Food Poisoning – How to Keep Your Kitchen Safe

 

With the recent outbreak of food poisoning at restaurants, people are wondering, “How did this happen?” and “How do I keep my kitchen safe?” No one wants to be sick during the holidays!

While there are thousands of germs that can make us sick, the highly contagious, the norovisus is one of the most common forms of food poisoning. Causing symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea, it can live up to 2 weeks on kitchen surfaces and be transfer with the touch of our hands.

The good news is that in as little as 20 seconds, washing your hands can get rid of most all germs causing food poisoning and even the common flu can be eliminated from your hands. Staying safe and well make handwashing more important than ever!

Coincidentally, Dec 6 – 12 is National Handwashing Awareness Week, and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants to be sure everyone knows how to wash their hands correctly and when handwashing should NEVER be skipped.

I wish the folks at Chili’s heard the eat-right-radio interview I did just two days ago with Melanie Cole, MS, the Director of Operations at RadioMD. Here are some of the highlights.

Washing your hands is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Wet hands with warm running water and apply soap. Always wash your hands front and back up to your wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
  2. Sing two choruses of “Happy Birthday” while you lather up — cleaning your hands for 20 seconds.
  3. Dry hands with disposable paper towels, clean cloth towels or air dry.

When should handwashing NEVER be skipped?  I think of it as the “before” and “after” rule.

Always wash your hands in warm, soapy water BEFORE handling any foods that you or someone else will eat.

  • Before handling food
  • Before preparing food
  • Before you eat
  • Before you feed children

Simple.

And the other half of the “before” and “after” rule for washing hands…Always wash your hands AFTER tasks where potentially harmful germs are most common.  Hands should be washed in warm, soapy water

  • After preparing food
  • Never forget to wash your hands after switching tasks, such as handling raw meat, pouty and seafood and then cutting vegetables.
  • This also includes after touching eggs and egg-rich foods

Don’t forget to clean the counter tops, cutting boards, utensils and plate surfaces where raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs have come in contact. Wash dishwasher-safe items in a dishwasher with a hot washing and drying cycle.

After washing utensils and surfaces in your kitchen, you can sanitize everything with a solution of one tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach mixed in one gallon of water.

Speaking of preventing food poisoning in the kitchen, the MOST OVERLOOKED WAY GERMS ARE SPRED in the kitchen is with the kitchen sponge and dishrags.

Bacteria thrive in the damp conditions of old dirty sponges which then can spread foodborne pathogens. Don’t wait for the sponge or dishcloth to start to smell – a sure sign of unsafe bacterial growth. Replace worn sponged frequently.

The kitchen sponge can come in contact with a lot of dirty surfaces in the day. Make it a point to disinfect the used sponge daily by microwaving it or running it through the hot washing and drying cycle of the dishwasher.

Frequently trade out used towels for clean ones. And, be sure they are washed on the hot cycle of your washing machine.

It’s not wasteful to stay well. Use clean paper towels to wipe up spills or wipe kitchen surfaces. This way when the mess is cleaned, the germs on the towels are thrown away reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

Check out this list of other times when handwashing is a MUST for keeping everyone safe. Don’t skip the link if you eat at your computer, have a pet or have recently touched your cell phone.

Hot Cocoa Moment

With all the hustle and bustle of the season, take a moment to relax. For some this moment is when you plop on the couch with a book, submerge in a hot bath or curl up with the sleeping cat for lesson in “taking it easy”. And when it’s cold outside, nothing gives me that relaxing warm feeling more than a steamy chocolaty cup of cocoa.

That’s why keeping homemade instant cocoa around is a must for me.   A dried mix of powdered non-fat milk, cocoa and sugar is it’s like pouring a cup a comfort whether I can break away from the tasks-to-do or not.

Easily heated in a microwave-minute, I like the ritual of cooking the cocoa on the stove when I have time. I use a small old 2-cup pan that I picked up at a garage sale. The metal is worn and I have to tighten the screw holding the black handle on the pan periodically. I like using skim milk instead of water for extra creaminess and protein.

Stirring over low heat the milk begins to steam and cloud across the top, my cue to whisk in the cocoa mix. As the dark dry blogs of chocolate powder incorporates and the temperature continues to rise, I like to give my cocoa something special.

When I was a kid, marshmallows were a must! Three big marshmallows or a hand full of the minis – I’d let them melt and for a creamy airy layer across the top. But who needs the extra calories, right?

Frothing the cocoa is easy way to create a thick foamy layer that really is like sipping through melted marshmallows – without the extra calories.

You can use a whisk, or a mini battery operated whisk is even better. I got my mini hand blender years ago and love it for making salad dressings, too. Naturally, you have to be a little careful since the liquid is hot. You can also us a blender, but be sure the vent the top so steam doesn’t cause the liquid to explode out.

With each sip…first through the frothy top licking away the child-like sweet mustache left behind, …of the warm cocoa…down to the last bit extra-good with some to the cocoa sediment, I fill myself with goodness – good memories and nourishment. Feeling full, it’s the perfect snack of protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium – all important for bone health.

A cup of hot cocoa helps me let go of the moment’s stress – even if it’s just for the moment.

Along with the carrots for the reindeer, this year suggest the kids leave a cup of hot cocoa for Santa.  I’m sure they’ll be rewarded for this good deed!

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Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
Hot cocoa is a treat full of decadent flavor that’s good for you. Add a few drops of vanilla or a few grains of ground cayenne pepper. Top with miniature marshmallows, serve with a cinnamon stick and enjoy!
Makes about 7 servings

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup powdered milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Blend all ingredients together. Store in an air-tight container.

Add 3 heaping tablespoons of the mix to 8 ounces boiling water. For extra cream cocoa use skim milk in place of water. Stir well.

Cultural Holiday Quiz

Test your knowledge of holiday traditions around the world. Learn the answers listening to great conversation at Libby’s Luncheonette on WCHE1520AM (listen live) at 12:15 pm EST.

Hanukah – Israel                                     Seven fishes

Christmas – Mexico                                 Buche de Noel

Kwanzaa – African American                  Kutya

New Years – Japan                                Tamales, fish, atole

Christmas – France                                 Rosca de Reyes, or the King’s Ring

New Years – China                                 Latkes and sufganiyot

Christmas – Russia                                 Eating noodles at midnight

New years – Germany                            Lutefisk

Ramadan – Middle East                         Jai

Christmas – Scandinavia                        Pork and sauerkraut

Epiphany – Peru                                      Beef, lamb, yogurt salad

Christmas – Italy                                     Sweet potato pie, black eyed peas

Translating Traditions

Connecting with family traditions always seems especially important this time of year.   I remember my mom’s recipe box was that dated olive green plastic that matched the living room curtains and modeled green wall-to-wall carpet. Don’t laugh, that was in style when?

Her recipe card box was always overflowing with cards and irreplaceable scraps food stained paper with faded handwriting from family members I never got to know. It had my pencil-printed recipes, like Everyday Drumsticks, from my childhood cooking classes with Sister Marcianne and Jeannette the school cook, Granny’s chocolate cake and sarmales (stuffed cabbage leaves), from the old country.

Image0I enjoyed a lot of sarmales and stuffed peppers – two of the traditional Romanian recipes made by the Romanian and German women in the family.   My Aunt Sylvia, who could speak Romanian fluently, had made the translation for my mom when she married my dad – probably to make sure he got fed as he’d become accustomed.

The green recipe box is still at my Mom and Dad’s home, on a closet shelf behind their winter hats and gloves stuffed with many other recipes that remain unmade because they are written using metric and weights. What a loss of tradition, connection to the past and opportunity to taste something that someone thought was extraordinary enough to write down and share.

photoYou may not have a recipe box like my mom’s, but with the Internet the ability to share traditional recipes is bigger than ever.   From limoncello, to sweet sufganiyot and authentic, at last, international sharing of traditions, memories and scrumptiousness has been made easy! Click here for tips for translations.

Citrus Spiced Olives

‘Tis the season of getting together.  From a small dinners, to holiday parties, to neighbors stopping by for a chat, you never know when an occasion will arise.  I like to be prepared with a few ready-made foods that I can put out, or quickly put into a small mason jar with a bow for a holiday gift.

Homemade spiced nuts, hummus and vegetable dippers or an herbed goat cheese ball are some of my go-to, must-have-on-hand holiday foods.  But this year I have something new to add to my mix – Citrus Spiced Olives.

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We are lucky to have such availability of olives in our markets.  Greek, Spanish, Kalamata…much of an olive’s unique flavor comes from how it is processed.  But texture and colors of black, rosy browns and varying degrees of muted to bright greens, also depend on the processing as well as the olive variety, region in which its grown and whether it was picked unripe or more mature.

Combining the zesty flavors of olives with complements of lemon and orange contrasted with rosemary, garlic and the unforgettable heat of red pepper flakes makes this dish a standout. Each olive offering a unique colorful bite …like a candy dish of sensational flavor.

But olives are much healthier than the traditional holiday candy.  Each olive is a bite of anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer support.  And, specific phytonutrients in olives seem to help maintain bone mass.

In The Mediterranean Diet, the olive gets a lot of attention for it’s contribution to decreased risk of osteoporosis to reduced risk of cardiovascular risk.  Containing lots of monounsaturated fat along with essential fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids, eating olives without eating too much total fat has been shown to decrease total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and LDL:HDL ratio…all beneficial to heart health.

There are lots of reasons to love olives, and everyone will love Citrus Spiced Olives.

Citrus Spiced Olives

The unique bright greens, muted browns and solid black colors, variety of sizes and buttery flavor make each olive a bite-sized sensation of citrus, spicy heat and savory herbs.

2 cups mixed olives, pitted or unpitted
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 large sprig of rosemary (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons orange juice
Fresh black pepper to taste

Warm a medium sized sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, garlic crushed red pepper flakes, and herbs if desired.  Heat for a minute or until just before the garlic browns.  Stir in the olives, lemon zest, orange juice and fresh ground pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Using a slotted spoon, lift the olives from the liquid and serve at room temperature with crusty bread and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Flavors of Summer

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Quick…what are your favorite flavors of summer? So many I know, but three are at the heart of summer cooking – tomatoes, corn and basil. Love ‘em!

In season and as fresh and local as your back yard garden, or at least your nearest farmers market, these flavors are also good for your heart!

Technically a fruit, a berry in fact, Italians call the tomato “pomodoro” meaning golden apple for the yellow and orange varieties. But in France, these fruits are pomme d’amour otherwise known as love apples. Eating fresh tomatoes can help lower total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis.

But tomatoes aren’t the only flavor working to lower the risk of heart disease. Sweet, fresh corn from your local farmers market, or frozen, has a good amount of soluble fiber, important for feeding good bacteria in our intestine and helping lower cholesterol.

And what tastier way to help keep your vascular system healthy than with one of over 60 varieties of flavorful basil. Best known in Thai, Vietnamese and, most infamously, Italian cooking where it’s a symbol of love, basil’s vitamin A, vitamin C and polyphenols act like antioxidants which help keep arteries clean of atherosclerosis.

In this charming Corn Crab Tomato Salad the basil colorfully adds aromatic flavor to the brilliant Lemon Basil Dressing. This replaces the need for extra salt which can contribute to high blood pressure and helps keep flavor a light 242 calories per serving.

For an easy how-to hollow a tomato for stuffing, click here.

Corn Crab and Tomato Salad with lemon Basil Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed

1. Combine rind, 3 tablespoons juice, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons juice mixture. Add remaining 2 tablespoons juice, corn, and next 4 ingredients (through crab) to remaining juice mixture; toss gently to coat.

2. Arrange 2 tomato slices and 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes on each of 4 plates. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon reserved juice mixture over each serving. Top each serving with 1 cup corn and crab mixture.

Original recipe by Jackie Mills…we’re not related, published by Cooking Light 2008

Thanksgiving Cooking Classes

Thanksgiving is just around the corner…believe it or not!  And, I have a couple of cooking classes to get us all in the mood to have fun in the kitchen!

It’s all about having a good time and experiencing easy-to-do-at-home great ideas that will make your table a true celebration of health and pleasure.  My classes are full of fun, participation and deliciousness.  You’ll taste and take home all the recipes.

stuffed pumpkins iStock_000028116610SmallNovember 7, 2013
Thursday
New Sides for Traditional Turkey Dinners

Classic flavors will make these Thanksgiving recipes “keepers” for new traditions and good health.  A cornucopia of fun, come explore fresh, seasonal ideas.  View the menu and sign up.  You’ll cook, taste and enjoy and evening with friends from 6-8:00 pm at Judy’s Healthy Kitchen in West Chester.

November 9, 2013
Saturday
Vegetarian Thanksgiving on Small Plates

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate exciting new ways to enjoy these Thanksgiving flavors.   Capturing both traditional and seasonal flavors, these vegetarian recipes are guaranteed to become new favorites for Thanksgiving sides or meatless meals!  Bring your questions and appetite to a real farm-to-plate event at Red Hill Farm. View the menu and sign up.

November 19, 2013
Stuffings A’sides

All turkey-talk aside, Thanksgiving dinner is all about the stuffing and sides!   Capturing both traditional and seasonal flavors, these recipes will become new favorites.  We’ll cook, taste and enjoy an evening with friends from 6-8:00 pm at Great Harvest Bread Company. View the menu and sign up.

3 Locations for Cooking Classes

Kitchen Kapers
October 12, 2013
, Saturday
Okto-beer-fest: Celebrate Cooking with Beer

Celebrate Octo”beer”fest with an October feast of recipes made with beer. You’ll explore some delicious flavors developed through cooking with beer. There will also be a representative from the Flying Fish Brewing Company present to discuss their craft and bring the main ingredient in all our recipes, BEER!   View the menu and sign up.

Great Harvest Bread Company
October 29, 2013, Tuesday
Okto-beer-fest: Celebrate Cooking with Beer

Celebrate Okto-beer-fest with an Okto-beer feast of recipes made with beer. Partnering with West Chester’s Boxcar Brewing Company you’ll explore delicious flavors of cooking with beer. We’ll cook, taste and enjoy an evening with friends from 6-8:00 pm. View the menu and sign up.

Great Harvest Bread Company
November 5, 2013
, Tuesday
All-Day Waffles… Any Time Fun

Can’t decide what to eat, we’ll waffle it out.  Heat up the iron, waffles are hot for more than breakfast!  With make ahead time-saving tips, waffles take center plate, small bites and desserts. We’ll cook, taste and enjoy an evening with friends from 6-8:00 pm. View the menu and sign up.

Red Hill Farm
November 9, 2013
, Saturday
Vegetarian Thanksgiving on Small Plates

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate exciting new ways to enjoy these Thanksgiving flavors.   Capturing both traditional and seasonal flavors, these vegetarian recipes will become new favorites and promote healthy eating.  Bring your questions and appetite. View the menu and sign up.