Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How I Handle Leftovers

Whether you are in love with leftovers because you are a busy mom, or because you are environmentally conscious - if you are a penny saver or an earth saver - leftovers are the best!

What is nicer than a home-cooked meal that you didn't have to cook?

I didn't used to like leftovers at all, this has been a huge change in my thinking since starting Food $ense and begging to change my ideas and habits. 

We are starting a new little system that Joseph thought up one day when he was watching child after child open and close and open the fridge and then complain that there was nothing to eat. 

We have lots of notepads on the fridge that we keep track of things on - Menu Planning, Grocery Lists, assigned chores - all sorts of things. 

We are now trying to keep a list of the things that are in the fridge that are just waiting to be eaten!

Despite feeling crunched for time, Please Please take care to treat your food in a way that protects you family from foodborne illness.

There’s much more to the safe handling of leftovers than most people realize, and following a few simple tips can save you—and your loved ones—from illness.

Put leftovers in shallow containers to cool quickly
The center of that big pot of chili you stick in the fridge isn’t going to cool down within 2 hours, and that warm spot in the middle can allow bacteria to grow. The smaller the portion size, the faster it will cool in the refrigerator. And when you go to heat it up in the microwave, it will heat much more quickly and evenly too. [USDA recommends packing leftovers so that they are less than 2 inches deep.]

Putting leftovers into smaller containers or into individual serving containers means that there is less heating / cooling / reheating cycles and therefore less danger.

Refrigerate within 2 hours
Bacteria grow rapidly at warm temperatures, and after just a few hours can reach levels that can cause illness. Refrigeration slows the growth of bacteria.  The recommended temperature for your fridge is 40 °F or below (use an appliance thermometer to see how cold it is).

Foods should be refrigerated within 2 hours of preparation. Even though it may seem energy efficient to let foods cool down on the counter before sticking them in the fridge, there can be a risk if they are left out too long.

Reheat thoroughly
The microwave is just another way to heat food. The microwaves bounce around and literally “excite” the food. However, the microwaves may not hit every part of the food evenly. In foods with multiple ingredients (like a casserole) some ingredients may get more “heated” than others.

It’s really important that all parts of reheated food reach 165 °F before they are eaten. There are a few ways to ensure this happens:

  • Stir the food in the middle of heating;
  • Let the food sit for a few minutes after it finishes in the microwave to ensure the food cooks evenly. During this “standing time,” the cold parts of the food will absorb some heat from the hotter portions. Many microwave meals recommend this, so pay attention to microwave instructions.
  • After the “standing time,” check the food with a food thermometer.