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USU Extension Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: I left a pot of soup out after dinner last night; I went to bed and forgot about it. Is it safe to eat if I boil the soup really hard for a long time?

**A:** No, the food should be thrown away. Eating food left out overnight is a real gamble. Some microorganisms survive reheating and other organisms produce a toxin that is not destroyed by reheating. Bacteria grows rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees F. A good rule of thumb is never leave food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

Q:How do you read the code on canned goods to determine the expiration date?

**A:** Each manufacturer has a different coding system. You can contact the manufacturer and they will help you determine what the product code means. As a rule of thumb canned goods have optimal quality if eaten within 1 to 2years. The food will be safe longer than 2 years, but quality will start to diminish. After 2 years canned products may become dark, have changes in texture, and changes in flavor. If the can is bulging, leaking, or rusting throw it away. If you open the product and it has a milky or slimy appearance or texture, rancid odor, corrosion on the inside of the can, or is moldy, discard the product.

Q:Is it safe to store food in their cans in the refrigerator?

A: Yes. There is no safety problem; however, some products may develop metallic taste.

Q:The power went out, is the food in my refrigerator/freezer still o.k. to eat?

**A:** Keep the freezer cold to keep the cold air in. A full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for about 2 days; a half-full freezer about a day. If the power will be out for several days use dry ice to keep temperatures cold. Twenty-five pounds of dry ice should keep a 10 cubic-foot full freezer 3 to 4 days. If foods still contain ice crystal they should be safe and can be refrozen if they have started to thaw. Refrigerated items should be safe as long as power is out no more than a few hours. The best way to determine if foods are safe are use a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer. If the temperature remained below 40 degrees during the power outage the food should be safe to eat.

Q: Do I need to use soap and water to clean fresh fruits and vegetables?

**A:** Rinse fruits and vegetables in clean running water. Soap is not necessary and may not be desirable.

Q: Should I worry about pesticides on fruits and vegetables?

A: A very small percent of fresh produce have measurable pesticide residues. Washing fruits and vegetables in clean running water will remove most of any pesticide residue, dirt, and other environmental pollutants.

Q:How long can I keep meat, poultry, vegetables, etc. in the freezer?

**A:** Foods kept in the freezer will be safe for years; however, quality starts to decrease for most products in 9-12 months. If foods are left in the freezer for long periods of time they may develop freezer burn or develop undesirable flavors. For the best quality, use frozen items within one year.

Q: How long can I keep leftovers in the refrigerator?

**A:** Most leftovers can be safely kept in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. This short, but safe time frame will keep refrigerated foods from spoiling or becoming dangerous. Leftovers could be frozen and kept for a much longer period of time.

Q:I found weevil in my flour, I have fruit flies, or there are other pantry pests in my kitchen, what do I do?

**A:** Remove all infested food and throw away. (You can kill the weevil in the food by freezing the flour, crackers, cereal, etc., but you will then have to pick the weevil out.) Clean the pantry or other storage area thoroughly with an all purpose cleaner. Pay special attention to corners and crevices. Put any exposed food into plastic containers with lids. Remember to put away fruit or any other food that is on the counter. Cleaning and removing the food source will get rid of most pests; if pests persist you may need to call a professional.

Q:I just prepared chicken and spilled juices on the counter, how do I sanitize the countertop?

**A:** You can use a commercial sanitizing solution or make your own by mixing 1 teaspoon regular bleach with 1 quart of lukewarm water. Clean the area with warm soapy water then spray with the sanitizing solution and let the area air dry.

Q:Can I use a wood cutting board?

**A:** Wood cutting boards are safe if they are made from hard wood such as maple. Cutting boards make from soft wood such as pine should not be used. After using the cutting board for raw meats you should clean thoroughly with hot soapy water or in a dishwasher and then sanitize with a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach with 1 quart lukewarm water. For optimal safety have more than one cutting board in your home. Designate one to use for raw meat products and separate one to use for vegetables and fruits.

Q:I heard products with hydrogenated fats are bad for you. What are hydrogenated fats and can I eat them?

**A:** Hydrogenation is a process that adds hydrogen to liquid unsaturated fats. The process makes the fats more saturated and solid. Hydrogenation improves shelf life, cooking properties, and flavor. However, hydrogenation does have drawbacks. Hydrogenation makes an unsaturated fat saturated and creates trans-fatty acids. Both saturated fats and trans-fatty acids increase the risk for high blood cholesterol and heart disease. People should limit their intake of products with the words hydrogenated fat, hydrogenated oil, or partially hydrogenated oils.

Q:I'm in the middle of baking cookies, the recipe calls for baking powder and I am out. Is there a substitute?

**A:** Try these baking substitutions:

- For 1 teaspoon of baking powder substitute ¼ tsp. baking soda plus 5/8 tsp. cream of tartar or ¼ tsp. baking soda plus ½ Tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice with milk to make ½ cup.
  • 1 ounce chocolate = 3 Tbsp. cocoa plus 1 Tbps. Margarine/butter.
  • 1 cup buttermilk = 1 Tbsp. vinegar or lemon plus enough milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes).
  • Cake flour = 1 cup minus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour.
  • More ingredient substitutions can be found at choose FN 255 Ingredient Substitutions.

Q:How many Tablespoons in a cup, quarts in a peck, etc.?

**A:** Common measurements

- 3 tsp.=1 Tbsp
  • 16 Tbsp=1 cup
  • 8 ounces=1 cup
  • 16 ounces=1 pound
  • 2 cups=1 pint
  • 2 pints=1 quart
  • 4 cups=1 quart
  • 4 quarts=1gallon
  • 8 quarts=1 peck
  • 4 pecks=1 bushel.

Q:How many tomatoes, potatoes, etc. in a pound?

**A:** There are 3-4 medium tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, pears, oranges, or apples in one pound. There are 4-5 medium onions in one pound.

Q:I am making candy and it isn't working. I heard you need to make an altitude adjustment to your thermometer, how do I do that?

**A:** Water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes. Most cities and towns in Utah are high altitude. For the best results you should calibrate and adjust your thermometer for Utah's high altitudes. To calibrate your thermometer, bring a pan of water to a boil. Take the reading on the thermometer. Subtract the reading from 212. Example: Your thermometer reads 205 degrees subtract 205 from 212 and you get 7. Subtract the difference from your recipe. Example you recipe says to cook the candy to 280, but you subtract 7 from 280 and cook the candy to 273 degrees.

Q:How do I remove mold/mildew from a wall?

**A:** First remove any source of moisture. Mold/mildew needs moisture to survive. This may mean not using a bathroom for 5-7 days. Clean the area with an all purpose cleaner and then spray with a bleach solution of 1 tsp. chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water. Some mold/mildew may leave a stain even if it has stopped growing. If you plan to repaint prime with a mold resistant paint.

Q: How do I remove mildew from fabric?

A: Launder item in the hottest water safe for fabric. If stain remains sponge with hydrogen peroxide, rinse, and relaunder.

Q:My child wrote on the wall with a crayon. How do I get the crayon off?

**A:** According to, spray the surface with WD-40 and wipe with a soft cloth. If residue remains use a sponge and soapy water to wash area in a circular motion.

A: For crayon on fabric fresh or melted. Place stained surface down on a pad of paper towels spray with WD-40; let stand a few minutes, turn fabric over and spray other side. Apply liquid dishwashing detergent and work into stained area, replace towels as it absorbs stain. Wash in hot water and color safe beach (Clorox-2, Biz) for about 12 minutes, rinse in warm water.

A: To remove crayon from dryer. Spray clean cloth with WD-40 and wipe dryer drum. Run a load of rags through a drying cycle to ensure the drum is clean.

Q: The candle dripped wax onto my table cloth how do I get the stain out?

**A:** Rub the fabric with ice and carefully scrape off wax with a dull knife. Place fabric between several layers of paper towels and press with a warm iron. If any stain remains use a pre-treating stain product, rinse, and launder in hottest water safe for fabric. Use a color safe bleach in the wash.

Q: I got ball point ink on my pants how do I get it out?

A: Sponge the stain with rubbing alcohol until wet looking. Rinse and launder in hottest water safe for fabric. Note: although hair spray may get out stain residues from the hair spray may create a new stain.

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