Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Keeping the Kitchen Sanitary

It's almost time to get that turkey into the oven and onto everyone's plates! That, along with the mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, salads, and pies. One of the most important things to keep in mind while cooking up a storm is making sure to keep the kitchen sanitary. No one wants to miss out on Black Friday shopping because of food poisoning!
  • Store raw foods correctly in the fridge. Store raw meats on the bottom shelves, packaged foods in the middle, and raw vegetables on the top shelves. Occasionally, raw meats can leak and drip bloody juices. Don't let them drip onto your vegetables or other food!
  • Wash hands! The most basic food safety guideline is to wash hands. Hands should be washed:
    • When first beginning cooking
    • After using the restroom
    • After touching face, hair, clothes, or anything other than food and cooking utensils
    • When switching from raw to cooked food
    • After touching raw meat
    • After touching buttons on the oven, microwave, or stove
    • Every hour, on the hour
  • Don't cross contaminate. Keep raw meats from touching other food. Use separate cutting boards for vegetables, poultry, beef, seafood, and diary. Use separate knives for each of these, as well, or wash the knife in hot, soapy water in between. Don't touch cooked foods after touching raw meats without washing hands.
  • Sneeze into crook of arm. This is simple manners, but sometimes hard to remember. While cooking in the kitchen, don't sneeze onto the food. Nobody wants someone else's germs!
  • Cook the turkey to 165 degree internal temperature. Turkey is poultry, and can carry many very harmful bacteria, like salmonella. recommends that, in order to make sure the turkey is thoroughly cooked and bacteria not harmful, make sure the internal cooking temperature reaches 165 degrees. Use a meat thermometer and insert into the thickest part of the thigh, being very careful not to let the probe sit against a bone. 
  • Cook ham to 140-145 degrees internal temperature. also recommends that fresh ham cooked from a raw state be heated to 145 degrees with a rest time of three minutes before cutting into it, and a pre-cooked ham be reheated to at least 140 degrees.
  • Use bleach to clean areas that touched raw meats. Many cleaners contain bleach and antibacterial properties. Clean counter tops, knives, cutting boards, and utensils that were used to handle raw meats. 
  • Also bleach areas that may have been touched with contaminated hands. Wipe down knobs, buttons, and door handles that may be contaminated with raw meats. Microwave buttons, oven and stove knobs and buttons, oven doors, fridge door, sink faucet, and the sink.
  • Use a very diluted bleach spray on clean hand-washed dishes. Sometimes, hot water used when hand-washing dishes isn't hot enough to kill all bugs completely. Use about a teaspoon of bleach per 20 oz. of water in a spray bottle, and lightly mist the clean dishes to kill anything left on them. Leave the spray on and air dry. 
  • Launder all kitchen towels and washcloths. After heavy use, washing these in a hot washer will kill everything that might be hiding.
  • Microwave the sponge. Stick all dirty sponges in the microwave while wet (but not dripping) and microwave for two minutes. This is the most effective way to kill bacteria living in the little sponge crevices. 
  • Store leftovers correctly. Use shallow, small Tupperware and dishes to store hot leftovers so they cool quickly and evenly. If a large pan of food is put in the fridge, it may never cool down in the middle, making the food unsafe for later consumption. If things are very hot, use a ice water bath to cool it. Fill sink with ice water, and set the dish down into the water (without letting it get wet!). Stir the food around so it can touch the sides of the dish and cool quickly.
  • Throw away food that sat out for more than three hours. The general rule of thumb is three hours. If the food didn't make it to the fridge in time, toss it in the trash. 
Enjoy your meals and remember to keep safe this holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Top Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Happy Thanksgiving from Home Products Inc.! We took a poll here at the office and asked for everyone's favorite Thanksgiving dishes. And here are our favorite recipes! Try one out and test it with your family this year.
Also, don't forget to check out our Thanksgiving Pinterest board!

Cornbread Stuffing. 
One staff member loves her grandmother's cornbread stuffing with walnuts. Here is a similar recipe to try from Recipe Goldmine:

Walnut-Cranberry Corn Bread Stuffing

Makes 5 cups.


  • 4 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 small carrot, minced 
  • 1 small rib celery, minced 
  • 1 small onion, minced 
  • 2 1/4 cups (approximately) lightly crumbled corn bread 
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley 
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves, crumbled 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper 
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries 
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts 
  • 1 1/2 cups hot turkey broth or water 
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter; add carrot, celery and onion; sauté until softened (about 10 minutes).
In a large bowl, toss corn bread with cooked carrot, celery and onion; add parsley, sage, salt and pepper. Add cranberries, walnuts and stock; mix well.
Place dressing in a 2-quart casserole; cover with lid or aluminum foil. Bake until center of stuffing registers 165 degrees F (about 30 minutes).

Check out more of their recipes at

Green Bean Casserole
Another staff loves the classic French's green bean casserole. Simple and always a hit

French's Green Bean Casserole


  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 packages (9 oz. each) frozen cut green beans, thawed
  • 1 1/3 cups French's French Fried Onions, divided

Combine soup, milk and pepper in a 1 1/2-quart baking dish; stir until blended. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup onions.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot. Stir. Sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup onions. Bake 5 minutes or until onions are golden.

Orange Glazed Yams
Sweet potatoes add a fall flair to the meal. This staff makes orange glazed yams year-round to get a taste of fall anytime!
Also, just use the glaze for pancake topping, or as Turkey, mashed potato, and stuffing topping.
Allie's Orange Glazed Yams


  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 can (29 oz.) yams/sweet potatoes

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium sized bowl. In a medium sauce pan on medium heat, bring the orange juice to a boil. Pour the juice into the sugar/corn starch  mixture and stir until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved into the juice. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

Stirring constantly, continue to heat the mixture for about 5 minutes, until the glaze is thick and transparent. Add the butter and let melt.

Drain the yams, and heat them in the microwave until warm. Gently stir them into the glaze and keep on stove on lowest heat to keep warm.


Most of our staff can't imagine the Thanksgiving table without the Jell-O! With so many varieties, it's hard to pick just one recipe to share.

Pick three-four boxes of the Jell-O flavor you want and follow the directions, but add only half the amount of water that it calls for so that the Jell-O is very firm and will suspend the fruit.
Once the Jell-O mixture is made, stir in your choice of fruit and pour into a serving dish.
Let it set in the fridge, and serve cold. Don't forget the whipped cream!

Our favorite combinations:
  • Raspberry Jell-O with crushed pineapple, crushed cranberries, and chopped apples and walnuts
  • Orange Jell-O with fresh strawberries and banana
  • Strawberry Jell-O with pineapple chunks and mandarin oranges
  • Lemon/Lime Jell-O with strawberries and cherries
  • Any flavor Jell-O with fruit cocktail
Have fun and experiment to find your favorite combination!

Orange Tea Rolls
This recipe has been shared between most of the staff here, and has been a favorite in our families for over 40 years! It's a tried and true staple in all of our Thanksgiving meals.
Grandma Julie's Orange Tea Rolls


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • Orange zest
  • 4-5 cups flour


Scald the milk in a pan on the stove- hot, but not boiling. This is important to kill enzymes so the dough will rise properly. Add in sugar, margarine or butter, and salt. Let the mixture melt together and cool down enough so it's warm to the touch, enough for yeast to activate. 

Pour melted mixture into mixture bowl with the yeast and warm water. Let it sit until yeast bubbles and froths.

Add beaten eggs and orange juice. Grind in a bit of orange zest to decorate dough. 

Add in 4 to 5 cups of flour, until the dough is elastic and smooth but not sticky. Either use a dough hook to knead dough for about 3 minutes, or knead 30 times by hand on a flour-covered surface. Put dough back in the bowl, and cover with cloth and let rise 30-45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Use a cupcake pan and grease each tin. Roll golf ball sized balls of dough. Place three dough balls side by side together in each cupcake tin. Let rise again until doubled. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Take out of oven and drizzle with orange glaze.

Orange Glaze:


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon orange juice
  • Orange zest

Beat together all ingredients with hand mixer or stand up mixer with beater attachment. Glaze should be a thicker runny consistency. Add more orange juice or powdered sugar until it's at the preferred consistency

Drizzle over hot rolls  and enjoy!

The Turkey/Goose
The true star of the show! With so many ways to cook a turkey, our staff couldn't agree on one! One staff even said his family always deep fries a Thanksgiving goose. But here are our favorites:

  1. Roasted. Place turkey in an oven roaster bag with salt and pepper and cook for recommended time. Remove bag for last 15 minutes to get a crisp skin. 
  2. Brined. Soak turkey overnight in a brine solution and roast in oven. Here are a suggestion of many different brines to try: Food Network Turkey Brine Recipes
  3. Fried. Beware: deep frying a turkey requires a lot of monitoring and close attention. After salting the turkey, follow instructions on the deep fryer and cook away! 

One staff here isn't a fan of turkey- at all. Thanksgiving at his house revolves around ham as the main dish. Most hams now are pre-cooked, and just need to be covered in glaze and warmed in the oven.

Pumpkin Pie
The show isn't over till the fat lady sings, and this time the fat lady is the pumpkin pie. No Thanksgiving table is complete without the pie to finish off the event.

Sylvia's Perfect Pie Crust
Follow the link for detailed instructions with pictures.


  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 5 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the Crisco into the flour for about 3 or 4 minutes until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Separate the dough into thirds. Form 3 evenly sized balls of dough and place each dough into a large Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough (about ½ inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you will be using it immediately it’s still a good idea to put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill.)

When you are ready to use the dough to make a crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes. On a floured surface roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. (Sprinkle some flour over top of the dough if it’s a bit too moist.) If the dough is sticking to the countertop use a metal spatula and carefully scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie pan.

With a spatula, lift the dough carefully from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. Gently press the dough against the corner of the pan. Go around the pie pan pinching and tucking the dough to make a clean edge.

Once the crust is finished, fill the unbaked crust with the pumpkin filling:

Pumpkin Pie Filling


  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in small bowl. 

Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar/spice mixture. Gradually add evaporated milk.

Pour into unbaked pie shell.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes clean. Cool 2 hours.

For the Thanksgiving-goers who aren't a fan of pumpkin, or who just want a second dessert! And this cheesecake is just the thing to please a crowd, especially because of how simple it is to make.

Marge's Speedy Cheesecake

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup, 2 Tablespoons sugar; divided
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla; divided
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
Pre-made graham cracker crust


Soften cream cheese on counter for an hour, or warm in microwave for 15 seconds. Beat with a mixer until soft and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until mixed evenly. Add in eggs one at a time and beat until creamy.

Pour cream cheese mixture into graham cracker crust. Bake at 325 degrees until almost set, between 25-30 minutes.

Combine sour cream, 2 Tablespoons sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Spoon over the top of the hot pie carefully. Put back in the oven at 325 degrees for 10 minutes, until the top layer is firm.

Cool and then chill in refrigerator for several hours before serving.

And lastly, before sitting down to your meal, don't forget the cranberry sauce! 

From all of us at Home Products, Inc.,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Must-Do Home Winter-Proofing!

With just two weeks before Turkey Day, it's time to get those necessary and procrastinated winter chores done before frigid temperatures make that impossible. Accomplishing the things on this list is even more important for those in very cold and snowy areas. With unpredictable and harsh weather, it's very important to make sure that your house and car will be a safe and functional shelter all season long.

To make it easier, print this checklist to help get it done!

Word doc

Image file with border:


  • Trim trees and branches- especially those hanging over roofs. High winds and heavy snow could easily break off branches, causing them to crash through the roof or windows. 
  • Add sealant and weatherproofing to cracks on house and foundation. Finding cracks and sealing them now will prevent heated air from escaping, raising the heating bill. Also, save some misery of having to trudge through chilly temperatures by finding them now rather than later.
  • Repair driveway and walkways. Existing cracks and chips can easily worsen through the winter months. As water drips down into the cracks and freezes, the water's volume will expand, causing the cement to expand, and crack more. Additionally, de-icers and salt can make this cycle worse, since it causes ice to melt more quickly, allowing it to seep into cracks more. So it's especially important to repair damaged cement if you plan to use an ice melt this season.
  •  Tend the garden by raking away debris and pruning bushes and trees. Rather than letting leaves and twigs rot and freeze to the ground all winter long, clean them up now to keep the yard looking clean, and to have easier access to underground pipes in case of emergency.


  • Renew window caulking. Keep in heat and keep out moisture! It's that simple. 
  • Service the heater and replace worn out ducting. Test the heater to make sure it works before it's needed. Consider calling a service person to check that it's functioning correctly. Also, go in the crawl space to check out ducts to each room to see if there are any holes that would allow air to escape below the house and replace the ducts with holes.
  • Check bathroom fans and ducts. Without a good fan with undamaged ducts, steam will rise into the attic and not make it outside of the house. Once the moisture hits the cold air, the water will condense and collect in the attic, leaking into the ceiling, or freezing in joints. A lot of costly damage can be prevented with a good bathroom fan and functioning ducts
  • Check pipes for leaks or cracks. Nothing could be worse than a leaky pipe that bursts when it freezes, causing the house to lose water until it's repaired. Don't risk the mess of repairing frozen pipes, and repair any leaks or cracks in them now.
  • Service hot water heater. Instead of having it dysfunction in the middle of a hot shower, have the hot water heater checked over now to make sure it's in top performance mode. 
  • Learn how to shut off water. In case of an emergency like a burst or frozen pipe, the water line will need to be shut off. There is always an emergency switch that will allow the homeowner to do this. Find the switch in your house and know where it is in case of emergency.
  • Check attic fan. Attic fans are a great resource to circulate air through the attic to dry out any moisture that may condensate and collect. It also helps prevent all of the warm air from rising and melting snow on the roof, making it run down and freeze above the eaves, making a little ice dam. This dam will prevent other water from running down and off of the roof, and will collect all winter long. Some fans are on a thermometer that will need to be adjusted to run in winter months, and not just run when temperatures are higher.
  • Add extra insulation to the attic. As time goes on, insulation can break down and lose efficiency. Replace insulation in bare areas in order to keep as much heat in the house as possible instead of losing it straight out of the ceiling. 
  • Update food storage. Natural disasters and other emergencies are unpredictable, sometimes making it impossible to prepare for them. Have at least a week's worth of food per person saved, along with matches, candles, batteries, lanterns, toiletries, water, and water purification. Cooking stoves that use propane are also a smart thing to carry, allowing food to be cooked and water to be boiled. Don't forget the blankets! For existing food storage, check expiration dates and replace any outdated or spoiled food.
  • Reverse fan blade direction. In the summer, fans should rotate counter-clockwise, pushing air down and cooling the room. In the winter, set fan blades to the reverse direction to rotate clockwise. This creates an updraft, and will pull cooler air up, forcing warmer air back down. To switch the direction, check for a little switch on the fan up by the pull chains and the blades.

Picture courtesy

  • Check tires. Double check air pressure to ensure tires are at optimum performance, and at a lower risk of bursting. If tread is worn down, replace with new tires to prevent skidding and slippage on ice. For those in icy areas, switch out regular tires for snow tires that will drive better in the snow and eliminate the need for chains.
  • Check fluids. Remember to change the oil every 3,000-5,000 miles! Also, continue to check oil levels between oil changes, and top off low levels. To do this, open the car hood and find the stick labeled "Oil." Pull out the stick, wipe off the oil with a paper towel, and stick it back in. Pull it out once more. If the oil is at or above the notch on the stick, the level is fine. If below, pour more oil in so the level reaches the notch. Also check the antifreeze level, and top off windshield wiper fluid. 
  • Update first aid kit. Who knows when an emergency may occur. Keep a first aid kit in the trunk with basic needs, like bandaids, triple antibiotic ointment, painkillers, gloves, gauze, rubber bands, and pins. 
  • Update 72-hour kits. Another important emergency essential is a 72-hour kit in the trunk, complete with a change of clothes, shoes, socks, food, water, batteries, flashlights, blankets, and matches. Don't get stranded anywhere in the winter without these! And throw in an extra blanket or two. It never hurts to be extra prepared in a winter emergency.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Top 12 Deceivingly Filthy Household Objects

It's common knowledge that some things just need to be cleaned frequently. No one who has ever used a toilet can deny that it needs a good spritz of bleach fairly often!

But what about common household things that aren't so obvious? Here are a list of 12 deceivingly germy items that almost everyone has around the house that may not get the attention they need.

Door Handles-  As hands touch surfaces, they pick up contagions and spread them to other surfaces. Since doorknobs are touched frequently, they are often a carrier of more germs than one would ever think.
Clean it! Use an antibacterial disinfecting spray on them every evening, or use a spray of diluted vinegar.

Bathtubs-  While using soaps while bathing may clean the body, it doesn't have the same effect for the shower and tub itself. Soap scum, germs, bacteria, and viruses easily hide here because it's a place that is hard to remember to clean.
Clean it! After every shower, spray the tub with diluted vinegar (but keep it off of grout!). Once a week, use a liquid or spray bathroom cleaner. Try to stay away from abrasive cleaners like Comet that could scratch the fiberglass sub surface.

Kitchen sink-  After washing dishes, there are tons of little food particles and other germy things sitting around in the sink and pipes, especially in garbage disposals.
Clean it! After washing dishes, wipe out and clean the empty sink with the soapy sponge. Clean it just like you would any other dish. Once it's been washed and rinsed, run the garbage disposal with hot water and cleaner or vinegar for a couple of seconds. To get out icky smells, push in a lemon or orange rind to grind up and eliminate odors.

Sponges-  These are a germ fest! They are often left out while wet, which is a great place for germs to grow. They also have tons of little hiding spots for the germs to live. And since they often come in contact with food particles, it allows for a lot of growth very quickly.
Clean it! The easiest way to get rid of these is to put a wet sponge in the microwave and microwave it on high for two minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes before pulling it out so it won't burn!

Oven knobs and microwave buttons-  Similar to door handles, these see a lot of use and come in contact with a lot of germs from hands. However, an added danger to the buttons in the kitchen is that they have the potential to see a lot of germs from raw foods like chicken and beef, since cooks may use these buttons while their hands are contaminated from raw meats.
Clean it! As part of a routine, wipe down these buttons and knobs with a disinfectant or vinegar every evening after cleaning up from dinner.

Pillows-  They incur a lot of use- at least every night for an extended period of time. Even pillow cases can't protect pillows completely. It's a perfect place for little things to grow and live since pillows are not cleaned often.
Clean it! Run pillows in a cycle in the washing machine twice a year. Consider adding a cup of bleach to the load to give it extra germ-killing power. Let pillows air dry and fluff them in the dryer when they are almost completely dry.

Toothbrushes-  Daily use in the mouth, one of the dirtiest places in the body, can attract a lot of germs. And since toothbrushes are left out to air dry, it creates a perfect environment for growth.
Clean it! Soak the toothbrush in vinegar for ten minutes once every other week and rinse, and replace toothbrushes once a month.

Bathmat-  Another object that is left damp fairly often is the bathmat. And going barefoot in the bathroom can introduce a lot of bacteria and viruses on the mat.
Clean it! Launder the bathmat once a week in the washing machine. Add some color safe bleach every once in a while to get it really cleaned. Let it sit out to air dry if there is rubber to protect the bottom and prevent it from cracking.

Cellphone-  Just like door handles, cell phones come in contact with hands quite often. And let's not even think about the people who use their phone in the bathroom! Not only do phones see a lot of hands, they also get pressed up to the face, where germs have easy entry into the body. A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control journal found that 43% of phones tested carried infective organisms on them. (Am J Infect Control. 2010 Jun;38(5):404-5.) Yikes!
Clean it! Spray a bit of disinfecting spray on a soft cloth and wipe down the once one every day or every other day.

Bags and purses-  Think about all the places bags get set down. Shopping carts, bathroom floors, gym lockers, kitchen counters, tables, and pretty much everywhere. They pick up a lot of things from public places that are then sneakily brought into the home.
Clean it! Wipe bottoms of bags down with disinfectant, and don't forget about bag handles!

TV remote-  Another object that sees a lot of action from hands and fingers, many microorganisms collect on the buttons and cracks of the remote.
Clean it! While going around and cleaning door handles, take a quick swipe across the TV remote to disinfect and clean it.

Water bottles-  Since it usually only holds water, it's hard to remember that it needs to be washed frequently. Something that goes repeatedly in the mouth, like a toothbrush, has exposure to germs quite often.
Clean it! Run water bottles through a cycle in the dishwasher with every load. Or, soak the lid in vinegar for 30 minutes and rinse in hot water every two to three days, while washing the body of the bottle in hot soapy water.