Welcome to my blog on healthy eating and food safety. I look forward to your comments and feedback regarding use of this tool to disseminate educational information. This blog will be updated on a regular basis.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Healthy Gift Ideas

Healthy Gift Ideas
Struggling with what to give this year? Try the gift of health. Here are some healthy gift ideas so you, your friends and family can enjoy the benefits of feeling better, having more energy and looking great too!
1.       Juicer
2.       Water bottles (with built-in filter, stainless steel)
3.       CSA membership (Community Support Agriculture -- Local organic produce delivered to your door)
4.       Tea set (with variety of teas)
5.       Cooking classes
6.       Nuts & Fruit baskets
7.       Cookbooks
8.       Food steamer
9.       Food dehydrator
10.   Food scale
11.   A good set of Knives and a Sharpening Steel
12.   Cutting Boards
13.   Water bath canning kettle
14.   3 –4 Heat Resistant Rubber Spatulas
15.   Rice Cooker
16.   Exercise mat
17.   Pedometer
18.   Fitness watch
19.   Exercise DVDs
20.   Membership to gym or health club

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mail Order Food Safety

Mail Order Food Safety

Convenience means many things to many people, but anything that helps save time is always high on everyone's list of conveniences. With more Americans working and being more time-crunched than ever, the ultimate time saver and convenience is home delivery of mail order foods.

While the mail order industry enjoys a good safety record, ordering food through the mail may cause concerns about food safety, shelf life, and distribution. It's imperative to develop some mental checklists for how both food and packaging should look when perishable mail order foods arrive. This is especially true for meat, poultry, fish, and other perishable foods such as cheesecake, which must be carefully handled in a timely manner to prevent foodborne illness.

The following food safety tips will help the purchaser and recipient determine if their perishable foods have been handled properly:

·         Make sure the company sends perishable items, like meat or poultry, cold or frozen and packed with a cold source. It should be packed in foam or heavy corrugated cardboard.
·         The food should be delivered as quickly as possible — ideally, overnight. Make sure perishable items and the outer package are labeled "Keep Refrigerated" to alert the recipient.
·         When you receive a food item marked "Keep Refrigerated," open it immediately and check its temperature. The food should arrive frozen or partially frozen with ice crystals still visible or at least refrigerator cold—below 40 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Even if a product is smoked, cured, vacuum-packed, and/or fully cooked, it still is a perishable product and must be kept cold. If perishable food arrives warm — above 40 °F as measured with a food thermometer — notify the company. Do not consume the food. Do not even taste suspect food.
·         Tell the recipient if the company has promised a delivery date. Or alert the recipient that "the gift is in the mail" so someone can be there to receive it. Don't have perishable items delivered to an office unless you know it will arrive on a work day and there is refrigerator space available for keeping it cold.

Americans also enjoy cooking foods that are family favorites and mailing these items to family and friends. The same rules that cover the mail order industry also apply to foods prepared and mailed from home. Make sure perishable foods are not held at temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, the "Danger Zone", for longer than 2 hours. Pathogenic bacteria can grow rapidly in the "Danger Zone", but they may not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of a food. In other words, you cannot tell that a food has been mishandled or is unsafe to eat.

For perishable foods prepared at home and mailed, follow these guidelines:
·         Ship in a sturdy box.
·         Pack with a cold source, i.e., frozen gel packs or dry ice.
·         When using dry ice:
o   Don't touch the dry ice with bare hands.
o   Don't let it come in direct contact with food.
o   Warn the recipient of its use by writing "Contains Dry Ice" on the outside of the box.
·         Wrap box in two layers of brown paper.
·         Use permanent markers to label outside of the box. Use recommended packing tape.
·         Label outside clearly; make sure address is complete and correct.
·         Write "Keep Refrigerated" on outside of the box.
·         Alert recipient of its expected arrival.
·         Do not send to business addresses or where there will not be adequate refrigerator storage.
·         Do not send packages at the end of the week. Send them at the beginning of the week so they do not sit in the post office or mailing facility over the weekend.
·         Whenever possible, send foods that do not require refrigeration, e.g., hard salami, hard cheese, country ham.

Source: USDA FSIS

Monday, December 15, 2014

Spicy Cranberry Salsa

Spicy Cranberry Salsa
Don't pass on cranberries this holiday; use fresh cranberries and some innovative recipes to spice up your holiday table. The recipe below is from the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia take 'pass the cranberries' to a whole new level.
Interested in a different cranberry taste sensation? Try a spicy cranberry salsa at your next fiesta. The Spicy Cranberry Salsa can be used directly as a dip, stirred into cream cheese just before use to make a very different spread, or used as a side item to accompany any meat.
You'll need:
·         6 cups chopped red onion
·         4 finely chopped large Serrano peppers
·         1½ cups water
·         1½ cups cider vinegar (five percent)
·         1 tablespoon canning salt
·         1 1/3 cups sugar
·         6 tablespoons clover honey
·         12 cups (2¾ pounds) rinsed, fresh whole cranberries
This recipe yields six pint jars. Gloves should be worn when handling and cutting hot peppers or wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.
 
Begin by washing canning jars; keep hot until ready to use. Prepare lids according to manufacturer's directions.
Next, combine all ingredients, except cranberries, in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat slightly and boil gently for five minutes.
Now, add cranberries, reduce heat slightly and simmer mixture for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
Fill the hot mixture into clean, hot pint jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Leave saucepan over low heat while filling jars. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with damp paper towel and apply two-piece metal canning lids.
Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft altitude; 20 minutes if over 6,000 ft). Let cool, undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours and check seals.
For more information on these recipes or for more information on any home food preservation technique and recipe visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation's Web site at: http://www.homefoodpreservation.com.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Twelve Days of Food Safety

The Twelve Days of Food Safety
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me one refrigerator/freezer storage chart to help me determine how long to safely keep food in the refrigerator and freezer. 
 
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two food thermometers to determine the temperature of cooked meat, poultry and fish.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three kitchen spray bottles to use for mixing a bleach and water solution for cleaning kitchen counters and cutting boards.

 On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four vegetable brushes for thoroughly cleaning my vegetables before cooking.  

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five cutting boards with one designated for use when cutting raw, meat, poultry and fish. 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six refrigerator thermometers with instructions that I keep two for my refrigerators at home and four to share with family and friends. Remember the temperature of the refrigerator should be below 40 degrees F and a freezer needs to be kept at 0 degrees F. 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven rolls of paper towels to use for wiping up spills.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight ice packs to be used for keeping food in my cooler cold during the warm weather months. Seven of the ice packs are to accompany the gift given on ninth day. 

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine insulated lunch bags to share with family and friends. Insulated lunch bags will keep lunches cold until consumed at mealtime. 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 10 minutes per day to check leftovers daily for spoilage.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 11 covered containers to keep food in while in the refrigerator. 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 12 dish towels, so I can use one towel per day and then put in the laundry.    

 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Make it a Healthy Holiday Season for Kids


Make it a Healthy Holiday Season for Kids
No matter how your family observes the holidays, tasty treats are likely to be a part of the celebration.

 For parents and school nutrition staff who work hard all year to feed children healthy, nutritious meals, the holiday season can be a challenge. On one hand, food traditions and culture can provide wonderful experiences and memories for children. On the other, many of the treats brought into classrooms this time of year are sugar-laden and full of empty calories.
 
Luckily, the school environment this season is different. There are new guidelines for foods called “smart snacks” that are sold in schools. The guidelines were developed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and are based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and standards provided by schools nationally.

The guidelines are designed to improve consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy and to instill healthy habits. While they don’t regulate treats that parents and families can bring into classrooms for celebrations, they do set some standards to help parents determine what a good snack would be for their child to bring to school.

Here are some tips for parents based on the USDA “smart snacks” guidelines that will let kids enjoy the holidays while not overdoing it on sweet treats.
 
--Choose snacks that are whole-grain rich and that may include whole-wheat flour, oats, or popcorn.
--Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a great option and dried fruits and canned fruits in their own juice are also healthy choices. Some examples are baby carrots, individual grape clusters, celery sticks, applesauce cups, and raisins or dried cranberries.
--If you are providing a beverage, water, low-fat milk, and 100% juice served in 8- to 12-ounce cups are the preferred selections.
--Remember, limiting added sugars and sodium is also important. Avoid providing cookies, candy and cakes--or provide them in moderation.
--If you’re looking for pre-packaged items, choose treats with 200 calories or less per serving that also incorporate whole grains and are low in added sugar.
--Ask for kids’ input on a healthy snack to bring. Encourage their participation in the conversation: What do they think makes a healthy snack?
--Consider non-food items like pencils, small building block sets, tiny decks of cards or a multitude of fun items found at your local discount store. (If you worry about the cost of these items, consider that one “fun size” candy bar is about 13¢). 

It’s important to encourage children and their healthy habits. Let them enjoy the holidays and together come up with some ideas for treats to bring.

Source: Amy Korth, nutrition education and school breakfast state specialist

Monday, December 8, 2014

National Handwashing Awareness Week
December 7-13, 2014
Please click National Handwashing Awareness Week, to read.
 


 
 


Friday, December 5, 2014

Freezing Soups, Stews and Casseroles

Freezing Soups, Stews and Casseroles 
There is nothing like a hot bowl of homemade soup on a cold winter's day. But who has time to make it? Schedules are busy during school days and holidays. Just imagine having a freezer full of delicious, homemade meals ready to be heated and served when you get home from work. Even better than that, picture yourself stress-free during the holidays because you prepared and froze your holiday meals and treats in advance. Freezing prepared foods in advance allows you the satisfaction of homemade meals with the convenience of store-bought ones. 

There are just a few things to keep in mind when freezing prepared foods. Freezing will not improve the texture, flavor, or quality of food. It simply acts to preserve the quality of the food. Therefore, you should only freeze high quality products. After cooking the food you plan to freeze, be sure it is cooled quickly to maintain the safety of the food. Be sure to package foods for the freezer in moisture-vapor resistant materials to prevent freezer burn. Clearly label each package with the name of the food, ingredients, packaging date, special instructions, and the amount of food. Package foods only in amounts that you will be able to use at one time. Freeze food as soon as it is packaged and sealed, and place in the coldest part of the freezer. Remember to research the ingredients ahead of time to see what foods do not freeze well (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze/dont_freeze_foods.html), and to see if there are any special instructions for preparing and freezing your product (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/FreezingPreparedFoods.pdf).  

Several options are available for thawing prepared foods. The frozen food can be taken directly from the freezer and immediately placed in the oven for thawing and heating as long as it is in a freezer-to-oven safe container. Some foods can be thawed and heated using a double boiler. Foods that contain fish, meat, eggs or other high protein ingredients should be thawed in the refrigerator or microwave. To ensure the safety of your food, do not allow these potentially hazardous foods to stay in the temperature danger zone (40°F-140°F) for more than 2 hours. Breads, cakes, and cookies that are precooked may be thawed at room temperature. Reheat all prepared foods except non-meat baked goods, sweets and fruits to at least 165°F quickly, within 2 hours. 

Planning ahead and freezing prepared foods is a great way to keep homemade food on your dinner table without all of the stress and hassle.

Source: National Home Food Preservation Center

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December is Pear Month

December is Pear Month
Pears are among the most popular fruits in the world, and it’s no wonder why! They taste great and is a great way to get our daily fruit servings.  It is recommended that the average American consume two cups of fruit per day.  One medium pear is approximately one cup.  Pears also have lots of nutritional value.

They are an excellent source of fiber. The bulk of the fiber is in the peel.  Pears are a good source of vitamin C for only 100 calories per serving. Pears also contain potassium.  And, they’re sodium free, fat free, and cholesterol free. That’s a lot of nutrition in one sweet and juicy package!

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle, and pears are a delicious part of this menu.  Pears are very versatile.  They can add flavor to sandwiches, salads, and baked goods.   In addition to being served raw in almost anything, pears can be baked, saut├ęd, and grilled very nicely. They can be made into preserves, jams and chutneys. Anything that can be done with an apple can be done with a pear.

It can be difficult to determine when a pear is ripe.  For one common variety, the Bartlett, it will change in color from green to yellow when ripe, however many pears do not change color as they ripen.  Here is one way to check for ripeness: hold a pear in your hand, apply light pressure just below the stem (the shoulder area of the pear) and if there is a slight “give” to the flesh, it is ready to enjoy.  If not, it can be placed in a paper bag to continue the ripening process.  Once ripe, keep pears in cooler temperatures, such as in your refrigerator or a cool cellar. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How Long Can I Safely Eat Thanksgiving Leftovers?

How Long Can I Safely Eat Thanksgiving Leftovers?
One of the best parts of Thanksgiving Day is the leftovers.  I really enjoy having leftover turkey. Here are some tips for safely storing leftovers.
Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking in shallow containers, about two inches deep.  This allows food to cool quickly and evenly.  If food has been out more than two hours, toss it.  Here are some other tips.
·         Use refrigerated cooked turkey within three to four days. Use stuffing and gravy within one to two days.
·         Eat leftover casseroles and cooked vegetables within three to four days.
·         Finish fruit and cream pies within two to three days and cheesecake within seven days.
·         Regardless of how many days have passed: If in doubt, throw it out!
·         Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring leftover gravy to a steady boil on the stove before serving it a second time

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking

Turkey Basics:  Safe Cooking
For information on roasting a turkey or hotline phone number, please click link:



Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday Food Safety

Holiday Food Safety
Please click for information on Holiday Food Safety

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving: Stuff the Bird, Not Your Guest

Thanksgiving: Stuff the Bird, Not Your Guest
It can be easy to overeat on Thanksgiving day.  There are so many tasty foods, that we often only eat once or twice a year.  Here are some tips for “lightening” up Thanksgiving dinner.
1.       Consume white meat rather than dark meat.  Eat little or no skin since the skins can double the fat and calories in a piece of turkey.
2.       Instead of using butter in stuffing, consider using low sodium chicken broth and concentrated apple juice with usual herbs and spices.
3.       Cranberry sauce can be made with fresh cranberries, diced apples and oranges, nuts and raisins with a taste of honey.
4.       Before making gravy, skim all the fat from the pan drippings or use canned low-sodium chicken broth.
5.       Vegetables can be seasoned with fresh-squeezed lemon juice or freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
6.       Choose whole wheat dinner rolls rather than rolls made with wheat flour.
7.       Beverages can add a lot of calories to a meal.  Sparkling fruit juice or non-alcoholic champagne can be lower calorie alternatives to alcoholic beverages.
8.       Consider a low-fat pumpkin pie recipe topped with low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt.
9.       If guests are bringing food items, ask them to only bring one item or a beverage. Another option is to bring a fun activity that can be done after the meal is eaten and clean-up is completed.  This is a great way to get guests to get moving.           

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Making Thanksgiving Dinner Healthy

Making Thanksgiving Dinner Healthy
Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, so why not go ahead and splurge?  Because gaining weight during the holiday season is a national pastime. Year after year, most of us pack on at least a pound (some gain more) during the holiday season.
While you might think it makes sense to save up calories for the big meal, make plans to eat breakfast. Eating breakfast can help you more control over your appetite. Start your day with a small but satisfying breakfast -- such as an egg with a slice of whole-wheat toast, or a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk -- so you won't be starving when you arrive at the gathering.
Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a few dishes to share, make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories.

·         Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy.
      ·         Use low sodium soups.
·         Use less sugar or a sugar substitute in place of sugar.
·         Use apple sauce or fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods. I typically replace half of the    oil in baked goods with apple sauce or fruit puree.
·         Reduce oil and butter wherever you can.
·         Try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles. 

Pay attention to portion sizes. Thanksgiving tables are bountiful and often foods are served that we only eat once or twice a year.  Before filling your plate, survey the buffet table and decide what you're going to choose. Then select reasonable-sized portions of foods you cannot live without. Don't waste your calories on foods that you can have throughout the year. Fill your plate with small portions of holiday favorites that only come around once a year so you can enjoy desirable, traditional foods. Try to resist the temptation to go back for second helpings. Leftovers are often better the next day. 

Some foods are quite healthy that are served at Thanksgiving. White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, defatted gravy, and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they are lower in fat and calories.
Pay attention to the amount of appetizers you eat.  Some Thanksgiving dinners start as early as 1 p.m., and the first thing you see is endless appetizers. Watch out: Appetizers can result in lots of calories and lead to mindless eating.

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 15th - Clean Out the Refrigerator Day

November 15th – Clean Out the Refrigerator Day
Cleaning out the refrigerator is not one of those fun jobs and is easy to find other things to do.  Often, I find small amounts of leftovers.  Here are some suggestions for combining them together into some type of casserole. Here are some directions for making your own casserole.
General Directions: Select food(s) from each category or use your own favorites. Combine in a buttered 2- to 2 1/2- quart casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 F for about 50 minutes to 1 hour or microwave using 50% power for about 15 to 30 minutes, rotating or stirring as necessary. Heat until steaming hot (165 F) throughout. The measurements below yield six servings.
Starch - select ONE:
·         2 cups uncooked pasta (macaroni, penne, spiral, bow tie), COOKED
·         1 cup uncooked long-grain white or brown rice, COOKED
·         4 cups uncooked noodles, COOKED
Protein - select ONE:
·         2 cups cooked ground beef
·         2 cups cooked and diced chicken, turkey, ham, beef, or pork
·         2 cups chopped hard-cooked egg
·         2 (6 to 8-oz.) cans fish or seafood, flaked
·         2 cups cooked or canned dry beans (kidney, etc.)
Vegetable - select ONE:
·         1 (10-oz.) pkg. thawed and drained frozen spinach, broccoli, green beans, green peas
·         1 (16-oz.) can green beans, peas, carrots, corn, drained
·         2 cups sliced fresh zucchini 

Source: Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cooking for One or Two

Cooking for One or Two
It can be tricky when cooking for one (or even two) to make the most of your ingredients and to minimize dishes — particularly when many recipes focus on making a meal for a family and serve four to six people. But just because you have a smaller household doesn't mean you should abandon the kitchen for fast food or takeout.  

The first step to dinner-for-one success is to make cooking healthy meals a priority. Planning ahead and arming yourself with a few tips and tricks will put you on the path to triumph in the kitchen. 

The best strategy when cooking for one is to become friends with your freezer. Instead of scaling down, cook up full recipes: cook once, eat twice. Save time, money and clean up by freezing soups, chili, pasta dishes and extra vegetables. Pull these 'frozen meals' out when you don't feel like cooking or just need a quick meal. Here are some more tips. 
Grains
·         Cook a batch of whole grains such as brown rice or barley and freeze in individual portions using a muffin pan. Once frozen, the discs can be stored in a freezer bag.
·         Have a six-pack of whole-grain English muffins or a whole loaf of bread? Tuck those extras into the freezer for another day; wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
·         Visit the bulk bins at your local health food and grocery stores. You can buy exactly what you need with no waste and it's often less expensive per pound. In addition to grains, you can score a deal on dried herbs and spices as well as nuts, seeds and dried beans.      
Veggies and Fruits
·         Since many of us only shop once a week, buying fresh produce can be an issue.  Canned and frozen produce can be just as nutritious as fresh and it's there when you need it.
·         Bulk bags of fruits and veggies are only a better deal if you eat them before they spoil. Only buy what you can reasonably eat before the produce perishes: take extra grapes or cherries out of the bag and pare down that bunch of bananas to what you'll eat.
·         Be strategic. Enjoy your most perishable fresh produce like berries and spinach early in the week. Save heartier produce like cabbage, carrots and potatoes for meals later in the week. 
Protein: Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Beans

·         Eggs can make a meal happen in a flash, anytime! They are an excellent source of protein and contain a bounty of nutrients such as vitamin D and choline. You can hard-boil a few on the weekend to have as an easy breakfast, snack or quick salad addition.
·         Buy a whole package of meat or poultry and wrap individual portions in freezer-safe paper; label each with the date and contents.
·         Peanut butter, tofu, dried beans and peas, eggs and nuts are protein sources in addition to meat, poultry and fish. 

Find a friend and do a meal trade.  Do you know anyone else who is dining solo? Suggest that each of you find a recipe that serves two and whip it up. Keep one portion for yourself and trade the second portion so you’ll have two different single-serving meals. And the more the merrier when it comes to the food exchange. More people = more variety.

Cook once and eat all week. Consider buying in a whole chicken, ham or even pot roast. Yes, that’s a lot of food for one person, and it takes some time to make these recipes, but the beauty of cooking up a large amount of meat is that you can use it over the course of a few days and it can be something different every time (and you can freeze some for later use too!). A whole chicken becomes chicken salad on Monday, then a chicken taco on Tuesday. A pot roast can get sliced thinly and used in a wrap one day, then chopped up and added to soup the next.