We believe that eating together is one of the most important things a family can do. But, dinnertime can also be the busiest time of day. This blog is an opportunity for us to share tips and ideas about delicious food, saving time, and connecting with each other. We encourage you to join the conversation and share your ideas.

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Cooking your bird, regardless if it is a chicken, turkey, duck or any other bird, cooking it slow can make all the difference between an undercooked or overcooked piece of poultry, thus ruining your juicy, tasty and succulent dish. Not to mention, we know an undercooked piece of poultry can get you very sick. So what is the best way to broil, grill or even roast your various birds? Here are five tips or methods to cook your bird safely and properly, bringing the flavor and taste to a new level of deliciousness to your favorite forms of birds.

How to Roast

To get started, preheat your oven for about 10 minutes and then roast your bird with the skin side up. For some really great flavor, before starting your roast, rub some herbs on your bird. Then for a more accurate reading, use a thermometer that can instantly read the inside temperature of the bird. Insert your thermometer halfway into the bird, but be sure it is not touching the bone or you may get an inaccurate reading. Once done, remove it from the oven and allow the bird to rest approximately 10 to 15 minutes before slicing into it. Cover it loosely with an aluminum foil tent.

If you are roasting a whole turkey, If you want a more tender meat, as well as reduce shrinkage from the loss of moisture, be sure to preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (163 degrees C) then cook your turkey for 15 to 18 minutes PER POUND. Stick your instant-read thermometer into the thigh and if it reads 180 degrees F (82 degrees C), your bird is ready.

If your bird is stuffed, allow an extra 20 minutes and check the stuffing’s thermometer reading. It should be at 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).

How to Broil and Grill

You will want to broil your bird on a rack at least six inches from the heat and the bone side should always be broiled first. You will only have to turn your meat over once and you should leave the skin on throughout the cooking process. The skin serves as a sealant to keep the juices in that allows the meat to be tender. Cook the bird until the skin is crispy.

You will know the bird is done when the juices run clear and the meat inside is no longer pink. For your larger birds or bird pieces, use a thermometer. It will be done if it reads 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) in the thigh piece, 165 – 170 degrees F (74 to 77 degrees C) for the breasts.

One note to know, boneless pieces of poultry takes half as long as bone-in pieces.

How to Saute

To sauté your poultry, you do not want to add water or cover it up, and you will want to use a small amount of butter or oil. Cook over medium-high heat quickly and allow for sufficient moisture to prevent the poultry from toughen up.

A couple of notes to be aware of:

- Boneless, skinless birds are easy to overcook, so watch it carefully and keep them moist.

- Dark meat cooks longer than white meat, so you will want to separate the parts. You can add your white meat to the sauté about 5 minutes after the dark meat starts.

How to Marinate

Probably the best way to marinate poultry is to put your bird in resealable bags with your marinate mixture and place it in the refrigerator. You never want to marinate poultry in room temperature or you may be inviting bacteria to the party, so always marinate them in your refrigerator. Make sure you squeezed out as much air as possible and turn your bag over several times. While whole chickens usually take up to 12 hours to marinate, your boneless, skinless pieces of bird takes only about a quarter of that time, or 3 hours.  

Other Poultry Tips

If you are going to fry a whole chicken or turkey, you have the option of keeping it whole or doing it in parts. By separating the bird, it will cook faster. Be sure not to put too much oil in your pot for it will rise when placing the bird into it. If your oil overflows, it will catch fire quickly. If it is your first time doing this, consult your instruction manual as many have been badly burned. However, a fried bird is incredibly juicy and delicious.

Truth be told, the expiration dates that you see stamped on the items you find in your grocery store are not the final date of usage before it is no longer good to consume as many food or drink items are still safe sometime after those dates. So that leads one to question, “If I am unsure of the expiration date stamps, then what is considered too expired to eat or drink?”

Below is a great guide to actual expiration dates that you can rely on. These numbers are based on the recommend refrigerator setting of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Fruits – Always keep your raw fruits in a separate bin container to avoid the absorption of odors or contaminates. To avoid fruits going bad eat your:

- Apples within a month

- Apricots, pears, plums and grapes within five days

- Peaches within two days

- Strawberries will go bad within three days

- Citrus’ like lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits within two weeks

- Melons will vary on the type of melon, for example, honeydews within two days, cantaloupes three days and watermelon up to five days

- Bananas and avocados are best stored outside the refrigerator for 3-5 days, otherwise, if you store them, especially after opening their peels, in your fridge, they will darken sooner.

Vegetables – This is where the most confusion takes place. Vegetables go bad? Yes, and different kind have different lasting periods. For example, shredded lettuce leafs, especially iceberg lettuce, will last for three to five days before they start to get soggy, while your broccolis will last about two weeks. Squash and zucchini can go about a week, sometimes two, but winter squash can last about three months. For the frozen versions of these and other vegetables, they will last an additional 8-10 months in your freezer. Oddly enough, canned vegetables will last up to two years after their expiration dates.

Cheese – This will depend on the hardness of the cheese. Your harder cheeses such as parmesan will last to about four months after their sell-by date. The semi-hard cheeses like swiss and cheddar generally last closer to two months, while curds (gorgonzola, havarti and muenster) will usually last two weeks after. Feta and brie, and other softer cheeses, will last only up to a week after the date.

Eggs – This depends on how you have your eggs. For example, hard boiled eggs that are still in shells will last you a week, while if they are peeled then only five days. So it is a good idea to dye your Easter eggs less than a week from your hunt. As for your raw eggs, they can remain good for up to as many as five weeks.

Milk – Your most common milks available, such as whole milk, one and two percent, skim and non-fat can last past their sell-by dates by as much as a week. Lactose-free will last a little longer, 10 days. Organic milk will last even longer due to the non-pasteurization process.

Ground Meats – Any ground, raw meats, such as beef, turkey, chicken or even shrimp, that is older than a day, maybe even two, needs to thrown out.

Seafood - Although the taste and smell might seem like it is bad, but a fish that is properly cooked and then cooled will be ok up to six days and maybe even a day or two afterwards. Sushi however, being that it is in a raw state, should never go past a day, two days at best. Shrimp, that is older than a day, maybe even two, should be thrown out.

Stews and Soups – Regardless of the type of stew or soup you make, and what the ingredients are, you should never keep stews or soups any longer than four days in your refrigerator.

Pork and Chicken – Properly pre-cooked and cooled chicken or pork can last up to four or five days, however raw products are a different story. If you have pork cuts, whole or half chickens or raw chicken parts, like cutlets, they should not be in your refrigerator longer than two days.

Red Meats – Many of your raw red meats will last a little longer than your chicken and porks. In fact, steaks, chops of beef, roasts, lamb and veal will usually last about five days before needing to be tossed. If you refrigerate them after cooking then they can last about another three or four days.

Besides for safety reasons, if you follow the above guidelines, and eat your food earlier, you will have tastier meals as well.

July 9th, 2014

Espresso Barbecue Sauce

We love to try new sauces. We found this one by Cheryl and Bill Jamison that sounds like it would be great over our Burnett Pork Baby Back Ribs….

1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil

1 1/2 cups Chopped Onion

4 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 Serrano Chile, minced

1 cup Ketchup

1 cup Brewed Espresso

1/4 cup Distilled White Vinegar

3 Tbsp. Unsulfured Molasses

2 tsp. Chile Poweder

1 tsp. Kosher Salt

1 tsp. Sugar

1/4 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the oil. Add the onion, garlic and serrano and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook the sauce over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Scrape the sauce into a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the sauce to mellow.

(This sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. makes 1 1/2 cups. Found in June 2014 issue of Food & Wine)

Bon Appetit!

Buying frozen foods have always had the stigma of unhealthiness, often due to preservatives and sodium. However frozen foods have been getting a bad rap and if you know how to buy frozen foods correctly, you can often have meals that are healthier than homemade.

Veggies, Veggies, Veggies

Suggestion: Vegetables have no nutritional difference between frozen or fresh. In fact, frozen vegetables often contain more nutrients than fresh because the nutrients were contained during the freezing process where as fresh can lose nutrients through water loss.

Keep Walking: Frozen entrees that are rice or pasta based, mixed with cheeses and topped with sauces. Calories on these meals can double those that exclude these options, while the sodium can reach as high as 600 milligrams.

Our Tip: Increase nutrition by adding frozen vegetables to your various meals or dips.

Not your parent’s TV Dinners

Frozen entrees have never been intended to replace freshly made meals, but when you’re in a pinch for time, they have survived the test. In addition, studies have shown that they may actually be helping people lose or control weight. Now, thanks to such TV shows as Top Chef and other reality cooking shows, the challenge to create tastier and healthier options for frozen entrees is a hitting the display cases thus bringing you better options to your frozen meal compared to the frozen Salisbury Steak.

Suggestion: Watch for keywords on the packaging, but also be aware of them too. The word “healthy” on the packaging should be a good indicator for good nutritional options are included in that meal. Choose frozen entrées with a maximum 3.5 grams of fat per 100 calories, and no more than 600 milligrams total sodium. Also opt for zero MSG or trans fats.

Keep Walking: Frozen meals that are loaded with calories and fat content. Be sure to understand the serving size as listed on the food label. Some frozen entrees can be as high as 700 calories – per serving! Many of the frozen meals includes pasta, such as lasagna or penne, so be aware of the carbohydrate content of your meal. Vegetarian entrées are not always as healthy as you may think too. Meatless meals often contain large amounts of cheese.

Our Tip: Although many of the frozen food entrées are 300 calories or less, women often require meals that should be closer to 400 calories. Adding another item to your meal like some vegetables, or other side dish can fulfill that limit, and in a healthier way.

Fruit Is Nature’s Medicine

Suggestion: Simple fruit is usually the best choice. However if you opt for bagged fruit, choose those that come in bags that you can reseal, otherwise bagged fruits won’t last as long. Bags that reseal often prevent ice crystals from forming, which usually means your fruit has become dehydrated.

Keep Walking: Any fruits that are pre-packaged with added sugar, such as fruit sitting in syrup. The sugary syrup can have as much as up to 11 times the sugar as natural, unsweetened fruits.

Our Tip: If you are going with frozen fruits, your better options are blackberries, cherries and mango chunks. Frozen fruits are also great blended into smoothies.

Satisfying your sweet tooth with Desserts

Walking down the dessert aisle of your store’s frozen food section can be awfully enticing. However selecting items from this area doesn’t always mean it has to be bad for you. Of course avoid such items as the ice cream that comes in giant tubs or all the layered cakes and donuts, but many companies are now offering products in individual portions that will limit your amount of caloric intake. In some cases manufacturers are now offering healthier items and in smaller portions.

Suggestion: Look for individual packaged frozen desserts that are 150 calories or less, such as a frozen yogurt or fruit sorbet. Other choices are sugar free popsicles or specific companies that specialize in fat free or diet desserts.

Keep Walking: Look at the ingredients. If you see items that use artificial sweeteners or are high in fructose corn syrup are often the unhealthiest. Watch for calories and fat content, but be sure to figure in the serving size listed on the package.

Our Tip: If you’re the person who wants the most out of your calories, and have to satisfy your sweet tooth, consider mini ice popsicles. You can find them with as few calories as 15-50 calories, so you have the option of having one or splurge and two or three.

We are now a nation that is more fixated on eating out at restaurants or fast food places than ever before, and thus the onslaught of health issues stemming back to the lack of nutrition and the increase of calories, fats, carbohydrates and sodium, to name a few. If we were to go back to our roots and eat less on the road and more at home, we can save our own lives.

Research has shown that back in 1900, only two percent of meals were eaten somewhere other than at home, while in 2010, that rose to 50 percent. Of that 50 percent, 20 percent of breakfasts were from McDonalds alone.

Here are six tips that will assist you in bringing back the family mealtime.

1. Educate yourself on how to Grocery Shop and Cook

Start by learning how to read food labels for the best way to find out if the foods you are buying are a healthy choice. Learn to shop the perimeters of your grocery store because they are usually the healthier items. The aisles often have boxed and canned goods, using preservatives to allow them to keep for long periods of time. Also, if buying bread, don’t be fooled by the term Wheat Bread. Be sure it is 100% Whole Wheat. Check the food label and if processed flour is listed as one of the top ingredients, then it is not wheat bread, but white bread with coloring. Don’t be fooled into marketing strategies and do your due diligence.

Learn how to properly cook the foods you buy and the different techniques to do so. It isn’t difficult to do once you got the hang of it. Keep meals simple and clean; clean meaning healthy.

2. Take back your Kitchen

Keep the healthy and toss out the bad. The occasional snack for your kids isn’t a bad thing because you never want to completely deprive them, but increase their snacks with fruits instead of processed food items. Toss out foods that are high in fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats. Also if the food label shows that fat or sugar is listed as one of the top two ingredients. Stock your pantry and refrigerator with fresh, whole, real, local foods. Then get creative with your cooking. Many neighborhoods have farmers markets or they can be found on the weekends.

3. Eating as a Family

It’s simple. Regardless of how busy your schedules are, make time for family dinners or lunches on the weekends. Make it the same time each day or create a fun way to have meals at different times, but just do it. Sit together and spend time communicating with each other. Only have the television on if it’s a special situation, otherwise turn off the technology and social network with each other.

Studies have shown major differences in our children for those who have these type of family meals compared to those who don’t.

4. Do your part and Recycle

There are many ways you can do your part in the environment when it comes to your shopping or with items that you have used from your meal preparation. For example, you can bring your own shopping bags when you do your grocery shopping in lieu of plastic non-biodegradable bags. You can also recycle your newspapers, bottles, cans, and other plastic items.

5. Plant your own Garden

One of the best ways to control what is used on your fruits and vegetables is to grow your own garden. In fact, you can also use the uneaten portions of your fruits and vegetables, and other food related trash and start a compost bin to make your own mulch to use as soil in growing your own garden. This is one of the more nutritious ways of eating healthy foods. Not to mention, the tastiest.

6. Investing in Quality Foods

Studies have shown that Americans currently spend less than 10 percent of their paychecks on food, while most European’s average about 20 percent on their food purchases. Why? They buy better quality of food and food from the local farmers and markets, and not on fast food restaurants. The better quality we eat, the more nourished our bodies will become. It’s no surprise that the better quality of food eaten by European’s has led to lower insurance rates because illnesses from poor nutrition or obesity is much lower than it is in America. Besides, investing in our food properly will save us a lot of money over our lifetime.