Avoid Kitchen Fires With These Tips

Photo by melodi2 courtesy of www.morguefile.com


My nose detected an unpleasant scent. My brain recognized the odor and soon my feet were running down the hall. I think I leaped over my then-3-year-old on the way to the kitchen. She was sitting on the floor playing with toys.

“What smells?” my son asked as I ran by. He was 11 at the time.

Dark smoke was coming out of the stove vent. I turned off the oven, noted no flames through the stove’s window and grabbed a potholder. I moved my curious kids out of the way and carefully opened the door.

I quickly pulled out a smoking pan of blackened garlic bread from under the broiler.

“Mom, you should never leave the stove unattended!” my other daughter exclaimed, echoing the words she’d heard me say. She was 8 at the time.

I had nothing to say for myself. In fact, my kids seemed to be enjoying this situation.

“Well, I burned this food on purpose to teach you guys a lesson,” I noted, tongue in cheek.

“Yeah, right, Mom!” my 8-year-old daughter said with a grin. She didn’t buy it.

My son took a more practical view. “Do we have to eat it?” he asked, gazing at the hunks of bread that resembled charcoal briquettes. I shook my head.

We’re never too old to “learn a lesson.” I had gotten distracted as I put some laundry in the washing machine. Fortunately, I didn’t have a fire, just a smoky kitchen. I opened the window to freshen the air in our home.

According to 2010 data from the National Fire Protection Association, more than 156,000 kitchen fires occurred in the U.S. resulting in 5,310 injuries, 420 deaths and more than $993 million in property loss. About 44 percent of home fires were linked to cooking.

You can help prevent kitchen fires and burns in your home by following these tips:

• Wear the right clothes when cooking. Roll up your sleeves tightly or wear short- sleeved shirts instead of wearing shirts with long, loose-fitting sleeves, which could catch on fire.

• Don’t leave your stove or appliances, especially deep-fat fryers, unattended when they’re in use. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a couple of minutes, set a timer as a reminder to check the food. Keep a close eye on food in the oven.

• Always supervise children in the kitchen. Try to keep them 3 feet away from a stove that’s being used or still hot. Keep pan handles turned toward the stove.

• Clean ovens and stovetops regularly. Spilled food can be fuel for fires.

• Keep potholders, dishcloths and towels away from burners.

• Check that burners and oven dials are turned off.

• Be sure you have a working fire extinguisher. Know how and when to use it. According to fire safety experts, don’t discharge a fire extinguisher into a burning pan of grease because it may spread the fire. Instead, smother the fire with a lid or use baking soda. Don’t throw water on a grease fire or attempt to carry the pan to the sink. You could spread the fire and burn yourself.

• Don’t use a damp towel or potholder to remove food from the oven. Steam burns can result from damp potholders.

• Test your smoke alarm regularly.

Here’s a tasty treat to enjoy. Be sure to keep an eye on it while it’s in the oven.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

1 egg
1/2 c. nonfat milk
1/2 c. yogurt, nonfat vanilla
3 Tbsp. oil
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. fresh (or frozen unsweetened) blueberries

For the topping:

3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Position the rack in the center of the oven. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, yogurt, oil and lemon peel. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt onto the liquid ingredients. Using a fork, stir very lightly, just until ingredients are combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Pour the batter into an 8- or 9-inch baking pan coated with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is lightly brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the baking pan on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 170 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat and 30 g of carbohydrate.