Friday, November 21, 2014

Leftover Safety - How not be killed by your own food.





 While you are stressing about all the little things that need to be taken care of for the big Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it best to pass on some reminders about food safety. Because as important as it is that your potatoes are creamy, your kids have nice manners, and somebody remembers to take some pictures of everyone around the table.... it is also important that you don't send everyone home with sick stomachs and cursing you through the night and the next day. Enough graphic imagery for you? Let's get to the information -



Safe Thawing - Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The "danger zone" is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where food borne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the "danger zone."

Live Well Utah has a fantastic step-by-step guide that will take you from thawing your bird, cooking it, serving it and getting it put away. 

To Stuff - or Not to Stuff ? - I don't want to get all political during the holidays and cause hurt feelings, but honestly people, Stop!! putting that "stuffing" into your turkeys - It is Gross!  If you aren't going to listen to sanity - or reason, HERE is the information that you absolutely must have. But really, make some gorgeous dressing, put it in a casserole dish (or better yet, a crock pot) and don't risk the lives of your guests for something that does nothing to improve the flavor of the dish. (I feel a little bit strongly about this) 

Cook It - Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat. For more information on safe internal temperatures, visit FoodSafety.gov's Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

More Information

Poultry Preparation, 
Turkey Basics: Handling Cooked Dinners & Leftovers, 
Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking, 
Thanksgiving Holiday Resources


Let There Be Leftovers! - I really don't get all gaga for the actual Thanksgiving dinner. I could take it or leave it, but don't mess with me and my LOVE for leftovers. I even cook way more that I know we are going to need because I want to be sure that I have a sufficient supply of turkey for sandwiches, sweet potatoes for midnight snacks, and rolls to snack on while I am waiting for my plate of leftovers to heat in the microwave.

But You can make just as many food safety mistakes putting the food away (or NOT putting the food away) as you can while you are preparing the meal.

Follow the Two-Hour Rule
Hot, perishable food that sits out for longer than two hours is considered unsafe to eat and needs to be thrown away. This is because the temperature of the food has most likely been in the food danger zone for too long. This period of time allows for bacteria to rapidly reproduce and contaminate the food. So, if it's been two hours since the Thanksgiving table was set and there's still food on it, do not bother bagging it up and putting it in the fridge. Just throw it away.

Take Care when Sending Leftovers Home with Guests
Sending leftovers home with guests is a great way to minimize the amount of refrigerator or freezer space needed by the host. However, the two-hour rule still applies. Consider the amount of travel time your guest has from house to house. If it's longer than two hours, give them a cooler and some ice to get the food home safely. Better yet, ask them beforehand to come prepared with their own cooler.

Use the Refrigerator or Freezer, or Both
Heaps of turkey and stuffing leftovers call for a dual storage strategy. Here's how to decide what goes where:

Storing Turkey in the Fridge
Leftover turkey can keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and still be safe to eat.

Storing Turkey in the Freezer
In the freezer, leftovers should be eaten within 6 months. After this period, it is not safety that suffers, only quality as the food will become more susceptible to freezer burn.


Store Leftovers in Shallow Containers
The faster leftovers can cool, the better, because they spend less time in the Food Danger Zone (40 °F to 140 °F). The best way to decrease the cooling time for leftovers is to store them in shallow pans or containers, which decreases the surface area of the food that needs to cool. Also, leftover turkey should be cut into smaller pieces, to decrease its surface area, too.

Store Stuffing Apart from the Turkey
Sure, stuffing can be cooked inside the turkey, but once cooking is done, that union needs to be broken. If turkey and stuffing are stored together, there is a risk of salmonella bacteria contaminating the stuffing. Storing the items separately in shallow containers is the only way to assure proper food safety.

Way to Go! You stayed for the whole thing... as your reward here are the top 5 Turkey Fails from the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline. 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) www.fsis.usda.gov

Here are their Panic Button Questions.  - Now Relax .




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese



The other night we ran into an especially busy scheduling conflict. Kids coming and going and parents needing to take them there. Working late and teacher conferences and trips to the doctor. It was a doosey of a day. 

But I knew it was coming and planned for it. Good Grief!! - I had to, nobody was going to get anywhere they needed to be unless I planned the whole thing out before hand. But this particular day - like most days, in most of our lives, everybody still had to be fed! (Do you ever feel like... what is UP with all this Eating!?!?) Throwing an extra added level of difficulty to the equation was that I wasn't going to actually be home to feed anybody, I needed something that everyone would eat, and that the kids could essentially feed themselves without destroying the kitchen, lighting the house on fire or fighting over who got the last tupperware of edible leftovers from the fridge. 

Here it comes to Save The Day........  Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese!! 

It honestly does NOT get easier than this recipe. You don't even cook the pasta before hand. Give it a stir ever couple of hours (or when you pass though the kitchen in your day filled with chaos).  My kids went bonkers for it, they raved about the taste and declared me (once again) the best homemade macaroni and cheese maker in all the land. Bellies were all filled, children knew they were loved, teenagers dished up bowl for little siblings and after all the running I sat down to a hot bowl of the ultimate comfort food and was..... comforted! It was a beautiful thing. 



Crockpot Mac and Cheese
Throw five ingredients into a crockpot for five hours and dinner is served!

Serves: 8
Total time: 4-5 hrs

Ingredients:

16 oz. elbow macaroni
2 1/2 cups milk
12-oz. can evaporated milk
8 oz. cream cheese
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese





Instructions:
Place the macaroni, milk, evaporated milk, cream cheese and cheddar cheese into a crockpot. Set heat to Low and cook for 4 to 5 hours, or until pasta is cooked through. Stir occasionally.




Sorry the pictures aren't so beautiful, I was taking them very late at night. 


And there is not photo of the beautiful finished dish, but somehow this pot of half-eaten macaroni and cheese is beautiful to me, because it fed my family and let them know how much they were loved and how I enjoy taking care of them even though I couldn't be there. 





Monday, November 17, 2014

Apple Fritter Bread - Create a Quick Bread



I don't know how much of a secret it is, but I have a fondness for donuts on Saturday mornings. We don't get them often, because they are a "treat", but I sure do love them. And it doesn't help much that we have a killer doughnut bakery close by. We all pick out our favorites - anything with sprinkles for the two little ones, maple bars and Bavarian cream for the middle ones and I get an apple fritter. 

I absolutely adore them. In fact, I have a love affair with all things apple. Well, not apple flavored candy and such, but ALL apple baked goods. They are my most favorite - have been since forever. So baking up some apples in a quick bread that has fresh chunks and cinnamon and glaze - be still my heart. I am all over that! I doubled the recipe when I made this, so I could take a loaf to a friend as a gift, but sadly, it was too delicious and my family discovered that Apple Fritter is the best flavor of doughnut and quick bread ever - in the whole wide world.... Ever! 



Apple Fritter Bread - Awesome!
Serves 8

Bread Loaf
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 apples, peeled and chopped (any kind), mixed with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Old-Fashioned Creme Glaze
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1-3 tablespoons of milk or cream- (depending on thickness of glaze wanted)


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9x5-inch loaf pan and spray with non-stick spray or line with foil and spray with non-stick spray to get out easily for slicing.




Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.


Chop your apples and mix them with cinnamon / sugar. I chopped mine very small because I wanted the pieces of fruit in the bites of bread to not be overwhelming. 




In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.

Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.



Combine & whisk flour and baking powder together in another bowl and add into creamed butter mixture and stir until blended.

Mix milk into batter until smooth.




Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apples and half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Lightly pat apple mixture into batter.



Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apples and brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using knife or spoon.



Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 50-60 minutes.



To make glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed.

Let cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.


Optional
Next time I think I would add in walnuts. You can always use other fruit, or you could add in chocolate chips too! (Of course!)



Substitutions: I've also substituted this with 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt, 1/3 cup milk and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda instead of 1/2 cup milk as called out in the bread loaf ingredients.

Baking options: Bake 30-40 min. for 2 loaf recipe, 15-20 minutes for muffins or 50 -60 minutes for one full loaf recipe or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.




Friday, November 14, 2014

Calzones - Freeze Ahead

There are times when I feel like getting my family to eat healthy is a complete uphill battle. The more I want to provide them with delicious and healthy food, the more they want processed, commercial "convenience foods". One of their favorites (and one of my absolutely least favorites to buy) are those little "pockets" of meat, cheese and sauce. It just kills me that they even will put them in their mouths! There is no accounting for the taste of teenagers. 

So in a wild sense of kitchen adventure and super-hero-ness I decided to try and make my own. They couldn't possibly turn out worse, could they?!  And they didn't, in fact, they turned out absolutely fantastic. I am not only going to be making these again and again (and again!), but I am planning on a day a month to make a whole slew of them to freeze and keep in the freezer for after school snacks, quick lunches and lazy dinners. You are going to want to make them too - they are that good and shockingly easy. 


Homemade Thin Crust Pizza - We will be using this for our Calzone Dough
Makes two 10-inch pizzas - Makes 6-8 Calzones (you are going to want to double this for sure!)
For the dough:
3/4 cups (6 ounces) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Combine the water and yeast in a mixing bowl, and stir to dissolve the yeast. The mixture should look like thin miso soup. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix until you've formed a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface along with any loose flour still in the bowl. Knead until all the flour is incorporated, and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If it's sticking to your hands and counter-top like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it is smooth.

If you have time at this point, you can let the dough rise until you need it or until doubled in bulk (about an hour and a half). After rising, you can use the dough or refrigerate it for up to three days.


Calzones
Makes 6-8 calzones
What You Need
Ingredients

1 batch thin-crust pizza dough or 2 lbs store-bought pizza dough
2-3 cups filling: any favorite combination of cooked meat, cooked veggies, and cheese
Olive oil or melted butter (optional)

Equipment

Rolling pin
Baking Sheet
Parchment paper

Instructions
1. Preheat the Oven to 450°F

2. Divide the Dough: Divide the dough into equal pieces. Six pieces make good dinner-sized calzones. Eight pieces make nice smaller calzones for lighter meals and lunches.



3. Roll Out the Calzone - Method #1: Press the dough into a flat disk, then use a rolling pin to roll it into an 8"-9" circle for larger calzones or 6"-7" for smaller calzones. Roll from the middle of the dough outwards, as you do for pie dough. If the dough starts to shrink back on you, let it rest for five minutes and try again. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.


4. Roll the Calzone - Method #2: You can also roll out the dough on parchment paper. This is handy if your dough is very sticky or if you're not feeling confident about your calzone-stuffing skills! As they bake, the parchment will unstick from the calzones.

Cut a square of parchment and roll the calzone dough on top. The dough will stick to the parchment. If it starts to curl, let the dough rest for five minutes before continuing. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.




5. Fill the Calzones: Spread a generous 1/3 cup of filling in the bottom third of the calzone (slightly less for smaller calzones), leaving a a clear border around the edge.

• For Method #1, fold the top of the dough over the filling and press to seal. If you have enough dough, you can roll that edge up (simply fold it over on itself) to form a more secure seal.

• For Method #2, pick the calzone up in both hands and press edges tightly to seal. Set the calzone back on the work surface and press lightly to distribute the filing evenly.

Transfer calzones to a parchment-lined baking sheet.




6. Bake the Calzones: Brush calzones (the ones not wrapped in parchment) with olive oil or butter, if desired. This gives the calzones a nice golden color, but is not necessary. Slice steam vents in the top of the calzones with a sharp knife.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the tray and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the calzones are golden, browned on the edges, and the filling is bubbly. The calzones in parchment will brown slightly less. And don't worry if some filling spills out - there always seems to be at least one explosive calzone in every batch!



6. Eat or Freeze Calzones: Allow to cool a few minutes before eating so you don't burn your mouth. Slip the parchment off the parchment-wrapped calzones. Let leftover calzones cool completely, then wrap each individual calzone tightly in plastic wrap. Transfer to a plastic freezer bag and freeze.



7. Reheat Calzones: Thaw the calzone for a few hours in the fridge, or extend the cooking time to re-heat from frozen. If you put one in your lunchbag in the morning, it will be thawed enough by lunchtime. Unwrap from the plastic before reheating.

Reheat them in the microwave in one-minute bursts on HIGH until heated through (2-3 minutes total), or in the oven or a toaster oven at 300° until heated through.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thai Pasta Salad - Create a Salad


This is an "official" Food $ense Create a Salad recipe

I feel like such a fool that it has taken me a whole year to try it. It is Amaze-Balls!!  I want to eat it everyday, All Day Long! (Is that enough exclamation points?)?!

You must make this immediately. 


Thai Noodle Salad
• 10 ounces spaghetti noodles, cooked and cooled
• ¼ cup rice vinegar or red wine vinegar
• 3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 3 tablespoons lime juice
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes (optional) - But not Really optional, spice it up, Baby
• ¼ teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
• 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• ¾ cup shredded carrots ( I got All wild and crazy here - and used a bag of Broccoli Slaw!)
• 2 green onions, finely diced
• 1 cup bell pepper, diced
• 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
• ½ cup chopped peanuts
• ½ cup chopped cilantro

Place noodles in large bowl. In small bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, red chili flakes, and sesame oil. Stir to combine and dissolve sugar. 


Pour over noodles. Add chickpeas, carrots, green onions, bell pepper, and peas. Stir to coat veggies with dressing. Add peanuts and cilantro just before serving. Toss to mix. 
Yield: 4 servings


I made this for lunch and then strictly forbade everyone in my household from eating it again - the rest was Mine! I have mentioned before my love of all Asian food and especially Thai food. Add Chickpeas (my favorite of all the legumes) and make it something I can eat hot or cold - Holy Cow, that makes it a hit. I want to eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (and snacks)

Are you still here reading, Please say that at least you already have your pasta on to boil......


Monday, November 10, 2014

Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup - Create a Soup



I don't think I have ever (or probably WILL ever) make "real" chicken cordon bleu. Who has the time (or the desire) for all the pounding and rolling and layering. But the flavor combination is one of my family's favorites. They just can't get enough of it. 

That is what the Creates program by Food $ense is all about. Taking something that you know you like and learning to "create". Building something out of what you have. 


This could essentially be called "Leftovers in a Pot soup". But that tends to make people a lot less excited to eat it than giving it a fancy name like Chicken Cordon Bleu soup. 

INGREDIENTS

6 cup water
3 Tbsp chicken bouillon granules
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast- I used canned because I didn't have to pre-cook it. And I think canned chicken works really well in soups. 
2 cup 95% lean ham chunks - Mine happened to be leftover ham that my dad dropped off because he and my mom were tired of eating ham sandwiches. (Love you, Dad!!) 
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cup milk
3 medium russet potatoes - I was really short on time, so I used a bag of frozen cube hashbrowns - It worked out perfectly! 
8 oz shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup garlic croutons - Optional for fancy people. 
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped  - Also optional.


DIRECTIONS

In heavy bottomed Dutch oven or large wide pot, over medium-high heat, add water, bouillon, butter and all seasonings. Cover and bring to a boil.



Meanwhile, peel and dice potatoes and cut chicken breast into bite sized pieces. Add potatoes and chicken to soup mixture. Stir to combine and cover.

Add cheese and ham chunks and stir. Cover.



In a sealable container combine flour and milk. Seal tightly and shake vigorously to combine well. You will create a smooth flour mixture for thickening your sauce called a slurry. Slowly pour the slurry into broth, stirring constantly. 


Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with fresh parsley sprinkled over top and with garlic croutons. Enjoy!





Friday, November 7, 2014

Artichokes


Although they are not in season right now, I picked some a couple of artichokes at the store. I was shopping for a few quick items with my 11 year old and they caught his eye. He asked if we could get them, and then as an added measure of persuasion he said, "you can write for work about them." How can you say no to a pre-teen begging you to buy veggies? 

Here is an interesting story about that 11 year old and his affinity for artichokes. 

He goes to a local charter school and has the most AMAZING teacher. And one day she brought some artichokes to school and introduced them to the kids and taught them how to eat them. My son thought that this was about the coolest thing that had ever happened to him at school and he has been hooked on them ever since. 

We experiment with them a little bit when we eat them - this time we added a little balsamic vinegar to the mayonnaise and it was pretty good - according to some of us. We still have plain butter eaters, plain mayo eaters and even a few who tried plain balsamic. 



Boil the artichokes for the most traditional method of cooking them.
Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil and add salt.
Drop the artichokes carefully into the pot once the water begins to boil and leave them to cook for 30 to 45 minutes.
Drain artichokes with the stem up before serving.


Steam your artichokes for less cooking time and to preserve more of their nutrients.
Place a couple inches (4 cm) of water into a pot to boil with a steaming basket on top. Add some lemon juice and salt to flavor the water if you prefer.
Drop the artichokes into the pot once the water begins to boil and steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain artichokes with the stem up before serving.



Grill the artichokes after steaming or boiling them for even more flavor.
Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise.
Discard the choke, which is the inedible part of the artichoke just above the heart that looks like a bunch of tiny hair.
Drizzle or brush the artichoke with olive oil and place it on the grill carefully, turning it once to get color on both sides.


To eat a whole cooked artichoke: Break off each leaf one at a time; dip the leaf into melted butter, mayonnaise, or some other sauce and draw the base of the leaf through your teeth to remove the tender portion. After all the leaves have been removed, scrape off the inedible prickly "choke" to expose the inner artichoke heart. The heart is now ready to cut into pieces and enjoy.

To use the cooked artichoke heart in a recipe: Peel leaves from artichokes. Scrape off the inedible prickly "choke" to expose the heart. Cut the heart in half or as directed in a recipe.