Friday, September 16, 2016

How long can you safely keep leftovers in the refrigerator?

The first step in having safe leftovers is cooking the food safely. Use a food thermometer to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe, minimum internal temperature.
Leftovers can be kept for three to four days in the refrigerator. Be sure to eat them within that time. After that, the risk of food poisoning increases. If you don't think you'll be able to eat leftovers within four days, freeze them immediately.
Food poisoning — also called foodborne illness — is caused by harmful organisms, such as bacteria in contaminated food. Because bacteria typically don't change the taste, smell or look of food, you can't tell whether a food is dangerous to eat. So if you're in doubt about a food's safety, it's best to throw it out.
Fortunately, most cases of food poisoning can be prevented with proper food handling. To practice food safety, quickly refrigerate perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs — don't let them sit more than two hours at typical room temperature or more than one hour at temperatures above 90 F (32 C). To prevent bacterial growth, it's important to cool food rapidly so it reaches as fast as possible the safe refrigerator-storage temperature of 40° F or below. To do this, divide large amounts of food into shallow containers. A big pot of soup, for example, will take a long time to cool, inviting bacteria to multiply and increasing the danger of foodborne illness. Instead, divide the pot of soup into smaller containers so it will cool quickly.
Cut large items of food into smaller portions to cool. For whole roasts or hams, slice or cut them into smaller parts. Cut turkey into smaller pieces and refrigerate. Slice breast meat; legs and wings may be left whole. Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator or be rapidly chilled in an ice or cold water bath before refrigerating.
Cover leftovers, wrap them in airtight packaging, or seal them in storage containers. These practices help keep bacteria out, retain moisture, and prevent leftovers from picking up odors from other food in the refrigerator. Immediately refrigerate or freeze the wrapped leftovers for rapid cooling.
When you're ready to eat leftovers, reheat them on the stove, in the oven or in the microwave until the internal temperature reaches 165 F (74 C). Because they may not get hot enough, slow cookers and chafing dishes aren't recommended for reheating leftovers.
To obtain additional information concerning food safety contact the Extension office at 940/627-3341.
Source: Mayo Clinic and USDA

Swine Project Workshop

If you are interested in having fun and learning responsibility, then showing a pig may be just what you are looking for.   For those who are interested in showing a pig this year at the major livestock shows or at the Wise County Youth Fair, you are invited to a swine project workshop.  The workshop is targeted to potential Wise County 4-H members who will be showing swine projects, but the workshop is open to everyone.  The workshop will start at 6:00 p.m. on September 27th at the Wise County Extension Office.

The workshop will be conducted by Carson Read, Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador, Shay Read, 4-H Swine Volunteer; and Todd Vineyard, Wise County Extension Agent, Agriculture/Natural Resources.  We will be discussing the upcoming opportunities you will have exhibiting swine at the Major Livestock Shows, particularly market barrows, and exhibiting at the WCYF.  You will also learn the following:

  • Project selection - the importance of choosing the right one;
  • Housing and facilities from simple to extravagant - how important good housing and proper care are for the health of the swine project; 
  • Feed and nutrition - remember you are feeding an athlete, nutrition is a key element;
  • Health management - very important to your project in meeting his full potential; and
  • Grooming, fitting and showmanship - very important to the success of a prize winning show barrow.
 The swine project can be one of the most rewarding projects you will work with. 

For more information on the 4-H Swine Project, please contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County, at 940-627-3341 or 206 South State Street, Decatur.

Is it Done Yet?

September is National Food Safety Education Month, so what better time to focus on the concept for ensuring the safety of your food. Everyone is at risk for foodborne illness. One effective way to prevent illness is to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, and egg dishes. Using a food thermometer not only keeps your family safe from harmful food bacteria, but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, giving you a safe and flavorful meal.
To be safe, these foods must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful microorganisms that may be in the food. “Doneness” refers to when a food is cooked to a desired state and indicates the sensory aspects of foods such as texture, appearance, and juiciness. This is unlike the temperatures which are required for safety.   
Following are the USDA recommended safe minimum internal temperatures:
  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
  • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
Food thermometers come in several types and styles, and vary in level of technology and price. A very simple, easy to use thermometer is the Instant Read" Bimetallic-coil Thermometers which measures the temperature of a food in about 15 to 20 seconds. It is not designed to remain in the food while it is cooking in the oven, but should be used near the end of the estimated cooking time to check for final cooking temperatures. To prevent overcooking, check the temperature before the food is expected to finish cooking.
For accurate temperature measurement, the probe of the bimetallic-coil thermometer must be inserted the full length of the sensing area (usually 2 to 3 inches). If measuring the temperature of a thin food, such as a hamburger patty or boneless chicken breast, the probe should be inserted through the side of the food so that the entire sensing area is positioned through the center of the food. Most models should be calibrated regularly to check for accuracy. Check the manufacturer's instructions.
Most likely the instructions will suggest either ice water or boiling water method. Many food thermometers have a calibration nut under the dial that can be adjusted.  My suggestion is to utilize the ice water method.
To use the ice water method, fill a large glass with finely crushed ice. Add clean tap water to the top of the ice and stir well. Immerse the food thermometer stem a minimum of 2 inches into the mixture, touching neither the sides nor the bottom of the glass. Wait a minimum of 30 seconds before adjusting. (For ease in handling, the stem of the food thermometer can be placed through the clip section of the stem sheath and, holding the sheath horizontally, lowered into the water.) Without removing the stem from the ice, hold the adjusting nut under the head of the thermometer with a suitable tool and turn the head so the pointer reads 32 °F.

Growth Promoting Implants: Don’t Overlook an Opportunity

Heavier is generally better, at least when it comes to calves.  And the easiest way to put on 20 pounds is to use an implant.  Implants are one of the most underutilized technologies.  One reason producers may not use implants is because they don’t know what they are. 

Steroids are implanted into the steer or heifer to help it gain more weight than a non-implanted beef would.  Implanted cattle show a 15 percent to 20 percent gain over non-implanted cattle.

There are three types of implants on the market – low and high dose estrogen, high potency trembolone and estrogen combinations.  Some are sex specific or age specific.

Implants work in conjunction with the animal’s feed program, working best when they receive proper nutrition.

For maximum implant benefit, calves should gain at least a pound per day while suckling on their mother. Generally, the faster the calves gain, the greater the implant response. 

There are several approved implants for nursing steers and heifers and for cattle in the feedyard.  Producers need to read implant labels.  Many implants should not be used on calves less than 30-45 days old.  Implanting prior to that time, such as at birth, has been shown to cause fertility problems in heifers intended for replacements.  No implants are currently labeled for use in bull calves intended for future use as herd sires. 

At a recent cattleman’s clinic, they demonstrated the best techniques for implanting cattle.  The proper place for implantation is the middle third of the backside of the ear.

 First and foremost, producers need to keep instruments clean.  I recommend using an old paint tray and a kitchen sponge.  Add a small amount of disinfectant and run the needle across the sponge between animals.  A major cause of implant failure is because of improper needle disinfecting.  The sponge may also be used to wipe the surface of the ear clean. 

The second most common reason for implant failure is when the implant gets inadvertently crushed due to forceful administration.  It is best to withdrawn the needle slightly as the implant is deposited to avoid crushing it.  Some companies also manufacture a special implant gun with a retractable needle.

A third reason implants often fail is because someone gets in a hurry.  Instead of putting it under the skin, they put the needle all the way through the ear and it just shoots out.

After the work is done, cattle producers should clean instruments and protect any leftover implants.  Implants are degradable.  Keep them stored in an airtight, waterproof bag or container in the house – don’t throw them under the truck seat.

Additional information on implanting including a complete list of approved implants can be obtained at the local county Extension office.

Five Days of 5 Food Groups Lunch

Last week we focused on the importance of breakfast for our school age children, but we don’t want to forget about planning for a nutritious lunch as well.  For parents whose children do not want to eat the meals served at school, providing a well-balanced, healthy, and appetizing selection of foods that can be kept cool until eaten can be a challenge. To help answer the question, “What can I pack that won’t spoil by lunchtime and contains healthy foods that my child will eat?”  Here are 5 ways to fill lunch boxes with all 5 food groups for a week’s worth of different lunch ideas!
By combining whole grains with low-fat cheese, yogurt or milk, and adding in a fruit and vegetable, we are able to fill lunch boxes with all five food groups in a week’s worth of different lunch ideas from AgriLife Extension’s Dinner Tonight program!
·         Traditional-Sandwich with turkey breast and reduced-fat cheese on whole wheat bread, serve with  unsweetened applesauce, carrots with low-fat ranch dressing, and low-fat milk box.
·         Traditional with a twist- ham and cheese roll-up: slice one piece of reduced –fat cheese in half and roll each half in a slice of deli ham, secure with a toothpick and serve with whole wheat baked pita chips and sliced cucumbers with hummus, and 100% juice.
·         Lunch on a Stick- Using a kebab skewer alternate cheese cubes, sliced turkey breast, and sliced cherry tomatoes (makes 2), serve with orange slices, granola bar and bottled water.
·         Finger Foods- Sliced low-fat turkey pepperonis, sliced low-fat cheese, whole wheat crackers served with blueberries, celery sticks with hummus, and a milk box.
·         Try Something New! Half a whole-wheat pita filled with your child’s favorite lunch meat and low-fat cheese, served with yogurt, snap peas with ranch dressing, and 100% juice.

It is also important to consider food safety. Keep cold foods like meat, eggs, lunch meat, cheese, milk, cut fruit and cooked pasta, vegetables, and rice cold. Use insulated bags, ice packs, freezer gels, or frozen juice boxes. Keep foods like soup and chili hot with a wide mouth insulated bottle; pour boiling water into the bottle to heat the inside. Then heat the food to 165 degrees F. Drain the boiling water from the bottle and replace with the hot food.