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Archive for Wednesday, April 28, 1999

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April 28, 1999

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The door of my freezer was accidentally left open overnight. Is the food safe to refreeze?

You may safely refreeze foods that have thawed if they still contain adequate ice crystals or if they are still cold -- below 40 degrees Fahrenheit -- and have been held at this temperature no longer than 1 or 2 days after thawing. I define "adequate ice crystals" as those foods that still contain ice in their tissues even if the individual pieces may be able to be separated. In addition, dense foods, or ones that pack solidly, might have a firm-to-hard core of ice in the middle of the package, plus crystals in the tissues.

No foods that have warmed above refrigeration temperature should be refrozen.

The first ways to check thawed food in a package or a nonrigid container is to squeeze it, but not open it. If you can feel good, firm crystals inside, the package is OK to refreeze -- provided the food is of good quality and not highly perishable in the first place. Of course food in rigid containers must be opened to be inspected for adequate ice crystals.

Strong-acid fruits may be refrozen if they're defrosted but still cold. There will be definite loss in quality, however. Refreeze thawed vegetables only if they contain plenty of ice crystals.

Give wrapped meat packages the squeeze test. Meats and poultry that are firm with ice crystals may be refrozen, or they can be cooked into a convenience-type dish and then refrozen. Thawed seafoods, being extremely perishable, should be cooked and served instead of refrozen, because they lose their quality quickly.

Never refreeze melted ice cream, cream pies, eclairs, or similar foods. But you can refreeze unfrosted cakes, uncooked fruit pies, breads, rolls, etc.

If the condition of any food is poor or questionable, get rid of it. As I always say -- if in doubt, throw it out!

I have been told that ground turkey is not always low in fat. Is that true?

Currently, there are no standards set on ground turkey; therefore, most ground turkey on the market is a combination of different parts of the bird, namely white meat, dark meat and skin. The more dark meat and skin the ground turkey contains, the more fat and calories it provides. Because various brands of ground turkey contain anywhere from 9 percent to 64 percent calories from fat, it's important to read the ingredient label to know what you're buying.

If you want to be sure that your ground turkey is low in fat, select ground turkey breast. A three-ounce serving of skin-free ground breast contains 1 gram or less fat.

How do you know when blue cheese is spoiled?

Although the healthy mold, Penicillium roqueforti, is what gives blue cheese its distinctive flavor, this soft cheese can attract invader molds that can spread quickly. Unhealthy mold growth will appear different in color or pattern than the usual blue veins. Beware of white, pink, blue, green, or black flecks or furry patches. If you spot any of these signs, throw the cheese away.

My mother lives alone and hates to prepare meals for one. Do you have any suggestions on how to make this task more pleasant for her?

Eating alone isn't always a joyous experience. Studies show it can depress the mind, body and soul. Yet, between 1960 and 1990, the number of solo diners more than tripled from 7 million to 23 million. According to 1990 figures, in Douglas County alone, over one-fourth or 8,000 households are of single people. And of those single-person households, 2,000 of them are 65 years and over.

A recent study of 4,400 men and women over the age of 55 found that men who live alone ate diets that provided less than two-thirds of the RDA for vitamin A, B6, C, calcium and magnesium. Women living alone had diets below two-thirds of the RDA for thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium. The men and women in this study did not choose foods that were less nutritious. Rather, they skipped meals or ate very little in order to shorten the time required for the less-than-pleasant experience of solitary eating.

In another study of seniors, researchers found a significant correlation between loneliness and lowered intake of calories, calcium and vitamin A.

Therefore, it is extremely important for those eating alone to follow these suggestions to improve their nutritional status:

  • Even if you don't feel hungry, take time for breakfast. If nothing else, spread a thin layer of peanut butter on whole wheat toast and add sliced fruit.
  • To save on preparation time, try a crock pot meal for dinner.
  • Try combining a convenience prepackaged frozen entree with fresh or frozen vegetables and fresh fruit. Watch the entree label for sodium and fat content.
  • Buy prepackaged mixed salad greens and salad bar vegetables, especially green peppers, spinach, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes. Salads made with these are great sources of vitamins A and C.
  • When you're buying fresh fruit, buy small quantities. Don't be shy about breaking bunches.
  • Prepare several meals at once. Instead of making one or two servings for tonight's dinner, make three or four. Then label, date and freeze the rest for another day.
  • Make a pleasant dining setting for yourself at the table or take a tray to the living room, play it cool outdoors, or be as casual as you please at the kitchen bar.
  • Eat with someone else at least three times a week.
  • Prepare a meal, place it in small containers and then trade with other friends who live alone.

-- Susan Krumm is an extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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