Handy food safety tips, recipes for holiday leftovers
When the holiday meal is over, take care of the leftovers as soon as possible to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. After all the time and effort you put into the meal, save the leftovers properly for safe meals in the future.
The first rule of thumb is to refrigerate the leftovers within two hours. You need to remove the turkey from the bone and cool it in shallow covered container. Do the same with the dressing/stuffing, gravy and any other vegetables. The food depth in the containers should not be more that two-inch deep and everything needs to be stored separately.
Next, store the food in the refrigerator. If you have a lot of leftovers, your refrigerator temperature will become too high. When the food cannot be cooled to under 41° F within four hour your risk of bacteria growing in your food increasing and that increases your chance of foodborne illness.
Doing the holidays or special occasions, I use an ice chest to cool leftovers quickly. Make sure your food is packaged in air-tight containers. Pour some ice in the bottom of the ice chest then place the bags of food over the ice. Pour more ice to cover the food bags. If you find that the ice is melting, drain away the water and add more ice. When the food is completely chilled, store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
Leaving food out at an unsafe temperature is one of the main causes of foodborne illness. Safe handling of leftovers is very important to reducing foodborne illness. Follow these USDA recommendations for handling leftovers safely whether from a restaurant or home cooked.
Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days or frozen for three to four months. Although safe indefinitely, frozen leftovers can lose moisture and flavor when stored for longer times in the freezer.
When reheating leftovers, be sure they reach 165° F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through.
Thaw frozen leftovers safely in the refrigerator, cold water or the microwave oven. When thawing leftovers in a microwave, continue to heat it until it reaches 165° F as measured with a food thermometer.
If you want to put a new twist on the holiday leftovers, try the following recipes.
Chicken/Turkey Crepe Filling
1 /4-1 / 2 c. chopped onion sautéed,
3 c. cooked chicken or turkey,
10 3/4-oz can cream of chicken
1 1 / 2 c. sour cream
1 / 2 c. cooked English peas (opt.)
1 / 2 c. cooked carrots (opt.)
1 tsp. salt
Parsley for garnish
Sauté the onion in a little butter or oil. Add chicken, soup and 1 / 2 cup sour cream, peas, carrots and salt to onion. Heat the mixture thoroughly. When the mixture is hot, spoon into the crepes and roll them up. If you serve the crepes as they are made, you can top the crepe with a spoon of the remaining sour cream and a sprinkle of parsley.
If you want to serve later, place the prepared crepes in a lightly greased shallow baking dish and spoon remaining sour cream over them. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Just before serving heat crepes in 350° oven for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley or other garnish. Makes about 12 crepes. Crepe Recipe in Bread Recipes section.
Ham Crepes—substitute ham and cream of mushroom soup.
Turkey Crepes—substitute turkey and cream of mushroom soup.
Sour cream and parsley on the ready-to-serve crepes is optional
The onion, peas and carrots are optional, but it is a good way to use left-overs.