So much to be thankful for!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The holidays seem to have arrived early this year. Because November started on a Thursday, Thanksgiving is a little earlier than usual, which means we have a few extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas to get ready for the remaining holidays.

Which is one thing to be grateful for along with the fact that the elections are finally over, which everyone seems to be glad of regardless of which why they may have voted.

I always look forward to Eric Bernsee's list of things to be grateful for and like to reflect on my own personal blessings. It certainly is more fun to think about the blessings we have than to dwell on the things we don't have.

Whether you are grateful "not to be having to cook a huge holiday feast" or grateful "to be having a house full of company comingz," this is a good time to share a few reminders of ways to stay safe and avoid a food borne illness during the holiday season.

With food as the central focus of many holiday gatherings, it's no surprise that food borne illnesses increase during the holiday season. In a time crunch, cooks may be tempted to take short cuts in the kitchen that allow the spread of harmful bacteria.

Also extra food and lack of space, may lead to foods not always being properly stored at all times.

Another problem can arise when people have parties or open houses and lose track of how long foods have been out at room temperature, allowing bacteria time to multiply.

Here are a few reminders to keep in mind all the time but especially during the holidays:

* Thaw the turkey in a refrigerator or a cold water bath, not out on the counter. Allow one day of thawing time in the refrigerator for every 5 lbs. of turkey. In a cold water bath, a 20-pound turkey will take 12 hours to defrost. Remember to change the water every 30 minutes.

* Clean the turkey thoroughly before cooking.

* Cook the turkey immediately after stuffing -- don't keep an uncooked stuffed turkey in the refrigerator. Store stuffing that has been made in advance in a separate container.

* Use a meat thermometer to check if the turkey is done. The internal temperature should reach 180-185 degrees. You should also pierce the turkey in the thickest area of the thigh, making sure that the juices run clear, not pink.

* Wash your hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds BEFORE and AFTER handling raw foods.

* Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Do not use the same cutting board without cleaning with hot water and soap before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables.

* Serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Do not leave perishable food unheated or unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. If foods are to be kept longer than 3 to 4 hours, the temperature in your refrigerator should be below 40 degrees.

* Put leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as the meal is over. It is important to cool things quickly.

* Remove any stuffing before you refrigerate leftover meat. Gravy and broth should be stored separately, too.

If you have additional questions anytime, including on Thanksgiving Day, a good and reliable source for checking information on everything from recipes to thawing and cooking, etc. go to: COOK it Quick! at or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at: 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

Upcoming events

Nov. 22-23 -- Extension Office closed for Thanksgiving holiday.

Nov. 27 -- Extension Board annual meeting, tickets available at Extension Office.

Nov. 28 -- Extension Homemakers County Tour to The Sanctuary in Zionsville.

Dec. 4 -- Extension Homemakers Leader Lesson "Avoiding Scams and Schemes" at Extension Office, 1 p.m.

Dec. 13 -- Last chance PARP, Clay County, 12:30 p.m.

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