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5 Painless Ways to Increase Retirement Savings

November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

shutterstock_12440107Saving for retirement is simple. All it takes is saving 15 percent of your income starting in your 20s to retire comfortably at age 65. The problem is that simple doesn’t mean easy.

Study after study tells us that most Americans are not saving enough for retirement. Many people aren’t saving at all. We know that retirement is heading our way, yet we can’t seem to translate the simplicity of retirement savings into action.

There are undoubtedly many reasons for our collective inaction. Chief among them is a lack, or a perceived lack, of money. In other words, saving money is hard. Here are some suggestions to help make retirement savings a little less painful:

Make increases automatic. Many 401(k) retirement plans allow for automatic increases in the amount employees contribute. Automatic escalation programs will automatically increase your savings rate each year by a pre-determined amount. For some plans, employees are included in the escalation program by default, although this is the exception. For others, employees can elect to participate in the auto escalation program.

Save part of a raise. For those who don’t have access to the escalation program, a simple alternative is to increase savings with each pay raise. If you save 100 percent of your pay raise, take-home pay will still rise if the savings goes into a tax-deferred account. Saving less than the full pay raise allows for an increase in retirement savings while further increasing after-tax income at the same time.

Increase savings after debt repayment. It’s a great feeling to pay off debt. That’s particularly true with credit card debt, which often comes with double-digit interest rates. The problem is that it’s easy to spend the extra money that comes with paying off debt without knowing where the money goes. It somehow just vanishes into our monthly budgets. Avoid this disappearing act by increasing retirement contributions by the amount of your former debt payment.

Lower your bills and funnel the savings to retirement. This approach has a double benefit. First, lower the cost of a monthly bill. Then use the savings to increase retirement contributions. It’s far easier to reduce the cost of monthly bills than you might think. From getting car insurance quotes each year to rethinking the hundreds of dollars many people spend on cable, Internet and cell phone plans, saving an extra $100 or more each month can go a long way in retirement. There are a variety of painless ways to save money.

Save one-time gifts, bonuses and tax refunds. Periodic windfalls represent a golden opportunity to pad a nest egg. Because this money is typically not included in your monthly budget, it is often spent on wants, not needs. Consider putting at least some of the windfall into a retirement account, such as a deductible or Roth IRA if you qualify.

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5 Things Super Successful People Do Before 8 AM

November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Rise and shine! Morning time just became your new best friend.

happypplLove it or hate it, utilizing the morning hours before work may be the key to a successful and healthy lifestyle. That’s right, early rising is a common trait found in many CEOs, government officials, and other influential people. Margaret Thatcher was up every day at 5 a.m.; Frank Lloyd Wright at 4 am and Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney wakes at 4:30am just to name a few. I know what you’re thinking – you do your best work at night. Not so fast. According to Inc. Magazine, morning people have been found to be more proactive and more productive. In addition, the health benefits for those with a life before work go on and on. Let’s explore 5 of the things successful people do before 8 am.

1. Exercise. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Most people that work out daily, work out in the morning. Whether it’s a morning yoga session or a trip to the gym, exercising before work gives you a boost of energy for the day and that deserved sense of accomplishment. Anyone can tackle a pile of paperwork after 200 ab reps! Morning workouts also eliminate the possibility of flaking out on your cardio after a long day at work. Even if you aren’t bright eyed and bushy tailed at the thought of a 5 am jog, try waking up 15 minutes early for a quick bedside set of pushups or stretching. It’ll help wake up your body, and prep you for your day.

2. Map Out Your Day. Maximize your potential by mapping out your schedule for the day, as well as your goals and to dos. The morning is a good time for this as it is often one of the only quiet times a person gets throughout the day. The early hours foster easier reflection that helps when prioritizing your activities. They also allow for uninterrupted problem solving when trying to fit everything into your timetable. While scheduling, don’t forget about your mental health. Plan a 10 minute break after that stressful meeting for a quick walk around the block or a moment of meditation at your desk. Trying to eat healthy? Schedule a small window in the evening to pack a few nutritious snacks to bring to work the next day.

3. Eat a Healthy Breakfast. We all know that rush out the door with a cup of coffee and an empty stomach feeling. You sit down at your desk, and you’re already wondering how early that taco truck sets up camp outside your office. No good. Take that extra time in the morning to fuel your body for the tasks ahead of it. It will help keep you mind on what’s at hand and not your growling stomach. Not only is breakfast good for your physical health, it is also a good time to connect socially. Even five minutes of talking with your kids or spouse while eating a quick bowl of oatmeal can boost your spirits before heading out the door.

4. Visualization. These days we talk about our physical health ad nauseam, but sometimes our mental health gets overlooked. The morning is the perfect time to spend some quiet time inside your mind meditating or visualizing. Take a moment to visualize your day ahead of you, focusing on the successes you will have. Even just a minute of visualization and positive thinking can help improve your mood and outlook on your work load for the day.

5. Make Your Day Top Heavy. We all have that one item on our to do list that we dread. It looms over you all day (or week) until you finally suck it up and do it after much procrastination. Here’s an easy tip to save yourself the stress – do that least desirable task on your list first. Instead of anticipating the unpleasantness of it from first coffee through your lunch break, get it out of the way. The morning is the time when you are (generally) more well rested and your energy level is up. Therefore, you are more well equipped to handle more difficult projects. And look at it this way, your day will get progressively easier, not the other way around. By the time your work day is ending, you’re winding down with easier to dos and heading into your free time more relaxed. Success!

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7 Healthy Ways to Beat Your Candy Cravings

November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

7-healthy-ways-beat-candy-cravingsYou know that candy’s bad for you, but sometimes a Snickers bar or a bag of Skittles is just calling your name. So what’s a girl to do when a craving hits? Simple: Instead of hitting the vending machine, reach for one of these nutrient-packed alternatives suggested by Brooke Alpert, R.D., founder of B Nutritious.

You’re Craving: Reese’s Cups

The Healthy Swap: 1 oz dark chocolate + 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter
about 250 calories

You’ll get lots of healthy antioxidants, some filling protein, and way less sugar.

You’re Craving: A Snickers Bar

The Healthy Swap: 1 oz raw almonds + 1 tsp hot cocoa powder
about 200 calories

The hot cocoa mix adds just enough sweetness to the almonds, which are packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fat.

You’re Craving: Junior Mints

The Healthy Swap: mint tea latte
about 60 calories

Add about half a cup of steamed 2 percent milk to your favorite minty brew for an afternoon pick-me-up that’s super low-cal and great for digestion.

You’re Craving: A Milky Way

The Healthy Swap: a DIY vanilla latte
about 60 calories

Skip the vanilla syrup, and instead make your latte with a half cup of 2 percent milk and a teaspoon of real vanilla extract. The result: a creamy treat with just a touch of sweetness.

You’re Craving: Skittles

The Healthy Swap: 1 cup frozen grapes
about 100 calories

This may not taste exactly like the rainbow, but it’s still sweet and crunchy-and it’s a whole lot better for you.

You’re Craving: Peanut M&Ms

The Healthy Swap: 1 oz dry roasted peanuts + 1 Tbsp dark chocolate chips
about 230 calories

Look for chocolate chips that are at least 65 percent cocoa. The more cocoa, the less fat and sugar and the more antioxidants!

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November – Monthly Economic Update

November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

Weekly Economic Update

Apps Every Boomer Should Know

November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

shutterstock_71076277Boomers are lovin their smartphones. Take a look around a local coffee shop at mid-day and you’ll see throngs of Boomers reading and punching away on them.

Check out all of the tables and sometimes you see two or three Boomers together, all on their individual smartphones—doing what we chastise our kids for doing—not talking to each other.

“I love my smartphone, my 60 year-old sister-in-law says. “I use it while waiting in doctors’ offices for my appointments, I can catch up on my email, play games, I’m never alone,” she exclaims.

My sister-in-law is a big smartphone gamer; and sometimes I have to remind her to get her eye off the smartphone and back into our conversation.

Being the first one to have something new, or being “in the know” is a badge of honor for Boomers. So it’s only natural to find them showing off their latest downloaded app to their friends.

“Check this out,” I hear one middle-age-man say to his buddy. “This app is great. I can keep all my data in it and I can access it wherever I am,” he explains about Dropbox.

“Really,” his friend adds. “Show me how it works.”

And for the next half-hour these two guys are engrossed in operating a new app.

According to Dr. Ken Dychtwald, author of Age Wave, Boomers make excellent product advocates.

Here’s why:

  • On average, most baby boomers are asked for product or service recommendations about 90 times per year.
  • Nearly 90 percent of boomers who were asked to give advice gave it to their fellow boomers.
  • Practically all boomers consider their family and friends to be their most trusted sources of information

Add that to the recent findings of eMarketer that 86% of Boomers own mobile phones and that the Internet will be accessed via mobile browsers or installed apps by nearly 25% of this demographic—it’s easy to understand what the chatter is all about.

So here are 8 free apps that my Boomer friends have told me “I just had to download” and the implication if I didn’t download them—I would be out of it, so uncool. And Boomers still do not want to be uncool.

  • Dropbox—this is a recommendation from my business friends who travel between office and home, or between their northern homesteads and their snowbird houses in the south and west. Dropbox lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. You load it on your computer and your smartphone then you never email yourself a file again. It’s easy to use and easy to set up.
  • Flixster– Read reviews, get customer ratings, see screenshots, and learn more about movies. You can find the theaters, get show times, and watch trailers (what many Boomers once called previews). It’s fast, visual and easy to use.
  • Words with Friends—this app is a takeoff of Scrabble. This is a personal favorite of my sister-in-law, who plays it at every opportunity with friends and strangers. It’s mostly played on smartphones and iPads. Very good to keep your mind engaged.
  • Whitepages—Stop paying for directory assistance calls from your phone. Use this free, easy to use app from your smartphone. Find, people, businesses and reverse phone lookups from those unknown numbers that show up on your phone.
  • Zite—this is probably one of the coolest sites I’ve seen in a long time. Users select categories of magazines that interest them. Then as you read articles on certain subjects, Zite sends you more articles on those subjects. You have options to email the articles to others or save them later to read on your iPad. This app is so incredible you have to try it yourself to grasp the full experience.
  • The Weather Channel—More than 200 meteorologists provide interactive and beautiful hour by hour weather imagery. Great for planning outdoor activities, car washes or snow shoveling.
  • WebMD—first aid information, symptom checkers, drugs and treatments, information on various conditions and local health listings. There are also many videos on treatments and common conditions like bad backs, fevers, diabetes signs. An excellent app for Boomers and Seniors.
  • Flashlight—So easy and so helpful. With a single touch your phone turns into a valuable flashlight that can be used to find your keys or read a menu. Great app.

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12 Holiday Scams to Watch Out For

November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

12 Holiday Scams to Watch Out For

As more consumers pick up their smartphone and tablet to go holiday shopping, cyber crooks will try just about anything to dupe them out of their hard-earned money.

Forty percent of identity theft victims were targeted while making online purchases in 2011, according to an identity fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research. Meanwhile identity fraud increased by 13 percent, with more than 11.6 Americans falling prey to the scams.

To keep you protected, we asked Robert Siciliano, online security expert for the software company McAfee, to list off the season’s hottest scams and how to avoid them.

Phony E-tailers

The saying “if it looks too good be true, then it probably is” applies here. To set up their phony shops, scammers grab HTML code from a well-known site, then “sell” similar merchandise at a larger discount, explains Siciliano. But buyer beware: “Once you pay, they have the customer’s information and you’ll never receive the product,” he says. Then before you can blink an eye, they’ll start racking up charges on your dime. Clearly you shouldn’t bother with these sites in the first place, but if you’re concerned you’ve come across a Best Buy or Target imposter, check for misspellings, weird urls and “an overall dysfunctional site,” says Siciliano.

Mobile Malware

With 33 percent of apps asking for more info than they might ever need, you can never be too careful, Siciliano says. If you’ve purchased the app from iTunes or Google, chances are it’s been vetted for any suspicious activity. But if you bought it from a third party site, there’s a good chance you’ll download some malware. “These apps haven’t been properly vetted for having a malicious component, so they might be used to spy on your device, see what text messages you send, what apps you click, and most importantly your username and passwords,” he says. And they’re definitely after your Social Security and credit card numbers, he adds. “They’ll do anything to get paid.”

Social Media Traps

“Criminals are setting up fake profiles on Facebook and Twitter, and those pages often have a number of dangerous things, one being that they’re infected and once you start clicking those links, they’ll infect your device,” says Siciliano. Even worse, these links are often designed to get you to spill your personal info. Don’t fall for it.

Phishing

Much like the social media trap, these text or email messages offering discounts are nothing more than a big fat hoax. They’ll lure you to click a link and before you know it you’ll wind up on a shady site or have downloaded spyware onto your device.

Bogus Gift Cards

Say what you will about gift cards, but those pieces of plastic are still a popular gift. With so many people snapping them up, scammers are rigging third party sites to sell fakes or manipulating the cards at stores and voiding them, says Siciliano. To dodge the scam, only the cards kept behind the counter in stores, or buy them at a mall kiosk so you know that you’re getting the real thing.

E-Cards

Even hilarious e-cards are prone to criminal mischief sometimes. “Some of these are being used to infect your device and often have links to get you to download something or disclose your personal info,” Siciliano says. “You’ll want to really delete these and just tell people you prefer to receive paper cards.”

If the card was sent in a zip file, be especially wary, he adds.

The Hot Holiday Gift Scam

Every season has its trendy gift du jour: Last year’s was the iPhone, and this year the iPad Mini will reign supreme. Con artists love to set up fake websites around these products, offering discounts that are really just a scam in disguise. Don’t shop, don’t click and never give out your info.

Fake Charities

With nearly 1,000 domain names on the books, fake charities are a dime a dozen these days. “It’s very impossible to determine whether the site is real or fake,” says Siciliano, but “usually you’ll get an email asking you to send a donation. Don’t click it.”

iTunes Gift Card Scams

Even the almighty Apple store isn’t immune from a con. If your iTunes account has been compromised, criminals might try to use that information to load up new gift cards, then sell them to unsuspecting consumers, Siciliano says. The charges will appear enough, but it’s important to act fast and notify Apple and your card issuer of the fraud. “We’ve been seeing this scam for years now, but it pops up more around this time of year,” he says.

Online Coupon Scams

Like a third party retail store, these scams look legit on the surface but ask for way too much information from shoppers. Steer clear.

Fake Classified Ads

Many people choose to buy and sell items via classified ads, often selling items second hand to get more money for gifts. But beware of phone classifieds that ask you to wire money via Western Union or Moneygram, warns Siciliano. “Most of these sites are free and attract criminals because they are free.”

Your Email’s Spam Folder

Care for some spam with that season’s greeting? Sweeping your spam folder might sound insanely productive, but most of the time these emails spell nothing but trouble. “It’s important that you don’t visit your spam folder, because that’s where people often think legit emails are going,” Siciliano says. “Instead just delete these and don’t ever click the links in the body of an email from an unsolicited sender.”

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Turkey: Alternate Routes to the Table

November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

vector turkey clipart for thanksgiving dayJust as a detour causes a driver to find an alternate route, circumstances can alter the chosen cooking method for a turkey. An oven may fail at an inopportune time, a power outage may occur, and more than one large food item may need cooking.

The conventional oven—the appliance most often used to cook a whole turkey—is not the only way to get the big bird cooked safely. The following methods suggested by the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline are alternate routes for cooking a turkey safely.

Electric Roaster Oven

This tabletop appliance serves as an extra oven for cooking a turkey or large roast. Generally, the cooking time and oven temperature setting are the same as for conventional cooking. Always check the roaster oven’s use and care manual for the manufacturer’s recommended temperature setting and time.

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.

Cooking bags can be used in the roaster oven as long as the bag does not touch the sides, bottom, or lid. Follow directions given by the cooking bag manufacturer, and use a food thermometer to be sure the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast reaches the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

Do Not Cook in Brown Paper Bags

Do not use brown paper bags from the grocery or other stores for cooking. They are not sanitary, may cause a fire, and may emit toxic fumes. Intense heat may cause a bag to ignite, causing a fire in the oven and possibly contaminating the turkey. The ink, glue, and recycled materials in paper bags may emit toxic fumes when they are exposed to heat. Instead, use commercial oven cooking bags.

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.

Covered Gas Grill

Gas grills are very popular. The gas heat can be supplied by either propane tanks or by natural gas piped from the home.

If your gas grill has only one large burner, place a pan of water under the grate to create indirect heat. Place the turkey in a roasting pan and place on top of the grill.

If the grill has two or three burners, the turkey should be placed away from the flame. This can be done by turning off one of the burners and placing the turkey in that area. When using a gas grill, always follow manufacturer’s directions for cooking times.

Covered Charcoal Grill

When cooking a whole turkey in a covered charcoal grill, 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. Also, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.

Begin with clean equipment and a good quality charcoal. Build a pyramid of charcoal to one side. Ignite the charcoal, and let the coals get red hot. Place an appliance thermometer on the food rack to monitor the air temperature inside the grill. When the charcoal has developed white powdery ash—about 20 to 30 minutes—and the air temperature reaches 225 to 300 °F, place a drip pan with water in it to create moist, hot steam for cooking, in the center of the grill beneath where the turkey will be set and carefully push the hot coals evenly around the edge. Position the grill rack and place the prepared turkey on it (breast side up). Then place the cover on the grill.

Replenish with about 15 briquettes every hour as needed to maintain 225 to 300 °F. If desired, add water-soaked hardwood or fruitwood, in the form of chunks or chips, to add flavor to the turkey as it is cooking. Do not use a softwood (pine, fir, cedar, or spruce) because it gives the food a turpentine flavor and coats it with a black pitch or resin.

Cooking times depend on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals, and the temperature of the outside air. Always use a food thermometer. The turkey is done when the food thermometer reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Estimate 15 to 18 minutes per pound if using a covered grill. A whole turkey can be successfully cooked, provided the turkey is not stuffed and has been completely thawed.

Smoking a Turkey

Most smokers are cylinder-shaped devices and use either electricity, gas, or charcoal for heat. Follow manufacturer’s directions for gas or electric smokers.

Charcoal smokers have two pans—one for charcoal and one for liquid. Smokers require a liquid to create the moist, hot smoke needed for cooking. When using a charcoal smoker, fill the pan for liquid with water, wine, apple juice, or the liquid you desire. Fill the charcoal pan with a good quality charcoal. Light the charcoal and place the cover on the smoker. When the smoker has reached an internal temperature of 225 to 300 °F, quickly place the turkey on the smoker rack and replace the cover. (Some smokers have built in temperature indicators. If yours does not, place an appliance thermometer on the smoker rack before starting your heat source.) Add charcoal every 1 to 2 hours, as necessary, to maintain 225 to 300 °F. Replenish the liquid as necessary. Heat and liquid are critical to maintaining the hot smoke that cooks the turkey.

When cooking with a smoker, start with clean equipment. Place the smoker in an area shielded from winds to maintain a safe cooking temperature. If desired, add water-soaked hardwood or fruitwood, in the form of chunks or chips, to add flavor to the turkey. Do not use a softwood (pine, fir, cedar, or spruce) as it gives the food a turpentine flavor and coats it with a black pitch or resin.

Cooking times depend on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature from the coals, and temperature of the outside air. Completely thaw the turkey before cooking. Estimate 20 to 30 minutes per pound if using a smoker. Do not stuff the turkey. Because smoking cooks at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach 165 °F. Also, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor. Always use a food thermometer. The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Deep Fat Frying a Turkey

A whole turkey can be successfully cooked by the deep fat frying method provided the turkey is not stuffed and has been completely thawed. The turkey should be 12 pounds or less in size.

There are safety concerns when working with such a large amount of oil. Select a cooking vessel large enough to completely submerge the turkey in oil without it spilling over. The oil should cover the turkey by 1 to 2 inches. To determine the amount of oil needed, do a preliminary test using water. Place the turkey in the cooking utensil and add water to cover. Then remove the turkey and measure the amount of water. This is the amount of oil needed.

Select a safe location outdoors for deep fat frying a turkey. Heat the cooking oil to 350 °F. Slowly and carefully lower the turkey into the hot oil. Monitor the temperature of the oil with a thermometer constantly during cooking. Never leave the hot oil unattended. Allow approximately 3 to 5 minutes per pound cooking time. Remove turkey from the oil and drain oil from the cavity. Check the temperature of turkey with a food thermometer. The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

If the turkey is not done, immediately return the turkey to the hot oil for additional cooking. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oil and place it on a sturdy tray lined with paper towels. The skin can be golden to dark brown to almost black. Let it rest about 20 minutes before carving.

Allow the used oil to cool before pouring it into containers for refrigerator storage. The oil can be reused if it is strained, covered, and used within a month.

Cooking an Unstuffed Turkey from the Frozen State

It is safe to roast a turkey from the frozen state; however, it will take longer than a fresh or thawed bird. To determine an approximate cooking time, consult a timetable for oven-roasting a whole turkey. Use the timing for the size turkey you have; then add 50 percent of that time to the original time. (Do not smoke, grill, deep fat fry, or microwave a frozen turkey.)

Roasting time is approximate, so check the turkey often toward the end of the estimated cooking time. Insert a food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh when it has defrosted enough to easily insert one. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 °F. The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Giblet Packages.

Giblet packages and the turkey neck may be found inside the turkey cavity and/or tucked under the flap of skin at the front of the breastbone. When the turkey has sufficiently defrosted, the packages can be removed carefully with tongs and/or forks during cooking.

  • If the giblets were paper wrapped before being inserted into the turkey cavity at the plant-which is the case with most whole birds-there is no safety concern if they cook completely inside the bird.
  • If giblets were packed in a plastic bag, and the bag has been altered or melted by the cooking process, do not use the giblets or the turkey because harmful chemicals may have leached into the surrounding meat. If the plastic bag was not altered, the giblets and turkey should be safe to use.

Do Not Cook a Frozen Turkey in an Oven Cooking Bag or in the Microwave.

It is not recommended to cook a turkey from the frozen state in an oven cooking bag. It is unsafe to open the bag to remove the giblets during cooking because scalding may occur. Also, spilled juices and fat may cause an oven fire.

Cooking a frozen turkey in the microwave is not recommended because it can cook unevenly and might not reach a safe internal temperature throughout. The turkey may, however, be thawed (using the defrost setting) in the microwave. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

Microwaving a Turkey

Turkeys can be successfully cooked in a microwave oven—whole or in parts. Turkey parts can be cooked in a dish with a lid, or cover the dish with plastic wrap and vent the top. Timing can vary because of wattage differences, so follow the recommendations in the owner’s manual. A 12- to 14- pound turkey is the maximum size most microwaves can accommodate. Microwaves sometimes cook a whole turkey unevenly, so microwaving it in an oven cooking bag aids in even heat distribution. Microwaving a stuffed turkey is not recommended. The stuffing may not be cooked to the proper internal temperature when the turkey itself is done. Cook the stuffing in a separate casserole.

Allow 3 inches oven clearance on top and 2 to 3 inches of space around the bird. The time for cooking a turkey in the microwave is 9 to 10 minutes per pound on medium (50%) power. Rotate the bird during cooking to ensure even cooking.

If the bird is defrosted in the microwave, cook it immediately. Always use a food thermometer to determine doneness. The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. After removing from the microwave, let the turkey stand 20 minutes before carving it.

Cooking Turkey in a Pressure Cooker

The availability of turkey parts such as breasts, legs, and thighs makes it possible to cook turkey in an old favorite, the pressure cooker. Used since the 1930’s, a pressure cooker is a quick cooking, stove-top metal pot with a tight fitting lid bearing a dial or weighted gauge to verify the pressure.

When heated, the liquid converts to steam that, under pressure, can reach as high as 240 °F—hotter than the boiling point. As a result, food cooks in about a third or less time than conventional cooking methods. Because pressure cookers are made by various manufacturers and timing varies at altitudes above 1,000 feet, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The pressure specified must be kept constant for the recommended time, and the lid must not be removed until the pressure lowers and the pot cools.

Slow Cooking a Cut-up Turkey

A cut-up turkey can be cooked in a slow cooker or “Crockpot.” ™ Cut the turkey into parts, such as breast, legs, thigh, wings, etc. Alternatively, it can be cut into quarters.

The parts or quarters should always be thawed before placing them into a slow cooker. Add turkey part(s) and desired amount of liquid. Follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding the amount of liquid to add.

If possible, begin cooking on the “High” setting for an hour or more. Then turn the cooker to “Low,” if desired (or continue cooking on High). The appliance should maintain a temperature of between 170 and 200 °F.

Do not remove the cover during cooking. It can take 20 to 25 minutes to regain the lost steam and temperature if the cover is removed.

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Can’t Get a Loan? Blame Your Facebook Friends

November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Loan-300x200Here’s another reason to choose your Facebook friends wisely: Your social networking activity could affect your credit score and ability to get a loan.

Some tech start-ups are using social data as a way of measuring creditworthiness, according to a recent report on Fox Business News. That could be good or bad news—depending on who you’re friends with on Facebook.

Lenddo relies on a person’s online reputation to determine their financial reliability. Kreditech uses up to 8,000 data points—pulling data from Facebook, Amazon and eBay—to assess a loan application.

Though the practice hasn’t yet gone mainstream, it’s a good reason to go review social media best practices. Here are some good tips for protecting your reputation and identity online:

  1. Limit who you are sharing the information with — Make sure you customize your settings so that you are keeping strangers out and only sharing your information, posts, and pictures with people in your inner circle. Most sites will even allow you to group friends into different categories, so you can create additional levels of limiting information. Take advantage of this option when available.
  2. Opt-out of Checking-In — Some sites will allow other individuals to check you in to geographic locations. Many people don’t mind this option, but remember that when you tell people where you are, you are also telling them where you aren’t – at home. Criminals use this information to gain access to your home, which contains your valuables, including your identification. Consider disabling this feature.
  3. Limit the amount of personal information you post — Do not post information that would make you vulnerable, including your birth date, physical address or other details that help identity thieves. If your connections post information about you, make sure the combined information is not more than you would be comfortable with strangers knowing.
  4. Be wary of strangers — The internet makes it easy for people to misrepresent their identities and motives. Consider limiting the people who are allowed to contact you on these sites. If you interact with people you do not know, be cautious about the amount of information you reveal or agreeing to meet them in person.
  5. Watch out for Apps — Many apps have access to your friends list, posts, and other information. You should consider editing the app privacy settings, either within the social media site or each app individually, to remove these permissions. Remove any apps that are no longer in use.
  6. Remove yourself from Public Searches — For those who are extremely security conscious, some sites grant you the ability to remove your profile from being found when someone looks for you on a search engine. If you want to remain hidden, then look for this option and activate it.
  7. Stay updated on Privacy Policy Changes — Privacy policies change frequently from site to site so make sure you regularly watch for updates and review your privacy settings.

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