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Prairie Fare: Let’s Talk Turkey

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
Don’t forget the rules for handling food safely this Thanksgiving.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

The other day I came upon a paper turkey that my daughter created using her hand as a pattern when she was in early elementary school. You probably have seen these turkeys or even made one yourself at some point.

I thought about the time when my daughter proudly brought her turkey home. I studied the carefully formed letters of the words she had written inside her feathers. I also noted that her hands are much bigger now.

If you need a creativity break or an exercise in being grateful, maybe you should give it a try. Trace your hand. Your thumb forms the turkey’s head and neck, and your four fingers become the feathers. Then you write the top four things you are thankful for in each of the “feathers.”

As I reminisced about my children’s younger years, I recalled all the creative-looking turkeys taped to walls outside of their school classrooms. The kids were thankful for their families, and many were thankful for food, especially turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and even Thanksgiving leftovers.

As we kick off the holiday season with Thanksgiving, be sure to prepare foods safely so your family or other guests gratefully remember the delicious, nutritious and safe meal you prepared.

Many times, holiday cooking involves preparing food for larger-than-usual numbers of people. Whether you are the head chef or the guest who receives some leftovers to enjoy later, now is a good time to refresh your memory of safe food handling rules:

  1. If you were to thaw a turkey on a refrigerator shelf above a salad, what food safety error have you committed?
  2. To what internal temperature should turkey be cooked?
  3. Are pop-up thermometers always reliable?
  4. How many days can you safely store leftover turkey in your refrigerator?
  5. How much turkey, on average, does each American consume?

How did it go? These are the answers:

  1. “Cross contamination” is linked to many cases of foodborne illness, so be sure to keep raw meat and ready-to-eat foods separate.
  2. For safety, cook turkey to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F. According to the National Turkey Federation, some people prefer turkey (especially dark meat) cooked to an internal temperature of 180 F.
  3. Pop-up thermometers are not always reliable. Use an accurate food thermometer to measure the temperature of the bird in the thickest part of the thigh and breast. Check the accuracy of your food thermometer by making a slushy mixture of half crushed ice and half cold water. Insert your food thermometer and allow it to stand for a while. The thermometer dial should read 32 F, which is the freezing point of water. Some thermometers can be calibrated by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. You can safely keep leftover turkey in your refrigerator for four days at a temperature of 40 F. Be sure to chill your leftovers promptly after your meal. For longer storage, freeze leftover cooked turkey in meal-size portions for up to four months for best quality. Frozen food remains safe indefinitely but may suffer quality losses.
  5. On average, Americans consume 16.4 pounds of turkey, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Have you eaten your share?

You can learn more about safe food handling at Thanksgiving at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website:

Here’s a quick and easy way to use leftover turkey. This recipe is courtesy of Butterball by way of the National Turkey Federation at

Turkey-Salsa Soup

1 c. chunky salsa

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 c. frozen whole-kernel corn (without added butter or sauce)

1 c. cooked turkey, chopped

2 c. low-sodium chicken broth

Sour cream, chopped cilantro (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine salsa, black beans, corn, turkey and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, then serve. If desired, garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 190 calories, 0.5 grams (g) of fat, 18 g of protein, 27 g of carbohydrate, 5 g of fiber and 590 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Nov. 10, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
Prairie Fare: Prairie Fare: A Taste of Brazil is Worth Trying  (2019-07-18)  Give beans a try on your menu.  FULL STORY
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