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Tag Archive | "cooking"

Keep clear of the “Danger Zone” this summer


Summer cookouts are right around the corner and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is urging consumers to remember the four simple steps to food safety – Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill – and to steer clear of the ‘Danger Zone’ while cooking outdoors.

“I encourage families to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors and the variety of food America’s farmers are able to provide,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “It’s important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures, so extra care should be taken to make sure perishable food doesn’t spend too long in the Danger Zone. That is temperatures between 40 and 140˚F when perishable food spoils rapidly. Foods that should be served hot or cold should not spend more than one hour in the Danger Zone when temperatures are above 90˚F, and two hours when temperatures are below 90˚F.”

Planning ahead is a key factor for ensuring food is safely handled and stored, and USDA’s FoodKeeper App can help. Developed by FSIS in partnership with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, this application informs users on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality, helping to promote food safety while also reducing food waste. The FoodKeeper application offers users valuable storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and more. The app also links to FSIS’ other digital resources, such as AskKaren.

What is the Danger Zone?

The Danger Zone is the temperature range in which bacteria can grow faster. Bacteria can actually double in number in as little as 20 minutes when perishable food is kept in the Danger Zone. In order to steer clear of the Danger Zone, you should always:

  • Keep cold food, at or below 40°F, in the refrigerator, in coolers, or in containers on ice.
  • Limit the time coolers are open. Open and close the lid quickly. Do not leave coolers in direct sunlight.
  • Keep foods served hot at or above 140°F, in chafing dishes, warming trays, slow cookers or on the grill. You can keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the safe recommended temperatures.
  • Never leave food between 40 and 140˚F for more than two hours.  If the temperature is above 90°F, food should not be left out more than one hour.

As always, we remind consumers to follow the four steps to food safety when preparing dishes for a cookout:

Clean: Make sure to always wash your hands and surfaces with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before cooking and after handling raw meat or poultry during cooking. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and work spaces with soap and warm water too. If you plan to be away from the kitchen, pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

Separate:  When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.

Cook: Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of burgers, steaks, chicken, and foods containing meat or poultry.

Hamburgers, sausages and other ground meats should reach 160 °F.

All poultry should reach a minimum temperature of 165 °F.

Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal, and of beef should be cooked to 145 °F as measured by a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, and allowed to rest for three minutes before eating. A “rest time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.

Fish should be cooked to 145°F.

Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, and by using a food thermometer you can be sure items have reached a safe minimum internal temperature needed to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Chill: After a cookout, place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately. Discard food left in the Danger Zone too long. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

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Cook and bake your way to healthier eating this season

(ARA) – The arrival of the cooler weather means different things to many different people – football season, the vibrant colors of the changing leaves, hot chocolate, snuggly sweaters and a vast array of festive flavors that reinvigorate cooking and baking routines.
Surprisingly, these seasonal comfort foods don’t have to wreak havoc on your waistline. Many of this season’s hottest flavors are naturally low in calories, and even offer essential vitamins, minerals and fiber to help you take small steps towards healthier eating while enjoying the foods you love.
“Many Americans face the challenges of eating healthy all year, but maintaining motivation during the winter months is particularly hard,” says Hope Warshaw, registered dietitian and author of “Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy,” published by the American Diabetes Association. “My clients are always asking about simple ways to stay on track. I recommend making small changes to existing routines – such as cooking and baking with a fiber-enhanced product like SPLENDA No Calorie Sweetener Granulated with Fiber –  as an easy way to watch your daily fiber intake add up, gram-by-gram.”
Warshaw also recommends taking smart shortcuts, wherever possible, and incorporating high-nutrient ingredients into your favorite seasonal dishes. With the right knowledge, cooking and baking with a little boost of fiber has never been easier.
As the ‘star’ in many holiday baked goods such as pies, muffins, breads and more, pumpkin is definitely one of the season’s most delicious and nutritious flavors. Give your favorite pumpkin recipe a fiber boost by ditching the sugar and baking with SPLENDA with Fiber, Granulated, a no-calorie sweetener for foods and beverages with three grams of fiber per tablespoon. “With this product, you get a two-for-one bonus—more fiber with less added sugars,” says Warshaw.
Nothing signals the arrival of sweater-season like a bowl of chili that warms you from the inside out. Give your chili a fiber makeover by opting for kidney and black beans and tossing in some fiber-rich Swiss chard. Cut calories by skipping the meat or using lean turkey and give your dish an added twist by adding butternut squash and lightly garnishing with pine nuts. The end result: a dish that will keep you full and satisfied all day.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This saying has never rung more true – the apple and its skin are among nature’s fruits that are highest in fiber. Skip the season’s candy apples that line grocery store shelves and go for some homemade baked apples instead. Cut down on added sugars by baking your cored apples in a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and all-natural apple juice. Who said satisfying your sweet tooth couldn’t be healthy?
Great as a salad-topper, in trail and snack mixes, or simply enjoyed on their own, dried fruits can be sweet and natural treats with health benefits. Rich in antioxidants, dried cranberries are a great source of vitamins and fiber. Pair the festive cranberry with the fiber-rich almond for a simple snack that will double as brain food and help you stay full and focused in between meals.
Sweet potatoes
A classic in seasonal casseroles, pies and soups, sweet potatoes are on the top of the list when it comes to great-tasting and versatile fiber-rich vegetables. Slice up and drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt to serve mouthwatering, homemade French fries, or bake in a low-fat casserole to enjoy an easy and delicious treat with some serious health benefits.

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