This is your friendly reminder to keep your friends and family safe this Thanksgiving. We speak a lot about food safety this time of year. Here are some tips to remember.
- Remember to wash your hands often. Use soap and wash for at least 20 seconds.
- Resist the urge to wash your turkey. Washing will not make it safer to eat and the splash of water from the turkey will cross contaminate other parts of your kitchen.
- The safest way to make stuffing or dressing is to cook it outside the bird.
- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. In some families, the tradition is to leave food out on the table all afternoon so people can nibble a bit more. This is a recipe for food bourne illness. Leave leftovers on the table for less than two hours. The clock starts ticking on the two hours as food comes out of the oven or refrigerator.
- Cool leftovers quickly. Store them in shallow pans separated in the refrigerator or freezer. Storing leftovers on the back porch or garage is NOT a good idea. Store them in a refrigerator set between 32°F and 40°F. Closer to 32°F is best.
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, cooked meat, and vegetables.
- Keep that pumpkin pie in the refrigerator.
- Use a meat thermometer to know when your turkey is done. Cook to 165°F.
- Use or freeze your leftovers within 3-5 days.
- Call AnswerLine if you have any questions. We really do love to help.
Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year at AnswerLine. Most callers eat turkey only one or two times a year and often do not’ feel comfortable preparing turkey for guests. We are always happy to talk turkey with callers.
We often get these questions:
- How large a turkey should I buy? You should plan on two and a half or three servings per pound. Buy a larger bird if leftovers are important to you.
- How soon can I buy a fresh turkey? Use your fresh turkey within two days. Call us for advice if you buy your turkey too early.
- How long does it take to thaw a turkey? Plan on 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of turkey. Remember to thaw it in the refrigerator. Once thawed, use within two days.
- Oh my, I forgot to take my turkey out of the freezer. What can I do? You have two options. You can cook a frozen turkey, just remember to take the giblets and neck out of the cavity after an hour or so. Plan to cook the frozen turkey for one and a half times longer than a thawed bird. Or you can use the cold-water method. Thaw the turkey by leaving it in the plastic wrapper and place in a sink full of cold water. This method takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Change the water every half hour. I was a bit skeptical the first time I tried this method, but it does work well.
- What temperature should I set the oven for turkey? 325°F
- If you want to cook the turkey the day before Thanksgiving, call us for advice.
These are the top turkey questions callers ask every year. Please call us with all of your questions. We love to help.
Because I have family in California, I get the opportunity to visit now and again. On one of my trips, I encountered one of the culinary delights of California–a cut of meat called tri tip. Tri-tip is a tender, lean beef cut coming from the bottom sirloin that gets its name from its triangular shape. It is sold as a small roast or cut into steaks; there are only two of these cuts in each animal. What makes it so special is the full flavor it offers at an affordable price. Roasting and grilling are the best preparation methods as the tri tip is considered a lean cut of meat.
While readily available nearly everywhere in California, tri-tip is not a common cut in the Midwest. However, because I enjoyed it so much, I’ve frequently asked at different stores if it was possible to order and usually got a “no” response. Recently I was shopping at my local Fareway store and there in the meat case was a sirloin tri-tip!!! Right then and there, I made my first tri-tip roast purchase and profusely thanked the meat department manager for acquiring the cut. (Manager said that they will continue to carry it as long as they can get it.)
Having never prepared a tri tip on my own, I wanted to do it right. I looked at several recipes and blogs which offered a lot of insight. Eventually I decided on an online recipe for Santa Maria Style Tri Tip. (Santa Maria is famous for their tri tip barbecue.) My choice could not have been better!! We enjoyed a succulent roast prepared on the grill.
Here’s some tips that I acquired from reading various blogs and recipes that may help anyone else who would like to try a tri tip roast should they see one in their meat counter.
- Be prepared for uneven cooking. Due to the triangular shape, the roast typically has thicker and thinner parts. Because of the variation in thickness, the two parts of the cut will cook different, thinner faster than thicker. This is offers pieces ranging from more well-done to medium-rare. The flavor is the same regardless.
- Use a rub and allow the meat to marinate with the rub for a minimum of three hours and up to three days. The rub can be applied dry or with a bit of olive oil. If oil is used, the recommended method is to apply oil lightly to the meat before the rub. Oil can be used after the rub is applied but if the meat will be grilled, the oil may cause flash burning.
- After applying rub, the roast should be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated until ready to grill or roast. If grilling, bring the meat out 30-60 minutes beforehand.
- Whether grilling or roasting, sear the roast on both sides to lock in moisture and flavor. This can be done on the grill or in a skillet.
- Stop cooking at a temperature a few degrees lower than the desired doneness. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat until it reaches 120-125°F for medium-rare or 130-135°F for medium. Do not cook beyond medium as the cut contains very little fat.
- Allow the roast to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Remove the meat from the grill and wrap it loosely in aluminum foil. The foil will collect any juices that are released and also allow the meat to reabsorb some juice. During this resting time, carryover cooking occurs and the internal temperature of the meat will rise (depending upon thickness, the internal temperature will increase 10 to 15 degrees during resting). This is why it is important to stop cooking before the desired doneness temperature is reached with nearly any kind of meat.
- Slice against the grain. Per Traeger, a little-unknown fact about tri tip is that it is comprised of two different grain directions, making slicing it correctly slightly more difficult than other meats. Incorrectly slicing the meat can make a perfectly grilled or roasted tri tip tough and chewy. Check the Traeger website for great tips and pictures for correct slicing.
- While I have yet to try oven roasting tri tip, I will start with the Better Homes and Garden version and experiment from there. The BH&G method does not include pan searing which many recipes and blogs recommend. Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner is also a good resource for tri tip preparation tips.
By following these simple tips, I hope your first experience with tri tip will be as good as mine. If you’re already a Tri Tip Queen or King, I’d love to know your tips for success, too.
A tri tip fact sheet is available from the Beef Board which includes nutrition and calorie information as well as additional cooking tips.
As the garden produce has come into the kitchen, so have the fruit flies. Fruit flies are those pesky tiny insects harboring around the kitchen with reddish eyes and are attracted to anything fruit or vegetable in the area. Beyond being a nuisance, they can also carry harmful bacteria. They multiply rapidly so if not controlled quickly, a small problem becomes a big problem.
One of the best ways to control fruit flies in the home is to practice excellent sanitation, eliminate rotting fruits and vegetables and keep as much food in the refrigerator as possible. Keep counters, sinks, and drains clean at all times–even the dishwasher. Trash should be kept tied and taken out frequently, and compost scraps should not be allowed to pileup on the counter. Cracked or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables should be cut off and discarded immediately to prevent infestation.
Chemical control is not recommended; however, you can make your own traps using attractants commonly found in the kitchen such as cider vinegar, wine or even a small piece of fruit. Put a small amount of the attractant in a glass or jar, cover with a plastic wrap that fits tightly to the glass, and poke very small holes in the plastic. Fruit flies will enter the glass but find themselves trapped. The University of Nebraska offered another simple trap using yeast and sugar.
Once you’ve done the work to kill or trap fruit flies, keep them from coming back with these preventative measures:
1. Keep the counter clean. Fruit flies don’t just like to eat fruit; they also like spilled food, crumbs, spilled juice — just about anything. Wipe your counters frequently throughout the day and dry thoroughly.
2. Wash any produce coming into the home. Fruit flies piggyback their way into our homes on fruits and vegetables. By washing fruit and vegetables, you get rid of any eggs that may have been laid on the produce.
3. Keep produce covered or in the refrigerator. If produce must sit on the counter, be sure that it is fully contained and covered.
4. Remove odors immediately. If something smells, chances are it will attracts fruit flies, too. Clean drains, garbage cans, pet bedding, litter boxes and similar things.
Female fruit flies lay 100 or more eggs per day. With the possibility of new eggs hatching, a couple of weeks of diligence will be necessary. Continue using traps, depriving them of food and water, and stepping up sanitary procedures to keep them from breeding and eventually eliminating them from the home.
Before we know it, school will be back in session. We spend a lot of time and money preparing kids for school. School supplies, new clothing, and new backpacks are on sale this time of year. There is another consideration when preparing for a new school year. Your child may be one that takes his or her lunch to school.
This is a great time to stock up on small zipper bags to pack lunches as well as small containers, a small thermos, and plastic silverware. Keeping your kitchen well stocked makes it easier to pack a quick lunch. Consider packing lunches the night before to keep the morning less chaotic.
Many of us consider the start of another school year a good time to start new healthy habits. You may want to try one or more of the following ideas this year.
- Plan to spend time with your child discussing likes and dislikes.
- Be sure to stock the kitchen with the things you will need to pack a lunch. Consider a new lunch box to make carrying a lunch to school more special.
- Plan menus ahead. You can plan menus for the month, plan some special occasion lunches, or plan a list of menus that you can cycle through over time.
- Children that help prepare meals often eat better. Allow your child to choose what they want to eat and ask them to help pack the lunch.
- Offer healthy foods as choices for lunches. Remember to model healthy choices for your child.
- Occasionally pack a surprise for your child. A note, sticker, new pencil can make lunch feel special.
- Remember to pack only as much food as your child can eat during the short time he or she has for lunch at school. A half sandwich is best for younger children. Small amounts of raw vegetables or fruit are best.
- Check with your school so you know what the rules are for allergens like peanut butter. Protect all the students by following those rules.
Remember to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Preheat the thermos with hot or cold water before adding your hot or cold food. Separate dry, crisp food from moist food. Let the child assemble the cheese and crackers or sandwich that has a moist filling during lunch. Prepackaged foods in individual servings may be convenient but are often more expensive than making your own prepackaged foods. Package some foods in advance and they will remain safe for days. Think nuts, crackers, or dried foods.
With a little planning, you can make this school year a healthy one for your child. You may even improve your own lunches, too.
Last week we had a question from a food safety educator located in Minnesota. She wondered if it was necessary to wash onions, garlic, and ginger root before using them. She told us that she found information from both schools of thought. Some resources indicated that it was necessary to wash before using while other resources were vague on that point.
We did some research and had the same problem the educator from Minnesota had; we could not find a definitive answer either. We contacted our own food safety specialist and fortunately, she had a contact at the Partnership for Food Safety that knew the answer.
By now, you too, may be wondering if you should wash those vegetables before using. The answer is that you should always wash vegetables before using. Like cantaloupe or watermelon, we cut through the peel or rind when cutting into these foods. That means that any bacteria living on the outside of the food could potentially ride on the knife through the food contaminating the surface.
We often get callers wanting to know what type of soap works best when washing produce. According to the Partnership for Food Safety, running water and the use of a brush are enough to remove bacteria. Patting the produce dry with a clean paper towel will also help remove surface bacteria. The Partnership does not recommend using soaps and bleach on produce and are not something people should eat.
I had not realized that I needed to wash my garlic and onions; I rarely use ginger root. I plan to start washing all my produce before using it.
PURSLANE (Portulaca oleracea) is a weed in my garden that I curse; it comes uninvited, spreads fast, and keeps on giving. Purslane grows nearly everywhere in the world and is known as a weed, as I see it, or an edible plant. Some cultures embrace purslane as a delicious and exceptionally nutritious treat!
Because purslane grows so rapidly and spreads easily, most research has focused on eradication by tillage or chemicals. The new approach is to eradicate by eating. While I couldn’t begin to eat against the amount of purslane that pops up in my garden, a little now and then is a bit of garden treat. The leaves, plucked from the stems, are somewhat crunchy and have a slight lemon taste. I like it sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, and omelets. It can also be steamed or used in stir-fries and makes a good thickener for soups or stews because it has a high level of pectin. Supposedly it also makes a great low-fat pesto; because purslane is so juicy, only a small amount of olive oil is needed. Purslane is high is Vitamin E and essential omega-3 fatty acids providing more that six times more Vitamin E than spinach and seven times more carotene than carrots. It is also rich in Vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, and phosphorus.
While it is readily available in my garden, I have yet to see purslane in the markets in Central Iowa. If one is so lucky to not have purslane in their garden or yard but are curious to try it, likely there is a neighbor who would be only too happy to share. Before sampling or eating, make sure that the plant is chemical free and thoroughly washed as it grows close to the ground. And if this is a new food, don’t over indulge. Any number of recipes can be find via Google.
Having said all these good things about purslane, I still see it as a weed and struggle to eradicate it by pulling, hoeing or using chemicals. Using a mechanical tiller is the worst at controlling it as cultivating breaks it apart and, being a succulent, each piece becomes a new plant. Hoeing is effective only if the root is taken and the plant is removed. Any soil disturbance raises long-lived seeds near the surface where they easily germinate. Purslane is not picky about where it grows, loves hot weather, and does not require moisture; but give it tilled soil and a little moisture, and it goes wild. Therefore, the best rule is to get it before it goes to seed; it takes less than three weeks from the time it emerges until it flowers and seeds. A single plant may produce 240,000 seeds which have germination potential for up to 40 years. Mulching helps control purslane as mulch suppresses seed germination. For mulch to be effective, it must be thick enough to block all light to prevent seed germination; 1/2 inch of mulch is recommended.
Purslane . . . weed ’em or eat ’em? I will be weeding more than eating.
I enjoy browsing my favorite internet sites on a regular basis to see if there is anything new in the world of “home economics”. While doing that, I recently came across an article talking about how to convert a bread recipe to Tangzhong. I was unfamiliar with that word so had to look into it more fully.
Tangzhong is an Asian technique that makes your yeast bread and rolls soft, fluffy, moist, airy and tender. In addition to affecting the texture of the yeast products you are making, this technique also helps extend the shelf life.
To accomplish this technique you start by pre-cooking a portion of the flour and liquid (water or milk) very briefly and letting it cool to room temperature before adding to the rest of the ingredients in your recipe. This slurry/pudding/roux type mixture helps the starches in the flour absorb more water. Flour can absorb twice as much hot liquid as cold so pre-cooking makes a big difference here. The flour/liquid mixture also creates structure which helps the bread be able to hold on to the extra liquid.
In order to use Tangzhong, you want the hydration in your yeast bread/roll recipe to be 75%. That means the liquid should equal 75% of the weight of the flour. Before I started doing the math on my favorite recipes, I decided to find a recipe that was already based on the Tangzhong method. If you are looking for a softer yeast roll, I hope you will give it a try.