Easy ways to stay healthy this holiday season

According to head chef and owner of the Victorian Pantry in Granger, Steve Stogdill, the most important things to keep in mind this holiday season in the kitchen are as follows:

1. Organize your day and week
2. Delegate tasks to avoid stress and a hectic mess
3. Thaw the bird early
4. Have thermometer in ovens; at least 2 (front and back) to keep an even temp.
5. Have instant read thermometers for the bird
6. No stuffing in the bird! This causes uneven temps and health risks
7. No pop up thermometer; throw those away!
8. Keep oven door shut during cooking
9. Wash your hands!!!
10. Keep surfaces clean; keep cooking utensils clean! Sanitation is key.

In order to have a happy holiday, it's important to stay healthy! If you're sick, you won't be able to enjoy all that a well-planned meal can offer. And as many rush around the kitchen to make deadlines, it's easy to forget simple tips.

"I have too many hosts that say I spent my whole time chopping potatoes at the last minute in the kitchen. I didn't get to talk to anybody, I hear that all the time," says Stogdill.

Organization is key!

"The smartest customers I have are those that are planning so far ahead, they're not going to battle the grocery mobs this week. They made sure they bought flower last week. They bought sugar, they bought coffee, so delegate means you have to come up with a list."

Here are some of the basics for anyone cooking meat this holiday season. Stogdill says you have to keep in mind your end goal. For a turkey, that's a final temp. of at least 165 degress.

"Check that with an instant read thermometer," Sogdill says, and "let the bird sit on the counter, untouched, uncut for 30 minutes. It will have all those juices, it's like a pot of boiling water, all the bubbles come to the top trying to escape the pan. Same thing with the juices and meat, they come to the edge of the meat and they're trying to get out, so if you cut the meat too soon, then those juices don't have a chance to settle back in and you have a drier product."

Another common mishap? Storing the leftovers!

"You should not leave [the food] out for more than 2 hours," says Stogdill. More than that is past the safety zone. "After that, you have a risk of bacteria that can multiply to a level where it can make you sick."

And it doesn't take fancy storage to keep you safe. It's all about size and timing!

After you enjoy your meal, Stogill says, "put it away in a way that you compartmentalize into smaller containers, rather than one great big container. Because you want to chill whatever you put in those containers to 40 degrees, the temperature of your refrigerator, as fast as possible."

And Stogdill's most important tip- staying sanitary!

"For sanitation, make sure that you wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. That is the main reason people get sick. Is because somebody did food prep and didn't wash their hands. So I can't stress that one enough," says Stogdill. And of course "sanitize your cooking surfaces, your cutting boards, your knives."

Keeping in mind these simple health tips can help you have a safe and delicious holiday.

"Everybody wants to have a nice holiday, the whole point is to have great visitation and a lot of laughs, a lot of fun, a lot of socializing, getting caught up with relatives and you can't do that if you're laying in bed sick to your stomach."

If you're still looking for last minute help with your Thanksgiving meal, The Victorian Pantry in Granger is still taking orders through Tuesday. You can visit their new location on Heather Park Lane, or check out their website: http://www.victorianpantry.com/


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