Dealing with Unwanted Holiday Guests – Avoiding Food Poisoning


Bring the turkey to temperature using a thermometer.

There are many hazards to watch for during the holidays, and while most of us think about drunk drivers and being trampled at the big box store, food safety can affect all of us.

If we are the one preparing the food, we are the one under pressure to get everything done at the time promised, especially if people are hungry, and may take short-cuts during preparation. Or, we may want to just relax after dinner and put the food away “later.” While this may be the fast-track to lose weight post-Thanksgiving, some people may have other plans for their holiday weekend instead of recovering from the food poisoning they got from the holiday meal.

One of my favorite cooking tools is my instant read thermometer. I don’t go by color or pressure (though sometimes a toothpick works, if I am baking). The instant read thermometer is my go-to tool during cooking. I also have a handy electronic meat thermometer that I use so my meat doesn’t become over-cooked and I don’t have to keep opening the over-door.

While it is likely too late to tell you not to leave the turkey out on the counter to defrost it, or even in the garage (in some places this could be okay, though it isn’t recommended) or inside the dryer for the quicker defrost (still not recommended, since you may have to explain this to the repair-person unless you used the drying rack). You can call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line® at 1-800-BUTTERBALL for help in this issue.


  • Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F. While your turkey may have come with one of those cute, red pop-up indicators, it is better to use a food or meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey.
  • Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If you have stuffed your turkey, the center of the stuffing must also reach 165°F. (If your bird has reached the 165°F, you can remove the stuffing and cook/bake it separately until it reaches 165°F on its own so your bird doesn’t get over-cooked and dry.)
  • Some meat, even in poultry, may still be pink, but it is safe to eat as soon as all parts of the bird reach at least 165°F.


While we like to linger at the table, relax in the living room, or even go outside and play, put off doing the dishes is okay, but putting off clearing the food away is not a good idea.

We need to refrigerate promptly! There are three numbers we need to remember:

  1. 2 hours: Refrigerate cooked foods, including the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and everything else within 2 hours after cooking. Keep track of how long foods have sat on the table and discard anything there two hours or more. To help extend this 2 hour serving time, put things out at the last-minute, and only put out as much as necessary.
  2. 3-4 days: Place leftovers in shallow containers and use within 3–4 days. Come Monday night, if you still have any Thanksgiving leftovers, guess what’s for dinner? After dinner that night, toss it.
  3. 165°F: Reheat all of your leftovers to minimum internal temperature of 165°F. You often hear “140°F” for food safety, this is the temperature for the first go round. For reheating leftovers, it’s higher…

One of the other great tools you can use is the freezer. If you realize that there is just too much food to plow through in your four-day window – ull out the ziptop bags and markers (to note the date) and freeze your turkey, potatoes and other holiday faves for next week, next month, or next April.

Happy Thanksgiving and hoping it is bacteria free!


Holiday Dinner Guest and Diet Restrictions


Having guests? Have a plan for their dietary restrictions.

If you are hosting Thanksgiving this week, have you dared to ask your guests if they have any diet restrictions? A friend was telling me about her family gathering that included vegetarians, a family member with a wheat allergy, and another with a dairy allergy. Oh, and a couple of family members were diabetic.

What to do with so many dinner guests and their diet restrictions?

  1. Ask! When you invite people over, especially if they aren’t family, or are new family members, ask if they have diet restrictions that you should know about. Even with you usual family, double-check – you don’t want to forget that your niece has the nut allergy and cook the chestnuts in the stuffing inside the turkey. Then she may not eat the stuffing or the turkey due to cross-contamination.
  2. Bring a dish to share. Not sure how to make a gluten-free pie crust? When your guests say, “what can I bring?” invite your guest that is now eating gluten-free to his or her own pie, so they can have some dessert too and so everyone can see how tasty it is. And now, one less thing for you to worry about.
  3. Integrate the “special” food into the meal. Rather than making the mashed potatoes with milk, try it with olive oil (instead of butter) and soymilk (instead of milk or cream). This will fulfill the needs of both the vegetarian and the dairy allergy. And, don’t make two separate batches, just the one for everyone will do. We don’t need to make our guest feel like they have “special needs.”
  4. Include veggies! Whether someone needs low-fat, wheat-free, dairy-free, diabetic-friendly, or all of these, fresh or steamed seasoned veggies will fit the needs for everyone (green beans are always safe!) and it will help balance out the carbohydrates of the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and stuffing.
  5. Offer alcohol and soda-alternatives! Stay in the Thanksgiving mood with cranberry juice, a squeeze of lime and seltzer and even the kids will think they are toasting with the adults. Also, plain water will do just fine too.

While we want to accommodate all of our guests, we don’t want them to feel left out either. Make everyone fit in as best as you can and try not to have the separate dishes for someone unless it is essential. Just keep in mind that some people do have very specific diet restrictions, and they aren’t all in their head (usually).

If you are hosting Thanksgiving this week – good luck to you. And enjoy the time you have with your friends and family however many you have coming over. And, please, leave the cleaning to someone else!

Lost Kitchen Appliance Update


Homemade Pasta on the Drying Rack

Six months ago I posted about some of my long-lost kitchen appliances. Today, I give an update and introduce my new favorite appliance.

Honestly, some of these appliances I consider seasonal, but that is my personal quirk. The bread machine, waffle iron and Crockpot/slow cooker tend to be winter appliances. However, my blender is definitely a summer appliance: smoothies for breakfast in summer, but not so much in the winter. It isn’t that I don’t use these items in the opposite season; they just tend to be used so much more in their “season.”

The long lost kitchen appliance that has gotten the most use in the last couple of months: the pasta machine. Something we received in 1994 had gone into hibernation for about 8-9 years. We hadn’t used it in this house and we moved here in 2003. I usually have one pasta dish each week, always store-bought. One day my husband suggested we make pasta. After searching for the original recipe (cleverly store in the box with the pasta machine) I mixed up a double batch in the KitchenAid mixer using the dough hook (life-saver). Cranking away and having noodles on the drying rack – half the batch ended up in the freezer for later use and half in the fridge to eat that night. A couple of weeks later, I search the freezer to find no pasta. Someone cooked it up for lunch one day and ate it all. So, this past Sunday, I made another double batch no one in the house knows about and put both in the freezer. The family won’t know until it is time to pull it out to cook it.

New Member to the Kitchen Appliance Family

Right before Memorial weekend, I got a new appliance. Actually it is an appliance accessory: ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. I am so excited about this accessory that I have made 8 batches of sorbet/ice cream in the last 6 weeks.

I grew up with homemade ice cream during the summer. We had the hand crank with the ice and rock salt. The rule of the house was that if you didn’t crank, you didn’t get ice cream. About 16 years ago I acquired a hand crank ice cream maker, and never used it. Too much time, too much work, and it held a lot of ice cream. (We are a pint family, not a half-gallon family.)

The new toy is fun and I love experimenting with the various recipes I have had to set aside over the years because we didn’t have an ice cream maker/freezer.  Three flavors are  in the freezer now: Tequila Lime Sorbet (my son’s favorite), Lemon-Buttermilk Ice Cream (my favorite), and Salted Caramel Ice Cream (my husband’s favorite). Those favorites are based on what is in the freezer. The Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet and Rum-Macadamia Ice Cream were also fantastic.

Sadly, though, I am sure this appliance will take a back seat once the cold weather arrives. But for now, my entire family is enjoying its “newness” and the benefits that go with that.

No affiliation with KitchenAid. It is just that their Cobalt is my kitchen color.


No Longer Living Among Pyramids


In a show of “who’s-who” among nutrition nerds, this morning registered dietitians, nutrition students and other public health professionals gathered around their respective computers to watch the live stream of the USDA’s announcement of the new food icon.

Since 1992 we have lived on the land of the Pyramid. The original black background Food Guide Pyramid was replaced in 2005 with the colorful, rainbow My Pyramid but neither was very clear consumers what is all means.
The “big reveal” this morning wasn’t so much a surprise, as a big relief. The new food icon for the U.S. is a plate! Something every single American can understand. No more pyramids or triangles with confusing lines, but an icon that a child can understand.

The “plate-method” is something that many of us dietitians have used and teaching for a while, years. Just ask my clients and student about my funny so, called circles I would draw to resemble a plate.

Here is the gist of the new food icon, now called ChooseMyPlate:

  • One-quarter of your “plate” or meal should be protein. This means lean beef or pork, chicken or turkey, fish or shellfish, or vegetarian alternatives such as beans, tofu or nuts. Fried? Rarely to never.
  • One-quarter of your meal should be whole grains or your starchy vegetable. This includes whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole wheat rolls or bread, or even the baked potato.
  • One-half of your plate should be a variety of vegetables and fruit. It can be several fruits and vegetables or just two, but it should be half of your meal. Yes, really.
  • Also, on the side, choose a serving of low-fat or non-fat dairy – a glass of milk or some yogurt (with your fruit).

The cool thing about teaching this method to help people eat healthier is that is works for dining out too. I tell people all the time to visualize the plate when they eat out.

Here is how:

When you sit down to eat at a restaurant many times they bring you bread (or chips and salsa) – there is your “grain” or starch. Even if your grains aren’t “whole” every time, it should be most of the time.

Then you get your salad – a veggie.

Now to order your main course: you will get a lot of protein (it happens), usually enough for three or four servings, so take some home. I know most people won’t but it is what I suggest. So, what side do you order, thinking about the “plate” icon? Not the rice (it usually isn’t better) or the potato (remember the bread you already had). That’s right: the steamed vegetables.

So to get the dairy – order the cheesecake or crème brulee for dessert. But share.

Think about the ChooseMyPlate icon with each meal, and then make choices with that in mind. It will help you get your fruits and veggies that everyone needs more of.

While the new food icon isn’t perfect, most of us can truly understand a plate icon over a pyramid icon.

Now if we can actually have our food on plates instead of wrappers and push that plate away more often we would be better off.


Meat and Cancer


Recommendation for this: none

A recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) reiterates their suggestion that we limit red meat and avoid processes meats to significantly reduce our risk of colorectal cancer.

“There is strong evidence that red and processed meats are causes of bowel cancer, and that there is no amount of processed meat that can be confidently shown not to increase risk.”

This is based on many published studies over many years.

What is “Red Meat”?

Red meat refers to the meat of mammals: beef, pork, lamb, etc. Generally I suggest the guideline if it has four legs then it is red meat. Pork is red meat, despite its appearance and marketing of the term “the other white meat.”

What is “Processed Meat”?

All meat is technically processed, meaning it is cut and cleaned before it is ready for consumer use. However in this case, processed meat refers to meats that are cured, smoked, salted or have added preservatives. This includes ham, sausage, bacon, salami, bologna, hot dogs, etc. Many deli meats also fall into this category.

How Much?

When it comes to processed meats, the WCRF recommends “very little if any.” Having the hot dog or two at the ball game or the summer holiday weekend once or twice a year may not be too big a deal. Bacon, sausage, or ham for breakfast daily could be problematic in the long-term. Still eating bologna sandwiches? Perhaps you should stop that.

As for red meat, it is recommended that we consume no more than 500 grams a week, and less than 300 grams a week is preferred. How does that translate to the real world?

Here you go: 500 grams is just over one pound. That works out to a 3-4 ounce serving no more than five days a week.

What does 3-4 ounces look like? A deck of playing cards is about the size of 3-ounces. The diameter and thickness of a woman’s palm is what a 3-4 ounce hamburger patty looks like.

Do you need to cook the 18 ounce steak and eat if all for yourself? Uh, no you don’t. Really you don’t. And you shouldn’t.


No you are not. If you want to do 5-6 ounces three times a week that is fine. Have chicken, turkey, or fish on the other three or four days. Even better have a “meatless” day or two or three with beans as your primary protein source.

I had a burger yesterday/Sunday after a 30 mile bike ride.  We don’t have red meat on the menu until Thursday this week. By the end of the week I will have eaten no more than 10 ounces of red meat or less than the 300 grams recommended.

It is entirely possible for a die-hard carnivore to cut back on daily meat-eating habits. It just takes time, and, not deprivation, but moderation.


New Way to Search for Recipes!


Ready to cook, but need a recipe? Check out Google's new tool.

“I need ideas for recipes.” As my clients start on their quest to eating healthier, they often ask me for recipe ideas. All they think about is protein, vegetables and starch, but don’t have any idea on how to make something other than “broiled chicken.”

Admittedly my two favorite recipe sources are Cooking Light and Eating Well (magazine and website) for healthy recipes, or at least recipes with nutrition information. While I have no connection to these periodicals, I am quite dependent on them. There are good recipes in there.

In the past, I have also mentioned to my clients that they can “Google” various food ingredients with the search term recipe and often find recipes to match what is in their fridge/pantry.

Starting today, Google has a new option: enter ingredients or foods in the search box. At the bottom of the left column is the “Recipe” option. Below you may choose extra ingredients, choosing a cook time and a calorie range. For those with time restrictions this is great! Just a note: my experience is that is the time is for an experienced cook. I always suggest adding about 15 minutes to the time if you are new to cooking.

Here are a couple examples of my searches: I entered “frozen cherries” and the results give me many cherry dessert recipes. Adding “smoothie” changes the results to many smoothie recipes. Another search for “Greek yogurt” yields recipes of all types; from savory dishes to dessert.

The only drawback I found was that recipes couldn’t be filtered by “course” the same way that ingredients, time and calories can. However, I found that adding “main dish,” “salad,” or “dessert” to the search bar does the trick.

Try it out: go into your pantry and fridge, pick a few items and see what comes up. It could be interesting.

The ever clever people at Google have provided another great tool for us. Let me know how you like it.


Could You Be Vegan?


People who follow vegetarian diets aren't "automatically" healthy.

Today’s Oprah episode is the vegan challenge: “Oprah and 378 Staffers Go Vegan.” No meat, no milk, no animal anything…  It is really a “challenge” to be vegan?

There are many types of vegetarianism, but people don’t always know that. When someone tells me they are vegetarian, I respond, “What kind?” Sometimes I get funny looks, but there are several types and people have their own twist on vegetarianism that doesn’t meet the true definition. Here are the types:

Vegan: eat no animal products; no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs. Some do not eat honey either, and technically shouldn’t wear silk, leather or wool. It takes some work initially as well as you being a part-time investigator, but it can be a healthy.

Lacto-vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish or eggs, but will consume dairy products.

Ovo-vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish or dairy, but will eat eggs.

Lacto-ovo vegetarian: no meat, poultry, fish, but will eat eggs and dairy products.

Pescetarian: no meat or poultry, but will eat fish, eggs, and dairy products. This is not really a form of vegetarianism, but some pescetarians call themselves vegetarians.

Semi-vegetarian: no “red” meat, but will eat poultry (sometimes called a pollotarian). Not really a form of vegetarianism, strictly speaking.

Flexitarians: meat-eating vegetarians. It seems like an oxymoron, but it refers to people who eat mostly a vegetarian diet, but will include meat once in a while. For example, if they are a guest in someone’s home or a special event, they don’t put up a stink about meat in the sauce or the offer of “burger or hot dog’?

People choose vegetarianism for many reasons, from ethics, religious, animal rights, and health. However, if one does not carefully plan their vegetarian ways they could compromise their health with nutrient deficiencies. Becoming vegetarian, in any form, does not ensure a healthy or healthier diet. Even a vegan can have a very unhealthy diet.

Years ago, I did an analysis for a vegan client. He had energy bars three to four times a day, dozens of pieces of hard candy, and 48 ounces of orange juice. Occasionally he would get mashed potatoes or a vegetable from the cafeteria at work. He never had any more fruits or vegetables, no grains, and no protein other than the minimal amount in the energy bars.

Going from being a meat-eater to some form of vegetarianism, whether a semi-vegetarian or a vegan, I have found for many people is best tackled in stages. Start with cutting back on meat and poultry and including more beans, nuts, and meat alternatives such a veggie crumbles and tempeh. Including fish, dairy and eggs helps ensure enough essential nutrients through the transition. After several weeks or several months, cut back or remove fish, and if you choose, cut back on eggs and dairy. Always make sure you include lots of fruits and vegetables.

Going vegan takes some practice if you eat meat regularly. It is a choice. And, as mentioned it takes being a part-time investigator. Not everyone understands or respects the vegan diet choice, so they may tell you something is vegan when it isn’t. Be informed if being 100% vegan is of utmost importance. I broke it to a vegan friend that Guinness is not vegan-friendly. She was immensely disappointed.

Could you be vegan? Would it be a “challenge” for you?