What s in your refrigerator? Perhaps there are remains of last weekend s Easter dinner, part of an entree in a take-home box from Monday night s restaurant meal, and assorted odds and ends.
Maybe you re using that ham for lunches, ham salad, or scalloped potatoes. Consider Grilled Ham, Brie, and Blue Cheese Sandwich as a twist on the classic ham sandwich. A tablespoon of apricot or peach preserves adds nice flavor to ham and cheese. Or add a little bit of ham to Ham and Corn Muffins in a recipe that s simple enough for kids to help make, from Ready, Steady Spaghetti: Cooking for Kids and With Kids, by Lucy Broadhurst (Andrews McMeel Publishing).
Consider making deviled eggs from leftover Easter eggs. They also make a great snack for adults and children. Try Deviled Eggs with Green Olives, a recipe from Rachael Ray s Big Orange Book (Clarkson Potter) which has 10 different recipes for Stuffed Eggs.
Perhaps you have a rotisserie chicken or roasted turkey breast already cooked in your refrigerator. Chicken Salad Verde is a great recipe. It s easy and colorful, with a bright look. It calls for the meat from two rotisserie chickens but can be adapted to leftover chicken or turkey.
These times of economic uncertainty mean more people are economizing and trying to stretch their food dollars. This includes cooking and eating more meals at home and making wise use of leftovers.
According to the Food Marketing Institute U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2008 report, 71 percent of consumers surveyed cook more and eat out less. FMI trends also showed 58 percent report eating more leftovers or using leftovers to make other meals.
That s not a bad idea. But it is important to follow food safety, which includes eating, freezing or discarding refrigerated leftover food within three to four days, according to the Partnership for Food Safety Education.
Temperature and time cause bacteria to grow, which is why it is so important your refrigerator be cold enough and you do not keep leftovers too long, according to Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership.
When storing and heating leftovers:
Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
Temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees allow for bacteria to grow rapidly. Refrigerate cooked leftovers promptly within two hours, or one hour when temperatures are over 90 degrees. Use an appliance thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is always 40 degrees or below.
Divide leftovers into smaller portions and store in shallow containers in the refrigerator. Hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator.
Leftovers should be reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees use a food thermometer to check. Sauces, soups, and gravies should be reheated by bringing them to a boil.
When microwaving leftovers, make sure there are no cold spots where bacteria can survive. Cover food, stir, and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking. Reheat to 165 degrees as measured with a food thermometer.
Buying in bulk
Sometimes buying larger quantities of food saves money. Large packages of perishables like raw ground meat and poultry products can be refrigerated one to two days but then should be cooked or put in the freezer. Frozen meat and poultry should be consumed within three to nine months.
Fresh vegetables can be stored up to five days in the crisper or produce drawer of the refrigerator immediately after purchasing. To prevent wilting, wash lettuce just before eating. Tomatoes continue to ripen after harvesting and should be stored at room temperature, not refrigerated.
Eggs should be kept in the original carton in the refrigerator.
Store bread in the original package at room temperature and use within five to seven days. Bread stored in the freezer will have a shelf life of two to three months.
Bottled salad dressing can be kept in the pantry unopened for 10 to 12 months, depending on the best if used by date on the label. Once a bottle is opened, store in the refrigerator no more than three months (check the expiration date).
Keep spices in a dry place away from heat or light. Replace if aroma fades. Whole spice can be kept for a year, and ground spices will keep for six months. Spices may be frozen for longer storage.
Always read the labels and look for the dates on packaged foods. There are four dates that manufacturers use:
wPack date: The date the food was packaged or processed.
Sell-by date: Tells the retail store how long to display the food for sale.
Best-if-used-by date: The food will be of its highest quality or flavor if consumed before this date. Foods may be safely consumed after this date if they are handled and prepared properly and show no signs of spoilage.
Expiration date: The last day the food should be eaten. Discard foods not consumed by this date.
Kathie Smith is The Blade s food editor.
Contact her at: email@example.com or 419-724-6155.