Cranberries were likely a part of the Thanksgiving tradition dating all the way back to the very first one. Native Americans ate dried or fresh cranberries and they used cranberries for dye and medicinal purposes. They also used cranberries to make pemmican – a mixture of berries, dried meat, and fat. Pemmican was a common nutritional dish that could be stored for months. Cranberry sauce became commercially available in its familiar canned form in 1941. These jellied cranberries can now be sold year round. Dried, sweetened cranberries, or “craisins” are also available year round and make a great addition to stuffing and salads. Fresh and frozen cranberries can be found in abundance this time of year. The festive red color and nutrients make them a great addition to many dishes. They also make a great garland for indoor or outdoor trees and other greenery.
Today, cranberries are commonly used in a variety of foods and juices. They are high in Vitamin C and a good source of fiber. Cranberries contain phytochemicals and, as part of a healthy diet, may be associated with certain health benefits like reduced risk of chronic disease. Research on the effectiveness of cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections is inconsistent and it should be noted that cranberry juice may interact with some medications, so consult a health care professional.
Check out this video to make a simple cranberry sauce to add to your Thanksgiving table this year.
Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association: https://www.cranberries.org/history
Bulletin #4308, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Cranberries: https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4308e/
You can’t tell by looking if your food is done cooking. Using a food thermometer not only ensures your food is properly cooked to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria, but it also prevents overcooking. Check out this video for more information:
Is It Done Yet – Brochure
Proper Thermometer Placement – USDA placement
You have your frozen turkey. Now what? Plan ahead to be sure your bird is safe and ready to cook. Do not thaw your frozen turkey on the counter. All parts of the turkey must be kept at a safe temperature during the thawing process and cooked immediately after thawing. Use one or a combination of the following recommended methods:
Thaw your turkey safely. Photo Credit: Kendra Zamojski
Keep the turkey in the original wrapper, placing on a tray to catch any leaking juices. Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. For example, a 12-16-pound turkey may take 3 to 4 days to thaw. A properly thawed turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before cooking.
Thawing In Cold Water
Keep the turkey in the original wrapper and place in a larger sealed, leak-proof plastic bag. Submerge in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, until thawed. Allow 30 minutes per pound, so a 12- to 16-pound turkey would take 6-8 hours to thaw. A properly thawed turkey can be stored in the refrigerator.
When it’s Ready to Cook
When the turkey is ready to cook, don’t rinse it. You could splash salmonella and other bacteria around your kitchen. Cook your turkey to the proper temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure the inner thigh, the inner wing, and the thickest part of the turkey breast are all cooked to at least 165°F.
For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
UF/IFAS: Food Safety Tips for the Holiday Season
USDA: Let’s Talk Turkey
USDA: Tips and Resources for a Bacteria-Free Thanksgiving
Most foods freeze well. Pancakes are easy to make ahead and freeze for later use. Photo Credit: Kendra Zamojski
You get home after a busy day and now it’s time to figure out what to make for dinner. You open the pantry and the refrigerator in a search for something to make for dinner. Maybe you can’t find the right ingredients or you don’t feel like cooking, so you pick up the phone to order delivery. A little planning ahead, could help you save money and make healthier choices.
Meals that you can make ahead and freeze are great to have on hand for use on busy days. According to the USDA, most foods can be frozen. Canned foods and shell eggs should not be frozen. This is because liquid expands when frozen and can cause shelled eggs and metal cans or glass jars to crack or break. Instead, remove canned foods from metal cans before freezing. To freeze eggs, beat together yolk and whites for better quality; egg whites can be frozen separately. Some foods don’t freeze well like mayonnaise, cream sauces, and lettuce. These exceptions aside, make ahead meals are easy to freeze and convenient to have on hand.
Cooking ahead doesn’t need to be complicated. Start freezing leftovers for later use or try doubling recipes when you are already cooking. Soups, stews, chili, casseroles, sloppy joes, and taco filling are easy recipes to experiment with batch cooking. Freeze in airtight plastic or glass containers or freezer safe bags or packaging. If you freeze foods in glass or plastic containers, leave 1-2 inches of head space between the food and the lid to allow room for expansion. Use labels to identify the frozen products, including the date and any cooking instructions. Store food in the quantities that you want to use for later. For example, whole casseroles can be reheated for family meals or soups and stews can be stored in single-serving quantities for quick and easy lunches. Freeze quickly for the best quality and to reduce freezer burn.
When it’s time to thaw, plan ahead. Do not thaw foods on the counter. Cook frozen foods immediately after thawing. Use one of the following recommended methods:
- Refrigerator: Small quantities can thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Larger quantities may take a day or two.
- Water method: Place in a sealed, leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, until thawed.
- Microwave defrosting: Defrosting in the microwave can cause some parts of the food to start cooking. Be sure to cook foods immediately after thawing.
- Cooking from a frozen state: Casseroles and other prepared foods can be cooked from a frozen state. Plan for extra cooking time by adding 15 to 30 minutes to the cooking time. Use a food thermometer to be sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Never place a frozen dish in a hot, pre-heated oven.This could cause the dish to crack or break.
If you enjoy experimenting with batch cooking, there are a lot of great resources for make ahead recipes and weekly meal plans. For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office: http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/find-your-local-office/
Freezing and Food Safety: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/cce745c9-0fc9-4ce6-a50c-84363e5b5a48/Freezing_and_Food_Safety.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
Make Ahead Freezer Meals to the Rescue: https://extension.psu.edu/make-ahead-freezer-meals-to-the-rescue
Freezing Food for Multiple Meals: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/humannutrition/nutrition-topics/eatingwell-budget/makeaheadmeals.html
It’s still the dog days of summer so it’s hard to believe that the first day of school is right around the corner. Soon, the kids will be wrapping up the lazy days of summer and the fun of summer camps and family vacations to prepare for the back to school routine. Making school supply shopping a special event helps children get excited and ready for the new school year. Back to school costs can add up so be sure to have a plan.
Plan ahead for back to school savings. Photo Credit: Kendra Zamojski
- Create a list of back to school supplies and clothes. Check with your local school for a current list of required school supplies. Remember to include clothes, shoes, sports equipment, extracurricular activity supplies, and other school fees. Inventory items that you may already have from the last school year. Identify what items might be outgrown or need to be replaced and note what items are still usable.
- Determine a budget and stick to it. Involve children in creating a budget and making purchasing decisions to help them learn financial management skills. Shopping with children is great time to talk about needs versus wants and how to make buying decisions to stay within a budget. Children might be able to contribute some of their own earned money to buy school supplies or clothing.
- Take advantage of the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday. The State of Florida has declared August 2 – 6, 2019 as a Back to School Tax Holiday. Eligible items include: Clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $60 or less per item, certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item, and Personal computers and certain computer-related accessories selling for $1,000 or less per item, when purchased for noncommercial home or personal use. For a complete list of eligible items visit the Back to School Tax Holiday site: https://revenuelaw.floridarevenue.com/LawLibraryDocuments/2019/06/TIP-122444_TIP_19A01-03_FINAL_RLL.pdf
- Many stores offer back to school sales and deals. Grab sales flyers and shop around for the best deals. Thrift stores and consignment shops are some other alternatives.
For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/find-your-local-office/
For more information on back to school topics: