How to Afford Fresh Produce // 10 Tips

fresh-produce-costHow do you balance eating healthy with your grocery budget? We’ve got ten tips to help you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables without breaking the bank.


Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet because they provide essential vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber and water while low in calories, so they can help us feel full longer on fewer calories. The USDA MyPlate Guidelines tells us to make ½ of our plate fruit and vegetables, but many people find it difficult to put this into practice.

The three main reasons people give for not eating more fruits and vegetables are cost, time, and taste. This week we’ll talk about how to eat fruits and vegetables on a budget, and we will cover how to make fruits and vegetables more convenient and tastier in following weeks.

Many people think that fruits and vegetables are too expensive. However, it depends on how you think about it. Fruits and vegetables do tend to be more expensive per calorie, but less expensive than less healthy foods per gram or per portion eaten. This is because fruits and vegetables are higher in fiber, water, and vitamins and minerals, while being lower in calories. If you think about all of the nutritional benefits you get from fruits and vegetables, it is hard not to see them as a deal!

Here are 10 great tips to include fruits and vegetables in your diet at a lower cost:

  1. Shop in season! Fruits and vegetables are often on sale when they are in season, and usually taste better then too. Find out what vegetables are in season. 
  2. Some vegetables are available for a low cost year round, including potatoes, carrots, onions, and cabbage. Look for recipes online to find new ways to use these staples: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/main-recipes
  3. Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables when they are on sale. Frozen is just as nutritious as fresh, and they can keep 8-10 months in the freezer. Choose those without added sauces, fats, or sugar.
  4. Plan your meals ahead of time so fresh fruits and vegetables get used before they go bad. Learn more about meal planning
  5. To reduce waste, you can freeze leftover vegetables to add to casseroles or soups later, and overripe fruit is great in smoothies or baking.
  6. Canned vegetables are a great option, and are much more affordable than fresh or frozen. Choose fruit canned in 100% juice and vegetables that are low in sodium or have no sodium added. Stock up when they are on sale!
  7. When buying canned or frozen vegetables, try the store brand. The store brand is the same or a similar product at a much lower price.
  8. Check out your local farmer’s market. You can often find great deals on seasonal produce.
  9. If you find a great deal on fresh produce, try freezing or canning it for later use. Learn how from USU Extension
  10. Another way to reduce cost might be to grow your own produce. A backyard garden or patio planter can provide super-fresh produce all summer long. Visit garden.usu.edu for great resources.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to make fruits and vegetables more convenient and tasty.


This article was written by Carrie Durward, Extension Nutrition Specialist




Winter Squash Wonder Pie

winter-squash-pieStill have some winter squash from the garden in your cold storage? Make good use of it in this delicious winter squash wonder pie. The kids won’t even realize they’re eating a vegetable!


Winter Squash Wonder Pie

Total preparation/baking time: 90 minutes (425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then 350 degrees F for 45 minutes)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups banana squash*               
  • 1 cup sugar or baking sucralose                
  • 6 Tbsp. maple syrup                                     
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 (12 oz.) cans evaporated milk
  • Directions

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Prepare squash by washing, cutting and removing seeds. Cut the flesh into large cubes. Place the squash into a pot, adding enough water to cover the cubes. Boil for about 20 minutes or until the squash is fork tender.

Measure the squash, scraping flesh from the shell and squeezing out extra moisture, and place it into a blender. Add the remaining ingredients with the evaporated milk going in last. (If both cans of evaporated milk won’t fit, add one can, and blend until well mixed, move the mixture to a large bowl and mix in the last can of milk.)

Make your own crust, or purchase one from the store. To prevent spills in the oven, place your pie crusts on top of a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. The squash mixture is quite runny, so place the pie tins on the rack, and then pour the mixture into the tins. Carefully push the rack back into the oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees, baking for another 45 minutes. To check for doneness, pat the top of the pie with a butter knife. The pies are ready when the tops are mostly firm. Remove from the oven, letting them cool for about 10 minutes. Serve with whipped topping, and enjoy!

*One regular-sized banana squash will make anywhere from 4-6 pies. Premeasure the extra squash for future pies. It will keep for about 6 months.


This article was written by Marianne Clayburn, Duchesne County FCS Program Assistant

Original recipe contributed by Debbie Clayburn, Bridgeland, Duchesne County 2016




What’s App with That? 7 Apps to Help You Save Money and Eat Better

What's App.jpg
Have you used a food, grocery or coupon app? We’ve got the lowdown on of some of the top apps in these categories to help you decide whether or not they are worth a download.


Grocery and Coupons

FavadoThis app is pretty awesome. You start off by entering your zip code or allowing location access so that the app can search for stores near you. From there, you pick stores of your choice. You can either view the ads for those stores, or better yet, compare the prices for the stores you picked. For instance: I chose Smith’s, Winco, and Costco. I could compare their ads in their entirety, or search for a specific item like broccoli. Smith’s broccoli was $0.79 per pound, while WinCo broccoli was $0.98. By doing this with all my grocery list items I could see where to get the most bang for my buck. You can also add the items you searched for or saw in coupons to a list by store.

Walmart– This app has a great feature: Savings Catcher. You can scan your Walmart receipt and the app will search prices of competitors in the area for advertised deals on the items you purchased. If a lower advertised price is found, Walmart give you the difference on an eGift card. This app also lists the weekly ad and current prices in store. You can order non-grocery items from this app and pick them up at the store, and refill prescriptions from this app. To order groceries, use the Walmart Grocery app, where you are able to select non-perishable foods to be delivered to your front door or complete all of your shopping and have it hand delivered to your car in the parking lot.

*Note: other stores also have their own apps to help with grocery shopping lists, couponing, etc. Smith’s grocery store app allows you to add coupons directly to your Fresh Values card, which eliminates the hassle of cutting and turning in paper coupons. Target’s Cartwheel app allows you to scan items in the store to see if there is a coupon or sale in addition to weekly ad prices. Check to see if the stores at which you typically shop have apps, and then see what they have to offer.

Grocery IQ or Grocery Pal – The best feature on these apps is that you can scan a barcode or use a voice search to find coupons. When you scan a barcode or search for an item, coupons from stores around you will pop up, then you can add the coupons and items you want to your list. This could be handy if you are in a store and want to quickly check prices elsewhere.  You can also view the weekly ads for stores in your area.

Nutrition Tracking

MyNetDiary –  This easy-to-use app is a classic nutrition tracker. You enter your personal information and select if you want to gain, lose or maintain weight. The app then tells you how many calories you should eat each day to achieve your goal. It tracks the amount of the fat, carbs and protein in the foods you enter, and calculates your allowed amount remaining in each category for the day. Perhaps the best part is that you can enter in your own recipes. With many other nutrition trackers, there are preset meals to choose from. With this app, you can select the ingredients that actually made up your lunch for the day, and it will calculate the nutritional information. You can also log exercise, water intake and add personal notes in the app. Using an activity monitor like a Fitbit, you can also track your steps and how many calories burned in the app.

Nutrition Education

Eat and Move -0- Matic – This is a great nutrition education app for families and children, produced by the National 4-H Council. Its designed to be like a game and is geared toward children. Your children may not find it the most exciting game to play on their own, but it is a good educational app for you to go through with your children. The app teaches how food and exercise work together. For example, it would take 27 minutes of jumping rope to burn the calories contained in an 8 ounce glass of chocolate milk.  It has dozens of food and exercise selections to choose from and lists the calories for each food. This is great for helping parents understand how much physical activity their children should be doing for the food they are eating, and it can teach children that they need to exercise to stay healthy and balance what they eat with physical activity.

Recipes and Cooking

Cooking Matters – This app’s focus is healthy, affordable and delicious meals. While it doesn’t have as many recipes as Pinterest, the recipes this app does have are healthy, simple and look very appealing. Many of the recipes use few ingredients. It also lists the serving size of each recipe and has a nice conversion feature to tell you how many ounces are in a pound or how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, etc.

Do you use any of these apps? Are there any you love that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!


This article was written by Sarah Hepworth Warner, Food Sense nutrition program intern, Utah County, and Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension associate professor, Salt Lake County




How to Stop Overeating Using Mindfulness

overeating
Is healthy eating one of your resolutions for the new year? Try these tips to curb overeating by being more mindful.


Often a new year brings resolutions to get healthy, eat better and lose weight. As most of us know, this is much easier said than done. It becomes more difficult when we have issues with challenging work schedules, numerous child care responsibilities and that office candy bowl that is so tempting.  Mindless eating can sabotage our resolve, so what can we do about it?

“Most of us don’t overeat because we’re hungry,” said Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of the best-selling book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think and the John Dyson Professor of Consumer Behavior at Cornell University. “We overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers.”

He attributes rising overweight and obesity rates in America to the availability of food, the affordability of food and the attractiveness of food.  The solution, however, is not to make food less available, affordable or attractive, he says. “The solution is to change your personal environment,” Wansink said.

Mindless eating is defined as deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside and outside yourself – in your body, heart and mind – and outside yourself, in your environment.

Wansink made the following suggestions for changing our thought process and our environment to improve our resolution success and create better long-term eating patterns:

  1. Smaller plates. Using a 9.5 inch plate vs. 12 inch plate means smaller portions and feeling fuller after eating an entire plate of food. Studies have shown food consumption is 22 percent lower when eating from a smaller plate.
  2. Smaller serving utensils. “Mini-sizing” utensils can reduce the amount of food consumed.
  3. Out of sight, out of mind. Leaving serving bowls and entrees away from the dinner table can prevent second and third servings.
  4. Easy access. Making healthy foods more accessible in cabinets, cupboards and even the refrigerator encourages healthy choices.                                                                                                        
  5. Control portions. Wansink found that people eat much more food when given unlimited quantities. He advises people to eat smaller portion sizes in smaller packages.
  6. Eat when you’re hungry. Let actual hunger cues, not emotions, guide your eating. Substitute a quick walk for a snack until actual hunger sets in. But don’t wait until you’re famished and binge on unhealthy foods.
  7. Plan. Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time to eat throughout the day. A 200-calorie, whole grain, high-fiber snack can satisfy hunger between meals. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer.
  8. Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat and what was happening at the time to identify food triggers – hunger, stress, excitement or boredom. Be careful not to obsess over every calorie. The new American Heart Association diet and lifestyle guidelines acknowledge that overall eating patterns, not occasional indulgences, are what are most important to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.
  9. Slow down. Here’s where mindfulness can really come into play. During each meal, chew slowly, savoring each bite; put your fork down between bites; and stop eating to take a drink of water (not a sugary soda). This gives the body enough time to signal to the brain that it’s satisfied, not stuffed.
  10. Pay attention. Don’t eat in front of the TV or computer, while standing at the kitchen counter or talking on the phone. This can lead to losing track of how much you’ve consumed.
  11. Use technology. “We can actually use our smartphones and other electronic devices to help us,” said Riska Platt, M.S., a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York and a volunteer with the American Heart Association. “There are now apps that manage food records, count calories, help you track what you eat and even provide guidance on healthy food choices at the grocery store and restaurants.”

This article was written by Cindy Nelson, Utah State University Extension assistant professor

Source: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Using-Mindfulness-to-Stop-Overeating_UCM_462515_Article.jsp#.Vwu-unqPlzY




Eating in Season // Citrus Fruit

citrusIts citrus season! Grab some oranges, grapefruit, lemons or limes the next time you’re at the grocery store and give yourself a health boost for the new year. Read up on the amazing health benefits of citrus fruits in today’s post.


You may have noticed the abundance of citrus fruits in stores this time of year. The prime harvest time for most citrus fruits is in the late fall and early winter months. Fruits have been consumed for thousands of years and the health benefits of these foods are continually showing that eating a piece of fruit is a wise lifestyle choice. Now is the peak time for enjoying plenty of these healthful foods.

Health Benefits

Citrus fruits can have a positive effect on your life. They are full of vitamin C that is needed to maintain a strong immune system and they help protect against scurvy. They promote heart health and reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. Citrus fruits can help in cancer prevention and are also useful in diabetes sugar level control. Citrus fruit skin is high in essential oils that are removed to be used in flavorings or as fragrant essences in aromatherapy oils, cosmetics and soaps. Even the acidity of lemons is a good remedy for the alkaline bee sting, and a few drops of a lime are squeezed by martial artists into the corner of their eyes to help their vision. Other important nutrients found in citrus fruits are fiber, folate, lypocene, potassium, Vitamin B6, polynutrients and more.

The color of the fruit is very important. Each color provides different nutrients that our bodies need. It is important to include a variety of colors every day for these important nutrients. Consider this information.

  • Red contains antioxidants that help fight heart disease, cholesterol and some cancers.  
  • Green provides phytochemicals to help protect eyes and prevent cancerous tumors. Greens have essential vitamins including folate, minerals and fiber.
  • Orange and yellow contain beta-carotene that is essential for a good immune system. It is rich in Vitamin C, folate and Vitamin A.  
  • Blue and purple provide phytochemicals which are antioxidants for the body that protect against cancer and disease.  The blue and purple also provide Vitamin C, folic acid and fiber.
  • White provides allicin, sulfaforaphanes, polyphenols and hytochemicals that help in fighting cancers, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

Citrus on Display

Citrus fruits are also objects of beauty and decor. A bowl of fresh fruits as a centerpiece can brighten the day while also reminding you that selecting a piece of fruit instead of candy or a cookie for a snack is a wise choice. It is an excellent idea to keep fresh fruit within reach to encourage daily consumption. The food guide pyramid recommends that you have at least four servings of fruit a day. This may be in the form of juice, fresh, canned and dried fruits.

Increase Your Daily Intake

There are many ways to increase fruits in your daily diet. Add oranges and lemons to water and allow infusing overnight. Add fresh lemons and limes to drinks. Eat half a grapefruit every morning for breakfast. Have a citrus snack every day. Prepare salads using citrus fruit with lettuce and spinach. Top meal entrees with a fruit sauce.

Preserving Citrus

As the peak fruit season begins to level off, you may want to try home canning your own grapefruits and oranges. This simple and fast process provides you with home canned fruit that makes a wonderful breakfast fruit mix and prevents the waste of fruits.  Begin by selecting firm, sweet fruit (grapefruits and oranges). Peel and remove the white tissue from the fruit. Break the fruit into sections and fill jars with the fruit. Next, fill the jars with water or hot syrup, according to your taste. Water works well, but a light syrup of 1 cup sugar to 4 cups of water provides an enriched flavor. Pour the liquid over the fruit in the jars leaving one-half inch headspace. Apply the lids and rings and process pints or quarts in water for 15 minutes for an elevation of 2,000 to 4,000 feet (adjustments will need to be made for other elevations). Further information can be found in the Blue Ball book or from your county Extension office.


This article was written by Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences agent, Washington County




Save the Date: Wasatch Front 4-H Cooking Contest

4-h-cooking-contest

Do you have a kid who loves to cook? Have them compete in our upcoming 4-H cooking contest for a chance to prove their skills.


Utah State University Extension 4-H will sponsor cooking contests on Saturday, Jan. 28, for youth from Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties. Held at the Legacy Events Center in Davis County, the contests will provide youth the opportunity to showcase cooking, food safety and nutrition knowledge and skills as they represent their counties and cities.

According to Zuri Garcia, USU Extension assistant professor and event chair, the contests will also prepare youth to compete in the 4-H State Contests held at USU each summer.

“It is important for youth to develop and feel confident in their nutrition knowledge and cooking abilities,” she said. “These contests will help youth as young as 8 become assured enough in their skills that they can compete at the state level when they are older. Through this event and others like it, we hope to help youth develop important life skills.”

The contests include two categories: favorite foods and healthy cuisine. The favorite foods category is for third through 12th graders, and contestants will be judged on the selection, knowledge and presentation of their favorite food. Healthy cuisine is for fifth through 12th graders who will use their talents in planning and preparing a quick, nutritious meal in 1 hour, including preparation and cleanup. Contestants can register for this category as an individual or team.

Registration deadline is January 14. Contest registration fee is $20 for one or both categories. Previous 4-H membership is not required, but participants must register for 4-H at the time of the contests for an additional fee of $15. This covers a 1-year 4-H membership.

Friends, family and the public are invited to watch the contests and attend a nutrition and health fair that includes workshops and booths. Admission is free. An awards celebration will be held at the end of the day.

To register, contact Susan Adams at susan.adams@usu.edu or 801-451-3423. For further information, visit extension.usu.edu/wasatchfront.





Vanilla and Its Uses During the Holidays

vanilla-and-it's-uses-during-the-holidays

Enhance the flavor of your favorite recipes with aromatic vanilla beans.


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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the flavor and aroma of the fresh vanilla bean!

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

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

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

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


This article was written by Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension professor, 435-534-2692, Carolyn.washburn@usu.edu




Ask an Expert // Five Tips for Safe Holiday Eggnog

safe-eggnogHolidays are a fun but hectic time. By amending your eggnog recipes for safety, you’ll have one less thing to worry about.


Since the early 1800s, eggnog has been considered a social Christmas drink that adds to the festivities of the season. To many, it brings back fond memories of Christmases by the firelight, real Christmas trees and the grandest of holiday meals.

Although your traditional eggnog recipe may be a family favorite, if the recipe includes raw eggs, it is recommended that you alter it. Eating raw eggs can not only be dangerous, but deadly, since they may contain the bacterium salmonella, which can cause food-borne illness. Anyone can fall victim to food-borne illnesses, but some people are at a higher risk, including infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems who suffer from chronic illnesses, such as HIV, liver disease, diabetes or cancer.

Be aware that refrigerated eggs with clean shells that don’t have cracks can still be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. To safely make holiday eggnog, use one of the following substitutions:

1.) In place of raw eggs, use an equivalent amount of pasteurized (frozen or refrigerated) egg product that has never been opened. Because of the risk of bacterial contamination after opening, any leftover egg product should be used only in cooked products.

2.) Use cooked eggs in your eggnog recipe. Combine raw eggs with half of the milk and sugar in a 4-quart double boiler. Cook and stir over medium heat, approximately 10-15 minutes, until the mixture coats a metal spoon and the temperature reaches 160 F. Continue preparing your recipe as directed.

3.) If a recipe calls for folding raw, beaten egg whites into the eggnog, use pasteurized eggs. It has not been proven that raw egg whites are free of salmonella bacteria.

4.) Use commercially prepared eggnog, which contains pasteurized eggs and does not need to be cooked.

5.) Try the safe recipe below:

Holiday Eggnog Recipe

5 cups skim milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup pasteurized, refrigerated egg product
or 1 cup pasteurized frozen egg product (thawed in the refrigerator)
or 4 eggs

12-ounce can evaporated skim milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon rum extract (optional)

1 pint low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt, softened

Ground nutmeg to taste

  1. In a 4-quart double boiler, combine milk, sugar and egg product (or eggs).
    2.  Cook and stir over medium heat, approximately 10-15 minutes, until the mixture coats a metal spoon and the temperature reaches 160 F. Remove from heat.
    3.  Stir in the evaporated skim milk, vanilla extract and rum extract (if desired). Cover and chill 4-24 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. To serve, place softened frozen yogurt in a punch bowl. Gradually whisk in chilled eggnog mixture until smooth. Sprinkle with nutmeg to taste.

NOTE: If using eggs, follow recipe steps 1, 2, 3 and 4. If using pasteurized egg product, follow steps 1, 3 and 4 only.

Adding alcohol will inhibit bacterial growth, but it cannot be relied upon to kill bacteria. Once alcohol is diluted, it no longer effectively kills bacteria. You will still need to use pasteurized eggs. Keep in mind that simmering eggnog over heat will remove the alcohol.


This article was written by Carolyn Washburn, Utah State University Extension professor, 435-534-2692, Carolyn.washburn@usu.edu




A Fruitcake for Christmas

fruitcakeHave you ever received fruitcake as a gift? When a research firm polled some 1,000 adults about what they did with fruitcake, 38 percent said they gave it away, 28 percent actually ate it, 13 percent used it as a doorstop, 9 percent scattered it for the birds, 4 percent threw it out, and 8 percent couldn’t remember.*  Which category will you fall into this season?


Sun-ripened raisins, plump, juicy cherries, delicious pineapple, home-grown pecans, walnuts and almonds, a little tang of lemon and orange peel added, blended into a rich pound-cake batter and baked to a golden brown. This could be your traditional Christmas fruitcake. This moist Christmas cake is a festive favorite full of tasty bits of fruits and nuts, the ratio of which is fairly high, with just enough cake batter to hold it all together. This naturally results in a very dense, moist cake, no doubt giving rise to the “heavy” jokes. Fruitcakes range from light to dark, are made with and without alcohol and are delicately spiced.

Fruitcake dates back to the early Roman years, and you may hear jokes about them being 125 years old. I’ve been asked what the shelf life of fruitcake is. No one has come up with an exact amount of time, and each recipe is different. These cakes contain high amounts of sugar, which means that water activity will be low, keeping mold from growing and making the cake last a long time. The spices and fruit in the cake also contain antioxidants, which will help extend the shelf life of the fruitcake. The alcohol content in the cake may have only a small effect on the shelf life, as most of the alcohol is lost during the baking time, and the rest is lost over a long storage time. The recommended shelf life is usually a few months, with additional life added by storing it in the freezer. You may also want to keep it in the refrigerator for easier slicing.

Fruitcake is also an excellent choice to send in the mail. It does not spoil and is solid enough to maintain its shape and form. Now you know why your distant relatives choose to send you one each Christmas.

Most of your traditional Christmas fruitcakes are started in October allowing for the softening of dried fruits and the blending of flavors. These cakes are usually prepared with a syrup mixture, then the fruits and alcohol are added. However, many fruitcakes are non-alcoholic and much simpler to make.

Several old legends of the fruitcake have been passed on for centuries. From England it was told that a single woman could put a slice of fruitcake under her pillow to dream of the man she would marry. Crusaders carried fruitcake on their journeys because of its ability to withstand long trips and months of storage. In Egypt, the fruitcake was considered an essential food for a mummy to take into the afterlife, always being placed inside the tomb.

So, if you were lucky enough to receive a fancy fruitcake confection this holiday season, get ready to open up the tin, box or wrapper and enjoy. The fruit and fiber make it a more nutritious food than some holiday treats. 

Holiday Fruitcake

From McCall’s Cooking School

2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, quartered
2 cups light or dark raisins
1/2 cup brandy
3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups butter or regular margarine, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 eggs
1/2 cup brandy

In large bowl combine walnuts, cherries and raisins with 1/2 cup brandy. Allow to stand overnight at room temperature. Sift flour with baking powder and nutmeg. In a large electric mixer bowl, beat butter/margarine, sugar and vanilla at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes, occasionally scraping sides of bowl. Batter will become thick and fluffy and lighter in color. At low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture until smooth. Add cherry/raisin/nut mixture to batter and mix well with wooden spoon.

Heat oven to 350 F and grease pan of your choice and flour well. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes in bundt pan or 1 hour 10 minutes in tube pan. As an alternative, use 5-inch diameter by 2-inch- high souffle dishes and bake for about 45 minutes. Cake is done when long skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Cool pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Use small spatula to loosen cake around inside. Invert on wire rack and cool.  Soak cheesecloth in 1/2 cup brandy, stretch on large piece of heavy-duty foil, place cake in center and wrap with cheesecloth. Wrap foil tightly around cake. Store in refrigerator several days to several weeks. To serve, slice thinly and let warm to room temperature.


This article was written by Carolyn Washburn, retired Utah State University Extension professor, carolyn.washburn@usu.edu.

*Russell Baker, The New York Times




Quick and Easy Holiday Recipes

quick-and-easy-holiday-recipesDon’t let holiday party planning stress you out: try these quick and easy make-ahead recipes for your next holiday gathering, and enjoy this wonderful time of the year.


As the holidays become a fast approaching reality, the feeling of panic can quickly take over the sparkle…Will I be able to get everything done in time? Will it be just the way I want it? Can I make entertaining extra special without spending too much time or money on the details? Are there things we can do to entertain and prepare for the holidays without making ourselves crazy in the process?  

I cater on the weekends and in my spare time, I have come across some simple ways to make the holidays extra special. What can I do to have homemade rolls, a lovely platter of savory bites that can be taken to the next party or maybe a simple dessert that will appeal to even the pickiest foodie? Just by having a few simple ingredients on hand you can make the holidays sparkle.  Try out some of these tips and recipes to make your holidays merry and bright.

Chris’s Make Ahead Refrigerator Dinner Rolls

Homemade dinner rolls make any holiday meal extra special. With just a few inexpensive key ingredients, your house will smell like you have been baking all day and your guests will feel extra special when you are pulling these rolls out of your oven right before the event. Try these easy, foolproof dinner rolls for your next gathering.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for pan and brushing
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for shaping dough

Directions

  1. Pour warm water into a large bowl or stand mixer bowl; sprinkle with yeast, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add sugar, butter, eggs, and salt; whisk to combine. Change out whisk attachment to a dough hook. Add flour; mix until incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Move dough to a buttered bowl.  Brush top of dough with butter; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface. With floured hands, roll dough into a thick log. Cut into 18 equal pieces (halve log, cut each half in thirds, then cut each piece into thirds again).
  4. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter. One at a time, flatten each piece of dough, then fold edges toward the center, pressing to secure, until a smooth ball forms. Place dough balls in prepared baking pan, smooth side up (you should have 3 rows of 6). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate (at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.), OR you can cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove plastic wrap; brush rolls with butter. Bake until golden and rolls sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 40 minutes (tent with aluminum foil if browning too quickly). Pull rolls apart, and serve warm.

Green Onion Cheese Ball

For that special get together, sometimes it is fun to have an easy-to-make alternative to the traditional holiday sweet treat. Here is a simple recipe that, for next to nothing, can be whipped up in a matter of minutes and will look like you spent hours preparing it. Even if you do not like onion, you will be amazed at the flavor. This cheese ball is mild enough that you get just a hint of onion along with the other seasonings. This could be the next neighborhood favorite.

Ingredients

  • 3 – 8 oz pkgs. cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 pkg. dry onion soup mix (I prefer Lipton)
  • 6 green onions finely diced (Whole onion – white and green parts)
  • Chopped nuts

Directions

Mix first three ingredients thoroughly, shape into a ball, and roll in chopped nuts.

If desired, use this recipe to make two or three small cheese balls out of one batch for a great addition to a cheese and cracker platter for a smaller group. As another option, shape the cream cheese mixture into a teardrop so it looks like a festive Christmas pine cone when sliced or whole almonds are added in a layered pattern, starting at the point and working back. Then place sprigs of green onions, rosemary, or parsley at the round end.

Easy Sugar Cookies

These quick and easy recipes will give your holiday the sparkle and shine that shows you care, with a minimum of effort allowing you to enjoy the holidays with your friends and family.

Ingredients

  • White cake mix (dry)
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine (melted)
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour all ingredients into mixing bowl. Mix with a hand mixer until everything is incorporated and looks like moist crumbles. Press into the shape of a disk. Roll out and cut shapes with cookie cutter or scoop dough into balls. Place on cookie sheet, and bake for about 7-10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Place cookies on cooling rack, let cookies cool. Ice cookies according to preference.


This article was written by Chris Jensen, Piute County Extension Educator.