Cooking at home — keep your harvest for holidays safe, festive

Published Nov 26, 2017 at 9:00am

Food is a large part of holiday gatherings. Buy food safely, prepare food carefully, and serve it properly. Follow these simple rules to keep your family and friends healthy and happy after your holiday gatherings. 

Wash, separate, cook, refrigerate. It’s the mantra of food safety. When raw foods like meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs come into contact with cooking surfaces, utensils and other foods, they can leave invisible bacteria behind, resulting in cross contamination.

Follow these 10 simple separating tips, and cross contamination doesn’t stand a chance: 

• At the grocery store – wrap raw meat, poultry and seafood in plastic bags from the produce department to prevent juices from leaking onto other foods, and choose packaging that is well sealed and not leaking. Loading meat, seafood poultry and eggs into the top basket of your shopping cart can keep their juices from leaking onto other foods. Then, at the register, place them in a different shopping bag or tote than other foods. This helps keep cold foods chilled until you get home, and it simplifies unpacking too. 

• When unloading groceries – You may not realize it, but your produce drawer is one of the germiest places in your fridge. In addition to cleaning it weekly with soap and water, store fruits and vegetables in individual plastic bags to keep them safe from yeast, mold and microbes. If you normally wash produce when you get home from the supermarket, make sure to store it in fresh clean bags instead of the original ones. 

• In the fridge – prevent juices from meat, poultry and seafood from leaking onto other foods by storing them on the bottom of your refrigerator in individual plastic bags or in their own containers. Keep eggs in their original disposable carton on the shelves, instead of in the refrigerator door. 

• During prep time – Investing in two different cutting boards, one for produce and one for raw meat, poultry and seafood can go a long way in preventing cross contamination in your kitchen. Since grooves from old cutting boards can harbor bacteria, replace cutting boards as soon as they become worn. 

• When marinating – Leftover marinades from grilled meat, chicken or fish can be swimming with bacteria, so be sure to toss the excess when you’re done. If you want to brush marinade on cooked meat, set a small amount of the marinade aside before you add it to the raw meat. Then later, when you brush it on use a fresh, clean brush. 

• At the stove – Stirring spoons, serving forks, slicing knives and plates used to hold raw food can be coated with bacteria. Be sure to replace or wash soiled utensils and plates as soon as they come into contact with raw food, and always serve cooked food on a clean plate. 

• On the go – Cross contamination doesn’t just happen in the kitchen. Lunch boxes and bento boxes can harbor bacteria too. Keep them clean by washing them with warm, soapy water after each use. And keep foods the proper temperature by using thermal containers and cold packs. 

• Wash your hands – Hand-washing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, according to the CDC. Wash hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. 

• Buy and use a food thermometer – The only way to determine if harmful bacteria have been eliminated is to cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature. Always use a food thermometer to ensure food is fully cooked. Don’t rely upon sight, smell or taste. 

• Safely store leftovers – Perishable food should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of serving or throw them out. In hot weather, when 90 degrees F or above, toss within one hour of serving. Use an appliance thermometer to check that the refrigerator is cooling to 40 degrees F or below and the freezer is 0 degrees F or below. 

Try this warm soup ready to enjoy in less than 30 minutes for an easy meal for family gatherings.

Broccoli Soup with Lemon and Chives Recipe: 

Soup 

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced 

1 yellow onion, chopped 

8 cups chopped broccoli 

4 cups water 

1 can (15 ounces) white beans, rinsed and drained 

salt and pepper, to taste 

Toppings 

3 tablespoons lemon juice 

1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt 

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives 

salt and pepper, to taste 

In soup pot, sauté oil, garlic, onion and broccoli about 10 minutes, until tender. 

Add in water and beans. With hand blender, puree half of the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix lemon juice, yogurt, chives, salt and pepper. Drizzle on top of warm soup, and serve. 

Enjoy your holiday gatherings!