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Time Flies

Happy AnniversaryAnniversary Celebration

 This week I celebrated my seventh anniversary as Sargent county’s NDSU Extension Family and Community Wellness (FCW) agent!  My how time flies, and I continue to find immense joy working with and serving all Sargent county residents! 

 Your ideas, suggestions and requests for topics you’d like me to address are always welcome.  Please give me a call if you or your friends, family, co-workers or employees have a topic you would like to learn more about through a presentation, lesson, program, activity or workshop, live and in-person if possible, or virtually.  NDSU Extension has a lot to offer, and I am here to serve you!

(Photo Credit:  Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay, downloaded 10-22-20)

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October 31: Safe or Scary?

October 31:  Safe or Scary?

 

Two of the many things that I am always grateful for are that everyone in my family is free of food allergies/sensitivities, and that we all like and enjoy many different foods that are actually “good,” healthy, and nutritious for us.  (Think veggies!)

Considering that 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy, the fact that we don’t have any in our family is something to appreciate!

Trick or treat season can be challenging and potentially risky for people who do have food allergies because of these three reasons:

  • Trick or treat candy often has one or more of the common food allergens such as wheat, milk, soy, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts. 
  • Manufacturers can change ingredients and use different facilities when they make candy in bigger or smaller sizes than regular size candy, so candy that is safe (allergen-free) in its regular size may not be safe when it is a different size.
  • The ingredient list is usually not included on the wrapper of small candy, so it is difficult for the consumer to know what is in it and whether or not it is safe for them to eat if they have food allergies or sensitivities. 

In response to these challenges, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) created the Teal Pumpkin Project to provide safe trick-or-treating options for children with food allergies.

One suggestion is to give non-food treats such as glow sticks, fake mustaches, bubbles, and bouncy balls. FARE also encourages all families to sign a pledge to celebrate safely and display a teal pumpkin to signal that you have safe alternatives for trick-or-treating.

Establishing a few new traditions can help your child avoid feelings of frustration and disappointment during the trick or treat season.  For example:

  • Candy Swap: After identifying unsafe candy, have your child trade in the candy they can’t eat for candy that is safe.
  • Candy Exchange: Give your child the option to turn in unsafe candy for something else, like a book or a toy.
  • Candy Donation: Donate the candy to a good cause. Many dentists and organizations accept donations or may offer a “buy-back” program.

With some creativity, thoughtfulness, and planning, everyone can have fun, including the children who have food allergies.

Source:  Laura Stanton, “Food Allergies and Halloween Can Be a Scary Combination,” Ohio State University Extension

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/vectors/wheat-gluten-allergy-food-allergen-995055/ (downloaded 10/13/20)

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Whining – It’s Not Just Something Little Kids Do

Whining – It’s Not Just Something Little Kids Do

 

People leave their jobs most often because of things that interfere with their job satisfaction. Things like people whining, for example.    

Whining brings people down. Being around people who whine can be like being around people who talk with an accent or drawl or who frequently use certain words and phrases.  We can soak it up, and before we know it, we may start whining or speaking with an accent, drawl, or certain words and phrases just like they do.

Things to avoid doing when you are with a whiner:

  • Don’t agree with a whiner (you’ll get pulled into his/her drama)
  • Don’t disagree with a whiner (you never will win the argument)
  • Don’t try to fix the issue (the whiner will keep coming back)

Things to do when you are with a whiner:

  • Do interrupt the whining and ask, “Can you give me a concrete example of that?”
  • If the whiner provides an example, say, “Let’s sit down and see if we can come up with some solutions.”
  • If the whining continues, say, “Please stop, and don’t bring that problem to me again because I can’t help you with it.”
  • Do be blunt. Say, “Just stop. That’s not appropriate here.”

Another approach is to think about what motivates the whiner and ask him/her to take the lead in solving the problem. For example:

  • Ask the person to teach others how to address the problem instead of whining about it.
  • Ask the person to lead a team discussion to brainstorm ideas for solving the problem.

Negativity, conflicts, and gossip are other things that interfere with job satisfaction and cause people to leave their jobs.  Read the NDSU Extension publication, “Addressing Gossiping, Whining, Conflict and Negative Attitudes” to learn more.  It is available online at  https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/leadership/addressing-gossip-whining-conflict-and-negative-attitudes/fs1816.pdf.

Photo Source:  https://pixabay.com/illustrations/cooperate-collaborate-teamwork-2924261/   (downloaded 10/5/20)

 

 

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The Benefit of Silence Across the Lifespan

The Benefit of Silence Across the Lifespan“Unnecessary noise is the most cruel abuse of care that can be inflicted on either the sick or the well.”  Believe it or not, that’s what Florence Nightingale said in 1859! 

Last week when I was “virtually” in Utah for the National Association of Family and Consumer Science (NEAFCS) conference, I participated in a session that was titled, “The Benefit of Silence Across the Lifespan.”  The session was presented by Laura Stanton, Ohio State University Extension Educator.  In this week’s column I am sharing large sections of an article Laura wrote.

Noise is among the most pervasive pollutants today.  It can be annoying, distracting, and painful.  On top of all that, believe it or not, Florence Nightingale was right:  noise can actually be harmful.

Noise has adverse effects on millions of people and can contribute to elevated levels of stress, mood swings, sleep loss, diminished productivity, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, hearing loss, and a general reduction in the quality of life and opportunity for tranquility.

With “noise” having so many potential negative impacts on our health, what happens when we opt for silence? 

Silence can have profound and positive impacts on your health. For example, silence can

  • lower blood pressure
  • increase blood flow and enhance sleep
  • promote cognitive development and lead to higher academic success
  • be therapeutic for depression and dementia

Believe it or not, research has found that two minutes of silence can actually be more relaxing for than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

Silence can be hard to find.  If you pursue it, you might choose to spend money on noise canceling headphones and silent retreats.  But silence does not have to be purchased. It is something that we can create in our lives.  Try some of these tips for finding and benefiting from silence:

  • Turn off all electronics and let others know you are in silence.
  • Schedule time to practice silence. Certain times of the day, like early morning or late night, often work better. Start with 5 minutes and increase the amount of time as you feel comfortable.
  • Find out what works for you. Some people enjoy silence as a time of deep reflection while others garden, walk, sketch, or write in silence.
  • Keep trying. For some people, silence feels unnatural. Others find it immediately meaningful. Give yourself grace to keep trying until you find what works for you.

Source:  Laura Stanton, “Noises Off: The Benefit of Silence,” Ohio State University, May 22, 2020, https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/stanton-60osu-edu/noises-off-the-benefit-of-silence/

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/silence-quiet-library-study-3810106/ (downloaded 9/29/20)

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What To Do In the Off Season

What To Do In the Off SeasonAthletes typically have a training program they follow in their “off” season.  It is what helps them to stay in shape so they are ready when the next season rolls around. 

Gardeners and food preservationists can do the same!  You can use the off season to learn more about growing and preserving foods from gardens and orchards. 

There are lots of sources “out there” for how-to information about food preservation, including recipes that have been handed down or passed around, plus those that can be found on social media and other websites.  But there-in lies a problem, because some of that information is definitely “out there.”  It may not be accurate and reliable, and it could be downright dangerous, or even deadly.

Keeping food safety as its top priority, NDSU Extension provides science-based information and recipes that employ the precision procedures that are necessary for preserving fruits and vegetables by canning, freezing, drying, pickling, as well as preserving meats poultry and fish, by curing and smoking and making jerky and sausage.

Tap into accurate, reliable, trustworthy information by contacting me at the Sargent county office of NDSU Extension at 701-724-3355, or by going online to the NDSU Extension food preservation website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-preservation

Food preservation is a science and the safety of it hinges on using safe recipes and precision procedures from beginning to end, start to finish.  As the last of the garden produce matures and is harvested, and we put our gardens to rest, make plans to use the off season to learn more about preserving foods safely!

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/garden-waste-autumn-green-waste-1047259/ (downloaded 9/23/20)

 

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When NOT to Can Tomatoes

When NOT to Can TomatoesDid your garden get a touch of frost this week?  Perhaps you are tempted to get out there and do something so that the veggies don’t go to waste. 

A word to the wise: tomatoes on dead vines should not be canned.  This is because the changes that have occurred in their pH (acidity).  The safe options are to either eat them fresh, or to freeze them to be used later. 

Food preservation is a science. 

To ensure that your frozen vegetables remain nutritious and of high quality, refer to the instructions in the NDSU Extension publication, “Freezing Vegetables.”  It is available online at:https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/freezing-vegetables, or from the Extension office. 

Please call me at 701-724-3355 to request a copy for your use.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/tomatoes-fruits-red-ripe-juicy-3702942/ (downloaded 9/15/20)

  

 

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Read the Fine Print: All Vinegars Are Not Created Equal

Read the Fine Print:  All Vinegars Are Not Created Equal

 

Pickling is one of the oldest known methods of food preservation. Pickled foods add a special touch to many snacks and meals.

One of the key ingredients in pickling is vinegar.  The vinegar that is recommended for use in pickling and other food preservation should have 5% acidity. 

The label on the bottle or jug of vinegar will state what percent acidity it is, but it may not be easy to find, so examine it closely.  Some brands of vinegar have only 4% acidity; avoid those when canning.  If you do not find the acidity listed on the label, avoid using it and choose one that is labeled as 5% acidity.

The level of acidity in a pickled product is as important to its safety as it is to taste and texture.

Other pickle pointers:

  • Use only recipes with tested proportions of ingredients, and do not alter the proportions of vinegar, food/produce, or water.  You must have a minimum, uniform level of acid throughout the mixed product to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria.
  • Use a canning or pickling salt to assure that the brine stays clear and does not become cloudy. 
  • Do not reduce salt in fermented pickles.  Proper fermentation depends on the correct proportions of salt and other ingredients.
  • Use of salt substitutes or reduced-sodium salts in fermented pickles is not recommended.
  • Use fresh, whole spices for the best flavor in pickles. Powdered spices may cause the product to darken or become cloudy. Spices deteriorate and quickly lose their pungency in heat and humidity. Store opened spices in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
  • Use two-piece metal lids and screw-on bands.  These are the ones that were used in the testing for safety of food preservation processes.  With the shortage of those this year, freezing is an option for canning in some cases, such as salsa and vegetables that are not being pickled.

For detailed information about other pickling ingredients including water, sugar, and firming agents, as well as the equipment and procedures to use, and tested recipes, contact me at 701-724-3355, or check the NDSU Extension website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-preservation/pickle-and-ferment.

I plan to be at the Rutland Farmers Market on September 13, and will be offering pressure canner gauge testing services there.  Be sure to stop by to visit!

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/vinegar-cleaning-cleaner-clean-768948/ (downloaded 9/9/20)

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The Joy and Magic of Cardboard Boxes

The Joy and Magic of Cardboard BoxesLast week I got to spend two days taking care of my grandchildren at their home, and earlier this week I got to have another day there with them.  With ages 9, 6, 4, and 11 months, there was never a dull moment, and I felt very lucky to be with them!

Four new stools for their breakfast counter were delivered to their home the first day that I was there last week.  Each one came in its own large cardboard box.  Need I say more?  Imagination and creativity were inspired and knew no limit.

The boxes quickly became towers, and then caves, complete with drawings, words and hieroglyphics, depending on who was doing the decorating.  Then they became pits that the kids “fell” into and had to be “rescued” from.  They were also wonderful structures to hide in or behind or under while we played the kids’ version of hide and seek in the dark. 

Then one of the boxes was transformed into a rocket ship.   A lot of design and engineering went into that!  Once the rocket ship was ready, out came clothes and accessories to serve as space suits:  goggles, rain coats, headphones, colanders (space helmets) and even plastic drinking cups that we could suction over our mouths to look like respirators!

This week, parts of the boxes were used in constructing an outdoor lemonade stand right in front of the garage doors, just for us to play with.  We each got turns to be the worker/server, and we each got turns to be the paying customer, once we found several flat stones to use as coins.  Keeping with the times we are in, when each of us got to be the customer, we could be a drive-thru customer only; no indoor seating was allowed.

“Imagination is the doorway to possibilities. It's where creativity, ingenuity, and thinking outside the box begin,” says Brian McNeill, University of Minnesota Extension Educator.  This is true literally and figuratively. 

“Imaginative and creative play is how children learn about the world. During imaginative play, children manipulate materials, express themselves verbally and non-verbally, plan, act, interact, react, and try different roles. Whether with dolls, vehicles, blocks, rocks, cardboard or boxes, great opportunities for learning and development are possible when children participate in creative play,” continues McNeill.

Play is essential for healthy child development, but it is decreasingly available to many of today’s youth.  In our technology-driven society, we need to encourage the young people in our lives to use their imagination.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Create distraction-free time for youth to explore. There must be some boundaries put in place; but providing the time, space and tools to play can spark their imaginations.
  • Involve youth in activities where they can use their creativity in a team. This experience not only provides a place and time to use their imagination but it creates opportunity to work with others. This will sharpen their teamwork skills for school and into the future.

NDSU Extension offers child development and parenting materials upon request and online, including “Understanding Brain Development in Young Children,” and “Understanding and Working with Youth.”  I’d be happy to provide these resources to you and help you learn more about child development and ways to nurture it.  You can reach me at 701-724-3355 or by emailing me at cindy.klapperich@ndsu.edu.

Source:  The Importance of Imagination and Play, Brian McNeill, University of Minnesota, 11-29-2017. 

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/moving-box-cardboard-box-carton-box-4115066/

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Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

Tomato:  Fruit or Vegetable?These days at the Klapperich house, every meal includes garden-fresh tomatoes.  And I mean EVERY meal, even breakfast!  (Think BLT without the B and L.)

The perennial question students ask when I am teaching nutrition, health and wellness classes in their classrooms is, “Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?”  Typically a lively bit of debate ensues.  Then I answer the question by explaining, “Botanically, a tomato is classified as a fruit because it has seeds and is derived from flower tissue.  However, from a nutrition standpoint, tomatoes are considered vegetables because of the way they are used in meals.”

Tomatoes are a nutritious, fat-free, low calorie food.  They are also a great source of a variety of vitamins, including vitamins A and C, plus minerals such as potassium.  But wait!  There’s more!  Tomatoes are also rich with high amounts of lycopene.

What is lycopene, you ask?  Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment that gives tomatoes (and watermelon and pink grapefruit) their red color. 

Lycopene is linked with reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.  Interestingly, lycopene is better absorbed by our bodies if the tomatoes are canned or cooked, rather than fresh.  

With the recommendation that half of our plate be filled with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, tomatoes can be a go-to when you are adding something red.  So go ahead: enjoy tomatoes fresh, and also cooked in casseroles, spaghetti sauces, salsas, and soups!  

NDSU Extension offers a two page Field to Fork publication that includes information on growing, storing, preserving, and using tomatoes in meals and recipes.  The Field to Fork tomato publication is available from the Extension office or online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/field-to-fork-tomatoes/fn1800.pdf

Two-page Field to Fork publications for other garden and orchard produce are also available from the Extension office or online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/fieldtofork/choose-your-crop.

Source:  NDSU Extension Field to Fork: Tomatoes, FN1800, January 2020.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/tomatoes-bio-balcony-rain-1561565/ (downloaded 08/25/20)

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One Way or the Other

One Way or the Other

Canning, freezing, and drying are popular ways to preserve food.  NDSU Extension has many resources and recipes to help you preserve food safely by any of those methods.  The online resources and recipes are available at: www.ag.ndsu.edu/food.

When it comes to canning, there are two options:  hot water bath canning and pressure canning.  Knowing what food is being canned will determine which of those two methods is safe and appropriate. Remember that the scientific basis for safe food preservation rests in chemistry. 

Water-bath canning is appropriate and recommended for naturally acidic or acidified foods – those that have a pH level of 4.6 or lower.  (The lower the pH, the higher the level of acid.) 

High acid foods on the list as safe to be canned in a hot water bath canner, provided science-based preparation steps and processing times are followed, are:

  • Fruits
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Marmalades
  • Fruit butters/spreads

Pressure canning is recommended for low-acid foods that have a pH above 4.6.  The higher the pH, the more basic (less acid) the food.  Low acid foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of bacteria and therefore need to be processed at temperatures of 240 to 250 degrees for a long enough time.  Those essential high temperatures are not possible when using a water bath canner, but they are attainable when using a pressure canner.  Science-based instructions for preparation and processing times for the particular food and specific jar size should also be followed.

Foods to be processed in a pressure canner include:

  • All vegetables except acidified tomatoes
  • Red meats
  • Seafood
  • Poultry

When it comes to canning tomatoes, remember that tomatoes are somewhat of a special case. 

Tomatoes vary in their pH level. For that reason, tomatoes can be safely processed in a water-bath canner only IF they are acidified with lemon juice or citric acid.

To acidify whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or ½ teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. Use 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice or ¼ teaspoon of citric acid for pints. The processing times vary with the food and jar size. 

What about salsas?  Because salsas are mixtures of tomatoes (variable pH) and low acid ingredients, use a science-based salsa recipe that includes adequate acidification prior to canning in a hot water bath canner.  Also be sure to carefully follow the recipe by accurately weighing and measuring all ingredients so as to maintain the proportions.  If you choose to not follow a science-based salsa recipe, it will be safer to freeze it rather than can it. 

If you have questions about preserving foods safely, please call me at 701-724-3355.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/green-beans-canning-canned-food-631157/ (downloaded 08/18/20)

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