Cowboy Salad is a really easy dip or salad for your next tailgate party. But be sure to pay attention to food safety if you are transporting food or eating outdoors.

Fall is a wonderful time in Nebraska. The leaves are starting to change, the weather is becoming cooler and fall sports are hot topics of conversation. If you are preparing for a tailgate at the next game, keep food safety at the top of your playbook.

The key to keeping your food safe during a tailgate is a good game plan. Do you have enough coolers and all the tools you need to cook? In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking make sure you don’t forget your most valuable player, the food thermometer. Here are a few additional tips:

-- Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site. Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.

-- Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs or containers of ice.

-- Be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food. If possible, store these foods near the bottom of the cooler, so that juices don’t contaminate other foods in the cooler.

-- If you can’t keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, plan and chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer.

-- If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within two hours of purchase (one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees F).

-- Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Using a food thermometer also helps you to avoid overcooking, giving you safe and flavorful meat.

Some people have so much fun at tailgate gatherings, they never actually make it to the sporting event. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe for the food to stay unrefrigerated before, during and after the event. Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness.

Store perishable food in the cooler except for brief times when serving. Cook only the amount of food that will be eaten to avoid the challenge of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature.

Discard any leftovers that are not ice cold (40 degrees F or below) after the game. Food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill more than two hours (one hour when the outside temperature is above 90 degrees).

Here is a super easy but tasty dip or salad for your next tailgate:

Cowboy Salad

  • 2 cans (15 ounces) black-eyed peas or black beans
  • 1 can (15 ounces) corn
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch green onions (5 green onions)
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 avocado (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar or lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas (or black beans) and corn. Finely chop the cilantro and green onions. Dice the tomatoes and avocados. Combine ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix oil, vinegar or lime juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Pour oil mixture over salad ingredients and toss lightly. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Makes 15 servings.

Nutrition information per 1/2-cup serving: 60 calories, 1.5 g fat, 310 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrate and 3 g fiber.

Recipe from: Oregon State Extension’s Food Hero website

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or at cwells2@unl.edu. Visit the Hall County website at www.hall.unl.edu

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