November 22, 2011

Throw Out Your Leftovers Day

Nan Jensen RD, LD/N Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pinellas County Extension

There are a number of “food, nutrition and health days, weeks and months” to celebrate throughout the year. There is a day for eating red apples, chocolates, guacamole, and cookies, a month for eating ice cream and one for bringing awareness about diabetes and heart disease. Mark November 29 on your calendar and get ready to recognize “Throw Out Your Leftovers Day”. That is the day you need to throw away whatever is left over in the frig from the Thanksgiving feast. And “some” leftovers should be eaten or thrown away even earlier than that. 

Leftovers can become dangerous to eat if they are not handled and stored properly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than a half million cases of foodborne illness are caused each year just from improperly handled turkey leftovers. Foodborne illness (food poisoning) can strike anyone but young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older adults, and persons with weak immune systems are especially vilnerable. Handling leftovers safely is one way to prevent bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness. 

To begin, put all leftovers away promptly. Remember the 2-Hour Rule Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 °F. Discard all perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F. Cool any leftovers quickly in small shallow, airtight containers. Hot food left in larger, deeper containers can take a long time to cool. Putting leftovers in small, shallow containers allows the cold air to circulate around the containers to cool all of it more quickly. Again, the longer food remains warm, the greater the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. 

The following is a list of selected cooked leftovers and recommended refrigerator storage time. Consider freezing these foods if you want to keep them longer. 
  • Gravy and meat broth- 1 to 2 days 
  •  Cooked meat and meat dishes- 3 to 4 days 
  •  Cooked turkey and poultry dishes- 3 to 4 days 
  •  Cooked vegetables- 3 to 4 days 
Other food safety tips

  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Remove turkey from the bone and store it separately from the stuffing and gravy. Sliced breast meat, legs and wings can be left whole.
  • Use an appliance thermometer to ensure that your refrigerator is always 40° F or below.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165° F.  Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.  Sauces, soups, and gravies should be reheated by bringing them to a boil.

November 17, 2011

Give Us Your Input Today

Your opinion counts! We need your help to do the best job possible. Pinellas County Extension strives to deliver the most current information on topics that are important to you. Each year we evaluate our efforts to provide up-to-date, research-based information to our community. To help us deliver what is valuable to you as our reader, we would like you to take a short survey. Please select the link below to access the online survey. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and your responses will be anonymous. Please take the survey today!

Thank you for your time and continued support.

November 16, 2011

Gopher Weedon 7 Km Trail Run

Gopher Weedon 7 Km Trail Run Benefits the Friends of Weedon Island Saturday, November 19th, 2011; 8:00 AM 
Tired of pounding the pavement on the same ole’ 5K race course? Go-pher something different and enjoy 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) of natural trails through one of Tampa Bay’s hidden gems! 
The Gopher Weedon 7 Km Trail Run will wind runners and walkers along well-maintained dirt and boardwalk trails through mangrove forest and scrub habitat, including gorgeous water views. This unique, professionally-timed race will be held on Saturday, November 19th at Weedon Island Preserve - a 3,700 acre preserve nestled along Tampa Bay in northeast St. Petersburg. Space is limited, register online today.
Proceeds will benefit the Friends of Weedon Island, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting environmental preservation and education at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. 
Registration ($30) includes a 1-year membership to the Friends of Weedon Island, Inc. (FOWI) and a race T-shirt. Special thanks to our sponsors: Publix, Farese Physical Therapy, Road ID, The Fresh Market, and Progress Energy.

November 14, 2011

Decorating With Holiday Plants, Inside and Out

Theresa Badurek, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service

Did you know that there are live Christmas tree farms here in Florida? To find one near you please visit the Florida Christmas Tree Association website. Buying a Florida tree supports local farmers and can provide you and your family a more traditional holiday experience. Christmas tree farms are “green” too- they provide green space preservation that also consumes carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the environment. Many farms even have areas where you can choose and cut your own live tree. Not only will you create memories, but your fresh cut tree will last longer than one cut weeks before and shipped long distances. 

 The types of trees grown in Florida are different than those available on your typical Christmas tree lot full of northern varieties. The most common trees grown in Florida on Christmas tree farms are: Red Cedar, Virginia Pine, Sand Pine, Spruce Pine, Arizona Cypress and Leyland Cypress. I can tell you from personal experience that the sand pine makes a great traditional looking Christmas tree that will last long after Christmas is over. When your celebrations are done and the decorations put away, please remember to recycle your tree.
Sand pine grown in Florida on a Christmas tree farm.

Another great “green” choice for Christmas trees are living trees that you can plant in your landscape after the tinsel and ornaments have all been taken down.  One example is a small rosemary tree for tabletops.  For more info on their care, click here

If you are interested in something larger, you might consider one of the species listed above that are grown on Christmas tree farms.  Be sure that you have the appropriate growing conditions and ample space for the mature size of the tree you choose.  Once the holidays are over you can plant the tree in your yard, and this is a great time to do so because January is the best time of the year to plant trees in Florida.  Be sure to purchase your tree from a nursery.  Do not dig up a wild tree as it is likely that transplant shock will kill the tree.  They are also not as likely to have that traditional Christmas tree shape most people are looking for.   While the tree is inside you need to keep the soil moist to ensure that the tree keeps growing.  For all kinds of information about Christmas trees, both living and artificial, please visit UF's Solutions For Your Life
Rosemary Tree

Other Popular Holiday Plants

There are several popular options for indoor plants for the holidays, ranging from the traditional to some more modern choices.  Poinsettia is a traditional holiday favorite.  These plants come in a variety of colors to suit your holiday decorating needs.  If your holiday Poinsettia comes in a container wrapped in a foil outer cover, be sure to remove it or punch holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain.  Keep the soil around your poinsettia slightly moist, but not soggy, and place the plant in a bright window out of direct sunlight.  Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are non-poisonous and non-toxic, however, some people may be sensitive to the latex in poinsettia sap.  Even though eating even a large number of leaves will not result in illness, the plant is not considered edible.  If brought indoors it should be kept out of reach of children and pets.  After the holidays these can be planted in your landscape.   These plants are photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering. Click here for more information on poinsettias and planting in the landscape.

Another traditional holiday plant is the flowering holiday cactus, the Christmas cactus and the Easter cactus.  The Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, usually flowers from Thanksgiving to Christmas and its leaves have pointed lobes.  The Easter cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii, has wider leaves, which are rounded, flowers from Christmas to Easter.  Allow soil to dry out between watering and keep the plant in bright light while in bloom.  These are long-lived plants and can be kept outside in the shade during most of the year.  These plants are also photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering.  They do need to be protected from frost and freezing temperatures.  All parts of this plant are poisonous, so keep out of reach of pets and children.  Click here for more information on Christmas cactus.

Photo courtesy Okeechobee County Extension

Kalanchoe, a winter blooming succulent, has become popular as a more modern holiday plant.  The showy flowers are in terminal clusters and last for several weeks.  Flower colors are yellow, pink, red, and various shades of orange.  Since this is a succulent plant, let the soil dry out between watering.  If grown in the landscape, kalanchoe prefers light, sandy, open, well-drained soils and is moderately salt tolerant.  These plants are also photo (light) sensitive and uninterrupted periods of dark (starting in early September) initiate the bloom.  Artificial light at night from a porch, street, or window light will offset the flowering.  They are well suited to a rock garden or container garden.  Here in Pinellas County they may be cold tender and will require cold protection during frost or freeze conditions.   Click here for more information on kalanchoe.

Happy Holidays!