Holidays Are Here

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Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is literally right around the corner. Having a menu for each meal and shopping ahead for ingredients, especially for popular items such as spices, are great ways to reduce some of the stress that comes with preparing holiday feasts. Keeping your food safe is also important.

Let’s talk about the star of the traditional Thanksgiving meal – turkey. No matter how you decide to cook your turkey – fried or roasted, stuffed or unstuffed – it’s important to prepare it safely. The key is to make sure you are preventing the growth of harmful bacteria that can lead to food-borne illness, which can be done by following these preventative steps:

  • When purchasing a fresh turkey, check the packaging for leaks and keep it separate from other items in your shopping cart. Once you have it home, leave the turkey in the bag and place in a pan or on a tray (to prevent dripping) on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Do not keep the turkey in the fridge for more than 3 days.
  • If you’ve purchased a frozen turkey in advance, the best way to thaw a turkey is in the fridge. This ensures the turkey is being thawed at the same rate on the inside and outside. Of course, this takes a little planning ahead of time. The general rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours per 5 pounds of meat, so it would take a 20-pound turkey at least 4 days to thaw. Keep turkey in original packaging and place in a pan or on a try on the bottom shelf of fridge.
  • Don’t wash the turkey. Bacteria, such as salmonella, cannot be simply rinsed off and can transfer onto your kitchen sink and splash to other surfaces. Also, be sure to clean up and sanitize kitchen surfaces and utensils used while preparing the turkey
  • Use a thermometer to make sure the turkey is done. Check the temperature of the turkey using a digital thermometer in 3 spots: thickest part of the breast, innermost part of the wing, and innermost part of the thigh; temperature must be above 165°F.
  • Don’t let the turkey or any leftovers sit out at room temperature. Leaving leftovers to set out allows for the growth of harmful bacteria, and it’s important to get them in the fridge as soon as possible. Dividing up leftovers into small portions will help cool food down once in the fridge.

Now, if you’re like me and my family, there is always tons of leftover turkey. Here is an easy recipe to put those leftovers to use:

Turkey Tetrazzini

Ingredients

  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces spaghetti, cooked
  • 3 cups cooked turkey, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 10.5-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Grease 9×13 baking dish.
  3. Brown green pepper and onion in pan over medium-high heat. In a large bowl, mix turkey, celery, soup, and mushrooms (including liquid). Add onion and pepper mixture and spaghetti and combine. Pour mixture into baking dish and top with cheese.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly.

For more information, please contact Jessie Jones, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at Jessie_Jones@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.