two – A Checklist. University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension. Retrieved from https://food.unl.edu/documents/Cookingfor1or2.pdf
  3. Allen R. Cooking for One or Two. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved from http://www.frontierdistrict.k-state.edu/health-nutrition/food-preparation/docs/Health%20Nutrition%20Cooking%204%20One%20Or%20Two.pdf
  4. Henneman A. Reducing the Size of Recipes. University of Nebraska Lincoln. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Retrieved from https://food.unl.edu/reducing-size-recipes-0
  5. McEntire JC. (2011). Handle Leftovers with Care. FoodSafety.gov website. Retrieved from https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/leftovers.html

6.   FoodSafety.gov. Storage Times for the Freezer and Refrigerator. Retrieved from https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html

Flavorful Eating in the Later Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wasted Food is Wasted Money

wasting food.jpg

Don’t throw your money away with your leftovers. Learn how to cut down on food waste and save money in today’s article.

Holiday time is upon us. It’s the time of year when people start feeling the pressure of extra demands on the paychecks. Much of holiday celebrating centers around food, and that puts a strain on the average food budget. However, holiday season isn’t the only time that staying within a tight food budget is necessary. It’s a monthly task that takes extra planning, and any trick to save a few bucks is helpful. Here are some interesting facts that may surprise you and get you thinking about ways you can save money.

A study done by George Washington University claims that 33.19 million tons of food were wasted in the United States in 2010—enough to fill the Empire State Building 91 times. Household food waste accounts for 55-65 percent of this total. Each month the average American throws away approximately 20 pounds of food. That’s 240 pounds per year at a cost of about $370 per person! Protein foods make up the biggest waste while breads and pasta are least likely to be dumped.

Why do we toss food? The biggest reason is because it spoils before we can eat it. Other reasons may include over-purchasing perishable food, cooking big meals and throwing some of it away, or not eating everything on our plate. The International Food Information Council reports that more than half of Americans say they take leftovers home from restaurants, use leftovers from cooking, plan their meals, make shopping lists, and use or freeze leftovers in a timely manner. This is a good start, but there are other critical ways to lessen the waste.

  • Think smaller portions. Super-sized portions are popular now. If we compare these portions to 20 years ago, many have doubled in size. We don’t need the extra calories. Using smaller plates also helps.
  • Store food correctly. Fruits and vegetables will last much longer if stored in the proper place. Bananas and tomatoes should be stored on the counter, out of the refrigerator. Onions, garlic, potatoes and winter squash should be in a cool, dark, dry place such as a cellar for optimum storage life. Apples will last up to a week on the counter but more than a week in the fridge. Keep them away from other produce as they produce ethylene gas which causes fruit to ripen faster. Citrus fruits should be stored in a mesh bag or the crisper drawer in the fridge. Berries, grapes, and cherries should be stored, unwashed, in the fridge. Washing these before storage hastens rot.
  • Keep a tidy fridge, freezer and pantry. If it’s out of sight, it’s usually out of mind. Much of fridge food isn’t discovered until it has grown green fuzzies. Remember that freezer food doesn’t last forever but dries out over time. When you bring new groceries home, move the older food to the front of the pantry or freezer and consume them first.
  • Understand expiration dates. A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires. The “Best if Used By” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. “Use-By” dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome, and of good quality if handled properly. Trust your sense of smell and sight in these cases.
  • Be conscious of what you throw away and why. This way you can prevent the same from happening again.

Getting the most for our money is important. Some of these ideas may seem overwhelming but once practiced, they become habits that add extra money to our wallets and lessen budget stress.

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

Five Tips for Food Safety at Holiday Buffets

holiday buffet safety.jpgWith Thanksgiving just around the corner, try these tips for food safety at your upcoming holiday gatherings.

The aromas of holiday foods often bring to mind the sweet memories of years past. Whether a large family gathering, office party or potluck, the holidays are filled with traditional foods that bring people together. On the other hand, there may be in your memory a time where the result of such a gathering left you nauseous, vomiting or worse because of an episode of food-borne illness.

Let’s take a closer look at buffets, whether at a restaurant or any type of gathering, and be aware of how to avoid becoming ill for the holidays. Following a few general tips should help keep you protected.

1.) Take time to be cautious and observant. If you are invited to be a guest at a buffet-style luncheon or dinner served at a family, community, work or church gathering, be cautious up front. Do a quick review of what food is available and how it is being kept hot or cold.

Ask yourself a few questions: Does the food look fresh? Do I trust that the person preparing the food had clean hands and avoided cross-contamination with raw meats or meat juices? Has the food been held at a safe temperature? The Food Safety Inspection Service specifies that hot food should be held at 140 F or warmer and cold food should be held at 40 F or colder. They also note that using the same knives and cutting surfaces to prepare a variety of foods is the main source of cross contamination leading to food-borne illness.

2.) Notice how the food is being kept hot or cold. It is very important that food at a buffet is kept hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays and that food that requires refrigeration is kept cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or small serving trays that are replaced often.

If hot foods are not in a container keeping the food steaming hot using electrical power, an insulated chest or Sterno® burners, it is very difficult to keep foods at a safe temperature for more than 30 minutes. This is true for any low-acid food like vegetables, meats, soups, casseroles, etc.

Depending on the temperature of the room, foods containing dairy may only remain at 40 F or colder for a few minutes. As food temperatures approach room temperature, bacteria can thrive. Perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

3.) Know which foods are likely to be sources of food-borne illness. Dishes with meat, meat juices, dairy, potatoes, corn and squash are especially prone to carry food-borne pathogens if not cooked thoroughly and held at a sufficient high temperature. These foods are “dense” and are difficult to heat to the center, and they also chill quickly when stored in large quantities. So, if there is any doubt as to whether the food is fresh or has been stored and reheated, be extra cautious. Keep in mind that populations especially vulnerable to illness include the elderly and young children.

4.) Be aware of food-borne illnesses and symptoms. A worst-case scenario would be to eat food containing botulism spores that could lead to death. Most illnesses, however, are caused by Clostridium perfringens, often referred to as the “cafeteria germ” because it may be found in foods served in quantity and left for long periods of time on inadequately maintained steam tables or at room temperature. The toxins cause abdominal pain and stomach cramps, followed by diarrhea. These symptoms last around 24 hours, and while uncomfortable, they are rarely fatal.

Listeria monocytogenes, another food-borne illness, is caused when bacteria multiply slowly at refrigeration temperatures. To avoid serving foods containing Listeria, carefully follow “keep refrigerated” and “use by” directions, and thoroughly reheat frozen or refrigerated processed meat and poultry products before consumption. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or convulsions can occur.

5.) Follow guidelines if you plan to take home leftovers. Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165 F. Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than on one large platter. Keep the rest of the food hot in the oven (set at 200-250 F) or cold in the refrigerator until serving time. This way foods will be held at a safe temperature for a longer period of time. Replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it. Many people’s hands may have been taking food from the dish, which has also been sitting out at room temperature.

Short of avoiding buffets all together (which some food safety experts endorse), a little common sense and personal hand hygiene can help you avoid becoming sick from any number of communicable diseases. Carry and use hand sanitizer before eating. If you wash your hands in the restroom, use a paper towel to turn off faucets and to open the door as you leave.

This article was written by Kathleen Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu, 435-586-8132

Dinner in a Pumpkin

Dinner in a pumpkin.jpgImpress your family and friends with afestive fall dinner— soup served in a pumpkin!

When I worked for Food $ense a few years ago we stumbled across what has become one of my favorite fall recipes , dinner in a pumpkin.  It is best to use a cooking pumpkin for these types of recipes.

Dinner in a Pumpkin


  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 potatoes, 1″ cubes
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, 1/2″ slices
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 2 T beef bouillon granules
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pumpkin (10-12 lbs.)


In a medium pan, brown ground beef, rinse and drain.  Add beef back to pan and add water, potatoes, carrots, green pepper, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Stir in bouillon and add tomatoes

Wash pumpkin and cut an 8″ circle around the top stem.  Remove top and set aside.  Take out seeds and loose fibers from inside the pumpkin.  Place pumpkin in shallow pan.  Spoon beef mixture into pumpkin and replace stem.  Brush outside of pumpkin with olive oil.  Bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours or until the pumpkin is tender.  Serve by scooping out a little pumpkin with each serving.  

This article was written by Paige Wray, USU Extension Assistant Professor, San Juan County Family Consumer Sciences/4-H

Dining with Diabetes

Dining with Diabetes

Know someone living with diabetes? Using MyPlate is a great way to plan balanced meals and help manage diabetes. Read on to learn more.

Utilizing MyPlate is a simple and effective way to manage diabetes.  MyPlate serves as a quick, simple example of how to eat according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; which includes foods from all five food groups.  MyPlate is what a “balanced meal” should be. Eating a protein, a whole grain and fruits and vegetables at each meal and even for snacks is an important factor in managing blood glucose levels.

Try these six steps to get started:

  1. Using an 8” dinner plate, put a line down the middle of the plate. Then on one side, divide it again so you will have three sections on your plate.

  2. Fill the largest section that is half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables. Such as asparagus, artichokes, green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, mushrooms, onions, peppers, radish, salad greens, sprouts, squash, sugar snap peas, swiss chard, tomato, turnips, or water chestnuts.
  1.  In one of the smaller sections, put whole grains and starchy foods such as bulgur (cracked wheat), whole wheat flour, whole oats, cornmeal, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole grain barley, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, millet, quinoa, sorghum, or whole grain pasta
  1. In the remaining small section, put your protein. Good sources of protein are beans (black, kidney and pinto), hummus, lentils, edamame, soy nuts, nuts and nut spreads, tofu, fish and shellfish, chicken, turkey, cheese, cottage cheese, whole eggs, or other meats with fat trimmed and in moderation.
  1. Add a serving of fruit, a serving of dairy or both.
  2. Choose healthy fats in small amounts such as:  olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados.

Choosing to eat by the MyPlate guidelines is a great way to eat even if you don’t have diabetes and just want to be healthy or even lose weight. 

This article was written by Patricia Mathis, USU Extension 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences Educator in Wasatch County

Carve Your Pumpkin, Keep the Seeds!


Today we’re talking about pumpkin seeds— how to prepare them and different ways to use them. So as you get ready to carve pumpkins this year, don’t forget to save the seeds!

When you are carving that Halloween Jack-o’-lantern this year, here is one request I have for you, keep your seeds! Did you know that 1 oz of pumpkin seeds has around 5 grams of protein? Pumpkin seeds are an easy, cheap way to add a nutritious boost to your trail mix, baked goods and granola.

First and foremost, remove the pulp and seeds from the inside of your pumpkin. I like to put the seeds and pulp in a bowl of water while carving my pumpkin. This helps to pull away all the strings from the seeds. When you have only seeds left in your bowl, give them a good rinse. Move seeds to a new bowl and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings and oil. Make sure to mix well.  Next you will want to spread them evenly over a large baking tray. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Make sure to check and stir the seeds frequently to avoid burning. Cool pumpkin seeds and then store them in an air-tight container.

When choosing a seasoning for your pumpkin seeds, think about what you plan to do with them. The outer part of the pumpkin seed can be removed (hulled) after they have been roasted. The inner part of the pumpkin seed is a green color and is a great addition to breads and muffins.

Check out these five ways to use pumpkin seeds below:

Traditional Roast

When using this method, try different spices to give your seeds some flair. Here are some combinations:

  • Cinnamon Toast Pumpkin Seeds: 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp salt, 2 Tbsp sugar, 3 Tbsp melted butter or olive oil
  • Chili Pumpkin Seeds: 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 Tbsp tamari sauce, 2 tsp garlic powder, salt to taste, 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Spicy Pumpkin Seeds: ½ tsp paprika, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes, 2 Tbsp melted butter or olive oil
  • Ginger Zest Pumpkin Seeds: 2 Tbsp ground ginger, 2 Tbsp sugar, ½ tsp orange zest, 2 Tbsp melted butter or oil
  • Parmesan Pumpkin Seeds: ¼ c Parmesan cheese, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 2 Tbsp melted butter or oil.

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

This one was new to me, but has quickly turned into a favorite. Making a traditional pesto with pine nuts can be pricy, but not when you are using your pumpkin seeds! For this it is important to have hulled (green) pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients- 2 c. hulled pumpkin seeds, 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ tsp sea salt, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 c. fresh cilantro, and ¼ c. water. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Cover and chill until ready to use.

More Ideas

  • Add them to trail mix or granola. Do your granola or trail mix recipes call for nuts? Reduce the portion of nuts and add pumpkin seeds for the remaining portion.
  • Add them to baked goods or use in brittle. Instead of making a nut brittle this year, sub in hulled pumpkin seeds to make a new fall favorite.
  • Garnish soups, salads and desserts. Add a little extra crunch to any meal by topping your dish off with pumpkin seeds!

This article was written by Jaqueline Neid-Avila, Utah State University Extension nutrition faculty for Davis County. Comments or questions may be sent to jaqueline.neid-avila@usu.edu or call 801-451-3404. Republished from October 2016.