Gobble Gobble Gobble!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for a number of reasons, including spending time with family, friends and enjoying some wonderful food. We usually have about 30-40 family members meet at a cabin and enjoy an evening feast. Everyone brings a dish and there is always a waltz in the kitchen as dishes vie for oven space, turkey is carved and all the food is set on the table while it is all hot. It takes a great deal of coordination but we somehow manage it every year. Of course I’m the one that is watching to make sure food is at the proper temperature and how long the food stays out.

I’m always thankful every year that no one gets sick. Foodborne illness is no laughing matter and Thanksgiving is prime time for it to happen if you aren’t vigilant about food safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 76 million Americans get a foodborne illness each year, 30,000 of which require hospitalization and almost 5,000 die. I would love to know how many of those cases correlate to major holidays and family gatherings.

To keep you or your loved ones from becoming a foodborne illness statistic, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Plan your menu carefully and pay attention that you aren’t overloading your kitchen equipment (i.e., don’t plan all dishes that need to be cooked in the oven if you only have one oven).
  • Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf on a clean pan or tray. Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds.
  • Keep raw meat separate from other foods and wash your hands before and after handling all foods as well as moving between different cooking tasks.
  • Invest in a good meat/food thermometer and use it! For a turkey, the deep part of the thigh (not touching the bone) should measure 180 degrees F and the stuffing 165 degrees F to ensure that everything is cooked thoroughly.  All leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees F.
  • Food can only be kept out for 2 hours or less before being chilled. Make sure you remove the stuffing and meat from the bone before chilling. Put all leftovers in shallow containers to make chill time faster.
  • For more turkey food safety, go to: http://www.eatright.org/kids/article.aspx?id=6442459968

Need some ideas on what to do with leftovers, go to http://www.eatright.org/kids/tip.aspx?id=6442459987 for some inspiration. One of my favorites is turkey pasta primavera. Just use lowfat cream cheese, or better yet, plain non-fat Greek yogurt in its place with lowfat milk to cut down on the calories and fat content.

What are your favorite holiday dishes?