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Simple tips for the best Thanksgiving

            “What if, today, we were grateful for everything?” asks Charlie Brown.

 

You don't need to be a beloved cartoon character to understand the meaning of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks seems like an excellent goal for this year's celebration … and every day, really. Here are some important steps for a healthy, delicious and memorable holiday.

First, be safe
Millions of Americans will be celebrating this Thanksgiving. Foodborne illness is a real concern. So, let's make sure everybody enjoys the meal and doesn't get ill.

From safely thawing a turkey to making sure it's properly cooked, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers a range of tips to keep your holiday safe. (One hint: take care with the stuffing). The USDA's famous Meat & Poultry Hotline will remain open on Thanksgiving Day until 11 a.m. PST; their team of experts is on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Want a little extra help? If you've never cooked a turkey, Noelle Carter breaks it down for you in this brilliant step-by-step primer; it appears in the Los Angeles TimesThe New York Times has created an interactive menu planner that factors in the number of guests, dietary preferences, your cooking experience and provides a game plan for the big day (tips, recipes, etc). It's useful...and fun!

No, Thanksgiving feast would be complete without pie. Whether you're a sweet potato or pumpkin pie fan, good crust is essential. Making a good pie crust isn't rocket science...but it does involve molecular science. In this video, University of California researcher Amy Rowat uses science to show you how to make the best pie crust ever.

Second, savor the meal

Did you know that there's a science to eating? Before you pile lots of food on your plate, take time to consider these seven steps from University of California scientists and researchers; they will assure that you savor every bite of your meal.

 

Third, don't waste

Enjoy your meal, but make it a point to reduce food waste this holiday season.

UC ANR researcher Wendi Gosliner of UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute recently shared this information about #foodwaste:

“Food waste presents a major challenge in the United States. Estimates suggest that up to 40% of the food produced nationally never gets consumed, causing substantial economic and environmental harms. Wasted food utilizes vast quantities of precious land, water and human resources, yet rather than nourishing people, it feeds landfills, producing methane gasses that poison the environment. Much of the food waste (43%) occurs at the household level.”

 


We sought out experts from UC ANR's Master Food Preserver Program for advice on how to use leftovers. Some takeaways: refer to this food storage chart to determine how long you can safety store leftover food. For more tips, click here. Leftover turkey can be used to make a delicious homemade stock that can serve as the base for additional meals. We provide a recipe and information about how to safely preserve stock here.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving, the staff of UC ANR wishes you a safe, happy and healthy holiday.

 

Editor's Note: UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers and educators draw on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. We operate the 4-H, Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver Programs. We live where you live. Learn more here. Are you a #veteran or #beginning farmer interested in learning more about poultry production? UC ANR is co-hosting a series of poultry workshops beginning in December and throughout 2017. Get the details here.

Related Reading:

Learn more about native and indigenous foods from Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Tribe in the Pacific Northwest; the post appears on the UC Food Observer blog.

Posted on Friday, November 17, 2017 at 8:24 AM

Thanksgiving persimmons are autumn joy

When the weather cools in the fall and the holidays draw near, orange orbs ripen on persimmon trees in California to offer a fresh autumn sweetness in time for Thanksgiving recipes and holiday décor.

At the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center (SCREC) in Irvine, a collection of 53 persimmon varieties are at their peak in November when the public is invited for tasting and harvesting at the annual persimmon field day.

“We want to raise awareness about persimmons,” said Tammy Majcherek, SCREC community educator. “It's a beautiful tree and a great addition to any landscape. Persimmon trees provide shade in the summer, healthy fruit in the fall, then drop their leaves and allow the sun's warmth to come through in the winter. It's a win-win situation as far as landscape trees go.”

Visitors are briefed before entering the persimmon variety block to taste and harvest persimmons.

The persimmon collection came to the research center in the 1960s, when the late UCLA subtropical horticulture professor Art Schroeder arranged to move his collection of persimmon varieties to another venue because the pressure of urban development at the Westwood campus became too great.

Persimmons are native in two parts of the world, China and the United States. The Chinese persimmon made its way to Japan, where its popularity soared. The American persimmon comes from the Southeastern United States, however, most California persimmons trace their lineage to Asia.

California leads the nation in persimmon production, according to the California Department of Agriculture Crop Report, but with a value of about $21 million in 2012, it represents just a small fraction of the state's $19 billion 2012 tree fruit and nut value.

A display of fuyu-type and hachiya-type persimmons helped participants distinguish which fruits are ready to eat.

Nevertheless, to the visitors who came out to tour UC's collection at SCREC, persimmon is a choice fruit. Participants on the early-morning VIP tour received a large shopping bag to fill with various varieties of fuyu and hachiya persimmons. Fuyu are flat, yellow-orange fruit that can be eaten right off the tree like apples or allowed to mature to a super-sweet soft pulp. Hachiya are redder, heart-shaped and astringent when not fully ripened. “If you bite it, it will bite your mouth right back,” said one participant.

However, after ripening to a jelly soft pulp or dried, the hachiya is equally delicious.

Shirley Salado, supervisor of the UC Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program in San Diego County, attended the persimmon field day to collect persimmons and information about the healthful fruit.

Shirley Salado, the UC Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program supervisor in San Diego County, attended the persimmon tasting to gather fruit and information for her education program.

“The fuyu is great to eat,” Salado said. “When they ripen and become very soft, you can put the pulp in a blender and then freeze in zipper bags to add to healthy smoothies.”

Salado collected two large bags of persimmons to share with her nutrition education staff.

“Not everybody knows about these,” Salado said. “This gives them a chance to look at the fruit. This is what we promote.”

Jean Suan, right, plans to dry her persimmons using the traditional Japanese hoshigaki method, in which the whole fruit is peeled, as shown on the left, then hung on a string outdoors. For several weeks, the fruit is massaged every few days, until the sugars form a frost-like dust on the surface. The result is fruit with date-like texture and strong persimmon flavor.

Following the tour, coordinator of the UC Master Food Preserver program at SCREC Cinda Webb demonstrated safe consumption by making cinnamon persimmon jam, dried persimmon chips, and a gourmet persimmon, basil, beet and rice salad.

UC Master Food Preserver coordinator in Orange County Cinda Webb, right, and Master Food Preserver Mabel Alazard, make persimmon jam.
 
Cinda Webb adds persimmons to the salad. (Recipe below.)

Wild or brown rice persimmon salad

4 cups wild or brown rice, cooked
2 Fuyu persimmons, chopped
1 cup cooked, chopped beets
1 cup basic, chopped
8 oz feta cheese
½ cup orange cumin vinaigrette

Vinaigrette (makes about 1 cup)

½ cup orange juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1½ tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Whisk together vinaigrette dressing ingredients
  2. Stir basil, beets, persimmons and feta into rice and toss with ½ cup vinaigrette.
  3. Top with persimmon slices and extra chopped basil for presentation.
A member of the Rare Fruit Growers Association, Dewey Savage, showed a fuyu persimmon with browned flesh. The browning is caused by alcohol released by the seeds inside the fruit. The alcohol neutralizes tannins that make the persimmon astringent. The natural chemical reaction results in sweeter fruit.
 
UC Master Gardener volunteers prepared persimmons for the variety tasting.
 
 
Participants evaluated persimmon varieties based on attractiveness, astringency, sugar, flavor and overall performance.

 

Posted on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 8:02 AM

Why you should 'know beans' about beans

Navy beans, soaked overnight and ready to cook. The name is derived from the fact that they were a staple food of the U.S. Navy in the early 20th century, according to the California Dry Bean Council. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you say "I don't know beans" about beans, you ought to.

Beans are one of civilization's earliest cultivated crops, dating back to the early seventh millennium BCE. Today there are more than 40,000 varieties of beans worldwide.

Beans can also have a place on the Thanksgiving table. The Maple Spice blog for vegans shares a meat-free substitute for turkey that combines mashed white canelli beans, nutritional yeast, vital wheat gluten and spices to create a loaf that slices like turkey breast. UC CalFresh, one of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' nutrition education programs, developed a recipe for black bean and mango salad that makes a healthful and colorful accompaniment to a traditional Thanksgiving meal. (The recipe is below.)

"Not only are beans a healthy food choice, but they are also a healthy choice for our world," said UC Cooperative Extension advisor and dry bean expert Rachael Freeman Long. "Beans fix most of their own nitrogen so require fewer inputs for production compared to other sources of protein and they're cheap! Plus some, like garbanzos, are grown during the wintertime, so they're less dependent on irrigation."

The different varieties of beans include garbanzos (chickpeas) as well as black eyes, limas, and common beans like pintos and kidneys.

You probably won't find a bigger fan of beans than Rachael Long. "I eat them at least once a week or more," she said. "I love going on our Cal Beans website and getting new recipes. Summer time, I love beans on my salad, especially garbanzos. At this time of year, I love soups with beans. My favorite is the kale white bean sausage soup. If I want to go vegetarian, I'll leave out the sausage or sometimes fry up some tofu sausage for flavor. And, it just so happens that this is the soup in the current bean blog. I got the original recipe from one of our nutrition staff at our office."

Yolo County Farm advisor Rachael Long in a dry bean research field at the University of California, Davis. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Long says that Cal Beans is an important site for bean growers and industry folks, too. "It's supported by the California Dry Bean Advisory Board, an important funding source for my work. Right now, I have a grant to look at seed moisture and quality at harvest (possibly drying down seed too much at harvest results in internal injury to planting beans (seed stock)."

What do you know about beans? Do you know that California grows the canning quality beans?

"We have the perfect weather conditions for those large, creamy beige-colored beans," Long said. "Other states like Washington grow about 100,000 acres of garbanzos for humus (but a lower quality bean and we can't compete with their free water via rainfall."

California farmers supply virtually all of our country's dry lima beans, Long notes.  In 2012, California farmers grew about 23,000 acres of baby and large limas, valued at $30 million that year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

California farmers supply virtually all of our country's dry lima beans, says Yolo County farm advisor Rachael Long. This photo was taken in 2013 at a research site during the UC Davis Dry Bean Field Day. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Long has authored two UC ANR manuals about beans (Lima Bean Production in California and Common Dry Bean Production Manual) and is just finishing the garbanzo production manual (it's in peer review).

"Lima beans are a major dry bean crop for California, representing a significant portion of the total dry bean acreage in 2013," she wrote in the Lima Bean Production in California. "Lima beans are primarily grown for the dried edible white bean in California, although a limited but stable acreage is also for seed production. As with all dry beans, limas are a nutritional and healthy food choice, being an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Lima beans are also an important rotation crop for farmers because the plants fix nitrogen, add biomass to the soil, and require relatively few pesticides."

Lima beans belong to the species Phaseolus lunatus, distinct from the common bean, P. vulgaris.

"Common dry beans include the market classes kidney, cranberry, pink, black, white, yellow, pinto, and red, all of which are different types of a single species (Phaseolus vulgaris) that was originally domesticated several thousand years ago in the areas that are now Mexico and South America," Long wrote in the Common Dry Bean Production Manual. "Natural selection and breeding programs lead eventually to the current market classes, which are mainly distinguished by seed size, color, and shape, and plant growth habit. Currently, there are no commercially available genetically modified varieties of P. vulgaris."

"Dry beans," Long points out, "are grown in California mainly for human consumption, though a limited but stable acreage is dedicated to seed production. Dry beans are nutritious: they are high in starch, protein, and dietary fiber, they have no cholesterol, and they are an excellent source of iron, potassium, selenium, molybdenum, thiamine, vitamin B6, and folic acid. The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers dry beans to be both a vegetable and a protein source."

Beans are delicious, nutritious and brilliant. This is a cranberry bean in the UC Davis research field. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Rosane Oliveira, director of the UC Davis Integrative Medicine Program and an adjunct assistant professor in the UC Davis School of Medicine's Department of Health Sciences, recently praised beans as one of the "Fab 4" plant foods in her "21-Day Food Challenge" blog.

Beans are brilliant, Oliveira says, because they:

  • Are an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, and magnesium
  • May add up to 3-4 years to your life if you eat one cup a day
  • Keep your blood sugar level stable for up to six hours
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes

Indeed, there's even a National Bean Day, observed annually on Jan. 6. Want to know more about beans? You'll find a wealth of information about dry beans from the U.S. Dry Bean Council.

Bottom line: Beans should be an important part of your diet. You can call them "nutritious," you can call them "delicious," or you can call them "brilliant." They're all three.

UC CalFresh mango and black bean salad
UC CalFresh mango and black bean salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups peeled, pitted and diced fresh mango (about 2 small mangos)
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons 100% orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. Salad may be served right away, but is best if covered and chilled for a least 1 hour for flavors to blend.

Posted on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 10:03 AM

Military veterans and beginning farmers invited to poultry workshops

Egg-laying chickens pose at the UC Davis Pastured Poultry Farm. Photo by Trina Wood
Prospective, beginner or intermediate farmers interested in raising poultry flocks on pasture or free-range are invited to attend poultry workshops. The lessons will apply to both egg-laying hens and broilers. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and the Farmer Veteran Coalition have partnered to provide training for military veterans who are embarking on careers in farming, but all farmers are welcome to the workshops.

Workshops will be held in Davis, San Diego and Santa Rosa.

“California has the largest number of farmer veterans in the country, with over 1,000,” said Michael O'Gorman, executive director of Farmer Veteran Coalition, which supports military veterans with the resources they need to launch successful farm businesses. “Pastured poultry operations are a growing and profitable sector of California agriculture, and FVC is excited to partner with the University of California to provide trainings on this burgeoning field!”

A four-day workshop covering several aspects of pasture-poultry production will be held Dec. 4-7, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at UC Davis.

“In addition to the more traditional topics such as flock husbandry, biosecurity, food safety, nutrition or equipment needed, we will discuss records management, marketing options and using mobile apps to capture better data,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who is organizing the workshops.

The poultry workshops will take a participatory learning approach, rotating between presentations, scenario discussions, Q & A sessions and hands-on demonstrations. 

During the demonstrations, beginning farmers will have a chance to perform health and welfare assessments of laying hens, on-site Salmonella enteritidis testing, egg candling and safe handling.

Speakers and facilitators will be experts from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, California Department of Food and Agriculture and UC Cooperative Extension.

Each day will include 90 minutes of networking opportunities with other beginning farmers. The registration fee is $80 and includes lunch. To register, visit http://ucanr.edu/newpoultryfarmer.

Beginning farmers will gain insightful information on successfully raising poultry flocks on pasture, as well as practical expertise, connections with other farmers and professionals in the field, and better awareness and knowledge of resources and opportunities available.

One-day workshops are being planned for Jan. 17, 2018, in San Diego, May 16 in Santa Rosa and Aug. 8 in Davis. More information will be available at http://ucanr.edu/newpoultryfarmer.

To better communicate with backyard poultry enthusiasts and to protect flocks from disease outbreaks, people who raise backyard poultry are encouraged to participate in a voluntary survey for the UCCE California Poultry Census at http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/California_Poultry_Census. If there is an outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza, for example, UCCE will notify participants by email and warn them to keep their birds indoors.

 

Related links

Pastured Poultry Farm website http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/UC_Davis_Pasture_Poultry_and_Innovation_Farm

California Poultry Census survey http://ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/California_Poultry_Census

UC Food Observer's Q & A with Maurice Pitesky http://ucfoodobserver.com/2016/04/14/california-poultry-update 

Posted on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 1:52 PM

Joining forces to promote child health and wellness

According to current statistics, approximately 40 percent of school-age children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This statistic is reflected in rising rates of diabetes, pre-diabetes, and heart disease risk factors. Nearly one-quarter of all children are pre-diabetic or diabetic at the time when they leave high school, a figure that has increased dramatically in the last decade. Dental problems, the other very common health problem of youth, carry the potential for current and future pain, infection, and tooth loss. Although low-income children and children of color are at particular risk for both conditions, risk is unacceptably high for all children.

It is important to note that these all-too-common conditions share the same critical risk factor: consumption of sugary foods and beverages. Unknown to many, over half of the added sugar consumed by children is ingested in liquid form—soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and other pre-sweetened beverages including iced teas and others. For teenagers sugar-sweetened beverages are the single largest source of calories in their daily diet. Further, research has demonstrated that liquid sugar is more highly related to obesity than added sugar coming in solid form. 

To improve the medical and dental health of our children we need to help children and families find ways to reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Offering children easy access to water stations and other free tap water sources in childcare settings, schools and recreational facilities provides a healthful alternative to sugary beverages.

Fortunately research is being conducted to find effective ways to reduce children's sweetened beverage consumption. 

  • Reduce provision of sweetened beverages in the school, after school and childcare settings. UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) has documented dramatic reductions in sugary beverage consumption after the enactment of state restrictions on the sale of highly sugared beverages in California schools and childcare. While much has been accomplished, more can be done to see that these kinds of restrictions are fully maintained.
  • Offering children easy access to water stations and other free tap water sources in childcare settings, schools and recreational facilities provides a healthful alternative to sugary beverages.
  • Encourage strong nutrition education programs for children. UC Cooperative Extension's EFNEP and statewide SNAP-Ed programs have been leading efforts to educate children on the value of a healthy diet including the risk of consuming too many sugary beverages.
  • Similarly, educating families on healthy eating and on the benefits of reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption can support and reinforce the messages to children in the school-based programs.

A consistent message on sugary beverages delivered to families by dental and medical health practitioners, in tandem with other educational and community efforts, can substantially benefit children's health. As respected community members, dental and medical health practitioners are in a position to deliver consistent messages to families and also to work with community agencies and groups, including UC ANR and its affiliates, to initiate and support efforts to reduce children's and families' sugary beverage consumption. Our children deserve a healthy start.

For more information, see:

Posted on Monday, November 6, 2017 at 5:00 PM

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