Composting Tips & Tricks
Reduce waste through composting! Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste are examples of compost, but usually these items are thrown away, rather than being composted. Making compost keeps these items out of landfills where they release methane and take up space.
All composting requires three ingredients: browns, greens, and water. Browns being dead leaves, branches, twigs. Greens being grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, coffee grounds. And the right amount of water.
Any time is a good time to start composting, but spring is particularly advantageous. In spring, you can use the warmer weather to your advantage along with the increased activity of microorganisms and creatures. By composting, you will enrich your soil by retaining moisture and suppressing plant diseases and pests. You will also reduce your need for chemical fertilizers and methane emissions from landfills, lowering your carbon footprint.
For backyard composting, select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile. Add even amounts of browns and greens, making sure the larger pieces are shredded or chopped. For dry materials, make sure they are moistened as they are added to the pile. Once you have built your compost pile, mix grass clippings and green waste in and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of material.
If you don’t have a proper space for outdoor composting, you can do so indoors with a specialized composting bin. When properly managed, an indoor bin will not attract pests or give off an unwanted scent.
Check out some more composting tricks:
- Fats, pet droppings, or animal dropping should not be compost. They will attract pests and can spread disease.
- Shredded newspaper or plain white paper works great as compost!
- Plants that have been treated with pesticides should not be used.
- Straw is an excellent source of carbon for your compost pile.
- Kitchen waste such as vegetable peels, fruit rinds, coffee grounds, tea bags, and egg shells can be fed to worms. Meat and dairy products should be avoided.
- Woody stalks or corn cobs usually decompose slower, smash with a hammer to make it easier for the microorganisms in your pile to break them down.
- Too many browns will make your pile hard to break-down. Too many greens will make your pile too smelly. Try layering each evenly.
- The more you add at once the quicker your pile will heat up. One big meal is better than several small snacks.
- When finished your pile should look, feel, and smell like rich, dark soil. The items you added should be unrecognizable.
- Relax, and stick to the process. Eventually you will make a great compost!
Sources: https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/tips/ – http://www.carryoncomposting.com/416920199 – https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
It is that time of year again where many people will start up gardening. Gardening is a great way to save money on your favorite vegetables and get a great deal of exercise in as well. Additionally, did you know that gardening actually helps the environment? Growing your own vegetables helps reduce carbon emissions. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get growing!
Tips & Tricks on Gardening Favorites
We picked out three commonly grown vegetables and provided some tips and tricks on how to succeed this gardening season. Find out how below!
- Tomatoes, like people, love the sunshine! Make sure that your tomatoes are in a position where they will get ample sunshine to grow strong.
- Tomato plants can be planted a lot deeper than other vegetables. A full two-thirds of the plant should be underground. Seeds should be planted one-eighth of an inch underground. By planting tomatoes deeper in the soil, you are allowing for stronger, more resilient roots.
- Tomato plants need 1-2 inches of water in total per week. Remember not to do this all at once.
- Unlike tomatoes, peppers must be in a shaded area, as they are very sensitive to heat.
- Peppers require 1-2 inches of water per week, but make sure to space out your waterings. Peppers need days in between for dryness. Slow dousings of water are beneficial for peppers.
- Plant peppers 18-24 inches apart.
- Carrots require a lot of sunshine – about 6-10 hours a day.
- Carrots are slow to germinate. They typically require 2-3 weeks to emerge, so don’t give up on these guys!
- Water carrots frequently, but do not douse them as you would with peppers. A shallow watering will do.
As you start harvesting your crops, you will want to make some homemade meals out of them. Check out some of our recipes below!
Grilled Veggie & Quinoa Bowl: This fresh blend of vegetables includes tomatoes, corn, green onions, and avocado, however, add in more of your garden vegetables for even more color!
Zucchini-Vegetable Rolls: With only 5 ingredients, this is a great appetizer to put out for your Mother’s Day or Memorial Day celebration. The only ingredient you would have to purchase is the PICS cream cheese!
Shrimp and Grits Stuffed Peppers: Fresh peppers from the garden with delicious seafood and grits…Need I say more?
Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad: What is an outdoor barbeque without the pasta salad? Better yet, you have our permission to brag about your freshly-grown garden vegetables in this salad!
Diabetes and Chronic Illness - Fresh Tips on Food Safety
Living well with a chronic health issue like diabetes is challenging. Prevention is key – enjoying foods that support good blood sugar control and following medication directions enhance long-term health and quality of life. To maximize the benefits of better food choices, be sure good food safety practices are on the menu.
The immune system protects health best when your body is well-nourished. Following food safety and nutrition care guidance should support good diabetes management and healthy immune systems. Diabetes may impact immune function by weakening immune system response, and slowing down digestion, allowing bacteria on food to multiply. Once infection has begun, it can be very difficult to treat. Adults 65 and older with diabetes can be especially vulnerable. Check out the tips and tools you can use to ensure you and your family can navigate successfully prevent food safety concerns.
Know Foodborne Illness Symptoms and Get Medical Care Quickly
Foodborne Illness Symptoms can worsen diabetes/all chronic illness symptoms, including elevating blood sugar and risk of dehydration. If you suspect foodborne illness, call your healthcare provider, or seek emergency care immediately.
- Many shoppers use recycled bags for packing groceries. Be sure to wipe these out or wash them each time you unpack them, with antibacterial wipes or spray and clean paper towels.
- Meat, seafood and fresh produce should be bagged before placing in a cart or shopping bag, so they don’t become cross-contaminated. If your grocery store limits plastic bags, bring your own clean bags to place foods in – clear bags allow for scanning prices and safe handling.
- Purchase pasteurized eggs and dairy products and use best-by and sell-by dates to ensure food purchases are fresh.
- Read labels to be sure foods will meet your needs for enjoyment and diabetes management.
Smart Storage and Prep
- Go directly home – if travel time is extended, use insulated bags and/or coolers to maintain food temperatures.
As soon as possible after shopping or grocery delivery, get chilled and frozen foods put away safely.
Cool tools available in the grocery store to keep food safe:
- Clean shopping bags, reusable ice packs, insulated shopping bags, and coolers.
- Appliance thermometer for the refrigerator – store food at 40 degrees F or lower.
- Cooking thermometer – find temperature charts to ensure foods are cooked to safe serving temps.
- Easy-clean plastic cutting boards (some are color-coded for meat, seafood, produce). Use clean knives and utensils while preparing foods, and do not reuse utensils, bowls or plates that have had raw food contact.
- Hot, soapy water, bleach and antibacterial wipes assist with cleaning cutting boards, utensils, and shopping bags.
- Moisturizing hand soap – keeping hands clean and skin in good condition are both important to diabetes management. BONUS – Good handwashing reduces risk of of flu, pneumonia, COVID-19, and other high-risk infections for those with chronic health conditions.
- Store raw and cooked foods safely in regularly cleaned designated refrigerator sections. If any items are damaged or have any indication of spoilage, don’t hesitate to discard. Follow the food safety mantra of “When in doubt, throw it out!”
Stay up to date on food safety issues by checking the webpage, and downloading the food safety app. Find more resources there and at the Partnership for Food Safety website.
5 Easy Care Tips for Cast Iron
Maureen Murphy, Manager Consumer Trends, Nutrition and LifestylesI fondly remember my grandmother’s well-seasoned cast iron pan, and the wonderful foods prepared in it. For many years I wanted one, but up until several years ago I was under the mistaken impression that cast iron still required a lot of care. An incredibly useful tool in the kitchen, cast iron is ideal for searing meats, retaining heat, and can go from stovetop to oven so you can even bake in it! Once upon a time, cast iron skillets had to be seasoned before using for the first time, whereas today they are pre-seasoned in the factory making them ready for use after a quick rinse and thorough dry. Thanks to these tips from Lodge, maker of cast iron cookware, it’s easy to keep cast iron looking and performing well.
- Cast iron can be washed – wash by hand using a nylon bristle brush, and if needed, use a pan scraper for any stubborn cooked-on bits.
- Do not: soak in water, use a dishwasher or metal scouring pads
- A mild detergent may be used, but isn’t necessary after each washing
- For particularly sticky food, simmer a little water for 1 minute, then use a pan scraper after skillet has cooled.
- Dry immediately and thoroughly
- Rub with a little food-safe cooking oil/shortening (vegetable or canola oil recommended), preferably while skillet is still warm
- Use it frequently as the more often you use it the better it gets as the seasoning (oil) builds up on the pan creating a nonstick layer
- Scrub with a metal scouring pan
- Oil interior and exterior
- Place upside down with piece of foil or sheet pan underneath
- Bake in a 350° oven for 1 hour; allow to cool completely in oven
Get Your Grill On!
Maureen Rowan Murphy, Manager Consumer Trends, Nutrition and LifestylesI believe the best gift is the gift of time-time spent with those we love. While my Dad is no longer here, one of my fondest memories is the last Father’s Day I spent with him. Not only did we have quality time together, but I grilled and served one of his favorite meals. Had I not tackled my grilling “fears” that cherished memory would likely not exist. While always comfortable cooking in the kitchen my comfort level didn’t extend outdoors. The grill was uncharted territory, and one day I made up my mind that I had to change that. I learned the basics, and then jumped right in and fired up the grill! Sure, there were a few grilling mishaps, but as my confidence grew so did my skills. I guess you could say it was trial by fire! Now I’m viewed as the grill master in my house. If you’re intimidated like I was, here are tips to help you on your way to becoming a grill master! Gather It Up
- Gather everything up to avoid leaving food unattended on hot grill
- Wire brush
- Long-handled matches/lighter and charcoal for charcoal grill
- Long handled tongs
- Metal spatula
- Basting brushes
- Grill basket
- Meat thermometer
- Clean platters and utensils
- Heavy duty oven mitts
- Reduce food sticking by taking a paper towel dipped in a little oil, and using tongs, wipe evenly over the grates
- Preheat grill 10 to 15 minutes to ensure it reaches the proper temperature as well as kill any possible bacteria
- Grilling Temperatures – High: 400-450°F for high; medium-high: 350-400°F; medium: 300-350°F; low: 250-300°F
- A properly heated grill sears foods on contact, keeps the insides moist and helps prevent sticking
- Keep a spray water bottle for gas or charcoal grills nearby in case of flare ups
- Don’t use cooking spray on a hot grill
- Sear the meat to seal in juices and capture its best flavors
- Turn grill down after searing so food does not burn outside and remain raw inside
- Use tongs when turning meat or poultry to keep natural juices inside
- Turn food only once – the less you flip, the more the flavor develops
- Apply sauces and glazes during last 10 minutes to avoid potential flare-ups
- Close grill lid to enhance smoky flavor and keep moisture in
- Use a food thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature
- Steaks, roasts and chops: 145°F with a 3 minute rest time
- Ground beef, pork, lamb and veal: 160°F
- Poultry, including ground poultry: 165°F
- Let meat “rest”, tented with foil, about 10 minutes before cutting
Keep Your Food and Family Safe This Summer!After a long winter and cool spring, temperatures are finally warming up making everyone eager for outdoor picnics and barbecues. While these temperatures are ideal for that, they also provide a perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens in food to multiply rapidly and cause foodborne illness. You can help prevent harmful bacteria from making your family sick by avoiding the “Danger Zone” and following the “Core Four”. The Danger Zone: temperature range between 40°F and 140°F
- Keep food out of this range as foodborne bacteria can grow rapidly to dangerous levels that can result in illness
- Always keep cold food COLD, at or below 40°F, in coolers or in containers with ice or frozen gel packs
- Keep hot foods HOT, at or above 140°F, on the grill or in insulated containers, heated chafing dishes, warming trays or slow cookers
- Reheat foods to 165°F
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food
- Clean kitchen surfaces, dishes and utensils with hot water and soap
- Have one cutting board for produce and another one for meat, poultry and seafood
- Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked foods
- Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs before reusing
- Marinate in the refrigerator and not on the counter keeping raw meat/poultry separate from any veggies you might be using
- If you plan to reuse the marinade as a sauce be sure to boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria or make extra to set aside before adding raw meat/poultry
- Cook: Cook to safe internal temperatures
- Use a food thermometer to ensure food is thoroughly cooked
- Whole cuts of meat (steaks, chops and roasts) – 145°F with a 3 minute rest time
- Ground beef, pork, lamb and veal- 160°F
- Poultry, including ground poultry- 165°F
- Fish – 145°F
- Leftovers – 165°F
- Refrigerate perishable food within one hour in hot weather (above 90°F) and within two hours if temperatures are below 90°F
- Place leftover foods in shallow containers for quick cooling