Tag Archives: Holidays

Celebrate Eating Together

On December 3, Family & Consumer Sciences Day is being celebrated with a “Dine In” theme. Since 2014, more than 300,000 people have publicly committed to dining in on the annual Family & Consumer Sciences Day http://www.aafcs.org/fcsday/home). This day also celebrates the birthday of Ellen Swallow Richards, the founder of what is now the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), formerly called the American Home Economics Association. The website above lists over 30 different valued sponsors or partners in this initiative. The promotion is an international event.

People are being encouraged to make a commitment to preparing and eating healthy meals with their family or others in their community. This is a fitting tribute to Ellen Richards, as she so believed in people working together and valuing family and community. You might consider this a good day to get some home prepared and preserved foods out of your freezer or pantry and share them together in a setting of community eating, whether with our own family or a group you invite to eat home prepared foods together. Maybe your community garden groups would like to share a meal of local foods and talk about community and health!

For other ideas, you can monitor the entries communities are sharing at http://www.aafcs.org/fcsday/home, or on Twitter and Facebook. Resources, such as an original recipe from the Beekman Boys cookbook and recipes certified by the American Heart Association can be found here: http://www.aafcs.org/fcsday/fcs-day-resources/dining-in-resources and http://www.aafcs.org/fcsday/fcs-day-resources/fcs-day-web-resources. Links to food preparation videos from The Art Institutes as well as Texas A&M University, food-related resources to use with children, and many other resources are also provided links. And of course, even if you do not want to can them, you can find interesting recipes at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for some relishes, fruit dishes, and salsas for your sides! (http://nchfp.uga.edu)

You can read a little more about Ellen Swallow Richards here, http://connect.aafcs.org/about/about-us, as well as in many other sources. Ellen Richards, a chemist, was the first female graduate and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Smith College conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Science on her. She was an activist for nutrition, foods education, child protection, public health, women’s rights, and the application of scientific principles to everyday living for the family. Her activism, vision and professional experiences led to formalization of the home economics profession and founding of the American Home Economics Association. Here is one short biography: https://libraries.mit.edu/archives/exhibits/esr/esr-biography.html. I have done a lot of archival research and reading myself about Ellen Richards’ life and professional contributions, especially regarding public health and safe food and water. It is nothing but inspiring, especially when you read a lot of her correspondence with other foods and nutrition professional leaders in the late 1800s.

(References are the links provided above throughout the text.)



Freezing Ahead for the Holidays

There is nothing like a hot bowl of homemade soup on a chilly winter’s day. But who has time to make it? Schedules are busy during school days and holidays. Just imagine having a freezer full of delicious, homemade meals ready to be heated and served when you get home from work. Even better than that, picture yourself stress-free during the holidays because you prepared and froze your holiday meals and treats in advance. Freezing prepared foods in advance allows you the satisfaction of homemade meals with the convenience of store-bought ones.

There are just a few things to keep in mind when freezing prepared foods. Freezing will not improve the texture, flavor, or quality of food. It simply acts to preserve the quality of the food. Therefore, you should only freeze high quality products. After cooking the food you plan to freeze, be sure it is cooled quickly to maintain the safety of the food. Be sure to package foods for the freezer in moisture-vapor resistant materials to prevent freezer burn. Clearly label each package with the name of the food, ingredients, packaging date, special instructions, and the amount of food. Package foods only in amounts that you will be able to use at one time. Freeze food as soon as it is packaged and sealed, and place in the coldest part of the freezer. Remember to research the ingredients ahead of time to see what foods do not freeze well (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze/dont_freeze_foods.html), and to see if there are any special instructions for preparing and freezing your product (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/FreezingPreparedFoods.pdf).

Several options are available for thawing prepared foods. The frozen food can be taken directly from the freezer and immediately placed in the oven for thawing and heating as long as it is in a freezer-to-oven safe container. Some foods are best thawed and heated using a double boiler. Foods that contain fish, meat, eggs or other high protein ingredients should be thawed in the refrigerator or microwave. To ensure the safety of your food, do not allow these potentially hazardous foods to stay in the temperature danger zone (40°F-140°F) for more than 2 hours. Breads, cakes, and cookies that are precooked may be thawed at room temperature. Reheat all prepared foods except non-meat baked goods, sweets and fruits to at least 165°F quickly, within 2 hours.

Planning ahead and freezing prepared foods is a great way to keep homemade food on your dinner table without all of the stress and hassle.

Be Merry with Cranberries


Use fresh cranberries in these innovative recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) to spice up your holiday meals. The yields will provide you with some for now, some for later, and some to give away! Elizabeth Andress, Director of the NCHFP, had this to say about these exciting recipes, “Both of these can be made during cranberry season and used as delightful homemade gifts.”

Cranberry Orange Chutney stands on its own as a side dish, or can be spooned over or basted into ham, turkey, chicken, or pork. Cranberries have so much natural pectin that the final product is almost jellied.  Raisins add texture to tang from orange juice and zest, while the warm spice of ginger and cinnamon round out the overall flavor. You could add small amounts of other dried spices if you like, such as cloves, dry mustard, or cayenne pepper. After it’s made, chutney will continue to set over the next 24 hours, but you can eat it once it cools down. Store un-canned chutney in clean storage containers and refrigerate. Remember to also refrigerate opened jars if you don’t finish it all at once.

Spicy Cranberry Salsa brings something new to the table by essentially switching out tomatoes for cranberries. The flavor is highlighted by Serrano peppers and honey. Use this salsa as a dip for chips, as a side with meat, or as a spread stirred into cream cheese. This recipe, procedure, and process time are also available in Spanish.

Loose cranberries

This entry was inspired by an article written by April Reese Sorrow and Elizabeth L. Andress for the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Looking for a Gift that Keeps Giving? Try a Dehydrator!

Trays with fruits and veggies

For your “foodie” friend or family member, a dehydrator might make a great gift. Effective and efficient at drying apple slices, chili peppers, figs, fruit leathers, jerky and more, food dehydrators are a favorite appliance of avid home food preservers.

Why not just use an oven? Using an oven may be reasonable option, but not all ovens maintain a temperature low enough to dry without baking (140 degrees F). Oven drying also requires leaving the oven door cracked open with a fan blowing to provide circulation, requiring a substantial input of energy and time. Dehydrators are small, counter-top appliances designed to dry foods quickly using an electric element for heat and a built-in fan and vents for circulation.

Dehydrators w copyright symbol

There are two main types of dehydrators: units with horizontal air flow and units with vertical air flow. Horizontal air flow design places the heating element and fan on the side of the unit, whereas vertical air flow design contains the heating element and fan at the bottom of the unit. The limited capacity of horizontal flow models can be a disadvantage, while most vertical flow models allow for more trays to be stacked on top of one another. The height of food pieces is more limited with the vertically stacked trays, however, as compared to some horizontal flow cabinets.  Also on the plus side, models with horizontal flow reduce flavor mixture if you are drying different types of foods at the same time, and heat is distributed evenly across all trays.

You can find dehydrators in natural food stores, the small appliance section of department stores, and mail-order catalogs. Costs vary. Before buying the first one you come across, consider this list of dehydrator features to look for:

–          Enclosed heating elements

–          Fan or blower

–          An enclosed thermostat

–          Double wall construction of metal or high grade plastic

–          Four to 10 open-mesh trays made of sturdy, easy-to-wash plastic

–          UL seal of approval

–          One-year guarantee

–          Convenient service available if needed

–          Dial for regulating temperature

–          A timer that can be set to turn unit off (very helpful when drying lasts into the night)

–          Availability of tray liners to purchase for making fruit leather if desired

Dryer with Liner

© Andress, E.L., Harrison, J.A., eds. (2006). So Easy to Preserve, 5th ed. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.