6 Ways to Conquer the Inner Grinch This Holiday Season

inner grinch.jpgIf you struggle during the holidays, you’re not alone. Try these strategies to make your holiday season a little easier.


Tears streamed down my face as I scooped cookie dough into perfectly shaped balls to roll in sugar. In the background, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year played and all I could think was, “This doesn’t feel like the most wonderful time of the year. I feel like I’m ruining the magic.”

For days my kids had been begging me to make cookies. I finally decided that we could make cookies for Santa now, on December 1st, and freeze the cookie dough to simplify activities and save time when Christmas Eve came. While making the dough, my 6-year-old daughter dropped the measuring spoon in the mixing bowl while it was mixing. Dough splattered everywhere—our hair, our clothes, all over the counter, the ceiling was spotted, and even a closet door in the family room 15 feet away was dotted. I should have found it hilarious (it is now that I write about it…), but it was an added straw to the stress of the day, and I was frustrated.

As my daughter happily licked the dough off the mixing arm, I scooped and molded the dough, listening to the music on the bluetooth speaker and cried. The expectations for magic in the season weighed on me. Instead of feeling like a happy Christmas Elf, I was feeling like a rotten inner Grinch.

I love what most of the holiday season brings and represents, and yet I still feel discouraged at times. I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by holiday happenings. Studies show that anywhere from 45-69 percent of us are overwhelmed and stressed by one or more aspect of the season. It can come in the form of stress, anxiety, or seasonal depression. Among those who don’t view themselves as being stressed or anxious, it can be displayed through stress responses such as headaches and illness, excessive eating or drinking, or insomnia. Many parts of the season contribute to these feelings, including financial stress, relationship stress, and exhaustion from expectations for gifts and parties.

I am a mother of four children who are excited and anxiously awaiting the magic of the season. Their constant excitement, questions, and desire to do everything can weigh on me like it did while making cookies. The following techniques have helped me over the last few years to bring balance to the demands and expectations I feel, and can help us all to bring out the inner Christmas Elf.

 

1. Be realistic. Make a list of what is most important to you and your family. If needed, choose the top most important activities only and focus on those so you are not overburdened.

2. Spread out the fun. The holiday season is just that – a season. Not everything needs to take place on Christmas Eve or while the children are out of school. Spread out the activities – from making cookies to enjoying your favorite holiday lights – from Thanksgiving weekend to New Year’s Day. If it helps, write things on a calendar the whole family can see so they know when to expect that activity. Be flexible when needed.

3. Simplify. Not all activities need to cost money in order to create memories. Not every activity needs to be “Pinterest” perfect. Remember to soak in the energy of the moments—take photos to remember. Don’t over commit yourself. It seems to happen that multiple events or parties are scheduled the same evening. Choose one to enjoy thoroughly and don’t stress about trying to leave one early to get to the next late. Let go of a tradition or activity this year if it is too much—plan it for next year if it is something you missed.

4. Prepare early. Set a budget months in advance (if you didn’t this year, start planning for next year in January). Shop for gifts early and keep track of the gifts you purchased through the year to stay within your budget. Use calendars and reminders to prepare for activities in advance. If it’s too late, or a last minute event, then simplify as you can.

5. Take care of yourself. It can be easy to focus on everyone else this time of year, but remember your health. Eat well. Sleep. Exercise. These healthy habits will help keep your immunity up and can help keep you feeling refreshed and less stressed.

6. Forgive yourself. Be kind to yourself. When you’ve done all you can, stress still happens. Practice talking to yourself kindly and forgiving when you feel unmotivated or frustrated. Be mindful and acknowledge your feelings, write about it or talk about it, and then let it go as you forgive and move forward.


This article was contributed by Melanie Jewkes, USU Extension associate professor.
 Melanie.jewkes@usu.edu




How to Care for Holiday Plants

How to Care for Holiday Plants PoinsettiasGardening experts Sheriden Hansen and Michael Caron share the origins of some common holiday plants, plus give some tips on caring for them in today’s post.


 

When cold weather settles into Utah, we tend to put our gardens to bed and turn our focus to our warm, comfortable homes.  But who says that gardening can’t continue through the cold winter months?  There are many options for bringing gardening inside during the holidays.  Most of the plants that we use during the holidays have specific symbolism or meaningful stories, and some can last for months or even years in our homes with some special care.

Living Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holidays.  It originated as a Christmas tradition in Germany about 400 years ago, but was not common in the USA until the 1890’s.  One of the most recognizable Christmas trees, the Rockefeller Center tree, was first placed by construction workers in 1931.  The following year, the tree was placed again, but this time it was adorned with lights.  The tree has been tradition since that first humble year in the Depression Era, but is much larger and now boasts over 25,000 lights.  When bringing home your own tree, make sure the needles are flexible and remain on the tree when lightly tugged on.  The tree should have a fresh smell and the base should be re-cut before you take it home.  Healthy, active, fresh-cut trees can drink up to a gallon of water a day, especially during the first week, so use a sturdy stand with a large water reservoir. Place the tree in a cool location and keep it well-watered to ensure the needles last through Christmas. Fresh trees that are allowed to dry out will begin to shed needles quickly and become a fire hazard.  Fresh, cool water is all that is needed – It is NOT recommended to add sugar, bleach, or any other additive to the water reservoir, or spray any preservatives on the tree itself.

Poinsettia

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and are the most popular potted plant in the world. With several colors and forms available, they add a festive feel to any room.  Joel Roberts Poinsett, U.S. Minister to Mexico from 1825 to 1829, introduced the plant to the United States.  Poinsett was a botanist and was one of the first to argue for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. Poinsettias dislike wet soil and should be watered when the soil becomes lightweight and is dry to the touch.  Pot-covers should be removed, and the soil allowed to completely drain.  Placing plants in the sink or tub can be an easy way to accommodate watering.  Poinsettia require a rather specific daylength in order to produce flowers and can be difficult to get to rebloom.  If you decide to keep the plants for reblooming, prune them in April by cutting the stems to about half their length. Fertilize every two weeks with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, and place in a location that gets no artificial sunlight after sunset in September. The idea is to provide 12 or more hours of uninterrupted darkness in September and October. If conditions are right, you can move your plant to a living area in your home in November, and the bracts will color for the holidays.

Christmas Cactus

These hardy succulents can last for years and will rebloom every year, if cared for properly.  Christmas cactus like bright, sunny east or south facing windows.  Although these plants are succulents, they come from the tropics and need moist soils that are allowed to dry slightly between watering.  Flowers that fail to open are the result of lack of water and warm soil temperatures.  To get plants to rebloom, place in a cool location (40 to 50⁰F) in the early fall, reduce watering, and move the plant to a location where it receives about 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day.  Plants should be fertilized with a houseplant fertilizer monthly from April to October to promote growth and bloom.

Amaryllis

The word Amaryllis literally means “to sparkle”, which makes this showy bulb a perfect fit for the holiday season.  The Portuguese name for this plant translates to “St. Joseph’s staff” referencing the legend that the staff of St. Joseph burst into bloom as a sign that he was selected as the spouse of the Virgin Mary.  This bulb produces long-lived, beautiful flowers in red, white, pink, and variegated colors and are usually forced indoors beginning in October.  If you didn’t pick up bulbs in the fall, there is no need to worry, plants already forced and actively growing can usually be found in local nurseries and grocery stores.  To care for one of these magnificent plants, place in a bright sunny location, watering periodically to keep soil moist but not wet.  As the stem elongates, rotate the plant a half turn each day to prevent it bending toward the light source.  Staking stems with large flowers may also be required.  Once flowers are spent, cut the stalk but keep the leaves and continue to water the plant as needed.  Allow the plant to go dormant in the late summer by halting watering.  Remove yellow leaves and store the plant in a cool, dark, and dry location until October, when you can repot, begin watering, and start the blooming process again.

Paperwhites

Paperwhites, like Amaryllis, are a bulb that will need to be forced to bloom in time for the holidays.  Paperwhites are a type of Narcissus and are related to daffodils, but have smaller, less showy blooms and a distinct floral fragrance.  Their white blooms are used during the holidays to signify rebirth and renewal, as they are often one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring landscape.  Look for bulbs that are firm, without blemishes or soft spots.  Bulbs should be set in a well-drained container with clean potting soil and watered in.  Place the container in a dark location with temperatures between 50-60⁰F for two weeks and then move to a sunny, warm location.  As stems lengthen, they often need to be staked with a small piece of bamboo.  Unlike Amaryllis, paperwhites are usually a one-time use bulb, and can be difficult to rebloom, even with the best care.

Mistletoe

You may have seen mommy kissing Santa under the mistletoe, but did you know the use of mistletoe dates back to the Druids nearly 2,000 years ago?  Mistletoe was hung in houses to bring good luck, ward off evil spirits, and used as a symbol of fertility.  It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology, which is where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe originated.   Mistletoe is a parasitic plant with sticky seeds usually spread by birds.  Mistletoe plants grow roots into the stems or leaves of their hosts where it removes water and nutrients for its own growth.  Something to think about next time you get the chance to kiss under the mistletoe!


This article was written by Sheriden Hansen and Michael Caron.




Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving with the Family

surviving thanksgiving logo.jpgIt’s that time of year when family members travel from far and wide to gather, give thanks and eat a large meal together. Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time filled with traditions, famous family recipes and catching up with each other’s lives. However, some view Thanksgiving with concern about how everyone will get along.


 

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help your family have a better chance for a peaceful, enjoyable Thanksgiving this year.

 

What Not to Do

 

  • Don’t talk politics or bring up other “hot topics.” Often the urge is to help family members “really understand” your position or understand why their position is irrational and wrong. Too often, this ends with slamming doors and someone crying in another room or the car.

 

  • Don’t be sarcastic, critical or give subtle jabs. These can cause emotions to escalate quickly, and feelings can get hurt.

 

  • Don’t try to fix each other’s problems over one meal. Also, don’t discuss the problems of other family members who aren’t there. The Thanksgiving meal is not the time to suggest someone get out of a relationship, sell a house, be a better parent or start exercising.

 

  • Don’t take things personally. Some family members are more “prickly” than others, but choose not to get defensive. If someone does start fishing for a reaction, don’t take the hook.

 

What to Do

 

  • Take charge of seating. Set the table for success by separating conflicting personalities. Set the conspirators near you so you can put out fires and guide the conversation.

 

  • Remind yourself why you are doing it. You love your family (most of them?), and ultimately, people are more important than problems.

 

  • Ask others about their lives. Don’t talk about yourself the entire time.

 

  • Give kids responsibilities, but then turn them loose. Kids simply aren’t going to enjoy being trapped at a table for long periods of time. They get restless and whiny. It’s okay if they run off after trying most of the foods. Don’t turn it into a battle. Have something for them to do after the meal.

 


This article was written by David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, david.schramm@usu.edu




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




Resetting Your Holiday Expectations

holiday expectations square.jpg

We’re well into December, and holiday stress is mounting. Take a moment to reset your expectations for a happier holiday season.


While the holidays are still magical for children and some truly embrace the spirit of the season, most people find the holiday season just adds stress to their already busy life routine. Common concerns include worry about paying for gifts, finding time for all the extra festive activities, and for some, just trying to seem happy for the next month or two when they really just feel overwhelmed and tired. If that is how you feel, just know that you are not a Scrooge. In fact, you are very normal and very much in the majority. In fact, research suggests that the pressure to be happy can actually lead to sadness and even depression during the holidays.

With this in mind, take the time to reset the holiday expectations meter for yourself and your family. Consider these seven tips to creating a happier holiday.

 

  1. Don’t idealize the holidays. Real life is not a Norman Rockwell painting. The more you try to live up to that kind of expectation, the more frustrated, disappointed and unhappy you are likely to be with yourself and others.
  2. Accept people for who they are. Before being with family and friends this season, take a few moments and acknowledge what you wish they were like and how you would like them to act. Now, let that image go. Expecting others to be anything but themselves is unrealistic and will mostly likely increase stress.
  3. Recreate traditions. Traditions are wonderful ways to create memories and bring families close together, but traditions also often need to change over time. Take time to discuss your favorite traditions, and then plan only those traditions that best fit your current life circumstances and bring you joy.
  4. Set boundaries. Decide as a family how you will spend your time and money this holiday season. Don’t forget to schedule in some “down time” so you don’t get overburdened with activities. Once limits have been set, you might discover that holiday activities and time with extended family become much more enjoyable.
  5. Take care of yourself. It’s easy to get out of the habit of exercising, eating healthy and getting enough sleep during the holiday season. Don’t take the season off from your workout routine during the holidays. Going to the gym regularly not only helps you burn the excess calories you consume from holiday feasting, it’s also a great way to relieve stress and improve self-esteem. Activities involving the whole family can also be a great tradition. In addition to exercise, be sure to take time to relax and rejuvenate so you can stay healthy and keep your spirits high.
  6. Focus on the moment. Even after setting boundaries, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.  Slow down and enjoy where you are in that moment. If you feel tense, take a deep breath and take in what you are experiencing with all of your senses. Take a mental snapshot to create memories for the future. Remember, even the frustrating moments might make you laugh in the future.
  7. Take time to reflect and focus on the positive. Take some time to think about all of the positive things that have happened in the past year. Reflect on accomplishments, goals you or your family members have achieved or positive changes that have been made – no matter how small. Capture some of these reflections in a journal so you can remember them for years to come. If you want to go above and beyond (no pressure!), send a brief email or letter to share your reflections with loved ones.

This article was written by Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension professor

 




6 Tips for Holiday Spending Plus GIVEAWAY

Holiday Spending TIps

Do you have a Christmas budget or spending plan? Here are some tips to help you keep your holiday spending in check. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway link at the end of the post!


Consumers spent $658.3 billion dollars on the holidays last year. Determining how much to spend on Christmas can be a tricky decision. Financial planners advise us to spend no more than 1.5 percent of our income on holiday expenses. So if you made $50K, you’d want to stay under $750 for total holiday spending. If you love the holiday, as I do, but do not want to be paying for it in May, here are a few things to consider now:

 

  1. Stick to it: Focusing on your gift-giving budget is one of the easiest ways to control holiday spending on your terms. Set a total spending limit on gifts. You will want to thoroughly think through the gifts you buy. If it helps you stay within your spending budget, suggest a gift exchange with family members, coworkers, neighbors, etc. Draw names instead of buying gifts for each person.

 

  1. Divvy it up: Once you’ve determined how much to spend on Christmas based on the recommended 1.5 percent, divide up the total among the people you need to buy gifts for, the holiday food extras you need, etc. Finish the spending plan before you start shopping, and keep track of the spending as you go along. There are plenty of Christmas gift budgeting apps on iOS and Android to help. Pick one with high customer ratings and use it to keep your spending plan updated as you go.

 

  1. Set it aside: If you are spending $8 to $10 each day for lunch, pack your lunch and save that money in a separate account for Christmas expenses. Over the next four weeks, that could add up to $200.

 

  1. Shop it smart: We are all familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday (the Monday following Black Friday, is referred to as Cyber Monday, when online retailers offer great deals often including free shipping). These major shopping events are designed to make you spend more! Take advantage of the sales but be ready to go with your gift list and buy only what you know you need. Stick to the list so you do not overspend.

 

  1. Power Shop it: Find someone to watch the kids during the day (to avoid the nighttime shopping crowd) and plan a power shopping day where you tackle your entire gift shopping list in one day. Make sure you do not shop on an empty stomach! Take your list and stick to it! Then enjoy time with your family making holiday memories while everyone else is stressing about last-minute gifts.

 

  1. Get Creative: You do not have to sacrifice that personal touch because you are spending cautiously. There are many ways to reduce expenditures and still give appreciated gifts. Non-monetary gifts are a fabulous way to keep costs down. Homemade gifts are often more meaningful. Coupons or certificates for service or quality time are a great way to share talents and make memories.

 

Stick to these 6 tips and you’ll be a lot less flustered as you check off your holiday gift-buying list. Between now and December 8th I’m giving away three Amazon Echo 2nd Generation Smart devices to help you check off your gift list! If you’d like a chance to win one, click the link below for the details.

ENTER GIVEAWAY


This article was written by Amanda Christensen, Extension Assistant Professor for Utah State University. Follow her on Twitter: @FamFinPro, Facebook: Fam Fin Pro, Instagram: @FamFinPro.




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




Ask an Expert // Are Extended Warranties Worth It?

extended-warrantiesAre extended warranties worth the extra cost? Watch this video from Family Finance Pro Amanda Christensen to find out.


Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • As yourself: Does the item come with a manufacturer’s warranty? How long does it last and what does it cover?
  • Read the fine print.
  • Keep the receipt or proof of purchase.
  • Do the follow up, or the warranty is for naught.

Be sure to watch the video for the details on each tip.


Amanda Christensen is an Extension Assistant Professor for Utah State University. Follow her on Twitter: @FamFinPro, Facebook: Fam Fin Pro, Instagram: @FamFinPro.




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




Decorating with Fresh Greenery

fresh-greenery

Join Live Well Utah editor Marta Nielsen as she talks with Studio 5’s Brook Walker about how to keep your fresh wreath or garland looking beautiful through Christmas, and learn how to put together your own holiday wreath using fresh greenery.


im

Fresh holiday wreaths can be found just about everywhere—even at your local grocery store. Whether you’ve purchased a fresh wreath or made one yourself, there are a few things you can do to extend the life of your decorations and keep them looking beautiful.

Display fresh wreaths and garlands outside. Once you’ve cut the plant off from its water source, it begins to dry out. As it dries it may begin to drop leaves or needles and lose its vivid color. The warm environment in your home speeds up the drying process. Indoors, a wreath will last about a week, while decorations kept outdoors should last a month.

Use an anti-transpirant. Products such as Wilt Pruf help fresh greenery retain its moisture and can prolong the life of your decorations. You can find products like this at most nurseries.

Choose the right materials. If you’re making a wreath, choose materials that will retain their color as they dry. Good options are eucalyptus, olive, magnolia, bay leaf, and boxwood greenery. All of these can be ordered or purchased from a florist. Eucalyptus can often be found in a well-stocked grocery store floral department. Boxwood is common in residential landscaping, and dries to a lighter green that is beautiful for display in the springtime. If you want to make your own evergreen wreath, most Christmas tree lots will sell you a bag of boughs for just a few dollars. Adding in some other natural materials like pine cones, pepper or juniper berries, and a festive bow complete the look for a welcoming front door display.


This article was written by Marta Nielsen, Live Well Utah Blog Editor.