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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Food Prep & Storage tips

If your like me and you make the effort to buy good-for-you eats: lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats, dairy, and whole grains; then you will want to make sure that you’re keeping your food as fresh—and safe—as possible! Read on for tips on how to store, prep, and cook your healthy foods!

Keep Produce Super Fresh

When you come home from the grocery store or farmer’s market, what do you do to make your tasty loot last? 

Not everything has to be stored in the fridge, but perishable produce does!

Fridge Items:

Leafy greens 
Summer squash
Pre-cut or peeled fruits and vegetables

Room Temp OK

Not everything has to take up precious fridge real estate these items are completely safe if stored at room temp!
Stash potatoes and onions in your pantry.
I personally like a cold apple so I do keep them in the fridge along with my cherry tomatoes but they are safe to keep outside the fridge if it's getting overfull!

Fridge Temperature

Look at your fridge temp—it should be 40 degrees F or below. 
The crisper bins in your fridge can become germ-ridden from dirt and bacteria that clings to fruits and vegetables. Clean crisper drawers monthly with soap and water, and wipe dry with a clean towel.
When I do a big fridge clean out I often take my Crisper bins right out of the fridge and put them into the bath tub to give them a good wash!  Then I can also clean under them as well. 

Safely Store Dairy

Milk, cheese, and yogurt provide an ideal environment for make-you-sick microbes to grow, so always keep these refrigerated. In fact, many experts recommend shopping the dairy aisle last to keep the amount of time kept at room temp to a minimum. Cheese is best kept at 35 to 45 degrees F, and it is suggested that storing your cheese in one of the crisper bins for ideal humidity/temperature range. Apparently with yogurt, it's not necessary to toss it just because the “sell by” date has come and gone. Containers stay good for 7 to 10 days after this date—so eat and enjoy. (Just if it looks curdled or has an “off” sour smell, by all means use your smarts and toss. Ick.)
Milk should be stashed on the fridge shelves (as opposed to the door; continual opening and closing—you know, when you want to take a peek to know what you have—speeds up spoilage). And get this, you can drink it up to one week past the sell-by date, as long as your fridge stayed cooler than 40 degrees F. BUT I know my hubby would never go for that! He is the type to toss it the day before it's expired.  
The old way to store butter was covered on the counter—and bonus, it always stays soft that way! This is how I usually store a small amount of butter.  But you’ll decrease bacterial contamination risk if you keep it in the fridge.  Take it out before you need it to make it spreadable if your concerned, but for me I like having a small amount ready to go in the butter dish on the table.  I always put the Butter dish in the dishwasher in between new batches to reduce contamination.  

Eggs Belong in the Fridge

My sister has chickens and I noticed that the eggs come in the house and get washed but don't always go straight into the fridge... it got me thinking.  Is it OK to leave them out for a few days?  Apparently many Europeans don’t refrigerate their eggs—they sit pretty on the counter. But that’s because of the differences in practices to safeguard eggs from salmonella between Europe and the US/Canada.  In Europe,  they treat eggs to destroy salmonella by vaccinating poultry, among other hygiene measures. For that reason, in the US and Canada you’ve got to store in the fridge asap. Keep them on the shelves (not in the door) and scramble, poach, fry, or cook with ‘em within three to five weeks.

Prep Everything Well

Rinse or soak all fruits and vegetables (yep, organic, too!) thoroughly under running tap water—scrub with a brush if you need to get in all the nooks and crannies. No need for fancy fruit and veggie cleaners, either. I usually bring all my produce home and soak it in the sink.  With berries like raspberries and strawberries I have learned to wait until I am ready to eat them as they start to mold much faster if you wash them and leave them.  
You also need to wash produce where you’re going to take the skin or rind off (like cantaloupe and kiwi). That’s because when you cut through the skin, you can easily transfer bacteria from the skin into the flesh via your knife.

Cutting Board Safety

You might have one main cutting board you love. If that’s the case, it’s time to find at least one more. Reserve one cutting board for ready-to-eat bites, like produce and bread, says the USDA, and another for raw meat and seafood. I have a main big wood board that we use for daily items like cutting cheese, bread, or produce and then I have a few plastic ones that I will use for meats. 
For easy clean up, I will throw plastic boards in the dishwasher. (Best to be totally sure, so read the care instructions first.)

Cook Meat Right

Your first move is to pay attention to the date on your meat—even meat you buy at the butcher’s counter in grocery stores will list a sell-by date on it. Ground meat and poultry can only hang out for 1 to 2 days, while steaks/chops/roasts last 3 to 5 days. And you’ve got a meat bin in the fridge for a reason (it keeps things all cool), so use it. Oh, and never, ever wash poultry. It just leaves your sink teeming with possible salmonella and other nasty microbes, ummm Yuck!

The next step is to thoroughly cook it the meat. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you have to heat it to submission (until all taste is gone). Because safely cooked meat can range in color (for example, chicken that’s cooked right can still look pink, or brown hamburger meat can still be undercooked), you want to use a thermometer to take the protein’s internal temp. You can find a handy chart of the proper temp to cook meat (and more) to at, but for a sneak peak: ground meat (160 degrees F), steak/roast (145 degrees F), chicken and turkey (165 degrees F), and pork (145 degrees F). 
Oh and get a fresh new plate to put the cooked burgers or just-right juicy chicken on rather than re-using the same plate.

Bread Storage

Bread is best stored in its original packaging, tightly closed with a quick lock or twist tie. Stored this way, most bread will keep fresh for several days at room temperature. In warm humid areas, where mold growth is a problem, it may be best to freeze the bread and defrost slices as needed.
Bread may be kept in the Freezer for up to 8 months. 
To refrigerate or not to refrigerate that is the question.... 
Ok so I have seen a lot of people who store their bread in the fridge. I have always stored mine at room temperature, so I had to look it up and see what the facts are. This is what I found...
Avoid storing bread in a refrigerator. The average temperature of most domestic refrigerators is about 41°F (5°C). This is the temperature at which bread stales most quickly. One day in the refrigerator is equivalent to three days at room temperature.
Good to know right!  

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