Heart of the Home

CAPPER's readers share their thoughts on what modern-day conveniences made life better and/or easier.

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Busy woman glad to have cell phone

My cell phone has been a godsend. I use it to call the men if the cows are out, or to tell them about meetings and phone calls, and they call me to run errands for them.

Since I help with the field work - and I'm not a fixer - it's great to be able to use my cell phone and call for help if I run into a problem.

I'm also on several calling committees and the prayer chain at church, so it's helpful to have all the phone numbers I need stored in my cell phone. There are features on it I don't use, but I'm grateful to have it, so I can stay connected to others.

Chapman, Kan.

Long-ago invention made chores easier

Perhaps young people won't think of this as modern technology, but in my opinion, the best inventions ever made are the automatic washing machine and dryer.

When I was a young girl, I helped my mother pour hot water into a big washtub, then fed the wet clothes from the washtub into the wringer. The wringer rolled over the clothes, squeezing the water out.

We took the wet clothes outside and hung them on the clothesline to dry. Then we spent hours ironing the wrinkles out of them. I always hated those Saturday chores!

With modern washers and dryers, I can do the laundry with no fuss. There are plenty of other things to do while these machines are taking care of the dirty laundry.

With their help, I get chores done quickly and easily. That means I have more time for the things in life I really enjoy.

Fair Oaks, Ind.

Microwave makes life less complicated

I am able to do without most of today's modern technologies. In fact, I tell people that I am proof that you can live without a cell phone, a computer, credit cards or phone cards.

I have never sent a Western Union telegram or an e-mail. I still write letters. Believe it or not, I never watch TV, and I don't even own a radio.

I'm sure the young folks, and probably some of the old ones, too, think I'm living in the Dark Ages. Maybe that's true, but I don't like learning new things when the old ways are working fine for me.

There's an old saying, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks.' I think that's true, but I would add another sentence to it: 'Especially if the old dog don't want to learn.'

My life is a lot less complicated than those who depend on modern technology. I work at a pharmacy, and just about every other person I see is taking blood pressure medication, but I'm not.

I had a microwave for more than a year before I used it, and I do like it. Now, if anything were to happen to it, I'd rush out and buy a new one.

I did, however, have one incident with my microwave.

For our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband bought a set of dishes trimmed in silver. I put one of the cups in the microwave one day to heat water for instant coffee. When I turned on the microwave, it lit up like fireworks at a Fourth of July celebration.

'Turn that thing off,' my husband hollered.

He said those dishes were made before microwave-safe dishes were available, and that the trim was real silver. That's the day I discovered microwaves don't like metal.

Smithfield, Pa.

What is Romance? 

What is your idea of romance? Is it taking long walks together or dancing to a favorite tune in your living room? Is it a kiss on the cheek when you're having a bad day? Maybe it's just enjoying a meal together.

What's the most romantic thing you've ever done? Were these things done for a special occasion or just as a way of saying 'I love you'? Were you proposed to - or did you propose - in a romantic way?

Sometimes romance isn't the act of doing, but simply the act of saying something with sweet, gentle words. Do you remember your parents or grandparents doing or saying something that you would now consider to be romantic?

Tell us what your idea of romance is. Send your letters by Dec. 12 to CAPPER'S, Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

Make a tasty Thanksgiving meal

Here are some tips from the United States Department of Agriculture to help make your Thanksgiving dinner safe and delicious.

Thawing Your Turkey

- Courtesy of USDA
KEEP TURKEY DAY SAFE: Thanksgiving dinner is the ideal time to put safety tips into practice. USDA guidelines will help keep your family safe while you enjoy a delicious dinner.

It is unsafe to thaw a frozen turkey at room temperature. Instead, either thaw it in the refrigerator or in cold water. See estimated thawing times below. Cook the bird within 1 or 2 days of purchasing or thawing.

In the refrigerator (40°F. or below): Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds.
4 to 12 pounds       1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds      3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds      4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds      5 to 6 days

Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

In cold water: Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound.
4 to 12 pounds        2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds      6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds      8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds      10 to 12 hours

Wrap the turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.  

Cook It Your Way 

No matter which method you use to cook your turkey, use a food thermometer to insure that the turkey and stuffing are cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.

These times are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with a properly placed thermometer.

Approximate whole turkey cooking times: Times listed are for a fresh or thawed turkey cooked in a preheated 325°F. oven.
Weight                    Unstuffed Timing         Stuffed Timing
8 to 12 pounds        2 3/4 to 3 hours          3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds      3 to 3 3/4 hours          3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds      3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours    4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds      4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours    4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds      4 1/2 to 5 hours          4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

Electric roaster oven: Generally, the cooking time and oven temperature setting are the same as for conventional cooking. Preheat the oven to at least 325°F. Place the turkey on the roaster oven rack or other meat rack so the turkey is raised out of the juices that collect in the bottom of the oven liner. Leave the lid on throughout cooking, removing it as little as possible to avoid slowing the cooking process. Always check the roaster oven's use and care manual for the manufacturer's recommended temperature setting and time.

Grilling a turkey: Outdoor cooking of a big bird for the holiday meal is becoming a popular cooking method. During grilling, a turkey cooks by indirect heat in an outdoor covered gas or charcoal grill, and a pan of water is placed beneath the grilling surface to catch the fat and juices that drip from the turkey as it cooks. Cooking is done by the hot, smoky, steamy air.

Turkeys that are 16 pounds or less are the recommended size for safe grilling. A larger turkey remains in the 'Danger Zone' - between 40°F. and 140°F. - too long. Do not stuff the turkey. Because cooking is at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach 165°F. In addition, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.

Five tips for a safe Thanksgiving Day meal 

- Courtesy of USDA
KEEP IT COOL: Refrigerate leftover pumpkin pie to keep bacteria from multiplying.

1. Keep everything clean. Keep hands and surfaces clean. Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Run cutting boards and utensils through the dishwasher or wash them in hot, soapy water after each use. Keep countertops clean by wiping them down with hot, soapy water after preparing food.

2. Don't cross-contaminate. When preparing Thanksgiving dinner, keep the raw turkey away from any vegetables and side dishes. Consider using one cutting board for fresh produce and bread, and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water after each use, then rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.

3. Cook turkey and stuffing to a safe temperature. Regardless of the method of cooking, you can't tell if the bird is done by the color of the cooked poultry. The only way to know for sure if the turkey is safely cooked throughout is to use a food thermometer. Every part of the turkey and the center of the stuffing should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. For reasons of personal preference, some consumers may choose to cook poultry to higher temperatures.

4. Store leftovers safely. Discard any turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Divide leftovers into smaller portions, and refrigerate them in covered, shallow containers for quicker cooling. Be sure to consume refrigerated turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy within 3 to 4 days, or freeze the leftovers for later use.

5. Keep egg-rich desserts chilled. Pumpkin pie is as much a staple of the holiday meal as the turkey. Foods made with eggs and milk, such as pumpkin pie, must first be safely baked to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F. Then, they must be refrigerated. Eggs and milk have high protein and moisture content, and when foods baked with these products are left at room temperature, conditions are ripe for bacteria to multiply.

Where to get additional information 


Tasty Pumpkin treats are perfect for autumn

How do you create special holiday desserts that look as great as they taste? By giving your favorite recipes a simple twist that is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palette.

Start with versatile and easy-to-use canned pumpkin, which has a mellow, sweet flavor that pairs especially well with citrus, spices, chocolates and nuts. Then, add your own simple touch to dress up your dessert. These simple additions make your dessert even more perfect for the holiday table.

For even more holiday recipe ideas - including moist and delicious pumpkin bread, perfect for gift-giving - visit the Web site www.VeryBestBaking.com/Libbys.

Zesty Cream Topped Orange Pumpkin Pie 

1 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell, unbaked
1 can (30-oz.) easy pumpkin pie mix
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel, divided
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place pie shell in a pie plate on a baking sheet. Combine pumpkin pie mix, evaporated milk, eggs and 1 teaspoon orange peel in a large bowl. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F., and bake for 50 to 60 additional minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Combine sour cream, sugar and remaining orange peel in a medium bowl. Carefully spread over top of pie. Bake for an additional 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Yields 8 servings.

Editor's Note: Libby's makes canned pumpkin with spices already added, called Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix.


Pumpkin Cheesecake Tarts 

- Courtesy of Libby's Pumpkin
TEMPTING TARTS: Pumpkin Cheesecake Tarts make a great fall treat.

2/3 cup crushed gingersnap cookies (about 15)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 package (8-oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream, optional
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate morsels, optional

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper cups. Combine cookie crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Press a scant tablespoon of crumb mixture onto bottom of each paper cup. Bake for 5 minutes.

Beat cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla in a small mixer bowl until blended. Add eggs; beat well. Pour into muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Remove tarts from pan; refrigerate. If desired, garnish with sour cream just before serving.

If desired, place chocolate morsels in a small, heavy-duty plastic bag. Microwave on HIGH for 20 seconds; knead. Microwave at additional 10-second intervals, kneading until smooth. Cut a tiny corner from the bag; squeeze to drizzle over tarts. Yields 12 tarts.


Pumpkin Torte with Orange Cream Filling 

- Courtesy of Libby's Pumpkin
ALTERNATIVE DESSERT: Instead of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, try sumptuous Pumpkin Torte with Orange Cream Filling.

1 package (18.25-oz.) yellow cake mix
1 can (30-oz.) easy pumpkin pie mix, divided
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons orange juice, divided
1 1/2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
Orange rind curls, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8- or 9-inch-round cake pans.

Beat cake mix, 1 1/2 cups pumpkin pie mix, eggs and oil in a large mixer bowl for 2 minutes. Spoon into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Whisk together evaporated milk and cornstarch in a medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Stir in remaining pumpkin pie mix and 1 tablespoon orange juice. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, or until thickened; remove from heat. Cover and cool to room temperature.

Sprinkle remaining orange juice over tops of cakes. Cut layers in half horizontally. Spread about 3/4 cup cornstarch mixture between each layer, stacking them four high. Spread top of cake with whipped topping and garnish with orange curls, if desired. Store in refrigerator. Yields 12 servings.


Pumpkin Mousse in Cinnamon Pastry Shells 

2 packages (10-oz. each) frozen puff pastry shells
3 tablespoons melted butter
Cinnamon sugar*
1 can (30-oz.) easy pumpkin pie mix
1 box (3.4-oz.) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place pastry shells on baking sheet. Brush tops with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Bake according to package directions. Cool to room temperature. Remove tops and reserve for garnish. Remove soft pastry inside shells and discard.

Beat pumpkin pie mix, pudding mix and cinnamon in a large mixer bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Gently fold in whipped topping. Spoon about 1/3 cup pumpkin mixture into each pastry shell. Top with pastry tops and serve immediately. Yields 12 servings.

*To make cinnamon sugar, thoroughly combine 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl.


One-Step Pumpkin Butter 

1 can (30-oz.) easy pumpkin pie mix

Empty pie mix into a medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, for 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 months. Yields about 2 1/2 cups.

Serve with pumpkin bread, buttermilk biscuits, corn muffins, gingersnaps or hot cereal. Yields about 40 (1-tablespoon) servings.

Editor's Note: For gift-giving, place pumpkin butter in a jar and seal. Then decorate the jar with fabric and ribbon.

Together with God

I asked some of my friends what their favorite technology device was, and more than half of them answered, 'the cell phone.' I suppose there is some truth to that.

Having the ability to call for help or assistance, or just to stay that much closer to your loved ones, is a very special technological advancement. There's also sadness in the fact that most technology comes out of need, though. If there wasn't a need for a device to stay closer to our loved ones rather than spend time with them, the cell phone would not carry such a high priority in our lives. We are spending less time with our loved ones and more time speaking with them on the phone.

Families don't live in one big house anymore. The kids aren't given the bottom 40 acres as their own, and oftentimes they move across the country and start a whole new branch in a different state. I miss my family, even with the aid of the cell phone, and I sometimes find myself wishing we all lived in one big house so I could see them any time I wanted. 

At least we can still talk with one another - and with clarity as though we were standing next to each other. Imagine how hard it must have been for the pioneers who left their families and traveled west. They had no way to communicate except for a letter that took months. I, too, am thankful that we have that little phone.

Father, Thank You for helping us to find ways to stay together. May we keep inventing new ways to keep those bonds between us, so we may continue to be a family. Help us to keep our priorities in their proper order, and remind us that not all conversations should be held in public. Amen.

D. Susan Rutz

A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

Since the dawn of electricity, inventions by the boatload have been finding their way into our lives. Having grown up in an era before microwaves, cell phones and the Internet, I wonder now how I got along without these conveniences.

At a recent college reunion, I met up with my friends, and we exchanged cell phone numbers. I think I used more minutes that weekend than I had all year, and I wondered how we had kept track of each other when we were in college.

On the last day of the reunion, we exchanged e-mail addresses, and I thought about the hand-written letters that were now being replaced by e-mails.

Staying in touch with friends and family is very important to me, so it would be tough to choose between my cell phone and my computer.

I've used my cell phone in emergencies, to let a friend who's waiting on me know I'm running late, and to call home when I'm out shopping to see if there's anything I've forgotten.

My computer has proven to be just as valuable. Besides e-mailing, I look up information on the Internet, type documents, create my own greeting cards - the possibilities are endless!

As much as we think we need these modern inventions, humans have survived for centuries without them. However, I would have to think twice before I would let anyone take away my laptop or cell phone!

Kate Marchbanks