You Make Me Sick

You Make Me Sick

Holiday HotlineBeing sick during the holiday season is no fun. Did you know the flu is not the only thing that can have you feeling under the weather? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases (CDC, 2014). This holiday season, UF/IFAS Extension Agents will be available to help keep you and the ones you care about safe by reminding you of the United States Department of Agriculture ‘s four steps to safer food handling this holiday season:


  • Wash your hands and your cooking surfaces before you start, when you will touch different foods, and after you finish preparing a dish.
  • Separate cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods from foods that still need to be prepared.
  • Always cook and reheat your foods to above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Chill your leftovers. Don’t let your dishes sit out without refrigerating or keeping them heated. Throw out foods that have been between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours.

Have a question that is not related to food safety, like:

  • How do I make a brine for my turkey?
  • I ran out of eggs – is there a substitute?
  • I couldn’t find any buttermilk. What do I do?

…Don’t worry – call the UF/IFAS Extension Northwest District Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) HOLIDAY FOOD HOTLINE.  Northwest District FCS agents will be available 8am – 8pm CST/9 am – 9pm EST by calling 850-888-2412 (December 15 – January 1) to assist you with food preparation, food safety, or any other kitchen concerns you may have.

The best part is you can always count on UF/IFAS Extension to provide you with research-based information!

Holiday Food Hotline


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). “Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States” retrieved December 11, 2014 from

United States Department of Agriculture (2014). “Check Your Steps: Food Safe Families” retrieved December 11, 2014 from


Thank you from the UF/IFAS Extension Northwest District

Thank you from the UF/IFAS Extension Northwest District

Thank You for a Wonderful Year!

As we come to the end of our 100th year of serving the citizens of Florida, the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Faculty located in the 16 county offices of the Florida Panhandle thank you for making 2014 another great year!

Extension has come a long way assisting farmers and their families with relevant information since the beginning of the 20th century. Today, 100 years later, UF/IFAS Extension continues to provide science-based information to the citizens of Northwest Florida.

This year our County Extension Faculty provided valuable information and educational programs to 1000’s of individuals, families, businesses, and agricultural producers across the panhandle. As you know, our educational programming includes topics in areas such as Agriculture, Natural Resources, Horticulture, Family and Consumer Sciences, and 4-H Youth Development. UF/IFAS has a Solution for your Life!

We are excited about, and dedicated to providing our clients the most recent and science-based information on a wide range of topics such as:

  • agricultural production and marketing,
  • providing youth with exciting opportunities that develop life skills, teamwork, and responsibility
  • food preservation, cooking
  • helping individuals and families with health and wellness, parenting and manage budgets,
  • consumer assistance within the home,
  • wildlife and land management,
  • coastal and inland fishery management,
  • home gardening and commercial landscaping,
  • acquiring Continuing Education Units for a variety of licenses.

Though the first 100 years of UF/IFAS Extension have been very productive we do not plan on sitting back and resting on the accomplishments of the past. We will continue to provide you and your family the best information and education available to provide “Solutions for Your Life!”

Thank you once again for participating in our Extension programs! We look forward to seeing you in 2015, and as always, if you have a question on any topic, or a suggestion to help us help you better, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can find your local County Extension office on the web at or Facebook at

Happy Holidays & Best Wishes for the New Year!


Dr. Pete Vergot III, Professor, and Northwest District Extension Director and your County Extension Faculty and Staff of the UF/IFAS Extension Northwest District serving Panhandle Florida


Five Steps to Seasonal Savings




Recently, UF/IFAS published Five Steps to Seasonal Savings,, an EDIS brochure which reminds us of the stress that can result from holiday spending. I would encourage each of you to print or review the brochure and ponder its message TODAY.  We are nearing the hustle and bustle of preparing for the season and it is timely information.

The five steps are:

  1. Recognize Your Seasonal Stressors
  2. Develop a Holiday Spending Plan – Make a Budget
  3. Develop a Holiday Spending Plan – Create a List
  4. Find Alternatives to Pricey Presents
  5. Fine-Tune Your Financials

It is already early December, the Thanksgiving shopping sale and Cyber Monday have passed but planning is still possible before the 2014 holiday rush if you will take some time to do so.

The section of this brochure that really spoke to me is the Fine-Tune Your Financials.  As I do every day, I try to use cash and/or debit cards when possible. I need to see the money leave my account so the holidays don’t haunt me into the new year. There is too big of an allure for me to overspend when I buy gifts with credit. There is not as much reality with credit card spending. Paying interest on the credit debt is even more troubling, as the holiday spirit is long gone before the item is paid for.

Holidays are about spending time with family and friends. It does not need to center on gift giving. Consider your spending plan in the next few weeks for a more financially comfortable 2015.


Cook Up A Gift Idea

Cook Up a Gift graphicChristmas is a joyous season. It’s a time to remember friends and neighbors with small tokens of your love and appreciation.

Every holiday season is magical, but it also can be a perplexing time. How do you choose gifts for your friends and loved ones that are unique and sure to be cherished?

Remember Christmas when you were young? How the simplest projects—stringing lights, hanging icicles, baking cookies, gathering pine cones, or making ornaments for the tree—filled the season with fun and excitement. Bring back that special magic with your own holiday projects. These holiday projects are gifts from the heart.

If you have spent many hours in past seasons trying to find the answer to the perplexing question of what to give, perhaps this year you can find the answer in your own kitchen. Flavorful gifts you can create in an evening or two at home might be just the solution. Most of us like to follow the pleasure of cooking with sharing the scrumptious results. So this holiday season, prepare some delicious food gifts for friends and relatives.

A jar of homemade jam or jelly conveys a welcome sign of friendship to neighbors or co-workers. Besides being fun to make and share, oven-baked goods, snacks, and other savory items are attractive and often cost less than those that are store-bought. This is a gift that comes from the heart without breaking the bank. For a holiday touch, add a pretty ribbon or a note from a square of wrapping paper.

Fresh from the oven, a batch of pumpkin muffins or a loaf of whole grain bread will send warm holiday greetings to friends. Decorated with raisins and nuts, gingerbread men will appeal to anyone who fancies the spicy flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. When invited to festive dinners, take along a basket filled with your own gift assortment of cookies packaged in inexpensive containers with recipes and a personalized message included. You will find these gifts easy to transport and the hostess is sure to appreciate the gesture.

Another gourmet goodies idea to consider is sharing a decorative jar or tin packed with flavorful popcorn or a nutritious trail mix. Top a decorative tray with herbed cheese rounds. Herbs offer a delicious alternative to salt. Herb seasoning mixes can be packaged in a decorative glass jar or bottle and tied with festive ribbon. Be sure to attach a label with instructions for serving and a recipe for making more.

When making these gourmet goodies, you might want to prepare an additional batch so you will have a last-minute gift on hand. The additional jar of jam or jelly can make a special gift for unexpected visitors. These gifts are seen as thoughtful and well-prepared when, in reality, they are a last-minute thought.

Start early and make lots of homemade goodies for the holidays. By planning your kitchen gifts early, you can shop for ingredients on sale, save decorative containers, and make food items in advance. So get a head start on holiday gifts from your kitchen. Happy Holidays!


Do You Know Your Numbers?

numbersWhen you go to the doctor for a physical your health care provider probably routinely records four important numbers as a base line indicator of your health. Your vital signs consist of your blood pressure, breaths per minute, pulse and temperature. There are important numbers when it comes to your financial health as well: your credit score, debt to income ratio and your savings rate.

Your Credit Score

Your credit score is used most frequently by lenders to evaluate the risk involved when loaning you money. With your consent, your credit score could also be used when considering you for employment, insurance or housing. The normal range for a credit score used by the Fair Isaac Corporation is 300-850, but the exact scoring method is determined by your lender. You can get a free copy of your credit report (the information by which your score is determined) if you are ever denied credit or by visiting

Your Income to Debt Ratio

Your debt to income ratio looks at the percentage of income that goes toward paying all recurring debt payments such as credit cards, car loans or even child support. You can calculate this ratio yourself by adding up all of your debts and dividing it by your income. The National Association of Credit Unions suggest that a debt ratio of 36% or less is ideal for most people.

Savings Rate

Your savings rate is the amount of personal income expressed as a percentage that you save. Your savings rate is another figure you can calculate yourself (Total dollars saved per month / total disposable income = savings rate). In, “How Much Should We Spend,” UF IFAS Extension publication FCS5229 the recommended savings rate for your general savings, your emergency fund and miscellaneous expenses is 2-20% of your income.

If you knew your numbers and they are above par then give yourself a pat on the back if you need more information that is no problem either. Contact your UF/IFAS Extension Family Consumer Science Agent (FCS) can meet with you or your small group and explain to you in more detail what each of these numbers are, where to find these numbers and provide you with the resources you need to know where you stand. You wouldn’t ignore your vital stats, so don’t neglect financial stats either. For more information contact your UF IFAS Extension office by visiting or contact UF IFAS Jefferson County Extension Agent, Kristin Jackson at 850-342-0187 or



National Institutes of Health. (2014). Vital signs Retrieve 27 August from

Turnner, J. (2006). How Much Should I Spend? Retrieved 27 August from

Credit Union National Association Inc.(2014). Debt to Income Ratio. Retrieved 27 August from

Healthy Holiday Eating for Diabetics

sugar cookies_3Eat, drink, be happy and be healthy this holiday season. My favorite holidays are just around the corner. It is an exciting time to be with family and friends. There is usually lots of food that may come with lots of calories and carbohydrates. Are you wondering how to survive this holiday season without adding more calories and carbohydrates to your diet?

The first thing to keep in mind is to plan your meals to help keep your diabetes management on track. Persons with diabetes should space out their carbohydrate intake throughout the day. Fruits, starchy vegetables, dairy foods, and grain foods all contain carbohydrates. Eating the right amount of carbohydrates throughout the day will help you control your blood glucose levels. The Idaho Plate method of meal planning is one of many tools to help control carbohydrates while recommending at least one-half your plate consist of vegetables. More information on the Idaho Plate can be found at .

If you going to a party or eating at a friend or relative’s home and the meal time is around your normal dinner time, try to eat the same amount of carbohydrate that you normally would eat. You may ask your host if you can bring a covered dish. If so, take your favorite low carbohydrate dish to share.

Avoid or limit the amount of sugary drinks like soda, fruit punch or drinks, sweet tea and eggnog. These drinks raises blood glucose and can provide lots of calories in one serving. For example, one cup of fruit punch contains 100 calories or more and at least 30 grams of carbohydrate; and, one cup of eggnog may have as many as 344 calories and more than 34 grams of carbohydrates. A much better choice is to choose diet or other low-calorie drinks that are available in several flavors. Remember, water is a much healthier choice and has no calories.

Fill up on salad first. Filling up on salad or other raw veggies will fill you up without lots of calories.

Don’t forget to focus on conversation. Make an effort to meet new friends or circulate with those you know instead of eyeing the food.

Stay active this holiday season. Put yourself on your gift list by treating yourself to a personal trainer, fitness class series or membership to a gym.

Learn more about how you can enjoy eating healthy as a diabetic this holiday season by contacting your local UF/IFAS Extension Office .