Chill Out! Tips for Freezing Fresh Produce

chill outDuring the summer, fruits and vegetables are abundant — so don’t waste the opportunity for fresh produce because you may not have time to bottle it. Chill out: Use your freezer!

Freezing is safe, fast and gives the freshest taste with the highest nutrition of any preservation method. Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria—so make sure you wash and package your produce well–but it does slow or prevent bacterial growth because of the low temperatures.

A few tips:

  • Freezers should be kept at 0º F
  • Package in rigid, freezer-safe containers or freezer bags. Make sure to label them!
  • Vegetables are best blanched and cooled before being frozen. It stops the ripening action.
    • There are a few exceptions: Sweet or hot peppers can be washed and thrown in freezer bags to be used later in salsas or ….whatever! Onions may also be frozen without blanching—but double bag them to prevent odor transfers to other foods.
  • Fruits typically need no pretreatment, but for convenience sake, wash/drain, then freeze the individual pieces of fruit on a tray. Once they are frozen (about an hour), take them off the tray and put them in freezer bags. When you want to eat them, you can take out the amount you plan to use, rather than thawing the entire bag.
  • For small berries, the less handling the better. Wash/drain them and put them in one layer in a freezer bag. Put the freezer bags flat on the tray in the freezer. That way they freeze as individual pieces, but you aren’t repacking and breaking them in pieces.
  • For best quality, do not let frozen fruit totally thaw before eating: the freezing process damages the cell structure and they tend to be mushy. Put them out to eat when they still have ice crystals on them.
  • Tomatoes can be washed and frozen to be used in salsa later with their peelings on. To peel the skins later, pour boiling water over them, and the peelings will slip off. Let the tomatoes thaw a little before trying to chop them for the salsa.
  • Measure any fruit to be used in a recipe while it is still a little frozen to get a realistic picture of how much you are using. Include any liquid from the thawing in the measurement.

For more information, look in the freezing section of the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

Chill out—and enjoy the fruits of your labors!

This article was written by Cathy Merrill, FCS Extension Assistant Professor, USU Extension, Utah County

4 Simple Swaps for a Healthier Lunchbox

Lunch Swaps

What’s for lunch? If you’ve got kids going back to school, chances are you’re thinking about what you’ll send with them in their lunchboxes. Try these simple changes to make their lunches healthier.

With kids going back to school, it is time to get back into the habit of packing lunch boxes.  Here are some simple swaps that can help you make them more nutritious.

1)   Use water or low-fat milk instead of sugared-beverages. Water is great for keeping little ones hydrated.  You can add fruit or herbs to infuse it with flavor.  Let your kids pick their favorite ones to personalize their water bottles.  Low-fat milk is another great option that packs a nutritious boost with calcium and protein.

2)   Stick with whole grain bread and wraps instead of white.  Fiber in whole grains can help your kids feel fuller for longer.  Whole grain breads and wraps also maintain more vitamins and minerals.  

3)   Add whole fruit instead of fruit snacks.  As one of my favorite professors once said, “Grapes are nature’s candy.”  Fruit can be a sweet treat for your kids that provides much more nutrients and less preservatives and dyes than fruit snacks and other fruit-like candy.

4)   Include some veggies instead of no veggies.  Vegetables can be one of the more challenging food groups to get kids to eat.  Let them pick the vegetables they would like to pack.  Use dinnertime and snack time at home as opportunities to introduce them to a variety of vegetables to help them decide what kinds they like best.

Following these steps can help your lunchboxes follow USDA MyPlate recommendations and give your kids a balanced diet that will help get them through their school day.  As you prepare your lunchbox menus for the week, invite your kids to be involved.  They will be more invested in eating something, if they feel like they have a say in what goes in their lunchbox.    

These tips are great for adult lunches too.  Taking your own lunch to work can help you eat well and save money.


This article was written by LaCee Jimenez – Food $ense (SNAP-Ed) Coordinator

Three Ways to Preserve Zucchini

Preserve Zucchini.jpg

Do you have more zucchini than you know what to do with? Don’t throw it out, try preserving it! Watch our latest segment on Studio 5 to learn three ways to preserve zucchini. Read on for the recipes we mentioned in the show.

Ztudio 5 Zucchini

Dried Zucchini

Cut washed zucchini in 1/4 inch slices and dry in food dehydrator.  Use dried zucchini in soup, chili, or casseroles.

Frozen Zucchini

Prepare zucchini for freezing by cutting it the way you like to eat it (cubed, shredded, spiralized, sliced, etc.). Blanch zucchini in boiling water or steam, then cool in an ice bath before freezing.

Ultimate Zucchini Brownies


  • 2 cups zucchini (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 cup chocolate chips


In a large bowl, mix together zucchini, oil and vanilla. Add in flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa. Stir to combine. Mix will seem very dry (depending on how wet the zucchini is), but continue stirring until mix comes together and resembles stiff cookie dough. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread into a 9×13 baking dish, lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Once cool, use foil ends to lift out of baking dish. Cut brownies into desired size, and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Canned Zucchini

Because zucchini is a low-acid food, it can only be processed safely if acid is added. You’ll probably find two recipe types for canning zucchini— pickles or relishes, and pineapple zucchini or zucchini marmalades. Be sure to use recipes from reliable sources such as Ball, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, or USU Extension. Recipes from these sources have been tested and scientifically proven to be safe.

Zucchini Relish

Yield: about 4 half-pint jars

This Recipe was taken from the Ball Blue Book. Serve with hotdogs, hamburgers, sloppy joe’s, pulled pork sandwiches, or tuna salad. 


  • 2 cups zucchini, chopped or shredded (about three medium)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 1 cup cider vinegar, 5% acidity
  • Ball Pickle Crisp (optional)


Wash zucchini and green and red bell peppers under cold running water; drain. Remove stems and blossom ends from zucchini. Chop or shred zucchini; measure 2 cups chopped or shredded zucchini. Peel onion and chop; measure 1 cup chopped onion. Remove stems and seeds from green and red bell peppers. Chop green bell pepper; measure ½ cup chopped green bell pepper. Chop red bell pepper; measure ½ cup chopped red bell pepper. Combine zucchini, onion, green pepper, and red bell pepper in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt over vegetables. Pour cold water over vegetables just to cover. Let stand 2 hours. Drain vegetables. Rinse vegetables under cold water, drain.

Combine sugar, spices, and vinegar in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a simmer (180°F). Add vegetables; simmer 10 minutes.

Pack hot relish into a hot jar, leaving ½ inch headspace. Add 1/16 teaspoon Pickle Crisp to half-pint jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180°F) in boiling-water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Lower the rack into simmering water. Water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process half-pint jars 10 minutes (add 10 minutes to adjust for altitude in Utah). Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from Canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals. Label and store jars.

Pineapple Zucchini

Yield: about 8 pint jars

Use pineapple zucchini any way you would use canned pineapple. Try it baked into muffins, quick breads, or cakes. Mix it in with your fruit salad, or blended into a smoothie.


  • 4 quarts ½-inch cubed or shredded zucchini (about 32 small, or 2 monstrous)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 46 ounces bottled unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1 ½ cups bottled lemon juice


Wash zucchini under cold running water; drain. Remove stem and blossom ends. Peel zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Cut zucchini into ½-inch cubes or shred it using a food grater.

Combine zucchini, sugar, pineapple juice, and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to a simmer (180°F). Simmer 20 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

Pack hot zucchini and juice into a hot jar, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Clean jar rim. Center lid on jar and adjust band to fingertip-tight. Place jar on the rack elevated over simmering water (180°F) in boiling water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Lower the rack into simmering water; water must cover jars by 1 inch. Adjust heat to medium-high, cover canner and bring water to a rolling boil. Process pint jars 15 minutes. Turn off heat and remove cover. Let jars cool 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Test seals. Label and store jars.

Note: Use only commercial bottled pineapple juice and bottled lemon juice in this recipe to achieve the correct pH level (acidity) for safe processing in a boiling-water canner.

Hummingbird Muffins


  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed banana (2 ripe bananas)
  • ½ cup pineapple zucchini, with juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread pecans onto a lined baking pan. Toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, and then chop. Turn oven up to 350°F (177°C), then prepare muffin tin by coating with cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt together in a large bowl.

Whisk the rest of the cake ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until just. Fold in 1/2 cup toasted pecans.

Fill each muffin space ¾ full, and top with remaining pecans (if icing, reserve pecan garnish for after baking). Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove muffins from tin and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Pineapple Yogurt Icing (optional)
Whisk together 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt, 1 cup powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon juice from pineapple zucchini. Add more juice as needed until icing is pourable consistency. Drizzle muffins with icing, and top with remaining pecans.


Learn More

Preserve the Harvest: Zucchini

Save Your Summer Harvest: Freezing Vegetables

4 Tips for Food Dehydrating


Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Fresh Zucchini Salad

Cooking in Season: Summer Squash

This article was written by Marta Nielsen, Editor of Live Well Utah, Wasatch Front Marketing Assistant for USU Extension

Homemade Ice Cream // Be Safe, Not Sorry

Homemade Ice Cream.jpgDon’t risk foodborne illness when making homemade ice cream. Try this recipe for safe homemade frozen treat.

No doubt about it, homemade ice cream is one of our favorite summertime foods. There are many family favorite recipes circulating that include one ingredient that can put a real damper on summertime fun. That ingredient is raw eggs.

While eggs provide a nice emulsifying benefit to the creamy mixture and give it a more smooth feel by preventing large ice crystals from forming while the ice cream is freezing, this same ingredient has the potential to cause serious illness.

There are many folks who still believe that as long as the egg is clean and crack free, it is free of the pathogen Salmonella enteritidis. That is simply not the case. We now know that an infected laying hen can transmit Salmonella to the inside of the egg as her body is forming it, before the shell is even developed. So using raw eggs in ice cream, even clean and crack free, is not going to eliminate the risk entirely.

Sadly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths each year are caused by eating eggs contaminated with Salmonella, so this is something to take seriously. Here are some options to get the benefit of having eggs in your ice cream mixture without the risk.

  1. Use a cooked egg base, egg substitutes, pasteurized eggs or a recipe without eggs. To make a cooked egg base, mix eggs and milk to make a custard base and then cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, which will destroy salmonella, if present. Use a food thermometer to check the mixture temperature. At this temperature, the mixture will coat a metal spoon. Try to resist the temptation to taste-test when the custard is not fully cooked! After cooking, chill the custard thoroughly before freezing.
  2. Use pasteurized egg substitute products. These products are found in the dairy section of the grocery store, and one brand is Egg Beaters. You may have to experiment with each recipe to determine the correct amount to add.
  3. Another option is to use pasteurized eggs in recipes that call for uncooked eggs. Some local bakeries and ice cream shops may be willing to sell you pasteurized eggs…but that will require you to check around.

So, continue to enjoy your homemade ice cream…but just make some modifications. If you have ever had a case of foodborne illness, you know how sick you can become. Let’s not ruin the party or the ice cream with a case of Salmonella.

Ice Cream Base

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Milk or half-and-half
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups whipping cream

Prepare your ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s instructions. In a large saucepan, combine eggs, 2 cups milk and sugar. Cook over low heat until mixture begins to bubble (stir constantly); cool in refrigerator. Pour cooled mixture into freezer container; add vanilla, cream and additional milk or half-and-half to fill line. (Yield: 1 gallon). Add any of the following variations…

“Very Berry” Ice Cream

1-pound bag of frozen berry medley — raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries

“Peach Pecan” Ice Cream

2 cups crushed peaches mixed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

“Rocky Road” Ice Cream

4 squares semisweet chocolate* melted (add to warm egg/milk custard before cooling)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

*Variation — may substitute white chocolate

This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences educator, Weber County

Sources: Center for Disease Control, Univ. of Minnesota Extension



4 Tips for Food Dehydrating

Food DehydratingNow that summer is in full swing and gardens are producing in abundance, you may be wondering what to do with all you have harvested. Maybe you’ve tried freezing, or even even canning, but what about dehydrating? Try these tips for dehydrating, and preserve some of that summer harvest for later use.

Dehydrating foods is a great way to save foods that you have in surplus, such as fruits and vegetables, for later use. If you preserve your own food regularly, you may already be familiar with how dehydrating works. But if you’re like me, you’re only experience with dehydrated foods might be store bought banana chips from your childhood! If this is the case, dehydrating might seem a little daunting. But have no fear! Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Simple and Easy

I had zero experience with dehydrating food when I set out to use the dehydrator. I was a little nervous that I’d ruin the food. But here’s a secret- it’s not hard! There isn’t much you can do to ruin the food you are dehydrating. If it’s not dry enough, simply leave it in longer. If you accidently dried it too long, add it to a little water to gain a small amount of moisture back.

Dehydrators are easy to use and set up. Following the instructions that come with the dehydrator will help you to get started. The machine will take up little space, has a quick set up and a quick clean up. Once you have prepped your food and placed it in the dehydrator, all you really need to do is wait. Most foods dry at 140º F, but you can visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation website or read So Easy to Preserve from The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to find different charts showing temperatures and times for dehydrating foods.  USU Extension also has an old– but great!–handout on dehydrating, Home Drying of Foods.


2. Proper Preparation


Fruits and vegetables should be washed, cored and sometimes peeled before dehydrating. Almost all vegetables need to blanched to inactivate the enzymes that break down color and flavor during dehydrating. Fruits can be sliced or halved; some can even be left whole to dry. If you slice or cut your food up, remember to cut as evenly as possible. If the pieces are different sizes it could prevent them from drying at the same rate. Food that is cut into thin, uniform pieces will take less time to dry. Blanching is another way to speed up the drying time. When you blanch a fruit or vegetable, it can soften the outer layer which will allow the moisture to escape faster. After blanching grapes, I was a little concerned to see some of the grapes had changed color. But this is normal. So, if there is some color loss after you have blanched your food, don’t panic!

Some fruits, such as apples or bananas, brown when exposed to oxygen. This can be prevented by using a pre-treatment, such as dipping the pieces in lemon juice or an ascorbic acid mixture, to stop the enzyme that causes this reaction. Pre-treatments are not required because this browning does not affect the flavor of the final product, however it can change the look of your final product.

It is important to arrange the food on the drying tray properly. Make sure the pieces do not overlap or touch, as this could cause them to dry unevenly and stick together. There also needs to be room for air circulation, so make sure not to overfill the drying tray. The amount of food you can put on a tray will vary. I fit about two sliced bananas per tray, but this could differ depending on the size of the tray or even the slices.  

3. More Than Just Fruit


veggie leather

Vegetables prepped for vegetable leather.

Don’t limit yourself! While fruit is the most common food associated with dehydrating, you can dehydrate much more than fruit. Both fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated to be used for snacking on or cooking with. They can also be used to make fruit leathers, as well as vegetable leathers. You can find simple recipes to make these, or even get creative and experiment to make your own…whatever you are most comfortable with! Meats can be dehydrated as jerky. This can be done by following a jerky recipe or could simply be done by using pre-cut salami to make ‘chips’ for snacking on. Even herbs, such as basil or oregano, can be dried out, packaged and stored.


4. Patience is a Virtue

Remember to be patient. Different foods will take different amounts of time to be completely dried; some might take a few hours, while others may take a few days. Allowing the food to take as long as it needs is important to ensure it can be stored safely. The time will be well worth it once you have your delicious food, whether you choose to eat it right away or save it for later.    

This article was written by Kelsey Chappell, Family and Consumer Sciences Intern, and Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension associate professor, Salt Lake County

Family Reunion Food

Family Reunion FoodPlanning a family reunion? Try these meal ideas to feed a large crowd using safe food handling techniques.

Because our extended family has extended throughout the country, our family reunions extend as well. Last year 66 of us descended on Oriental, North Carolina. It was wonderful! The last thing any of us wanted to do was spend time making food, but an army travels on its stomach!

The first day of the reunion when everyone starts gathering, people often arrive at odd hours. An easy meal to accommodate this is a large taco salad bar. The taco meat can be kept warm in crockpots on low, as well as the corn. The rest of the ingredients are not temperature sensitive and can be in covered containers on the table.

Our next day called for a beach picnic—the ocean was an hour away, but after traveling across the country from Utah, what’s another hour? We made sandwiches to take to the beach, and to finish up the lunch, we had 80 boxes of juice, 75 bags of pretzels and chips, 1/2 a box of apples and 40 clementines.Cut and wrap sandwiches well, then put in coolers of ice to keep everything at a safe temperature. Remember, this was for 66 people, with a fair amount of teenagers among them!

The Day Everyone Arrives Taco Salad

(Serves 66)

For the meat:

  • 16 lb. (80% lean) ground meat
  • 8-1/2 cups of cheap ketchup—about 2/3 of a  No. 10 can
  • 6 cups of taco seasoning mix
  • 1 gallon (approximately) of water
  • 16 cups of drained, cooked black beans

Directions: fry ground meat, drain, then add ketchup and seasoning mix and water. Heat up the beans and add to the meat. Put in crockpots on low. Be careful you don’t overload any electrical circuits—you may need to spread the crockpots around to different plugs.

Taco Bar Toppings:

  • Two No. 10 cans of corn—heat and put into small crockpots on low
  • 8 to 10 heads of lettuce, shredded
  • 5 lb. corn tortilla chips
  • Two No. 10 cans of mandarin oranges
  • One No. 10 can of sliced (not chopped!) black olives
  • 4 lb. green onions for slicing
  • 13 lb. of tomatoes, diced
  • 4 lb. sweet bell peppers, sliced
  • 8 lb. shredded or grated cheese
  • 1 or 2 jars of pickled pepper rings

Put the toppings — except for the corn — in medium-size bowls and keep the bowls filled as they empty. That way the vegetables will stay crisp in the refrigerator while the diners ebb and flow.

Subway Sandwiches for a Crowd


  • 10 loaves of French bread
  • 5 lb. sliced deli ham
  • 6 lb. sliced deli roast turkey
  • 4 lb. sliced deli roast beef
  • 5 lb. sliced cheddar and/or mozzarella cheese
  • 1-1/2 heads of lettuce
  • 15 tomatoes for slicing
  • 1 large jar of dill pickle chips
  • 1 medium bottle of mustard
  • 1-1/2 jars of Miracle Whip or Mayonnaise


Slice the French bread horizontally through the loaf, spread Miracle Whip (or Mayo) on one side of the loaf, and mustard on the other. Layer the cold cuts, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles (or tomatoes and pickles could be kept in separate containers and people can add them later). Put the bread back together, slice it vertically into 8 sandwiches, then wrap four or five times with clear plastic wrap. Get the large, industrial roll of plastic wrap: it’s wider and easier to handle with a crowd. Make sure the sandwiches won’t get wet while in the ice.

This article was compiled and edited by Cathy Merrill, FCS Utah County

Ask the Experts // Family Reunion Tips

Family Reunion TIpsDraw the short straw on family reunion assignments and are suddenly faced with preparing food for the multitudes? Here are some tips from USU Extension family and consumer sciences faculty to help ease the pain.

Keep Food Safe!

Be cautious and observant. Whether at a buffet-style luncheon, a family, community or church dinner or a picnic, just be cautious up front. Do a cursory review of what food is available and how it is being kept hot or cold. Ask yourself, “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 juices?” “Has the food been held at a safe temperature?”

–Kathleen Riggs, Iron County

I make sure all food is well chilled and packed in a cooler if I’m traveling. Rather than mixing everything together and trying to keep a large container cold, I keep individual ingredients for a salad packaged separately to keep them cold. I pack the dressing separately, then combine it all in a large bowl when I arrive. I make desserts that are not temperature sensitive, such as brownies without frosting (I just sprinkle powdered sugar on top), Rice Krispy treats, cookies or fresh fruit with a fun dip. With meat to be served cold, I keep it well chilled. If keeping it hot, I use a crockpot or a casserole container that can be placed in an insulated bag. Dutch oven meat, vegetables and desserts are a favorite, and since they are generally cooked on site, there is no worry about the food sitting in the danger zone too long.

–Marilyn Albertson, Salt Lake County

Make sure hot food stays hot and cold food stays cold. Place bowls of ice or ice water under salads, etc., and use heat packs or slow cookers for the hot stuff. Make sure food gets put away quickly. That’s a thing in my family that worries me–we all wander away and leave the food out. When making food ahead of time, don’t put super-hot foods in the fridge to cool when they are in very large bowls or pots. Separate for faster and consistent cooling.

–Melanie Jewkes, Salt Lake County

Don’t use home-canned potatoes in your potato salad, or in your funeral potatoes, for that matter, unless you want them to live up to their name

Even if you’re boiling or (otherwise cooking) whole potatoes the night before and plan to finish prep the next day, make sure they’re properly cooled and then refrigerated until you use them. When we talk about C. bot requiring an anaerobic environment, remember that includes microenvironments.

–Karin Allen, USU Extension Food Quality and Entrepreneurship Specialist

One last food safety tip from the USDA: Use a Meat Thermometer!

Food Planning Ideas

Meal-in-a-bag — Pre-bag the entire meal for each person, and they can eat right out of the bag with no fuss or mess. This works well for something like taco salad. You can also put raw ingredients, like omelet fixings, in a bag and then cook the bag in boiling water. The meal is already served out and people just need to pick a bag.  

–Ginger Hack, Juab County

You have to have homemade root beer with dry ice.

If serving homemade ice cream, let family members twist the hand crank ice cream freezer or roll the ice cream in a can or bag. You will need a #10 can with a tight-fitting lid.  Inside that, place a smaller can with a tight-fitting lid filled with the ice cream mixture. Add ice and rock salt and put the lid on and tape it with duct tape. Then roll it on the cement if it is in a shady place (sunny, hot concrete will slow freezing) or in the grass for about 15 minutes. Take lid off, take off lid of small can and stir down ice crystals and repeat the process until ice cream is firm.

–Marilyn Albertson, Salt Lake County

Buy food in amounts that are easy to handle. It may be cheaper to buy a 20-pound chub of ground beef, but have you ever tried to defrost 20 pounds of ground beef in order to use 5 pounds for the taco salad that night?

Have a sign-up sheet — everyone eats so everyone helps! You make the menus, you buy the food, you provide the recipes, but the point-of-contact labor force is the whole reunion population.

Keep the menus very, very simple. It doesn’t mean it has to taste bad, just that it has to have universal appeal. Meals like Hawaiian haystacks where people have an array of topping choices to put on rice make life easy. Rice will feed everyone, and people can choose what they would like to add to it.

–Cathy Merrill, Utah County

From a health perspective–do less salads that are mayo based. They often separate in the summer heat, anyway, and there are way too many delicious veggie dishes to try out (my favorite is a black bean, corn, avocado salsa made with more tomatoes and peppers and raw tomatillos…yummy!). I don’t have a recipe typed up–I change it up each time I make it based on what I have from my garden. This one is very similar to what I start with, But l always add more tomatoes, more peppers, and usually tomatillos and avocados if I have them:

Food $ense Black Bean and Corn Salsa


  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can whole corn, drained
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


Mix olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Combine all other ingredients and pour liquid mixture over and stir. Chill or serve immediately.

–Melanie Jewkes, Salt Lake County

There you have it, folks! Tips from family and consumer sciences faculty from around the state. Obviously, what worries us most is KEEP YOUR FOOD SAFE!  Don’t let a reunion memory of a fantastic family meal be spoiled by a food-borne illness report to the Centers for Disease Control afterward!

This article was compiled and edited by Cathy Merrill, FCS Utah County

Ask an Expert // Food Recalls


Food Recalls.jpgWhat do you really need to know about food recalls? Find out what they really mean, what to do if you have a recalled product in your pantry or fridge, and how to keep your family safe from food-borne illnesses.

Another recall hits the news: is any of the food we eat safe?

Not to worry! These recalls ensure our national food supply continues to be the safest in the world. To put it into perspective: There was a massive cheese recall in February of 2017, of cheeses made in a plant that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. The recall affected all cheeses produced in the plant from November 10, 2016, through February 9, 2017.  

Roughly 3,640,000 pounds were recalled. However, nearly a BILLION pounds of cheese is produced in the United States per month. So, out of the 3 billion pounds of cheese produced during the same time period, only 0.1% (or, 0.001213) of the cheese was recalled.

Recalls occur for several reasons:

  1. Something is missing or incorrect on the label, such as an allergen alert.
  2. A manufacturer reports a problem they have found in their own product.
  3. Government inspections uncover contamination of some sort in a food product of a food processing facility.
  4. Someone reports a foodborne illness to the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC) that is then traced back to its source.

Our government takes food safety very seriously. Manufacturing plants have long lists of “Critical Control Points.” These are steps in the manufacturing process where a specified time and temperature must be regulated. They are checked frequently. Batches of foods are labeled for tracking, and records are kept as to what batches went where in the world and nation.  Quality assurance scientists have chemical tests to run on each batch to ensure safe food. When a recall does occur, there are records that trace the entire physical pathway of the food product so the “bad” food can be found.

What can we do to be a savvy consumer in the face of these recalls?

Be aware of recalls. If it is something you typically purchase, check your pantry and throw away or return the product.

Practice basic, practical food safety: clean, separate, cook & chill.

  • Clean: keep you, your food, and your kitchen clean.
  • Separate: keep raw meats and poultry separate from ready-to-eat foods—in your grocery cart, on your counter preparing food, and in your refrigerator.
  • Cook: cook food completely. The internal temperature for poultry and ground products is 165 F; whole cuts of meat and pork internal temperature should be 145 F.
  • Chill: Keep foods out of the “danger zone” of 41 to 135 F. Bacteria develops rapidly when foods are left at normal room temperature longer than 2 hours. During the summer months in particular, don’t wait even an hour before getting things refrigerated!

So, what should you “recall” about food recalls? That we have government regulations protecting us, and companies doing their best to follow the law and ensure their product is safe!


By: Cathy A. Merrill, FCS Assistant Professor, USU Extension, Utah County


Thielking, M. (2017, March 9). Why is so much cheese being recalled? Stat. Retrieved from: https://www.statnews.com/2017/03/09/cheese-recall-sargento-indiana/

Barry-Jester, A.M. (2016, April 12). The US produces about a billion pounds of cheese every month. The Digest. Retrieved from: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-u-s-produces-about-a-billion-pounds-of-cheese-every-month/

White-Cason, J. (2013, August 12). Understanding Food Recalls: The Recall Process Explained. Food Safety News. Retrieved from: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/

9 Unusual Vegetables You Should Try

unusual veggies graphicNext time you’re at the grocery store, look for some of these interesting vegetables to incorporate into your menus.  Watch the video clip for some recipe ideas, and read up on the nutritional benefits of these veggies below.

Unusual Vegetables Play

Bok Choy


Bok choy is a member of the cabbage family, and contains fiber, protein, and vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants and protect cells from damage. Try sautéing it in a skillet with hot oil and garlic until leaves are bright green and stalks are translucent.



Anise, or Fennel, is a root vegetable and also an aromatic and flavorful herb in the same family as carrots and parsley. It continues fiber, some protein, vitamins A, C and E, potassium, zinc, and beta-carotene.

Roasted Fennel with Parmesan

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 fennel bulbs, cut vertically 1/3-inch thick slices, fronds reserved.
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly oil bottom of a 13×9 glass baking dish. Arrange fennel in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then with parmesan cheese. Drizzle with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Chop enough fennel fronds to equal 2 tsp, then sprinkle over the roasted fennel and serve.



Kale contains protein, fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, C and B6. Try it in a massaged salad, or added into soup.

Massaged Kale Salad

  • 2 bunches of kale
  • ½ c parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • ¼ c lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt

Strip leaves from the stems (discard stems). Wash and dry the leaves. Tear the leaves into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Add parmesan, oil, lemon juice, garlic, pepper, and salt. With clean hands, firmly massage and crush the greens to work in the flavoring. Stop when the volume of greens is reduced by about half. The greens should look darker and somewhat shiny. Taste and adjust seasoning with more parmesan, lemon juice, garlic, and/or pepper. To avoid mess, massage in a Ziploc bag!



Broccoflower looks like a light green cauliflower, and has a milder and sweeter flavor than either broccoli or cauliflower. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Broccoflower contains vitamins A and C, folic acid and magnesium.

Rainbow Chard


Rainbow chard is a relative of the beet, with colorful stalks that resemble celery topped with dark green leaves. It contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, beta carotene, calcium, and potassium. Prepare the leaves as you would spinach, and the stalks as you would asparagus.

Purple Potatoes


They may look different, but purple potatoes contain the same vitamin C, potassium and fiber that regular potatoes do, and can be prepared the same way.



Shallots contain more nutrients than onions, and have a milder flavor. They contain vitamins A and C, pyridoxine, folates, and thiamin.



Jicama is a root vegetable, and contains potassium, fiber, protein, and vitamin C. It should be stored on the counter, not in the fridge. Eat it with hummus or on a salad.



Beets contain antioxidants, vitamin C and B6, fiber, potassium and magnesium. Try them roasted.

Information for this article was contributed by Jaqueline Neid-Avila, RDN, CD with USU Extension in Davis County



Ten Easy Snacks for Summertime Fun

Easy Summer SnacksSkip the pre-packaged unhealthy snacks, and try these 10 easy and nutritious summer snack ideas.

It’s that time of year again. School is out, and kids are making plans for summer adventures – which will naturally include snacks.

Check out the 10 fun, summertime snack ideas below. Some will take a little more prep time, but once they are done, they will be easy for kids to grab out of the freezer so they can be on the way to their next adventure.

  1. Frozen grapesThis is a simple yet tasty snack, and red grapes tend to work best. Pull grapes off the vine, toss them into a freezer bag and freeze. When your kids ask for a popsicle or snow cone, give them a handful of frozen grapes in a cup instead. Better yet, fill an ice-cream cone with grapes, and they can also eat the container!
  2. Watermelon balls – Eating watermelon in the summer is always refreshing, not to mention, it has water to keep your kiddos from getting dehydrated. Rather than just giving a slice or a chunk of watermelon to your kids, grab a melon baller and make little balls. Let them help you so they can take part in making a healthy snack. They can even put them on a skewer for serving.
  3. Homemade fruit roll-ups – Nearly every kid loves fruit roll-ups. Homemade roll-ups are even better AND are very simple. Choose 4 cups of your favorite fruit and puree. You can add a little sugar if desired. This will make enough for two pans. Spread half of the puree until it is about ⅛-inch thick in a 9×13-inch pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Spread the other half in the second pan. Bake at 175 F for 3-4 hours. Make sure the fruit doesn’t become burned or too crispy. Once done, pull the parchment paper with the dried fruit out of the pan. Transfer the dried fruit to wax paper, roll up and cut into 1 to 2-inch strips. Store in an air-tight container or freeze.
  4. Ants on a log – This classic treat has always been an easy “go to” for parents. It is also fun for children to eat. All it requires is celery, peanut butter and raisins or dried cranberries. Cut the celery into 3-inch long sticks, fill the center with peanut butter, place the dried fruit along the peanut butter and Voila! A healthy snack.
  5. Cheese, olives and crackers – This may be the simplest snack out there. Grab a plate and cut some cheese sticks, slices or cubes, open up a can of olives and a sleeve of crackers. Kids can combine the three into a sandwich or eat them individually. Or use toothpicks as a skewer and put small chunks of cheese and olives on them.
  6. Strawberry yogurt popsicles – These are a healthy alternative to popsicles filled with sugar. To make this treat, cut tops off the strawberries, and puree the fruit. Using a popsicle mold, layer pureed strawberries with vanilla yogurt. Put in the freezer overnight and freeze. The next day you have a healthy and refreshing frozen treat.
  7. Ham and cheese pretzel bites – Kids can help with this hearty snack. Roll cheese up into ham, cut into 1-inch long “bites,” and push a straight pretzel through the side of the roll to hold it all together.
  8. Butterfly quesadillas – This snack gets in many of the food groups and is as cute as a button to make. Start by making a simple quesadilla. Cut the quesadilla into quarters. Using two of the quarters, turn them so the points touch. Use grapes lined up to make the body of the butterfly and straight pretzels for the antennae.
  9. Baked apple chips – This snack requires a bit of preparation, but it stores easily for later snacking. Core an apple and cut it into thin slices (the thinner the better – preferably 1/16-inch  thick). Place apple slices so they are not overlapping on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Bake at 200 F for 2 hours. After one hour, turn the apple slices over and bake for another hour. Once they are done, let cool and enjoy.
  10. Peanut butter and chocolate chip oatmeal energy balls – These energy balls are simple, easy to make, easy to store and require no baking! The recipe below makes about 12 oatmeal energy balls.


  • 1 cup dry oats
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • Dash of salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla, optional


In a medium bowl, add all of the ingredients, and stir to combine well. The mixture should be a bit sticky. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Use a spoon to scoop about a tablespoon of the cookie ball mixture into your hand. Roll into a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture.

Store the balls covered in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for much longer.


So there you have it. Ten easy, fun snacks that will keep your children healthy and happy. Have a great summer, and happy snacking!


This article was written by Summer Hansen, USU Extension intern, Box Elder County

Resources: https://www.blessthismessplease.com/2017/03/8-no-bake-oatmeal-energy-balls.html?m