Food Safety Tips to Keep You Healthy This Summer

The hot days of summer can be a petri dish for food contamination. From transporting food in a hot vehicle to leaving goods out too long on the countertop, items can quickly go bad. As we near the start of the season, I think it prudent to share some useful food safety tips to keep you healthy this summer.

Keep in mind that:

When shopping use a cooler or insulated bag to store products until you arrive home. Goods such as dairy, meat, poultry and seafood can see a quick drop in temperature during the time it takes to shop, check out, and make the trip home. Additionally, unless items are being ‘held’ properly, do not stop for other errands, further delaying the time it takes to get food items into the appropriate storage unit.

It’s best to store meat in the lower section of the refrigerator. This minimizes the risk of ‘wet’ items dripping or spilling down and onto other foods, especially foods that are ready-to-eat and therefore do not require cooking or rinsing.

Wash foods properly where needed and as recommended.

When it comes to food safety, the old rule for thawing frozen foods still apply. Thaw items in the refrigerator. Just plan ahead and allow plenty of time.

I recommend that you cook ground meats within two days of purchase. If you do not plan on cooking it right away freeze it immediately.

Cross contamination can easily occur but can just as easily be avoided. Some simple things to remember here is prep dry good first, then fruits and vegetables, and leave meats, fish, and things of that sort for last. Use a separate knife and cutting board for each item. And be sure to disinfect surface area in between. Being diligent here can prevent contamination from salmonella and other bacteria.

Foods should not be kept too close to a hot grill for an extended period as the heat of the grill can induce early spoilage. Instead, place creamy and cheese-based foods like dressings, potato salad and the like on a separate surface and away from grilling area. Similarly, keep hot things hot and cold things cold.

It’s best to cook meats and fish all the way through. I know for some, foods done rare are simply divine. That’s just how you like it. However, undercooking can cause foodborne illness from parasites, etc. To prevent this, cook foods to an acceptable temperature. Invest in a food thermometer. And use it!

Again, the warm weather brings its own set of risks and hazards. Get cooking with these recommended food safety tips to keep you healthy this summer so you can eat your heart out worry free. Click on the link below for specific temperature guidelines and other useful resources.

Useful Links

USDA

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Food Temperature Guideline

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Sugars and Alternative Sweeteners

How fitting to be discussing sugars and alternative sweeteners on Valentine’s Day, a time when candy, chocolate, cake or some other sugary treat is the order of the day. But, in a recent article from Specialty Foods Association, Americans are not retreating when it comes to cutting back on the amount of sugar they consume. Where does that leave things?

There’s no substitute for taste. But with shifting attitudes towards a healthier  lifestyle, sweeteners increasingly leave a bad taste. The good news is new label laws on nutritional values are providing additional information as well as clarity. This move, too, is a growing trend in the food and beverage industry.

For the average consumer, however, it can be confusing deciding what’s good or even better for you, what product is natural, which ones are actually sugar-free, and so on. Attempting to figure that out as you shop is not as easy as it seems.

On this Valentine’s Day, I’m gifting you this handy resource to help educate you on the types of sugars and alternative sweeteners on the market. The next time you take a trip to the grocer’s you’ll be better prepared to pick the product that’s right for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Hitting the Jackpot with Jackfruit

The name Jackfruit has been popping up lately. Do you know what a Jackfruit is? If not you should. Recent trend reports suggest it might become a staple at the breakfast and dinner tables. As someone who grew up eating Jackfruit like Americans eat apple, I can assure you if this trend holds true you’re hitting the jackpot with jackfruit. Big time! 

Jackfruit is an oversized fruit with a yellowish-green bumpy skin, with yellow fleshy pods on the inside. Both the flesh and seeds are edible. The flesh is firm, sweet and flavorful, and tastes like a bunch of tropical fruits rolled into one. The seeds are just as yummy when roasted.

But one thing stood out to me when I read a recent article. So many of the foods I grew up on are now all the rage. Avocado, Coconut, Pomegranate are fruits I devoured as a child. Every yard had some sort of fruit tree in it so there was easy access. As a matter of fact, these fruits were so plentiful that many times they had fallen off the tree and you were doing yourself or someone a favor picking them up off the ground. Seriously, that’s how abundant these superfoods were. And, no doubt, still are.

As I said, I grew up on these. Jackfruit is no different. I was so excited when I came across another article from Whole Foods that I contacted them immediately to see if they had it in store. And they do!

I will be updating this post as soon as I get my paws on some Jackfruit. Please post your comments if you’re trying it for the first time or if your first bite brings back memories of childhood days.

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Coconut Set to Sale Higher in 2017

There’s no shortage of predictions for 2017. From cool tech and funky fashion to moody color palettes, forecasters have weighed in on what we can all look forward to in the new year. On the culinary side, researchers and retailers are anticipating a rise for Coconut.

Given the coconut water craze of the last few years, one would think this hard-shelled fruit would have lost her luster by now. Not so. When it comes to food, apparently, there’s always room to grow, even in a seemingly saturated marketplace. The verdict: coconut set to sale higher in 2017!

Coconut

Consumers have had their eye on healthy, organic, cholesterol-free coconut for some time. But how familiar are most with edible coconut – that is, beyond the bars, water and infused products? Here’s a look at some that have been on store shelves for ever, some newer to the marketplace, and what’s projected to give foodies a run for their money.

Coconut Milk

Coconut Milk is a staple in Caribbean cooking. Made from the ‘meat’ of the coconut, the milk is creamy and rich in texture. In Jamaica for example, coconut has never been reserved just for drinking. Coconut milk is used in dishes like Rice & Peas, and in other savory delights of fish, stews, and more. Coconut milk is also a gem in Asian cuisine and is part and parcel in curry and other dishes.

Coconut Cream

Coconut Cream as the name suggests is a creamier, more concentrated version of coconut milk and is used for similar purposes. Both the milk and cream form of coconut has been around for a very long time.

Coconut Sugar

Although Coconut Sugar has been popular in other cultures, its rise in the United States is relatively recent. Also referred to as Coconut Palm Sugar, it is mild in taste, has slightly fewer calories than refined sugar, and is regarded as an alternative sweetener. Coconut Sugar is a good source of potassium, zinc and other vitamins and minerals, and goes great in tea, coffee and other beverages that require sweetening. It also serves as a sugar substitute in baking.

Coconut Flour

Although it doesn’t fully replace wheat and grain-based flours, coconut flour is a great partial substitute in baking. Made from the ‘dried’ coconut (oil and fat removed), the flour is high in fiber and protein. Best of all, it is naturally gluten-free.

Coconut Butter

Coconut butter – not to be confused with coco butter, is the smooth, creamy and spreadable finish of the flesh of the coconut. It can be used in place of butter, cream cheese and other spreads. It is decadent, adding amazing taste and texture to smoothies, shakes, and sauces.

What’s on tap for next year? Whole foods and exotic foods! Organic, raw, plant-based fruits and veggies like coconut!

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Salivating Over Sea Salt

With the official start of summer all I’ve been thinking about is the ocean breeze, soft shell crabs and other tasty treats from the sea. Hard to believe perhaps but I’m especially salivating over Sea Salt.

Unrefined, natural and nutrient rich, sea salt offers more than a salty bite. As someone who serves up heaps of flavor, the right sea salt adds color, texture and grain too, taking a dish over the top. Here’s a sprinkling of salts and salt blends that are sure to melt in your mouth:

Edible-Himalayan-Pink-Salt-Coarse

Fleur de Sel

Fleur de Sel or ‘Flower of Salt’ is fine, fluffy salt crystals hand-harvested from France’s Atlantic Coast. This moist French salt has a delicate flavor, distinct taste and refined quality, making it one of the best finishing salts. It is beloved by cooks all over. Use it to prepare dishes or sprinkle on just before serving.

Himalayan Pink Salt    

Himalayan Pink Salt is another gem in the kitchen. Known for its taste and rich trace minerals, this rock salt ranges in size from small crystals to large stones. Because of this, it offers a multitude of uses – mills and grinders to large stones for grating table side, to chunks that are best for brining. Himalayan pink salt range in color from white to deep pink – even red, and makes for a vibrant finish. It is said to be the purest of all sea salts.

Smoked Salt

Smoked sea salts add an extra layer of flavor to foods. Smoked on a variety of woods including apple, hickory and oak, these salts offer more to savor. Lightly smoked salts are great on veggies, while the more robust work wonders atop grilled meats. Boost your backyard BBQ to a new level this grilling season with smoked sea salt.

Flavored Sea Salt

Whatever your creative culinary mind can conceive it probably exists as a salt blend. Among my favorites are Habanero Salt, Black Truffle Salt and Lime Salt, but there are literally dozens on the market. Sriracha Salt, Rosemary Salt and Merlot Salt are a few others.

With so much to choose from it can be difficult to make that choice. Hawaiian-style Red Sea Salt and Mediterranean Black Sea Salt are eye-catching with their deep, bold color. Talk about making an entrance! Whatever you fancy you can just about find it. Not sure what you fancy? No worries. Ideas and inspiration abound at SaltWorks and Williams-Sonoma.

To be balanced, research is crystal clear that too much sodium is not good for you. But cooking without any salt whatsoever is just plain blah. You can take that with a grain of salt or you can find your perfect pinch.

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The Flavor of Fall

Summer hasn’t officially ended, but with Labor Day behind us and the weather already showing signs of cooling, I think we are well on our way to Autumn. The change in season ushers in much to delight in; fruits and vegetables in vibrant display, rows of apple trees ripe for the picking, hayrides through pumpkin patches, and the most fragrant of culinary herbs.

One of the things that bring me great appreciation this time of year is the peppy
glow of fall. To behold the leaves on the trees as they change color beneath the sun’s rays. The breathtaking view driving up the New York State Thruway – as I did in college – and seeing the warm hues of red, orange, yellow and brown as the trees slowly shed their summer green. The earthy fragrance of allspice mixed with cloves that awakes you each morning and lets you know, yes, it’s fall. For me fall just has a special way of coming to life. That’s the flavor of fall.
fall-foods-superfruit-redone

More than the vivid nature of the season is the food. Although you can find just about every eat year round in today’s global marketplace, nothing is as satisfying as enjoying it in season, at its due. Everything is better when it’s at its best. Pomegranate and cranberries are redder in color and richer in taste. Apples and pears are just peachy. Brussels sprouts and bok choy are crisper, and giant pumpkins serve up big, bold taste.

Oh, the dishes you can dig into this time of year. Soups, stews, compotes and cobblers rooted in home-cooked goodness. If there’s ever a season readymade for a hearty meal it’s fall. Chunky, chicken vegetable soup made with butternut squash, potatoes, carrots, turnip, and celery, and flavored with fresh parsley and thyme. And after dinner, a generous slice of Cranberry-Apple Pie or a heap of warm fruit compote to top two scoops of your favorite ice cream.

If home is where the heart is and there’s no place like home, fall is the season you get to come home. Welcome home.

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Grilled Baby Bella Mushrooms

Looking for a succulent side dish to serve on that summer plate? These Grilled Baby Bella Mushrooms in Garlic Butter make the perfect addition. They’re earthy, flavorful, from the grill and pairs nicely with that fillet of fresh fish!

1-10oz. pkg. baby bella mushrooms

4 cloves garlic

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

½ tsp vegetable oil

½ tsp sea salt

Grilled_Baby_Bellas

  1. Shave (cut thin) garlic.
  2. On the stovetop, heat 10” skillet at medium temperature.
  3. Add butter, shaved garlic and sauté for about 4 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, wipe mushrooms with slightly damp paper towel, snip stems and cut into ¼ inch slices.
  5. Heat grill at high temperature.
  6. Brush grates with vegetable oil.
  7. Grill mushroom s for about 90 seconds on each side.
  8. Remove sautéed garlic from stovetop.
  9. Add sea salt and grilled mushrooms and toss.
  10. Serve as a flavorful side dish.

Servings:  4

Mushroom Facts

Baby Bella mushrooms are a type of brown mushroom. They are young, not fully matured Portobello mushrooms. Also known as Cremini mushrooms they are low in calories and a good source of antioxidants and other nutrients.

Note: Tableware provided by Libbey Foodservice.

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The 123’s of Barbecue Bites

It’s official. Summer is here!

One of the staples of summer is a good old-fashioned barbecue. But, if you’re counting calories you’re probably wondering just how much heat these backyard classics are packing? Before taking a bite out of the savory side of grilling season here’s the skinny on how the numbers add up.

BBQ Calorie CountUntitled presentation (1)

Data Guidelines

  1. Hot dog and hamburger depict one each and includes bun.
  2. Wings are three whole.
  3. Ribs are three pieces.
  4. Additional items are the equivalent of one serving size.
  5. Items do not account for condiments or extra toppings.
  6. Caloric information may vary based on individual style of preparation.

 

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Savory & Sweet Summer Salads

Summertime is the absolute best time to enjoy salads. From light, crisp and cool to straight from the grill, these six salads can be a refreshing start, a savory side, or flavorful finish to any meal.

Grilled Corn Salad                                                                                                    

Grilled yellow corn (cut from the cob), chopped iceberg lettuce, diced cucumber, tomato, and avocado, and finely chopped scallion tossed in sea salt, ground pepper, fresh squeezed lime juice and avocado oil.

Grilled Corn Salad

Citrus Garden Salad

Spring mix (or your favorite salad greens), sliced cucumber, bell peppers and avocado, grape tomatoes and shredded carrot tossed in a zesty citrus dressing made with a Dijon Honey Mustard, fresh squeezed lime and orange, sea salt, ground pepper and vegetable oil blend.

Summer Fruit Salad                                                                                            

Cut peaches, pineapple, watermelon, mango, kiwi, strawberry and blueberry drizzled with balsamic reduction and sprinkled with Chia Seeds.

Cucumber Salad                                                                                                    

Chopped cucumber, tomato, and scallion tossed in white vinegar and sea salt and dusted with ground pepper.

Grilled Vegetable Salad                                                                                  

Summer Squash, Zucchini, Eggplant, Asparagus, Porcini Mushroom, Bell Peppers, Corn and Shallots sprinkled with coarse sea salt and drizzled with olive oil.

Watermelon & Goat Cheese Salad                                                                        

Cubed watermelon, wetted with balsamic reduction, topped with crumbled goat cheese and adorned with fresh mint.

Watermelon & Goat Cheese SaladEnjoy these savory and sweet summer salads all season long. For more recipes visit us at www.jadegrill.com for these and other recipes.

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Citrus Dressing

I’ve been mixing things up at Williams-Sonoma stores in New York and New Jersey with this zesty Citrus Dressing. It’s fresh, fruity and savory using a few staple ingredients. Just another way to dress up a summer salad, grilled veggies, seafood and chicken!

Citrus_Dressing

1/4 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed

2 Tbsp. lime juice, fresh squeezed

3 Tbsp. honey mustard

1/4 cup vegetable oil­­

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 pinch ground black pepper

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine ingredients and whisk vigorously until blended.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4-6

Note: Tableware provided by Libbey Foodservice.

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