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Looking back at your leftovers

A Thanksgiving meal can leave lots of leftovers. recommends a labeling system for food storage.
It's that time of year again when refrigerator space at most homes is like prime real estate. Thanksgiving leftovers abound and December treats await creation.

In order to keep the holidays from being spoiled, here are a few tips and tools to have at your disposal. First, check out the food storage chart to know the storage times for your food goodies. For example, cooked poultry has a shelf life of 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but can be extended to 2 to 6 months in the freezer. When reheating leftovers in the microwave, remember to bring them to a temperature of 165 degrees F.

If you struggle to remember how old your leftovers are, you are not alone. While lifespan varies, generally there is a four-day guideline. You can use an easy labeling system or even search for food storage phone apps to aid your memory. Iowa State University Extension mentions the 4 Day Throw away app as one possibility.

If both refrigerator and freezer space is now completely taken, but you still want to make some holiday gifts, consider dehydrating, pickling, and canning. Some fall/holiday ideas include:

  1. Dehydrated fruits – colorful, healthy and space saving
  2. Pie filling – a perfect gift for busy friends or family
  3. Fall Garden Relish (recipe below from So Easy to Preserve, sixth edition)
  4. Lemon curd – sweet, sour, rich, and buttery all at once. Yum!


Fall Garden Relish
Recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
(Yields about four pint jars.)

1 quart chopped cabbage (about 1 small head)
3 cups chopped cauliflower (about 1 medium head)
2 cups chopped green tomatoes (about 4 medium)
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped sweet green peppers (about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped sweet red peppers (about 2 medium)
3 ¾ cups vinegar (5%)
3 tablespoons canning salt
2 ¾ cups sugar
3 teaspoons celery seed
3 teaspoons dry mustard
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric

Combine chopped vegetables; sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons salt. Let stand 4 to 6 hours in a cool place. Drain well. Combine vinegar, sugar and spices; simmer 10 minutes. Add vegetables; simmer 10 minutes. Bring to a boil.

Pack boiling hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

If you've never preserved before, consider attending public classes held by UC Master Food Preserver Programs around the state. Find your program and get started!

Author: Katelyn Ogburn

Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 7:09 AM

The science of sensory evaluation

Mouth-watering anticipation of holiday food is part of the science of sensory evaluation. (Photo:
Holidays fan the flames of our love affair with food. As soon as summer melts into fall, our thoughts leap ahead with mouth-watering anticipation to family gatherings around a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast with all the trimmings. Months before the turkey is carved, you can almost smell it roasting in the oven. You can almost taste the salty goodness of stuffing and gravy. You can almost see colorful visions of home-baked treats dancing in your head.

Your sense of taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch sends signals to your brain that the holiday feasting season has arrived. These basic senses are the tools that influence how much you like – or dislike – the foods you eat.

Sensory evaluation also has practical applications in agriculture. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers and their colleagues often conduct sensory panels for specific food crop studies. Recently volunteer evaluators filed into the sensory evaluation lab at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center to participate in a grape sensory panel. UC researcher Mary Lu Arpaia and USDA researcher David Obenland collected data for a study on the impacts of various storage conditions on grape varieties.

David Obenland of the USDA prepares citrus samples for evaluation.
Evaluators tasted grape samples and recorded their responses to appearance, taste and texture. Samples given to each evaluator were randomly ordered to eliminate bias in the test results. Evaluators were instructed to sip water between tastings to cleanse the palate. Evaluation procedures can vary slightly from product to product. When sensory panels are conducted for avocados, evaluators are instructed to munch on raw carrots before sipping water due to the oil in avocados. The coarse texture of carrots more fully cleanses the palate between avocado tastings. Other sensory panels have been conducted on citrus.

“There's a bit of psychology involved as well. How the product looks can influence your perception of how it tastes. To further eliminate bias, evaluators are intentionally isolated in individual stations so as not to be influenced by their neighbors' reactions,” explained David Obenland.

Grapes are displayed for evaluators to rate fruit appearance.
Sensory evaluation is used by commodity groups like the Table Grape Commission too. Data collected from a grape sensory panel provides important feedback to growers to identify factors that will inform marketing strategies and produce a quality product that consumers are more likely to buy. Evaluators can be recruited from industry groups, in which case they are considered to be “semi-experts,” or from the general public which are classified as “true consumers.”

The sensory evaluation lab at the Kearney Agricultural REC reflects the current philosophy of fruit commodity research that the industry's focus should be on sensory evaluation, from new pest management to horticultural practices to varietal improvements. The lab was completed and dedicated in April 2008 with support from the California Avocado Inspection Committee, Citrus Research Board, Food Machinery Corporation, Peach, Plum and Nectarine Growers of California, Sunkist and Table Grape Commission.

Author: Roberta Barton

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 8:37 AM

Have a Happy Thanksgiving without unzipping

A typical Thanksgiving meal has more calories than many people need in a whole day. (Photo: Satya Murthy, Flickr)
For many of us, Thanksgiving is truly a feast, and we are preparing our appetites for large servings of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. In fact, the majority of people consume more than 2,000 calories in their Thanksgiving meal, including appetizer, turkey and the trimmings and dessert, reports That's more than a sedentary man should eat in a whole day to maintain a healthy weight, according to the USDA's This year, you can enjoy the holiday without overeating by serving a healthy and balanced meal. 

  • Portion control: Thanksgiving is about choices. Think about which dishes you don't mind skipping, and plan to fill your plate only once. It's easy to get carried away going back for second and third helpings.

  • Fruits: Get your serving of fruit with a fruit-based dessert. Baked apples, poached pears and fresh figs are a few festive options.

  • Grains: Use whole grain or 100 percent whole wheat bread for a stuffing rich in fiber. 

  • Protein: Serve yourself 3 ounces of roasted turkey or a portion the size of your palm. Skip the fat by removing the skin on your turkey before eating it. Go easy on the gravy.

  • Vegetables: Choose vegetable side dishes that include roasted or cooked vegetables, and skip the creamy sauces and added fat. Instead, season vegetables with fresh herbs to add flavor.  

  • Dairy: Try non-fat Greek yogurt as a healthier topping for side dishes than sour cream or butter.

  • Don't forget to be active. After the holiday meal, go for a walk, bike ride or play football with the family. 

Not sure what to do with your leftovers? Reinvent your Thanksgiving feast with these quick and easy one-sentence leftover recipes. 

  • Cranberry smoothies
    Whirl cranberries with frozen low-fat yogurt and orange juice.

  • Crunchy turkey salad
    Toss cubed turkey with celery, apples, and light mayo with shredded spinach.

  • Stuffing frittata
    Mix stuffing with egg and cook thoroughly, pancake-style.

  • Turkey berry wrap
    Wrap sliced turkey, spread with cranberry sauce and shredded greens in a whole wheat tortilla. 


 Recipe source:

 Author: Melissa Tamargo

Posted on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 11:17 AM

Apple-tunity: Preserving the fall apple harvest

Fall marks the height of apple season in California. With an abundance of apples available at an affordable price, it is the perfect time to preserve.
With colorful, dried leaves flitting about the streets and winter holidays on the horizon, fall is in full swing. But what does this mean from the perspective of a seasonal preserver? What can be done now that the prime abundance of summer tomatoes is but a fond memory or a dream for next year?

For some, it's time to wind down the season of preserving, but for others, this time of year provides a field of apple-tunity. Yes, the land of ample – I mean apple – opportunity. Here's a few ideas to get anyone started – no canning skills required!

“Home food preservation of apples and other seasonal fruits and vegetables allows families access to a wider variety of healthy foods throughout the year,” says Missy Gable, co-director for the UC Master Food Preserver Program. “In a time where food preservation is becoming increasingly more popular, it is critical for home preservers to follow research-based methods and recommendations to help ensure the preserved foods are safe for consumption.”  

A variety of fruit butters make a perfect holiday gift. Photo: Sue Mosbacher

To keep it simple, let's look to the freezer as a means to store the apple bounty. There are researched and approved recipes for apple butter, apple jelly, baby food, applesauce, and sliced apples. Even amongst something as simple as sliced apples, you can choose to add some variety in the way you pack them, weather it is in syrup, sugar, or as a dry pack. Syrup packs are good for using in uncooked desserts or fruit cocktail. Sugar and dry packs are perfect for pies. Plan ahead and follow the method that makes the most sense for your season of life.


Another method for keeping apples is dehydrating. In fact, it rivals freezing in its simplicity. Think rings, wedges and chips. In preparing the crispy treat, remember to pretreat the slices to prevent browning. It can be as simple as making a solution of 2 cups water with 3000mg ascorbic acid (crushed Vitamin C tablets), and dipping the slices for 3 to 5 minutes. Place the apple slices in a dehydrator for six to 12 hours and voila, apple pieces abound for use as granola mix-ins, oatmeal toppings, or a crunchy snack.

A decorated fruit leather is a fun and healthy snack for young children. Photo: Lillian Smith
In a recent workshop titled “Gifts from the Kitchen,” the UC Master Food Preserver Program of Sacramento County recommended making homemade fruit leather using applesauce. Make your own applesauce, or you can even use store-bought, and convert it into a delicious fruit leather. Smooth the applesauce out to one-eighth-inch thickness over a lined dryer tray or rimmed cookie sheet and dehydrate. Decorate your leather in colors by dyeing with spices such as cinnamon, using red candies or even gelatin. Use cookie cutters to make fruit leather shapes as depicted in the photo. Get creative and have fun; now is the time to let those apples shine!

For more information about apples, download the UC ANR publication Apples: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy. Detailed recipes and preservation practices alluded to in this article can be found on the National Center for Home Food Preservation site, the Ball site, and in So Easy to Preserve.

If you'd like to learn more in-depth knowledge about safe home food preservation, check out the UC Master Food Preserver Program. They hold public classes by county as well as extensive training programs for qualified applicants.

Posted on Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 8:37 AM

Building a better salad to outsmart climate change

Lettuce in UC Davis greenhouse. (Photo: Gregory Urquiaga)
A team of researchers representing diverse fields of study and fortified by a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is setting out to build the salad of the future.

The researchers are located at UC Davis; UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Extension Centers; USDA research facilities in Salinas and Beltsville; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; and the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The UC Davis-led team aims to leverage new technologies to sustain the lettuce supply, despite the challenges posed by climate change.

“We will be exploiting genomic technology to address the needs in all areas up and down the lettuce production chain,” said project leader Richard Michelmore, a plant geneticist and director of the UC Davis Genome Center.

The team's five-year renewable grant, announced recently by USDA's Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding program, was made available through the 2014 Farm Bill.

Research will range from identifying genes that are key to developing important stress-resistance traits in lettuce to fine-tuning imaging technologies that will allow growers to remotely assess the status of their crops in the field. Although grounded in plant genetics and genomics, the project also will delve into a variety of fields that are vital for ensuring sustainable production of lettuce and related leafy greens. Collaborating team members run the gamut in terms of expertise, including plant genetics and breeding, food technology, and agricultural economics.

One of the project's strengths, Michelmore said, is its longstanding collaborative relationship with large and small plant-breeding companies as well as with the California Leafy Greens Research Board, which represents growers of lettuce, spinach and other related crops.

USDA's Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which provided the project's new grant, this year awarded $50 million in grants nationwide for projects ranging from plant genetics research to new product innovation and development of new methods for responding to food safety hazards.

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 8:41 AM

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