Safety first

The first thing I did after I got home from my food safety course was rearrange the food in my fridge.

Today I took a course in basic sanitation with TrainCan Inc. ®. This is a company that undertakes training and certification programs in food safety in Canada for those in foodservice/hospitality and retail/grocery businesses.

Here are some tips that I think would be useful for a home cook.

  1. The temperature danger zone for food is 4°-60° C. From preparation to cooking, food should not stay in this range any longer than four hours.
  2. Properly freezing can kill parasites but not bacteria.
  3. The greatest tools for food safety are clean hands and a thermometer. Clean your hands thoroughly and often. Use soap and water to scrub the cuticles and clean hands front and back and in between the fingers. Do this for at least 15 seconds each time you wash your hands. Food thermometers vary in price, from $6 – $100 and you get what you pay for.  Generally the higher the price, the more accurate the reading.
  4. Cooked rice is a potentially dangerous food. If not cooled properly, bacterial spores on the rice can multiply and may form toxins. Cook rice in small amounts and cool any leftovers quickly.
  5. The best way to thaw food is in the fridge.
  6. Only reheat food once.
  7. Avoid keeping easily perishable items in the door of the fridge.
  8. Wet cleaning sponge with some water and add a little soap. Leave in the microwave for two minutes to sanitize.

Some news and information from the TrainCan website:

http://traincan.com/index-news.asp

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Snack Attack

Picture this: you are out and about when the afternoon blood sugar dip kicks in. You crave something to eat but haven’t got a healthy snack with you. You need something to tide you over until dinner time and your options are the plethora of energy bars currently available on the market.

Often, these bars contain a high amount of sugar, fat and difficult to pronounce ingredients. You’re better off in some cases just eating a snickers bar and vitamin pill. To determine what a healthier choice might be, here are some tips on what to look for:

  • Calorie count for a snack should be around 200.
  • Sodium content per serving should not exceed 5%.
  • Look for a single digit sugar count. Unrefined sweeteners of 9 grams or less is ideal.
  • Fat sources should be mostly unsaturated and natural. Avoid trans fats.
  • Ingredient list should be short with easy to pronounce and recognizable items.
  • There should be some protein and fibre in the bar to help with satiety and blood sugar control.

Everything’s Coming up Garlic!

Today I attended my first ever Garlic Festival. It has been held annually since 2011 to celebrate Ontario’s garlic harvest. Apparently the coming of autumn is not just for pumpkins and apples anymore!

Toronto Garlic Festival

A five dollar admission will get you through the gate where you can sample any manner of sweet and savoury goods that employ garlic. There are also talks, demos and fun activities like the garlic breath contest. Surprisingly I didn’t find the event nearly as fragrant as one would expect of this type of festival. My personal highlights included the chocolate caramel skull made with black garlic by chocolate artist Laura Slack and the purchase of these goodies:

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

The types of garlic shown are named by where the seeds originated. I was told the ‘former Yugoslav’ is a sweet and mild garlic while the ‘Persian’ is a pungent and punchy one. I will keep you posted as I dig into these cloves and experiment. The ‘Afghan’ is literally in the middle of these two extremes. Yes everything will soon be coming up stinking roses in my kitchen!

Garlic is a ubiquitous spice in many popular dishes but also has some healing benefits.

hummus, garlic bread, pasta sauce, aioli, soups, stews, curries

Garlic is truly culinary aromatherapy. The sulfur compounds responsible for its characteristic odour are the same compounds that yield health benefits. Research on garlic supplements (i.e. garlic powder, oil and extracts) has found it to be anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial. It also has a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health by helping to lower cholesterol, blood lipids (triglycerides) and blood pressure. It contains notable amounts of vitamin B6 and C as well as the minerals selenium and manganese.

The World’s Healthiest Foods: An in-depth nutrient profile of garlic

Culinary tips:

It is preferable to eat garlic raw as this helps preserve its nutrients. If you must cook with it, do so at low heat and/or add the garlic towards the end of the cooking process. To decrease the load on your digestive system, remove the centre stem, especially when it’s green. This is an indigestible part of garlic. Finely chopped garlic, left to rest temporarily before being added to your dish, is said to be the most potent health-wise.

The World’s Healthiest Foods – Garlic

Vegetarian Times – Healing Foods: Garlic

Cloves of garlic wisdom:

  • Apparently it wards off vampires as well as colds.
  • Garlic is part of the allium family, a group of flowering plants. Other members are onions and leeks.
  • Allicin is considered by some the magic component of garlic; however, allicin is only one of many beneficial sulphur-containing compounds in garlic.
  • Garlic has been cultivated world-wide for thousands of years. It has been used in ancient Egypt, China and medieval Europe for medicinal purposes.