Holiday Leftovers: Keep Them Safe and Delicious

Holiday Leftovers: Keep Them Safe and Delicious

Cooked turkey with green peas and roll

Safe and delicious holiday leftovers
Photo Source: UF/IFAS

For some of us, the best part of holiday eating is snacking on the leftovers. There’s just nothing better for a post-holiday lunch than a turkey sandwich with some cranberry dressing. With a little care and attention to detail, holiday foods can be safe and delicious for several days after the big event.

So, what do we all need to know about holiday food safety? Take a look below for some quick and easy tips.

Reheating foods in the oven: Set your oven temperature no lower than 325˚F and reheat to 165˚F for turkey or chicken. Reheat ham to 145˚F. You will need a meat thermometer to check the temperature. If you don’t already have one, they’re easy to find and fairly inexpensive. To keep your meat moist, add a little broth or water and cover it with foil or an oven-proof lid.

Reheating foods in the microwave: To keep your turkey or chicken moist, sprinkle a little broth or water and cover it. You won’t need a lot of extra moisture for microwave cooking. If your microwave doesn’t have a revolving tray, be sure to rotate the meat for even heating. Let it stand for a minute or two after heating, as it will continue to cook for a bit. Just like with oven reheating, use a meat thermometer and heat poultry to 165˚F, ham to 145˚F.

Storing your turkey: It may be a painful thought, but if any turkey, stuffing, or gravy gets left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it needs to be thrown away. It’s better to waste food than to risk getting sick, especially over the holidays! Divide leftovers into small portions so they will quickly and evenly cool. Store in the refrigerator or freeze in appropriate containers.

Important Tips: Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing and gravy within four days. If you freeze your leftovers, use them within six months for best taste and quality. Not sure how long something’s been in the refrigerator or freezer? The old maxim still holds true: When in doubt, throw it out.

Best wishes to you for a safe and happy holiday season!

Summer and Water: They Go Together Like Peas and Carrots

Summer and Water: They Go Together Like Peas and Carrots

Summer has hit the Florida Panhandle with a vengeance this year! If you’re out in the heat it’s especially important to make sure to keep your body well-hydrated. After all, water is the single largest component of our body, and it’s essential for life.

Recommendations for how much to drink vary depending on several factors including your age, how active you are, how hot it is outside, what you’re wearing, and if you have certain medical conditions. A pretty good “ballpark” from the Institute of Medicine Food & Nutrition Board (IOMB) is to drink around 3 quarts of water a day for women and around 4 quarts for men. It’s important to start hydrating even before your feet hit the floor in the morning, because your body has been losing fluid while you slept. And if you can go more than 4 hours during the day without taking a bathroom break, you’re probably already dehydrated.

Boy drinking water from clear glass

Water: Drink Up!
Photo Source: Ginny Hinton

Why worry about dehydration? In addition to making you more at risk of overheating, dehydration can affect a host of different organs and functions in your body. For example:

  • Dehydration makes it harder for kidneys to flush toxins (poison) from your system, creating an infection-friendly environment.
  • When you’re dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker and your heart has to pump harder to move it through your veins. This can lead to higher blood pressure.
  • Dehydrated skin loses its elasticity and looks dry and flaky. Your sweat becomes more concentrated, making it harder for you to sweat as much as you need.
  • Dehydrated joints are more brittle and more likely to become inflamed or damaged.
  • When your body is low on water, it pulls too much liquid from the stool to use for other functions. That can cause constipation, in addition to inflammation throughout your body.
  • Moist mucus membranes in the nose protect you from airborne allergens. Dehydration can dry them out and make you more vulnerable to irritating allergies.
  • Dehydration makes you have less energy, and it also affects your mood and concentration. There’s a documented link between stress and dehydration.

The good news is that it’s easier to stay hydrated than you think. Water is a great way to hydrate, but it’s far from the only option. Watch the sugar and caffeine content when choosing other beverages, but milk, fruit juice, coffee and tea can all help you stay hydrated. The current guidelines to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of caffeine intake are to drink no more than 1/3 to 4 cups of coffee per day (depending on the caffeine content) and 1 to 8 cups a day for tea. You can cut the sugar content but still have a tasty beverage by mixing half sweet tea with half unsweet, by mixing fruit juice with water, and by drinking flavored carbonated water with a splash of fruit juice to substitute for soda. Even food can help you stay hydrated! Watermelon, for example, is 90% water. Citrus fruits have a high water content as well, and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce pack a powerful hydration punch.

As you get out and enjoy Florida’s sunny summer weather, just be sure to keep hydration in mind. Your body will thank you for it!

 

Blueberries: A Spectacular Summer Superfood

Blueberries: A Spectacular Summer Superfood

America’s favorite superfood is ripe in the Florida Panhandle! Well, it may not actually be everyone’s favorite, but it’s definitely a tasty superfood. Of course, I’m talking about the blueberry. If you love the sweet nutritious little blue fruit, now is the time to pick or purchase fresh from a local source.

Stem of blueberries in various stages of ripeness of stem with leaves around

Blueberries: Spectacular, Summer, Superfood
Photo source: Ginny Hinton

When it comes to antioxidants, blueberries are king. Antioxidants help protect our bodies from oxidative stress, which is linked to many diseases including arthritis, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. They also help strengthen our immune system. Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables.

Blueberries are high in fiber (about 4 grams per serving), vitamin C and vitamin K. Of course, they’re also low in calories. Blueberries are available fresh in the Panhandle from late May into June.

When you’re picking blueberries, look for ones that are firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned with a light greyish bloom. Stick to the deep blue ones for the sweetest flavor. Cover them and they’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to ten days, or they can be easily frozen. Put them in a single layer on a baking sheet or cookie tray and freeze, then store them in airtight, resealable plastic bags. That way, they won’t stick together and you can use just the amount you need. Once you thaw them out, just be sure to use them within three days. Store blueberries unwashed and don’t rinse them until you’re ready to use them.

Don’t love to eat them plain? Nutritious, delicious blueberries are great in lots of dishes. For a quick breakfast or snack, add them to yogurt or cottage cheese and enjoy! Use them to flavor pancakes, waffles or muffins. Add them to a green salad for a sweet flavor burst. However you eat them, know that you’re doing a good thing for both your health and your taste buds.

Enjoy blueberries!

Healthful – and Yummy – Holiday Treats!

Healthful – and Yummy – Holiday Treats!

Cranberries cooking

It may seem like the year has barely started, but the holiday season is here! A little bit of planning now can go a long way toward avoiding that, “I blew my diet and need bigger jeans” feeling. Believe it or not, there are holiday treats that are nutritionally guilt-free, as long as you don’t go overboard. As with so many other things, moderation is the key! Below are some classic holiday favorite foods with hidden health benefits:

Sweet Potatoes: It’s no secret that sweet potatoes are good for you – but they may have even more benefits than you think! Sweet potatoes contain a lot of Vitamin A. That’s a great source of alpha and beta carotene that helps keep your eyes, bones and immune system in top shape. Sweet potatoes are also one of the top food sources of potassium, with almost twice as much of the mineral as you find in a banana. When choosing sweet potatoes, look for ones that are firm with tapered ends and a uniform shape and color. Miniature sweet potatoes are fun and pack the same great health benefits.

Cranberries: Bright red cranberries are a little too tart to eat alone but they add a beautiful festive touch to any holiday table. With only 45 calories per cup plus a healthy dose of Vitamin C and fiber, they’re a winner all the way around. Cranberries also have more disease-fighting antioxidants than almost every other fruit and vegetable. Buy cranberries fresh in the fall and winter and use them soon, as they don’t last long. Store them in a tightly sealed bag in your refrigerator to keep them fresh longer.

Nuts: Yes, they’re high in calories – and fat – but nuts are also loaded with vitamins and minerals. Eating a handful of nuts a few times a week may lower your risk of heart disease. Nuts are full of antioxidants, energy and protein. Think of nuts, in moderation, as a Christmas gift for your body!

Cocoa: What better way to begin – or end – the day than a steaming hot cup of chocolate? Knowing the health benefits of cocoa give us even more reason to love it. Remember those healthful antioxidants? Dark chocolate is loaded with them. In fact, if you choose dark chocolate with a high percent of cocoa solids, you may help lower your blood pressure, improve your blood vessel health and control your cholesterol. So, give in to those chocolate cravings – in moderation, of course!

There are lots of ways to make healthier holiday dishes. Check with your local UF/IFAS Extension Office for delicious recipe ideas that won’t break your budget or your waistline.

Car Seats and Tethers: How, What and Why

Car Seats and Tethers: How, What and Why

As a child passenger safety technician/instructor for the past twenty years, I am always amazed at how quickly technology changes in the field. Both car seat and vehicle manufacturers are constantly testing innovations, making it difficult to know exactly how to properly use a car seat. One innovation that tends to give caregivers problems is the tether. Tethers are now a standard feature on every car seat and they are meant to be used with either the seatbelt or the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. Tether anchors are required in passenger vehicles made after 2001.

For most car seats, tethers are not meant to be used rear-facing. A rear-facing seat is designed to dip and rebound in a frontal crash, cradling and protecting its young passenger. It doesn’t require a tether to do its job correctly. Forward-facing seats are a different story and tethers make them safer by allowing less head movement and stress on the spinal cord during a crash. Especially in a frontal crash, a tether can prevent serious head and neck injury by securing the top of the car seat and preventing several inches of forward head movement.

A tether is a strap of webbing with a hook at the end. Tethers connect the top of the car seat to the vehicle. They should be used for every forward-facing car seat installation, regardless of whether LATCH or a seatbelt is used to secure the seat itself. Most tethers need to be tightened only enough to remove slack. The manual that comes with each car seat offers important information on how to attach and tighten the tether properly.

If you have any questions about car seats, ask a certified child passenger safety technician in your area. You can find one near you at http://cert.safekids.org/