The food we eat is our fuel, our sustenance. Food can get spoiled, which makes it unappetizing, not as nutritious and even dangerous to our health. Consuming spoiled food can cause food-borne illnesses including food poisoning and botulism, which can be fatal.
Older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and people with kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or AIDS are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses. So how do we keep food safe and unspoiled, so as to get all the goodness it has to offer without getting sick?
Here are some suggestions to keep food safe:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before, during and after preparing and handling foods.
- Wash produce thoroughly before us.
- Cook meat, poultry and seafood to proper temperature.
- Thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave – but not on the counter.
- Do not consume raw eggs or food containing raw eggs like cookie dough.
- Replace dish rags and sponges periodically, while sanitizing them daily.
- Perishable foods (including cooked food, produce, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and milk) need to be stored by refrigerating or freezing. If refrigerated, perishable foods need to be
consumed in a few days.
- Semi-perishable foods (like flour, grain products, dried fruit and dry mixes) can be safely stored up to 6-12 months.
- Non-perishable foods (like sugar, dried beans, spices and canned foods) do not spoil if handled and stored properly, but they may lose quality over a long period of time.
- Leftovers should be stored in shallow, airtight containers for rapid cooling and preventing the spread of bacteria.
- Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible – there is no need to cool leftovers to room temperature before refrigerating them.
Some useful tips on how to handle and buy food safely can be found. Just click here.
This September, let’s start keeping our foods safe and disease-free, while celebrating Food Safety Education Month!
It’s fall and school is in full swing. Growing children have additional nutritional needs to meet for growth, development apart from regular wear and tear and maintenance of body organs. It is important to send a variety of healthy, substantial and appetizing foods to school as kids spend at least half their waking time at school. A little bit of planning, shopping and prepping can go a long way for packing kids lunches.
Here are some useful suggestions to send your kids lunches they will eat and enjoy:
1. Plan ahead and make a list of lunch box foods including fruits, vegetables, fruit juice, cheese, yogurt, milk, crackers, cookies and other ingredients.
2. Shop for ingredients from the list, preferably before the week starts, on weekends.
3. Prep ingredients – cut, chop, slice, and store fruits and vegetables in individually portioned boxes.
4. Make a list of plan-ahead recipes and/ or instant, quick recipes and use them throughout the week.
5. Invest in good quality, leak-proof containers, cold and hot packs and lunch bags to pack school lunches in.
Plan-ahead recipes can be make the previous night and stored, like zucchini and banana muffins, stews or chili, cornbread, breads and rolls, dips like hummus.
Quick recipes like quesadillas, pasta with veggies, fried rice, sandwiches, mini pita pizzas, burritos and wraps, and whole grain blueberry pancakes may be made and packed just before going to school.
I like to add a note with a message or a riddle to my kids’ lunch bags – as a special touch.
Here is a simple and delicious recipe for veggie sushi.
Recipe: Veggie Sushi Bites
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Number of servings: 8-10 bites, enough for 1 kid
- 1 sheet nori seaweed
- ¼ – ½ cup cooked calrose or sushi rice
- 6 strips of julliened carrots
- 6 strips of julliened cucumber
- 6 strips of julienned avocados
- 6 strips of julienned red bell pepper
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar or to taste
- ½ tsp sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- A few pieces of pickled ginger (optional)
1. Mix vinegar, salt and sugar together.
2. Add the vinegar mixture to the cooled, cooked rice and set aside the rice.
3. Take the nori sheet and spread a thin layer of rice on it, pressing the rice to the sheet.
4. Arrange the julienned vegetables in a line on one end of the sheet on top of the rice.
5. Roll the nori sheet with rice and vegetables, and once the vegetables are covered with the nori, compress the sheet slightly and roll the rest of the sheet tightly.
6. Seal the roll using a little water and slice into sushi bites using a knife.
7. Drizzle with soy sauce and top with pieces of pickled ginger if desired. Pack the sushi bites in the lunch box.
For more lunchbox recipe ideas, click here.
September is Whole Grains Month! Whole grains are the entire seed of plants that contain three parts – the germ, bran and endosperm; whereas refined grains may not have 1 or more parts. For example, refined wheat flour is mostly made up of the endosperm. Whole grains are important dietary sources of fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium.
Eating whole grains regularly may help lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers like colon cancer. Whole grains also aid in weight management and help reduce cholesterol.
Whole grains may be included in soups, pastas, salads, as part of stuffing for vegetables and meat and a variety of other dishes. Snacks like popcorn, whole grain crackers and breakfast cereal are made of whole grains. Choose foods with whole grains (like whole oats, whole wheat and brown rice) listed as the first ingredient on the food label. Note that oftentimes, terms like multi-grain and stone-ground or even the brown color of certain cereal products may contain little or no whole grains.
Here is a recipe of curried fried rice using whole grain brown rice.
Recipe: Curried Fried Rice
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Number of servings: 2
- 2 cups cooked (short grain) brown rice
- ¾ cup superfirm tofu, finely chopped
- ½ cup carrots, diced
- ½ cup green peas, boiled
- 2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp curry powder
- 1-2 tsp cilantro, finely copped
- A dash of lime juice (optional)
1. Heat oil in a pan and add the carrots and garlic. Stir for a few minutes until carrots are cooked but still crunchy.
2. Add tofu, peas, salt, soy sauce and rice. Stir well.
3. Add the curry powder and cilantro. Mix into the fried rice.
4. Add a dash of lime juice if you like.
1. Jonnalagadda, Satya S. et al. “Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium.” The Journal of Nutrition 141.5 (2011): 1011S–1022S. PMC. Web. 1 Sept. 2016.
We all need food as a source of nourishment to grow and stay healthy. Food also gives us energy to perform and play; and helps rebuild and repair injured tissue. So think about our Olympic Athletes. What do you think they’re eating? Nutritional needs can vary based on the type of sport being played and individual needs of athletes. Although you may not all be ready to make your Olympic debut, you can properly fuel for whatever exercise you choose to do!
Here are some tips to stay nourished while playing, as recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Hydration: It is important to keep yourself hydrated while playing, especially in long duration sports like tennis and soccer.
Carbs: Eating carbs will help fuel your workout. If you’re partaking in sustained exercise over 1 hour like cycling or long-distance running, foods like bananas, high energy bars, gels and drinks rich in carbs are important to provide energy boosts during your exercise.
Electrolytes: Electrolytes may be lost with sweat during endurance sports and must be replenished along with fluids and carbs.
The International Olympic Committee’s 2010 Consensus Statement on Sports Nutrition recommends eating high carb foods before and after sports to store and replenish sufficient energy reserves, and that timely protein intake helps build muscle tissue. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet high in quality carbs (like whole grains, fruits and vegetables), moderate in healthy fats (like avocados, plant-based oils, nuts, tahini and fish), and adequate in protein (beans, lean meat, seafood, fish, tofu, milk, yogurt and cheese) for endurance training and racing. You can also find useful tips for nutrient needs to build and maintain muscle mass, and eating well before working out at eatright.org and usaswimming.org.
Recently, coconut oil has been hailed as a “wonder-oil” with many health benefits. It has been touted as a cure for eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, heart disease and gastrointestinal disorders, aiding weight loss, increasing immunity and fighting infections. Coconut oil contains about 44% lauric acid, which has been known to have some antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. While it has been known to increase good cholesterol (HDL), it also increases bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
Coconut oil has a sweet, nutty flavor and is obtained from the mature fruit of the coconut tree. Vegan diets use coconut oil instead of butter or shortening as it is solid at room temperature. It contains approximately 91% saturated fat. Higher consumption of saturated fats has been associated with increased risk of heart disease. Due to its high saturated fat content, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends consuming coconut oil in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat intake to about 5-6% of total daily caloric intake for persons who need to lower their cholesterol levels.
Moderate intake of saturated fat, less than 10% of the total daily calories – approximately 15 grams, is considered safe. To get an idea, there are about 10-12 grams of saturated fats in half a cup of ice-cream, 1.5 tablespoons of butter or 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.
It is a good idea to substitute some saturated fats in the diet with mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) as these fats can increase good cholesterol levels while decreasing bad cholesterol levels. Using a combination of MUFA (10-15% of total daily calories), PUFA (10% of total daily calories) and saturated fats – in moderation, is the current recommendation. Olive oil, avocados, sesame oil, canola oil, almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts are good sources of MUFA. PUFA-rich foods include sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil.
While coconut oil is not a nutrient superhero, it isn’t a nutrient “supervillain” either. Consuming it in reasonable amounts may be safe, but as of now, there is no scientific evidence showing its need as a supplement or super food. A good rule of thumb to follow, as with anything food-related, is to eat and enjoy foods in moderation!
The 2016 Olympic Games are about to begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And we are celebrating too – with feijoada, which is considered Brazil’s national dish.
Feijoada is a delicious stew made with pork and black beans, served with rice and orange slices. This stew is traditionally served on Saturdays and is meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace with family and friends. Feijoada is slow-cooked for about 24 hours using pork (including ears, feet and tail) that add flavor to this dish. Here is an easy and tasty version of feijoada:
Recipe: Feijoada in a Jiffy
Preparation time: 40-50 minutes | Number of servings: 2-3
- 1 can black beans
- 4 oz dry, cured chorizo
- ½ lb. pork or beef ribs
- 2 oz smoked bacon for flavor
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- Salt and chili powder to taste
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp vinegar
1. Heat a pan and fry the bacon until it is crispy. Remove from pan.
2. Sear the ribs and chorizo with ½ tbsp. oil, and add salt and chili powder. Remove from pan.
3. Add ½ tbsp. oil to the pan and sauté onion and garlic until mixture is golden brown.
4. Add beans, stock, meat, cumin powder, salt and vinegar.
5. Cook for 20-30 minutes until the stew comes together.
6. Serve with rice and orange slices.
So how about giving this Brazilian chili a try?
Blueberries are one of our nutrition superheroes of July. These refreshingly juicy, sweet-tart purplish blue berries are full of vitamin C, folic acid, fiber, potassium and manganese.
Choose firm, smooth-skinned blueberries that are blue-purple in color and not green, without moisture, mold or bruises. Rinse the berries in cold water before eating. Stored berries in the refrigerator should be eaten within 3-7 days. You can enjoy blueberries throughout the year by freezing fresh blueberries. Did you know that blueberries are available fresh, frozen, infused-dried, freeze dried, powdered, and in liquid and puree forms?
Blueberries are yummy on their own, but may be enjoyed in a smoothie, with breakfast cereal, on top of some yogurt, in muffins, pancakes, scones, salads and preserves. Try adding some pureed blueberries to vinaigrette for a flavorful salad dressing. Also, you can try an easy and no added sugar recipe for making blueberry jam- just simply bake fresh berries at 400°F for 10 minutes (1).
What is your berry favorite way of enjoying blueberries?
As the Pavilion’s Executive Chef, I am constantly searching for great simple ingredients that a little kitchen alchemy can turn into a beautiful composed dish. The hunger bags present an amazing opportunity to a chef as they are the items that the Food Bank needs most, and also during a time when kids are out of school and no longer receiving the meal assistance that is offered during the school year. Our children are our future, and I strongly advocate involving your children or grandchildren in the kitchen. Simple, safe, and fun tasks such as shucking corn or starting an herb garden allow kids to get their hands dirty and learn about the importance of healthy, nutritious food in their lives. I invite you to try the recipe below, which focuses on the importance addressing of our communities’ direct needs and our ability to change the face of hunger.
Chef’s Tip: Tortilla soup is traditionally served with a number of garnishes allowing the diner to customize their eating experience! Choose produce that you can slice fresh to add a variety of textures and flavors. Crunchy radishes, crisp shredded cabbage, and vibrant herbs such as cilantro all make great additions to this soup. This is also a great way for kids to learn about and try different veggies!
Fun Fact: This tortilla soup recipe utilizes the whole kernel sweet corn from the Hunger Bags which is pureed into the soup base. This method allows the natural sweetness of the corn to enhance the soup, also lending beautiful supporting flavors to the corn tortillas which are the namesake of the dish.
RECIPE: QUICK AND EASY TORTILLA SOUP
Preparation time: 20 mins | Number of servings: 4
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 1 cup Tortilla Chips, crushed
- 2 “15 oz. cans” Signature Kitchens Tomato Sauce
- 2 “15 oz. cans” Signature Kitchens Diced Tomatoes
- 1 “15 oz. can” Signature Kitchens Whole Kernel Corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup or more as needed Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
- 2 teaspoons Cumin, ground
- 2 teaspoons Mexican Oregano, dried (if not available use standard oregano)
- As needed: Kosher Salt and ground Black Pepper
- 1 bunch Radishes, sliced
- 1 cup Signature Kitchens canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 bunch Cilantro, washed, leaves only
- 1 cup Tortilla Chips, crushed
- 1 avocado Fresh Avocado, sliced
Customize to your preference! Seasonal vegetables of your choice: tomatoes, bell peppers, roasted summer squash, roasted corn, or shredded cabbage.
1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add butter and toast tortilla chips for until crispy and golden brown. Add all other soup ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes,
then remove from heat.
2. Prepare a blender by removing the middle insert of the cap (this will allow the steam to escape as the soup purees). Fill the blender to no more than half capacity with soup, place the
lid on the blender, and cover the hole in the lid with a folded kitchen towel. This process is vital to follow as the soup releases lots of steam when pureed and needs to be vented.
3. Puree all of the soup until a smooth consistency is reached, adding additional chicken or vegetable stock if you prefer a thinner soup. Serve with optional garnishes above and enjoy!
Summer is here! And with it comes the tradition of grilling and barbecuing. Grilling food involves cooking it at high temperatures for a short period of time. Grilled foods are tasty and flavorful without too much added fat as compared to frying.
Some tips for safe and healthy grilling, as recommended by www.eatright.org:
- Choose lean cuts of meat as fat from meat may burn the outside while leaving the inside under-cooked.
- Marinate the food adequately before grilling to add flavor.
- Make your own marinade by combining salty, sour and sweet tastes – like soy sauce, lemon juice and honey and add your favorite spices and herbs like crushed black pepper, garlic, ginger
- Tools like tongs, spatulas and platters are necessary to help grill food.
- Gas and charcoal grills are popular, though temperature control is easier in gas grills.
- Seafood, tofu, tempeh and veggies like corn, portabella mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes and carrots are also cool foods to grill.
- Meats should be cooked thoroughly to prevent food-borne illnesses. Click here for more info on cooking
- Likewise, it is a safe practice to keep raw, cooked, hot and cold foods and the associated utensils all separate from each other.
- Avoid charring food, as charring produces substances in the food which may cause cancer.
Here’s wishing you a happy summer and safe grilling!
Papayas are sweet, succulent with brightly colored flesh, reminding us of sunny beaches on tropical islands. These tropical beauties are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, folate and potassium. Papayas are grown in Florida and Hawaii in the United States, and are in peak season during early summer and fall. While buying papayas, select ones that are firm to touch, the skin being partly or mostly yellow in color and without bruises. Papayas may be stored at room temperature for a few days until the skin turns completely yellow-orange, and the ripe fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Fun Fact: Did you know that papayas contain the enzyme papain which is used to tenderize meat? Try a marinade of smashed or crushed papayas. Add them to a Ziploc bag with your uncooked meat and refrigerate before cooking!
Here are some additional ways to enjoy this delicious fruit:
- Chop up some papayas and add to salsa, salads or breakfast cereal for a sweet twist.
- Add them to smoothies.
- Purée some papaya in a blender and freeze in popsicle molds for some papaya popsicles.
- Dice them and enjoy as is with a squeeze of lemon juice or along with other fruits and relish a yummy fruit bowl.