Lift the Lid on Food Preservation

Photo courtesy of the National Center of Home Food Preservation.

When most of us “baby boomers” came home from the hospital as infants, our mothers probably held us because infant car seats weren’t required then. We probably rode in cars filled with leaded fuel.

Most likely we came home to houses with asbestos insulation and lead-containing paint. Most of us slept in cribs with fairly wide slats, and our pajamas probably weren’t flame-retardant. We might have been fed solid foods at 2 weeks of age.

Maybe it’s a wonder we survived.

The moral of the story: Health and safety recommendations change based on knowledge gained through research and practice.

Food preservation recommendations have changed through time, too. Great Grandma’s famous pickled beet recipe and the canning recipes published in the 1970 church cookbook probably don’t stand up to current recommendations.

During and after World War II, canning formulations were tested for safety. Research-tested recipes and procedures were provided across the U.S. through the Extension Service network of the land-grant university system. Since then, canning recommendations continually have been revamped as new knowledge is gained.

How much do you know about canning recommendations? Even if you never have seen a pressure canner, you could be offered home-canned food. You might want to gauge your risk.

Test your knowledge with this true/false quiz.

  1. True/False: Vegetables, meats and most mixtures of foods must be canned in a pressure canner, not a boiling water-bath canner.
  2. True/False: Paraffin wax is not recommended as a way to seal jams and jellies.
  3. True/False: When canning salsa or tomatoes to be processed in a water-bath canner, lemon juice or another acidic ingredient must be added to ensure proper acidity.
  4. True/False: Botulism, a potentially fatal type of foodborne illness, could result from eating low-acid foods (such as vegetables) that have been canned improperly.
  5. True/False: For best quality, use home-canned foods within a year.

How did you do? All the answers are “true.” For more information about food preservation, contact your local Extension office or visit the NDSU Extension Service website, www.ag.ndsu.edu/food (click on “food preservation”).

Where Can You Learn About Canning, Drying and Freezing Food?

Photo courtesy of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I was having breakfast with a group of people after helping harvest lettuce, beans, zucchini, peas and peppers that our “Junior Master Gardeners” had planted behind our church. The food is shared with members of our congregation and the community.

People at my table began reminiscing about gardening and food in general. Someone mentioned she wanted to get into gardening and preserving foods. Another person talked about having home-canned foods while growing up, with few foods purchased from the grocery store.

Someone else mentioned the home-canned wild game birds her mother used to prepare. I think she could almost “taste” the memory.

Then a person mentioned a time she opened a jar of home-canned food and her house smelled bad for three days because the food had spoiled in the jar. That was not a pleasant memory.

Her family was lucky the jar didn’t blow its cover off, spewing the toxic food everywhere. I have had phone calls from people asking how to clean up the mess when food is not properly canned.

Sometimes, however, we have no “signs” such as changes in color, flavor or aroma to know whether food is safe. The only prevention measure is to follow research-tested guidelines for preparation and storage.

Whether you grow your own produce or buy it, preserving food has many advantages. You have control of the quality of your starting ingredients, and you have a sense of pride that comes with preserving your garden’s bounty. You also may be preserving some family traditions.

Creativity often is the mark of a good cook, but creativity has little, if any, role in home canning. Home canning is a science. The good news is that U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research-tested recipes are readily available at no cost.

The bad news is that Great-grandma’s pickled beet recipe isn’t necessarily considered safe by today’s standards. Botulism, a potentially deadly form of foodborne illness, can result from improperly home-canned foods.

Remember some basic rules when canning. Make sure your equipment is functional and, if processing vegetables or meats, be sure your pressure gauge has been tested for accuracy within the past year. Obtain research-tested recipes and follow them closely.

Acidic foods such as pickles, jellies, jams, fruits and tomatoes should be processed in a boiling water-bath canner for the recommended amount of time. Tomatoes should be acidified with lemon juice or citric acid. Low-acid food such as vegetables, meat and most mixtures of foods should be processed in a pressure canner following current recommendations.

Salsa is one of the most popular home-canned foods. If your garden produced salsa ingredients such as tomatoes, peppers and onions in abundance, consider these salsa-making tips.

  • Follow the formulation exactly and measure/weigh ingredients carefully. Use bottled lemon or lime juice or vinegar as indicated.
  • Handle hot peppers carefully: Wear plastic gloves and wash your hands before touching your face.
  • In canning recipes calling for spices, you safely may decrease the amount of spice, but do not increase the spice amounts.
  • To alter the heat in salsa, you safely can substitute one type of pepper for another, but keep the total amount of pepper the same.
  • Do not thicken salsas with cornstarch or other thickeners before canning. After opening the jars, if the salsa appears thin, it can be heated and thickened later, or the excess juice may be strained.

For more information visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food for free, research-based information about food preservation. You can learn about freezing and canning almost any food. Learn how to make sauerkraut and home-made wine. Explore making fruit leather and dehydrated herbs, fruits and vegetables.

Many county Extension offices offer food preservation classes, so check in your area for those learning opportunities. One of our most popular guides is “Canning and Freezing Tomatoes and Making Salsa,” which includes the following recipe.

Tomato/Tomato Paste Salsa

3 quarts peeled, cored, chopped slicing tomatoes
3 cups chopped onions
6 jalapeno peppers, seeded, finely chopped
4 long green chilies, seeded, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 12-ounce cans tomato paste
2 cups bottled lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin*
2 tablespoons oregano leaves*
1 teaspoon black pepper

Procedure: Prepare tomatoes (see Page 1). Prepare peppers (see Page 7). Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot into pint jars, leaving ½ inch of head space. Adjust the lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water-bath canner (at altitudes of up to 1,000 feet) or for 20 minutes at higher altitudes.

*Optional: Spice amounts may be reduced. Do not make other adjustments to this recipe.

This recipe yields about 7 pints. Two tablespoons of salsa has about 10 calories, 2 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 0 g protein and 0 g fat.

 

I’ll Have the Centerpiece for Lunch

At this time of year, some of the blooming flowers look good enough to eat. Some flowers actually are edible.

In fact, many flower varieties are edible, but before you munch on the centerpiece, you need to do your homework. Some flower varieties are poisonous, or at least could cause allergic reactions or stomach upset.

For example, apple blossoms should be tasted in moderation because the flowers contain chemicals related to cyanide. Chamomile commonly used in teas can cause allergic reactions in people with ragweed allergies. Too many daylilies can have a laxative effect.

Flowers have been used as food throughout history, from squash blossoms in Asian culture to roses in Italian culture. More recently, chefs and cake decorators have used flowers as garnishes.

Edible flowers can be floated on soups or in punch bowls. They can be frozen in ice cubes or ice rings. Brightly colored edible petals can be sprinkled over salads. Besides serving as the finishing touch, flowers have made their way into the main course or side dishes.

Some of the common edible flower varieties include the petals of roses, chrysanthemums, pansies, violets, nasturtiums, impatiens and daylilies. Not only can flowers add color, they also can add flavor. Flowers differ in taste from mintlike to peppery.

Here are some tips to consider before eating the bouquet:

  • Know your flower varieties. Consult with an expert or use a reputable plant identification guide. Remember that flowers used as plate garnishes aren’t necessarily edible.
  • Be aware that people affected by allergies, hay fever or asthma could react to flowers used in food preparation.
  • Avoid flowers that have been exposed to pesticides unless the pesticides are labeled for use on edible flowers and the label directions have been followed. Avoid using flowers grown by the roadside because they may have been exposed to pesticides. Flowers from florists or garden centers also likely have been treated with pesticides and are best left off the menu.
  • Pick fully open edible flowers after morning dew has evaporated. Use right away or refrigerate between layers of damp paper toweling.
  • Remove pollen-containing stamens and pistils from flowers. Pollen can detract from the flavor. Pollen also can cause allergic reactions.
  • Gently wash flower petals right before use.

Slowly introduce edible flowers into your menu to avoid potential stomach upset.

For further information, the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service website has an online publication with information on growing edible flowers and the flavors of edible flowers. It is available at www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/hil-8513.html.

Here’s a tasty veggie dip. Try it with or without added nasturtium petals. The light versions of cream cheese and mayonnaise cut calories and fat.
Veggie Dip

1/4 c. hot water
2 tsp. beef bouillon powder
1 8-oz. package light cream cheese
1/2 c. light mayonnaise
4 large green onions, chopped
1/3 c. chopped red, orange and yellow nasturtium petals, chopped (optional)

Dissolve beef powder in hot water. Chop onions, tops included. Mix ingredients and chill. Before serving, mix in chopped flowers if desired. Be sure flowers have not been in contact with pesticides, and wash carefully. Garnish with additional flowers if desired. Serve with assorted fresh vegetables.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving contains 60 calories and 5 grams fat.

What Kind of Water Is Best?

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

A few years ago, I visited California in late summer. When people hear you’re from North Dakota, they talk about cold weather and lots of snow. If you add that you live in Fargo, they talk about the movie and TV show of the same name. They expect you will speak in an accent.

When I told them the temperature topped 100 degrees back home, they hardly believed me. I think they were expecting us to have snow on the ground year-round. They probably thought I wore snow boots on the plane. I’m not sure what the local reaction would be to snow in August.

The effects of high heat and little moisture are pretty obvious on plant and animals. When I forget to water them, my decorative plants look like overcooked side dishes. Birds flutter in search of refreshing bird baths.

High heat and lack of moisture also can take a toll on humans. While we have no minimum recommendation for human water consumption, water perhaps is our most essential nutrient. Humans are made up of 60  to 75 percent water by weight, depending on age and gender.

Too little water can be devastating, especially to older adults and young children who become dehydrated more easily. People who work outdoors in hot weather and athletes also need to keep liquids handy to prevent dehydration. When we feel thirsty, it usually means we’re slightly dehydrated.

Water has many roles in the human body, ranging from lubricating joints for easy movement to helping regulate body temperature. On average, we lose a couple of quarts of water daily through urination and sweating, so replace those losses with the equivalent of 6 to 8 8-ounce cups of fluid daily.

Signs of dehydration include nausea, sunken eyes, muscle cramps, clammy skin and rapid heartbeat. Dehydration often requires prompt medical care.

What kind of water is best? That depends on your personal preferences. Municipal water or tap water is safe to drink, barring any contamination issues. However, some people prefer the taste of bottled water.

Bottled water has become a huge business. In fact, according to a market research company, bottled water is a top-selling beverage.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water, also known as “drinking water.” The FDA requires that bottled water be processed, bottled, held and transported under sanitary conditions. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the safety of tap or municipal water.

Special types of bottled water, such as mineral, artesian and spring water, must meet the guidelines set by the FDA. For example, mineral water can’t contain added minerals. These minerals must be present in the water source naturally.

Are you thirsty yet? A glass of cold water certainly will tame your thirst. Most foods contain some moisture, too. Fruits and vegetables are the all-stars in moisture content, and their high moisture level keeps their calories low. Here’s a refreshing fruity drink to enjoy on a hot day.

 Tropical Smoothie

1 c. orange juice
2 c. pineapple chunks packed in juice, drained
1 large banana, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. fat-free milk
2 Tbsp. sugar (as desired)
1 c. crushed ice

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 140 calories, no fat, 36 grams (g) of carbohydrates, 2 g of fiber and 60 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

Do You Have a “Fish That Got Away” Story?

 

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

I recall when my now-16-year-old daughter first experienced fishing. At age 6, she didn’t catch a fish while casting a line off a dock, but she officially was “hooked” on fishing.

She talked about the fish that got away for years. I witnessed a striped bass nibble her bait, but then it cleverly avoided her hook for the rest of the afternoon. She was very persistent.

She became a classic “fisherperson” with a “fish that got away” story. Her fish has grown progressively larger as time has passed. In fact, by today’s estimate, it’s probably about one-third her size.

That fish had her name on it. She asked our friends to promise not to catch it because she expected it to grow much larger by our return visit at the end of summer. Shaking her little fist for emphasis, she vowed to catch that fish. She never got her fish, but I think it led to her love of fish and seafood to this day.

Fishing is a popular and relaxing sport that sometimes results in a tasty meal. Be sure to learn about the fishing guidelines at your destination. Because fish is highly perishable, follow some rules to keep your catch at its best.

To help ensure a safe and tasty meal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following:

  • Scale, gut and clean fish as soon as possible after they’re caught.
  • Keep live fish on stringers or in live wells when possible, but be sure they have enough water to move and breath.
  • Wrap fish, whole and cleaned, in water-tight plastic and store on ice.
  • Keep 3 to 4 inches of ice on the bottom of a cooler. Alternate layers of fish and ice.
  • Store coolers out of the sun. Cover the coolers with a blanket to insulate them against the sun.
  • Eat fresh fish within one to two days or freeze it. For best quality, use frozen fish within three to six months.

You don’t need to catch your own fish to enjoy it. When purchasing fish, use your eyes and nose to help you make your decision. Look for firm flesh that springs back when pressed and be sure your selection has a fresh smell, not an unusually strong “fishy” smell.

To determine amounts to purchase or prepare per serving, consider these guidelines. Allow about 1 pound of whole fish (as it comes from the water), 1/2 pound dressed fish or 1/4 pound fillet per serving.

Cook fish until it flakes with a fork, but be cautious not to overcook it or your entrée will be rubbery or dry. Experiment with cooking methods. Try grilling, baking, poaching or frying your catch.

Here’s a quick and easy way to enjoy the “fish of the day.”  For more information, see the NDSU Extension Service publication, “A Pocket Guide to Care and Handling of Fish from Stream to Table” FN 535 at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/landing-pages/food-and-nutrition/a-pocket-guide-to-care-and-handling-of-fish-from-stream-to-table-fn-535

Baked Fish Fillets

1 pound fish fillets
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated onion
Paprika (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If fillets are large, cut into desired portion sizes. Allow about 1/4 pound per portion. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Mix melted butter, lemon juice and onion. Dip fillets into mixture and arrange in baking pan. Pour remaining mixture over fish. Bake uncovered until fish flakes with fork, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika before serving if desired.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 7 grams (g) fat, 0.5 g carbohydrate and 22 g protein.

 

Happy Campers Need to Plan Ahead

 

Photo by sgarton courtesy of morguefile.com

I grew up in an “indoorsy” family. In fact, the first time I spent a night in a tent was at the insistence of a very outdoorsy college roommate.

We gathered a few friends and went to a lake for “Julie’s Camping Adventure.” Things started out OK. The food was tasty, and the weather was fairly warm. I had my own tent and a cozy sleeping bag.

This wasn’t so bad after all, I thought.

Then things took a turn for the worse in the late evening. Rain started falling. My tent partially collapsed in the wind and pouring rain. Water seeped in, forming a little pool in half of the tent.

As I rolled to the other side of the tent, I lamented that nothing is quite like a soggy sleeping bag.

When the rain subsided, I heard animals rustling outside my tent. They sounded big. Not only was I wet and cold, I also was terrified.

I thought surely I’d be a midnight snack for some huge, hungry animal that had wandered over from a distant state, probably having heard through the animal grapevine that I knew nothing about camping.

Needless to say, sleep escaped me that evening.

I obviously survived my adventure, and I even had fun on a hike the next day. I later went on to more enjoyable camping adventures.

Camping and hiking are chances to enjoy the outdoors, “rough it” a little and learn a few things along the way. If you’re planning a lengthy camping or hiking trip, you have a few guidelines to keep in mind.

First, plan your menus, shop for ingredients and think “light” when packing. Aim for cookware that “nests” so it takes up less room and also consider using aluminum foil as a cooking aid.

Find out if you’ll need to bring a portable stove or grill or if campfires are allowed. If you are using new or unfamiliar cooking equipment on your trip, do a trial run at home to be sure you know how to operate it.

Consider easy-to-prepare items such as macaroni, rice, and dry soup, pancake and sauce mixes that help create quick and tasty meals with only the addition of water and a few other ingredients.

If meat is on your menu, don’t forget your food thermometer. Be sure the meat is packed on ice and kept below 40 degrees.

Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees and chicken breasts to at least 165 degrees. Heat leftover food to at least 165 degrees. Don’t forget to clean your thermometer between uses.

If you plan to take a hike, pack some shelf-stable foods to eat on the trail. Consider bringing peanut butter in plastic jars; juice boxes; crackers; canned tuna, ham, chicken or beef; beef jerky; nuts; dried fruit; and plenty of water to help prevent dehydration.

When doing cleanup at your campsite, use biodegradable soap that’s available in many camping supply stores. Wash your dishes at your campsite, away from the edges of rivers, lakes and streams. Dump the dirty water on dry ground to prevent contaminating the rivers, lakes or streams.

Wash your hands well. For quick cleanup, pack some disposable wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Here’s a snack to enjoy while you’re enjoying a nature hike or brisk walk around your neighborhood. Trail mixes are generally energy-dense for their weight.

Trail Snack

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. oatmeal (not instant oatmeal)
1 c. raisins
1 c. coconut
1 c. peanuts
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix together well. Press onto greased or sprayed baking pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool and cut into chunks. Divide into 12 servings and place in individual sealed bags.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 300 calories, 7.4 grams (g) protein, 35 g carbohydrate and 15.5 g fat.

What’s the “Exertion Value” of Gardening?

 

courtesy of morguefile.com

“Are you teaching me how to plant things so someday I can teach my little girl?” my daughter asked. We were planting flowers and tomato and pepper plants. She was about 7 at the time.

“That’s the idea,” I remarked. Being a grandmother was an interesting future concept, too.

 

 

“Then she can teach her little kids and they can teach their little kids and on and on,” my daughter continued.

I was growing older by the minute.

“Yes, that’s true. Gardening is pretty fun, isn’t it? I hope we’ll get lots of tomatoes and peppers,” I remarked, changing the subject before we hit the 22nd century.

“It’s kind of a lot of work,” she noted with a dramatic sigh as she lugged a bucket of compost to the garden plot. “Can we take a break?”

As we visited, we met our new neighbor for the first time. He was trimming shrubs. We became acquainted, and I got some rhubarb in the process.

Gardening is beneficial on many levels. All that digging, lifting and bending is good for your health and it’s relaxing at the same time. Depending on what you choose to plant, flowers and plants can beautify your landscape, herbs can flavor your recipes, and fruits and vegetables can color your recipes. Children who help grow fruits and vegetables are more apt to eat them, too.

If gardening is your preferred form of exercise, consider the research results of Barbara Ainsworth and colleagues published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. She examined the effort expended in a variety of activities and assigned “exertion value” numbers. Lower numbers correspond to less exertion and fewer calories burned. Here are some relative exertion values (not in calories burned) for typical activities:

  • 0.9 – Lying quietly or sleeping
  • 1.5 – Sitting on the deck
  • 2.3 – Walking while shopping
  • 3 – Carpentry
  • 4 – Bicycling at 10 mph, fishing, water aerobics
  • 4.5 – Golfing
  • 5 – Softball or baseball
  • 6 – Swimming

Here’s how gardening activities fit in this system:

  • 1.5 – Standing or walking while watering the lawn or garden
  • 3.5 – Trimming shrubs with a power cutter
  • 4.5 – Mowing lawn
  • 5 – Laying sod
  • 6 – Tilling a garden or mowing with hand mower

I’m not sure where gathering rhubarb stalks would fall, but the activity has enjoyable consequences in the kitchen. One of the earliest “fruits” of the season, rhubarb, or pieplant, is technically a vegetable, but it’s used as a fruit in pies, cakes, sauces and jams. Look for firm, glossy stalks that aren’t large. Don’t nibble on the leaves because they are toxic.

Store fresh rhubarb in the crisper of your refrigerator, wash and use within a few days. Rhubarb is frozen easily by cutting and placing it in freezer bags in recipe-size portions. Heating rhubarb in boiling water for a minute and cooling promptly in cold water helps retain color and flavor. Before freezing, you also can add sugar or sugar syrup if desired.

Here’s a tasty way to enjoy rhubarb. You can substitute frozen rhubarb that has been thawed and drained, too. For more information about food, nutrition and gardening, visit the NDSU website at www.ag.ndsu.edu.

Cinnamon-topped Rhubarb Muffins

1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 c. butter
1 c. (8 oz.) reduced-fat sour cream
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 c. chopped rhubarb
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, combine brown sugar and butter. Beat at medium speed until well-mixed (one to two minutes). Add sour cream and eggs; continue beating, scraping bowl often until well-mixed (one to two minutes). In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. By hand, stir flour mixture into sour cream mixture just until moistened. Fold in rhubarb. Spoon into greased muffin pans. In small bowl, stir together a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle onto each muffin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan.

Makes 12 muffins. Each muffin has 165 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fat and 1 gram of fiber.

Be Prepared for Outdoor Eating Adventures When Camping

“Just be sure to check your sleeping bag for snakes,” my friend said before I crawled into the tent.

“Snakes?” I said.

After that remark, I wanted to go home.

“Be sure not to leave out any food because there might be bears outside. There may be some bats, too,” another friend said.

“How about lions?” I asked.

I was seeing that they were playing “let’s scare Julie.” 

At the time, I was with a group of my college friends. I was the inexperienced camper, so they were having a little fun with me.

Despite the fact that I knew they were teasing me, I checked my sleeping bag carefully for reptiles. I didn’t leave the tent until daybreak, either.

Be sure your food does not become “scary” as you enjoy some summer picnics, hiking adventures or camping trips during the last weeks of summer. Keeping your food safe in outdoor situations takes a little planning and care during the trip.

Remember some key rules for outdoor food safety. Keep everything clean. Because water isn’t available at every camping or picnic site, be sure to bring disposable wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands.

While cleaning your dishes is a good plan, take care not to pollute. Be sure to use soap sparingly and keep it out of lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. Dump the dirty water on dry ground away from fresh water.

If you are going backpacking, bring some lightweight, shelf-stable foods, such as peanut butter in plastic jars; small cans or shelf-stable packets of tuna, ham, chicken or beef; dried meats (such as beef jerky); dried fruits and nuts; and powdered milk or fruit drinks.

If you plan to enjoy camp cookouts, keep the weight of supplies low by bringing aluminum foil and/or lightweight pans. Check to see if the campsite allows you to build a fire or if you should bring a portable camp stove or grill.

Don’t forget to bring your food thermometer on picnics and camping trips. You may be cooking late in the evening, which makes seeing the food difficult. Color is never a reliable indicator of doneness. Cook poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165  F and hamburgers to at least 160 degrees.

If you are using a dial thermometer, be sure to insert it 2 to 2.5 inches into the food so the food is in contact with the sensing area. If you are cooking thin foods, insert the probe sideways into the food.

Keep cold foods cold. You have several choices for coolers, but some are more durable than others. Foam chests have the advantage of being low in cost and lightweight, but they are not as durable as plastic chests.

See www.mealtime.org for more recipes from the Canned Food Alliance. This recipe lends itself to an outdoor eating adventure if you do a little work at home. Make the salsa ahead of time and refrigerate. Marinate the chicken as directed and keep chilled. Keep the meat in a separate cooler from the ready-to-eat foods. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food for more food safety and nutrition information and a database of recipes from the NDSU Extension Service.

Red-bean Salsa Grilled Chicken

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves

Homemade Salsa

1 1/2 tsp. grated lime peel, divided
4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, divided
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) small kidney beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes (drain one can)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 to 2 Tbsp. hot sauce

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the red onion, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until onion is tender, stirring often for about five minutes. Put the chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the cooked onion mixture, 1 teaspoon of the lime peel and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, then salt and pepper to taste. Toss to mix well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, also make a salsa. Place the remaining cooked onion mixture in a medium serving bowl. Stir in the beans, tomatoes (and the juice from one can of tomatoes), cilantro and hot sauce to taste. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of lime peel and 2 tablespoons of lime juice. Stir to mix well. Cover and refrigerate salsa until ready to serve.

Heat a barbecue grill to medium-hot. Remove the chicken from its marinade and dispose of the leftover marinade. Grill the chicken, turning once, until browned and cooked through (165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), about 10 minutes. Serve the grilled chicken topped with the salsa.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 300 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 34 g of carbohydrate, 680 milligrams of sodium and 45 percent of the daily value for vitamin C.

 

 

 

Dirty Money Prompts Need to Wash Hands

 

Photo by Xenia courtesy of morguefile.com

Will he or won’t he? I thought to myself. As I watched the lone food service worker collect money from several patrons, I wondered whether he would wash his hands before preparing our food.

I must have been staring at him because he looked over at me. I probably was making him uncomfortable or irritated, but I think my scrutiny worked.

After collecting money from three patrons, he walked from the cash register to the counter to make our sandwiches. Suddenly he stopped, turned around, walked over to the sink and proceeded to wash his hands.

I was glad. Washing your hands after handling money is a good idea. According to the food safety standards in the food code, food service workers must wash their hands after engaging in any activity that may have contaminated their hands.

I remember being warned not to put money in my mouth as a child. As the saying went, “You don’t know where that money has been.”

Touching money and then eating a sandwich with unwashed hands is kind of like putting money in your mouth. Unless you wash your hands, you could be transferring organisms from the money to your hands to the food.

Just how dirty is money? Is handling money linked to illness? I decided to see what researchers have reported.

I did not find major warnings about money handling being directly related to illness. Some researchers, however, speculated that the potential was there.

U.S. paper currency has some built-in protections. For example, the ink and paper contain fungicidal agents. With use, though, the ability of the money to ward off microorganisms is weakened. Some metals in coins have antimicrobial properties, so that is another protective feature.

Money changes hands, though. Money is handled by numerous people throughout a community and potentially, money can travel around the world in pockets and wallets.

After studying the bacterial levels on currency in their nations, New Zealand and Australian researchers found relatively low bacterial counts on their currency and coins. However, they did detect salmonella, E. coli and staphylococcus.

Although low numbers of bacteria were present, the researchers decided that more study was needed to learn whether the bacteria could be transferred to humans.

U.S. Air Force physicians helped a high school student from Ohio with a science project that examined bacteria on dollar bills. They collected the dollars from people at a concession stand during a high school athletic event and from a grocery store. Then they went to work in a lab to identify bacteria on the money.

They identified 93 types of bacteria on the bills and two out of three dollars had at least one kind of bacteria. Staphylococcus and klebsiella were among the bacteria they identified. Both of these can make you sick.

Should we be worried? We don’t live in a sterile world. Germs are all around us, on surfaces and items we touch. Fortunately for us, one of the easiest ways to protect ourselves from a variety of illnesses is simple: proper hand washing.

Be like the food service worker who is required to wash his hands frequently. Wash your hands often. Lather up for at least 20 seconds. Time yourself and see if you are shortchanging yourself on hand hygiene.

If you’ve washed your hands, you are ready to make yourself a sandwich. Here’s a novel sandwich courtesy of the Wheat Foods Council at www.wheatfoods.org.

Pizza Salad Pita Pockets

 

3 6-inch whole-wheat pitas
6 leaves romaine lettuce
8 cherry tomatoes, halved (or use chopped tomatoes)
1/2 c. chopped red onion
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts, packed in water, drained and quartered
1 ounce pepperoni slices, cut in half
1/2 c. pizza sauce
1/4 c. grated low-fat mozzarella cheese
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

 

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, pepperoni, pizza sauce, cheese, vinegar and garlic powder. Warm in a microwave oven for about one minute. Cut each pita in half and warm in a microwave about 30 seconds. Stuff each pita with a lettuce leaf and add one-third of the pizza salad. Serve immediately.

Makes three servings. Each serving has about 370 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 60 g of carbohydrate and 13 g of fiber.

Fairs, Festivals May Prompt Calorie Overload

 

Photo by “Click” courtesy of morguefile.com

“I shouldn’t eat this, but I can’t resist!”

“I’ve really ruined my diet now. Oh well, I’ll take seconds.”

“I’ll start eating healthier on Monday.”

Have you ever heard, or maybe said, these things?

We’re in the prime season for “food-inspired guilt.” Fairs, carnivals, festivals and all sorts of fun events are in full swing during the summer. Foods such as funnel cakes, deep-fried just about anything on a stick and deep-fried breaded cheese curds entice us with their aroma, texture and flavor.

Here’s the good news: We all have room for some treats in our diet. Note the word “some.”

As you enjoy portable treats, you might argue that you are burning off all the extra calories as you walk. Yes, walking is an excellent form of exercise. However, to burn the excess calories, you may need to walk more than you planned.

To burn the calories in one fried candy bar on a stick, plan to walk 4.5 miles. Add another 4.5 miles to your trek with an order of cheese fries. If you drink a 32-ounce regular soft drink, you will need to walk an additional 2.5 miles. Add a cotton candy and you can add another 1.5 miles.

To get some fruit, how about adding a caramel apple? They must be healthy because they’re apples, right? To burn the calories in one caramel apple, you would need to walk three miles.

Quite soon, you’re well on your way to walking a marathon. You also might need an antacid.

You can enjoy some fair food, in moderation, with these tips:

  • Plan ahead for a calorie extravaganza by eating lighter during the day. Go heavy on whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and other fiber-rich, filling foods during the day.
  • Curb your appetite with a bowl of soup or a serving of whole-grain cereal and some milk before you leave home for the activity.
  • Have water instead of soft drinks or other caloric beverages.
  • Order smaller versions of your favorite treats whenever possible. Better yet, share a small order of your favorite treat with a friend.
  • Decide ahead of time what you really want to have. Maybe a small order of cheese curds, all for yourself, is your splurge. Eat it slowly, savoring the taste.

If you’re hungry for fair food but not all the fat and calories, try this interesting twist on the classic corn dog. For more information about eating smart, visit the NDSU Extension Service website at www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart. Visit us on Facebook, too.

Baked Corn Dogs

1 package (8- to 10-ounce) corn muffin mix
5 reduced-fat hotdogs
Additional ingredients (milk, oil, egg) to prepare muffins
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare muffin mix as directed. Coat 10 muffin cups with cooking spray. Fill muffin cups about one-quarter full of corn muffin batter. Slice each hot dog into six pieces. Place three pieces of hot dog in each muffin cup. Spoon remaining corn muffin batter on top of the hot dog pieces. Bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 10 servings. Each serving has about 180 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 21 g of carbohydrate and 1 g of fiber.