Someone posed a question to the Food Network:
Q: I like to make dinner earlier in the day, especially things like soup, pasta or one-pot dinners that usually taste better "the second time around". But I never know when to put them in the fridge for later. I have heard both that you should let food cool completely and then refrigerate, and that you should refrigerate as soon as possible. (Roseanne Powell, Auburn, GA)
A: Both answers are correct, strangely enough. It's often best to cool hot food as quickly as possible, and refrigeration is a great way to do that. The problem with immediate refrigeration, however, is that putting a hot pot of soup into the fridge will warm everything around it. The soup will cool, but it might bring the rest of the food in the fridge into the bacteria-loving danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees F. Leaving the food on the counter to cool isn't necessarily the best option either, as it will also remain in that temperature zone for a while.
Our recommended ways to quickly cool food to below 40 degrees F are:
• Spread the food out in a wide, shallow pan so the heat is not held in.
• Put a sealed double plastic bag filled with ice into the center of a hot stock, which also helps get rid of some of the fat (it sticks to the bag when you pull it out)
• If you've got a free sink, fill it with ice water and set the pot in the middle.
Refrigerate the food once it's cool.
My recipe for Quick and Healthy Apple Sauce!
3 Macintosh or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
3 of any other apples you like, peeled, cored, and quartered (It's good to combine 2 or 3 different types of apples for better flavor)
1 cup natural unsweetened apple juice
2 tablespoons butter or soy margarine (I use Earth Balance soy margarine)
one half teaspoon of pure vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons honey (can use 1 teaspoon of molasses too, for added nutrition and heartier flavor)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I usually throw in some more!)
In a microwave-safe container, (I use a glass bowl and a glass plate on top, opened slightly) Combine apples with all other ingredients. Close lid, leaving one corner of lid open to allow steam to escape. Microwave on high for 10 minutes.
(Be careful when you take it out of the microwave due to the hot steam) Use a hand blender or potato masher to blend the apple sauce to desired consistency. (you may want to leave it a little lumpy)
Serve hot immediately (Yum!) or chill for later use.