Friday, March 10, 2017

Keeping Fresh & Cooked Foods at Home Safely

What food groups are perishable, and what does that mean for our fresh market foods?

Perishable food groups are those likely to spoil, decay, and become unsafe to consume when not kept properly refrigerated at 40 degrees, or below or frozen at 0 degrees or below.

Bacteria exist everywhere in nature; in the air, soil, water, and the foods we eat. There are two completely different families of bacteria: pathogenic bacteria, that cause foodborne illness, and spoilage bacteria, bacteria that cause foods to deteriorate and develop unpleasant odors, tastes, and textures.

A refrigerator is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the kitchen for keeping foods safe, as refrigeration slows bacterial growth; and freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage, and foodborne illness.

Bacteria grows rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees, the ‘Danger Zone’. Some double in number in as little as 20 minutes, so foods that are left on the counter too long could look fine, but may be dangerous to eat.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service inspects only meat, poultry and egg products; and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA inspects other foods.

The USDA recommends fresh foods from our grocery stores and local green markets be kept refrigerated for safety, and best nutritional content. Those foods groups include all fresh dairy, fish, poultry and meat products, all cooked beans, grains, leftovers, and most greens, fruits and vegetables.

While doing research for this article we considered the USDA and FDA guidelines; relied on our 3 decade CIA expertise both commercially and at home, and considered that most people use a residential refrigeration system to keep their foods safe.

How long can you keep dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt in the refrigerator?
Once opened milk and ½ n ½ are best used in 7 days; buttermilk and heavy cream in about 2 weeks. Milk, buttermilk, or heavy cream may be frozen for up to 3 months. Sour cream is safe in the refrigerator about 1-2 weeks, but doesn't freeze well.

Harder cheeses like cheddar, gouda, parmesan, and Swiss can be stored in the refrigerator up to 4 months before opening the package, and 2-4 weeks after opening, and long as properly wrapped. They can also be frozen 3-6 months, but the texture will be effected.

Soft cheeses such as brie, cottage cheese, feta, or ricotta or can be refrigerated 1-2 weeks but they don't freeze well.

Yogurt can be stored in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks, or frozen for 1-2 months.

How long can you store seafood?
Raw fish and shellfish should be kept in the refrigerator only 1-2 days before cooking; frozen raw fish is best used within 3-6 months, and shellfish in 3- 9 months. After cooking seafood, it may be stored in the refrigerator 2-4 days. Seafood may become unsafe left exposed to the danger zone, and should be prepared or stored properly.

How long can you store meats and poultry?
Raw meats and poultry should be kept in the refrigerator only 2-3 days before cooking; and frozen meats and poultry are best used within 6-9 months. After cooking, meats and poultry may be stored in the refrigerator 2-5 days. Meats and poultry may become unsafe left exposed to the danger zone, and should be prepared or stored properly.

Eggs can be kept refrigerated 2-3 weeks before cooking, but they don't freeze well. After cooking they may be stored in the refrigerator 2-5 days.

How long can you store most greens, fruits and vegetables?
Leafy greens, lettuces, microgreens, and sprouts, are best stored in a crisper drawer or cool part of your refrigerator; are best used in 2-5 days, and special preparations are needed for greens that can be frozen as the texture will be effected.

Fresh berry varieties can be stored refrigerated 1-5 days; frozen berries are best used within 6-9 months.

All forms of citrus can be stored refrigerated 1-2 weeks as long as it’s uncut; it may be frozen, but the texture will be effected. When cut Citrus should be used in 1-3 days.

Fruits such as apples and pears are best stored in a crisper drawer or cool part of your refrigerator, and are best used in 1-3 weeks. Prepared frozen fruits are best used within 6-9 months.

Vegetables like, broccoli, corn, green beans, peas, and summer squashes, can be stored refrigerated
2 days - 1 week; and frozen are best used within 6-9 months.

Root vegetables such as, beets, carrots, potatoes, turnips, and winter squashes, can be stored refrigerated 1- 4 weeks; when properly prepared and frozen are best used within 6-9 months.

How long will cooked food stay safe in the refrigerator?
Refrigeration slows but does not stop bacterial growth, or nutritional loss, so using cooked leftovers within 3-5 days is optimal.

Keeping frozen foods.
When prepared frozen foods are kept in a separate chest or specialized freezer that is not opened frequently it can extend storage times for up to 12 months.

What are the safest ways to thaw foods?
There are a couple of safe ways to thaw food; in the refrigerator, and in cold water.

Planning ahead is the key when refrigerator thawing because of longer time involved, and it’s also 
the safest method. Small amounts of frozen food; like a pound of ground meat usually require a full day to thaw.

Cold water thawing is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. Foods must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water to cool every 30 minutes. Small packs of meat or poultry, about a pound, can thaw in an hour or less. When thawed completely, the food must be cooked immediately.

*Note We do not have/use a microwave in our kitchen so no methods are listed.

Special thanks to my dear friend ‘Lady Cupcake’ for requesting this information be posted.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mid Winter's Culinary Treat... Easy Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Easy to prepare, easy to store, easy to reheat; these little culinary delicacies’ will delight the palate and nourish the body. We’re natural and organic food fanatics, but whatever you find in your local market will work for this easy recipe.

You’ll need 4 fresh Portobello Mushrooms; cleaned, and stems removed and set to the side on an oven tray lined with parchment paper.

For the Stuffing; place the following ingredients in a bowl, drizzle the melted butter over the top, and mix to distribute ingredients evenly.
2 cups fresh Brioche, or Challah Bread crumbs
2 Scallions; cleaned, and sliced
4 cloves fresh Garlic; cleaned, and sliced
½ - ¾ cup Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled
½ cup fresh Pine Nuts
a pinch of any or all of these herbs: Marjoram, Oregano, or Thyme
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
2 generous tablespoons unsalted Butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
For assembly, you will need some Olive Oil to drizzle over each side of the mushrooms before stuffing. Divide your ingredients into 4 parts and cap each Portobello Mushroom with your mix, pressing lightly with your fingers to distribute evenly.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes until browned and bubbling, and mushroom is cooked. Serve hot as an appetizer, or with a meal; they’re tasty cold as a side or in a salad, and they reheat covered with parchment in the toaster oven/oven well.

#blackpepper #brioche #challahbread #culinarydelicacies #easyrecipe #easystuffedportobellomushrooms #garlic #gorgonzolacheese #healthyeating #livinggreen #localmarket #marjoram #midwintersculinarytreat #naturalfoods #noordinarychick #oliveoil #organicfoods #oregano #pinenuts #portobellomushrooms #scallions #seasalt #thyme #unsaltedbutter