Monthly Archives: August 2016

How to Stocking Up Your Kitchen With the Basics

A well-stocked kitchen makes it easy to provide quick and nutritious meals for your family.
Keeping a stocked kitchen is a great idea if you love to cook. In most cases, you’ll want to go out and get fresh ingredients for your next dish. Vegetables, fruits, and meat are always best purchased the day you intend to use them. But a full trip to the grocery store simply isn’t plausible before every meal-and what about those things that you need, that won’t be completely used in one meal, such as flour, sugar, etc.? These are items that you can keep for longer periods of time, so to make your life easier and make sure that you have everything on hand to prepare your favorite dishes, it’s a good idea to stock up on the basics. Below are a few of the things that you can keep in your kitchen for a relatively long time without sacrificing the quality or taste of your next meal.

Flour

Flour is an important ingredient in many recipes-particularly those for baked goods. Keeping some flour on hand at all times is a wonderful idea, as you’ll be able to whip up your favorite muffins, breads, and more without having to make a trip to the store. But remember that there are different kinds of flour, and the type that is best for your kitchen depends on the kind of cooking or baking that you normally do.

Sweeteners

Sugar is key in many recipes ranging from sweet to savory. If you pour your sugar out of its paper bag and into a container that seals, you can keep it protected against moisture and help it survive longer in your pantry or cupboard.

Many people use various sweeteners, depending on what they’re cooking or preparing. If you don’t use traditional sugar for all your recipes, you can keep substitutes (like Stevia and Splenda), honey, and agave nectar on hand, too.

Pasta

If you’re a serious cook and love Italian cuisine, odds are you’ll be making your own pasta from scratch. If not, though, this is something that you can keep on hand for simple, last-minute meals. Displaying a variety of pasta shapes in functional yet stylish containers is a great way to both stock your kitchen and decorate the space.

Grains and Cereals

Dry foods like rice, barley, oats, quinoa, etc., can also be stored for longer periods of time. Depending upon your family’s dietary needs, you can switch these dried foods out for one another to create meals that taste great and keep you healthy.

Seasoning and Spices

Seasoning and spices do go bad eventually, but it’s a great idea to have a variety of spices like cinnamon sticks, cumin, curry powder, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder on hand. This will allow you to try new recipes and experiment with variations of your favorites. By simply changing out one spice or seasoning you can create an entirely new flavor profile. For seasoning different dishes, you can use different herbs like basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, etc.

Eggs and Dairy Products

If you have a well-stocked fridge, it always makes planning meals easier. Preserving dairy products is always tricky. But you can take the advantage of storing staples like milk, butter, cheese, eggs, yogurt in the fridge.

Fruits and Vegetables

You can store vegetables and fruits like spinach, broccoli, carrots, berries in the fridge. Seasonal fruits and vegetables make an exquisite addition to any fridge. Some of which can even be stored for off-season indulgence.

Frozen Food and Meat

Packaged meat, chicken, sausage can be kept frozen carefully in the freezer. While freezing, remember to wrap the food items tightly with heavy-duty foil and moisture-proof paper. Frozen ready-to-eat meals, ice cream, non-seasonal fruits and vegetables, etc., can be stored in the freezer for a longer period.

Extracts and Oils

Vanilla extract, almond extract, vinegars, sauce, olive oil, canola oil-the list goes on and on. Oils and extracts are key ingredients in many recipes, and if you love baking then you certainly need to have the right extracts and oils on hand at all times! Like the pasta, these ingredients can be stored in pretty yet functional containers to help decorate your kitchen.

Keeping your kitchen stocked up with the basics is essential to your ability to quickly make delicious, nutritious meals for your family. The goods that you can store in your pantry listed above are just the tip of the iceberg, and you can personalize the basics of your kitchen to fit your dietary needs and preferences.

Safe to Consume Irradiated Foods

Is it true that you are thinking about whether it is sheltered to eat illuminated nourishments? A developing group of logical proof has demonstrated that light does not bring on any observable healthful harm. Truth be told, it has been compelling in taking care of the threat of tainting of nourishment from pathogenic microscopic organisms.

Did You Know?
Quite a few vegetables and fruits imported into United States are irradiated before finally making them available to the general public.
Food irradiation is a technology that adds a new layer of protection against foodborne ailments. It is a method to prevent early spoilage of food and increase their shelf life. Although pasteurization is also useful to destroy disease-causing microorganisms, irradiation does not use heat, instead it depends on ionizing radiation to eliminate foodborne pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, mold, and insects. Ionizing radiation refers to the energy released in the form of electromagnetic waves.

In this method, the food is briefly bombarded with low-energy gamma rays, X-rays, or an electron beam. The energy generated penetrates through food, destroying the pathogens responsible for causing foodborne illnesses. For instance, poultry products are exposed to ionizing radiation to get rid of bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella that not only reduce shelf life, but also cause food poisoning. Irradiation is also necessary for red meat, such as pork, to eliminate the trichina parasite. The dose of exposed radiation (expressed in kGy) varies depending on the type of food. In most cases, foods are irradiated with energy doses of up to 10kGy, which is found to be safe.

Usage of food irradiation is not just restricted to improving food hygiene. It is also found to be useful to slacken the pace of ripening. This ensures that fruit does not ripe to its fullest and spoil before it makes its way to the marketplace. Irradiation also helps to suppress the sprouting of onions and potatoes. The technology is especially useful for perishable foods that have a short shelf life.
Safety Aspect of Irradiated Foods

How safe is it to consume foods after exposure to ionizing radiation can be best answered by discussing some frequently asked questions:

Does Irradiation Make the Food Radioactive?

There is no scientific evidence that foods after irradiation are harmful to human beings. Therefore, it would be absolutely wrong to conclude that just because the food is treated with irradiation, it turns radioactive. The amount of energy that is allowed to infiltrate is too weak to cause energy imbalance within the nucleus of food atoms. In simple words, irradiation cannot make food atoms unstable and turn them radioactive. The dose of radiation is too low to induce any kind of radioactivity. Also, during irradiation, the radiation source is not near the food item under consideration. The energy waves target the pathogens and then merely pass through the food without leaving any traces of radiation residue. So, irradiated foods never become a source of secondary radiation. Microwaves and toasters also emit small amounts of radiation, but nothing is retained in cooked food. When you undergo a chest X-ray, you are exposed to a certain amount of radiation, but your body does not retain these energy waves and become radioactive.

Does Irradiation Affect the Nutritional Value of Food?

Results analyzed from several studies reveal that exposing food to ionizing radiation does not have any significant impact on its nutritional value. As food is exposed to low levels of energy, any change in their nutritional profile is marginal. A small amount of vitamin B loss, especially thiamine, is observed after irradiation. However, any loss in nutritional content by irradiation is more or less the same as observed in pasteurization and cooking. Irradiation also has marginal impact on the percentage of proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals present in food. So, one can say that the nutritional value remains largely unchanged in irradiated foods.

Does Irradiation Alter the Chemical Composition of Food?

Chemical changes have been observed in foods treated with irradiation. Exposure to ionizing radiation does trigger molecular decomposition, resulting in production of radiolytic products. However, quite a few studies have analyzed these radiolytic products and found them safe. Also, the process of irradiation can lead to generation of free radicals, which resemble those produced during pasteurization, canning, and even cooking. So, production of free radicals and any changes in chemical composition of food during irradiation is not a cause for concern. Irradiated foods are also able to retain their original taste, flavor, and texture. No wonder, an irradiated apple or pear has the same taste and is still crunchy to eat.

Is Food Irradiation Approved by the FDA?

The USFDA has given a thumbs-up to the process of food irradiation, way back in 1963. To put it simply, the FDA deems this method as a safe way to control food contamination. It has given permission to use irradiation on a wide range of foods including vegetables, fruits, poultry, red meat, spices, herbs, and even wheat flour for pest control. Most fruits imported to United States are irradiated. Also, food irradiation in United States is strictly monitored by the FDA. Moreover, the American Medical Association and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also support the use of food irradiation. This certainly assures no harm from eating irradiated foods.

Is it an Alternative to Sanitation Practices in Food Preparation?

Absolutely not! Food irradiation does help to kill harmful pathogens and insects, but that does not mean one should ignore proper hygiene when cooking and handling food. One can still get foodborne illnesses by eating irradiated foods, if basic sanitary practices are thrown to the wind. In other words, irradiated food can become hazardous if poor sanitation practices are prevalent in your kitchen. Irradiation is not analogous to sterilization of food as not all pathogens are destroyed. So, safe food preparation and handling is also extremely important to prevent food poisoning.

Also, irradiation is no substitute for conventional preservation methods such as refrigeration. However, you can keep irradiated foods in refrigerator for a longer duration than non-irradiated foods. For instance, irradiated strawberries, when refrigerated, remain fit for consumption for around 2-3 weeks, but non-irradiated strawberries spoil after a few days of refrigeration. Buying irradiated foods also does not mean that cooking is unnecessary. You need to cook food properly before eating it. Remember, irradiation does not provide any protection from re-contamination, which can always occur from poor handling procedures.

Are Irradiation Foods Expensive?

Irradiated vegetables, fruits, and meat are priced higher than conventional foods. The additional cost is due to the additional processing associated with irradiation. However, that shouldn’t deter you from buying irradiated food as they have a longer shelf life and chances of spoilage from bacteria is minimum.

Do Food Labels Specify Whether the Product is Irradiated?

By simply looking at the food item, it is impossible to know whether it has undergone irradiation treatment, unless you check its label. It is compulsory that the labeling bears wordings like ‘treated by irradiation’, indicating that the food item has been irradiated. The label should also have a ‘radura’ symbol, which is internationally recognized as the symbol for irradiation.

Bone of Contention

Although the FDA has given permission for irradiation of eggs, the decision has not gone down well with some nonprofit healthcare organizations. It is observed that irradiated eggs tend to have a runny light-colored yolk, which is otherwise thick, firm, and bright. Moreover, it is not easy to whip up and cook irradiated eggs. Also, the vitamin A content of eggs drops by 24% after being exposed to irradiation. However, the FDA has justified its decision by pointing out the rising cases of foodborne illnesses in United States resulting from Salmonella contamination in eggs. Other public interest organizations have also expressed health concerns over the use of this expensive technology and claim higher nutritional loss from irradiation.

Some members from the medical fraternity have expressed fear over irradiation inducing mutations in bacteria and viruses, in turn making them immune to the effects of ionizing radiation. Also, some scientific journals have published studies that show the negative effects of feeding irradiated foods on animals. However, there is no scientific evidence that suggests food after irradiation is harmful to human beings.
On the whole, it is up to you to decide whether to purchase irradiated foods or not. With the FDA making it compulsory to have the ‘radura’ symbol on packages of irradiated foods, you always have the option of choosing foods that are treated with only conventional methods of controlling foodborne pathogens. Just don’t forget to follow proper hygiene when handling and cooking food.

Teenagers and Healthy Eating Tips

Appropriate eating regimen arrangements are thought to manufacture hinders for a sound living. Solid eating routine for adolescents can’t be ignored, for it assumes a significant part to remain fit and fine in today’s wild way of life. These weight control plans incorporate sustenances high in fiber and proteins. Barring quick sustenances from the eating regimen is important to turn away any wellbeing issues.

Today’s youngsters, especially teenagers are ignorant about long-term benefits of a healthy diet. Fast foods are very popular among teenagers and often a routine diet for them. But these ‘junk’ foods will affect overall health and aggravate nutrient deficiency. Making healthy food choices is the key to have a well-built physique and this habit of having a nutritious diet needs to be inculcated in teenagers for better health.
Diets for Teenagers
Following are the foods that cover the nutritional requirements of a teen body.

High Fiber Foods
Diet for teenagers must include foods high in fiber. These foods have a high nutrition value and are low in fats. Most importantly, high fiber diet promotes overall health as it is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. Wondering which foods come under the list of foods high in fiber? Good diet includes foods such as vegetables (Brussels sprouts, carrot, boiled broccoli), fruits (raisins, bananas and apple) and whole wheat bread. Moreover vegetables like tomatoes are rich in antioxidants and provide anti-aging effects.

Dairy Products
Teenagers without fail should drink at least a glass of milk everyday. In fact, milk is regarded as a complete food and an elixir for good health. So as a parent you should ensure that your child takes a glass of milk everyday in the morning and evening. Milk is rich in nutrients like vitamins, proteins and minerals. Most importantly, it is high in calcium and as we all know adequate intake of calcium is crucial to build strong bones. Teenagers taking a glass of milk daily will definitely have good bones that will remain healthy for years to come. For optimal health of teeth and bones, having milk in sufficient amounts is necessary. Milk is rich in vitamin A and vitamin B12 that are essential to maintain normal eyesight. Diet for teenagers is incomplete without including other dairy products.

High Protein Foods
Intake of proteins is recommended for proper muscle growth. Our muscles are primarily made up of proteins. Thus, protein rich foods are a tool for proper growth and maintenance of muscles. Well cooked fish, lean meat (skinless chicken) as well as boiled eggs are a great way to fulfill the protein requirements of our body. Besides being high in proteins, they are also low in unhealthy fats and hence are a key component of weight loss diets for teenagers.

Say No To Fast Foods
Teenagers love fast foods but as parents you need to make them aware of the fact that consumption of these ‘junk’ foods will not provide any nutrition to the body. Fast foods have a high calorie content, so eating them on a regular basis, can lead to excess weight gain. Now being overweight predisposes a person to obesity. Thus, one can say that obesity and fast food are related. Teenagers who are obese are indirectly put on the path that leads to various health problems. Eating a burger or fried chips, once in a while is OK but surely cannot be a part of diet for teenagers.
Tips for Healthy Eating

  • Teen years is a very important period of life and is typically marked by rapid physical growth. Giving healthy food a miss during this period can cause a lifetime of regret. To keep away health from declining and to ensure a good start to adulthood, parents need to inculcate the following eating habits among their children.
  • See to it that your child does not leave the home without having a healthy breakfast. This is because breakfast is the most important meal and should be nutritious enough to keep your child active and energetic throughout the day.
  • It is observed that teenagers have developed a fetish for fizzy drinks. Although adequate fluid intake is essential, it should not come from carbonated drinks. Fresh vegetable or fruit juices or simply water are some of the options to keep the body well hydrated.
  • Having meals in haste is one habit often noticed among teenagers. Instead of gobbling, giving utmost priority to chewing the food properly is very important and plays a critical role in digestion.
  • The habit of chatting or watching the idiot box (TV) during meals is not a proper way of eating food. This way, one unknowingly tends to eat in excess, which eventually leads to weight gain. Therefore, one should wholly focus on the act of eating and the enjoy the taste of every morsel food to the fullest.
  • Teens often feel like having a snack in between meals. As a parent, it is your responsibility that they do not indulge in processed foods but go for healthy snacks like almonds, protein shakes and slices of fresh apples and pear.

Although, these foods form an integral part of healthy diet, they should be eaten in moderation. Overeating and lack of physical activity are the main factors that has led to widespread occurrence of obesity among teenagers. So, whether you have a teenage daughter or a boy, make sure that he/she follows an exercise regime and good eating habits.

Microwave Cooking Tips

Microwave stove is a key some portion of our regular day to day existence. You will barely locate a home without this present day machine, which makes warming a breeze. Here are some useful tips which will streamline your microwave cooking and spare your time.

Microwave ovens have gained popularity primarily due to the fact that they are time efficient as well as use less electricity. Cooking in microwaves definitely has certain advantages to cooking over a gas stove, but you should be very well aware of the dangers of a microwave, so that you do not cause harm to yourself while using it. Here are some tips for cooking safely with a microwave.

Dos and Don’ts of Microwave Cooking

As the name implies, a microwave oven uses microwaves to heat food. Microwaves are electromagnetic waves with very long wavelengths. These waves get easily absorbed by the water, sugar, and fats present in foods. The moment they come in contact with the water or fat molecules, they get agitated, and this produces heat which cooks the food.

★ Always use microwave-safe containers for heating and cooking. Cookware that is specifically labeled as “microwave safe” can be used in the microwave. Some manufacturers may even print microwave safety cooking tips, or look for a microwave symbol of four parallel waves, a sign that the cookware is intended for use in microwave ovens.

★ Plastic containers should be avoided, unless labeled “microwave safe”. Harmful compounds from the plastic may leak into the food and pose a health hazard. Do not use newspapers and brown paper bags, they can catch fire. Even the use of aluminum foil is not recommended for use in microwaves, unless explicitly stated. Never use ice cream and margarine tubs or one-time use plastic bowls. Glass containers can be used only if they are labeled “microwave safe”.

★ Metal containers are a strict no-no. The microwaves are unable to pass through metal, and the food will never get heated. Moreover, there is a danger of the metal converting the microwaves into electric current, that may even cause a spark. This also holds true for metal wires, especially the ones used in Chinese take-away cartons. Transfer the food to a microwaveable bowl if you want to heat it.

★ Microwaves may cook food unevenly if it is composed of large chunks. If possible, cut the food into smaller pieces for even cooking. Arrange the food evenly in the container and not bunched up to one side to ensure it gets cooked properly.

★ Covering the container with a lid ensures uniform cooking. Do not close the lid tightly, leave a small gap to allow the steam to escape. You can use Saran Wrap to cover the food, just spike it in a couple of places to let steam escape. Stir the food, or rotate it, if it’s too chunky, at least once during the cooking cycle.

★ Preferably, use shallow containers to cook food. Food stored in them will get cooked uniformly as compared to foods in high-walled containers.

★ When heating packaged frozen foods, follow the instructions on how to reheat very carefully. Pierce the thin plastic wrap so the steam escapes, and once done, carefully lift the wrap with the opening facing away from you. Do not let the plastic come in direct contact with the food.

★ If you are heating foods high in fats, it’s better to stick to glass containers. There is a risk of chemical additives from plastic dissolving and contaminating fatty foods at very high temperatures.

★ Never run a microwave if it is empty. With nothing to absorb the radiation that is being produced, the energy can actually burn out the tube inside, posing a fire hazard.

★ Microwaves should not be used to sterilize bottles. Use your gas stove to boil water and sterilize baby bottles and jars, even though it takes a longer time.

★ Never let children use a microwave without adult supervision. Make sure they do not stand too close to the microwave when it’s on. Use the child safety lock if your microwave is equipped with one.

★ It’s equally important to clean your microwave to get rid of any stuck and burnt food particles. Do not attempt to repair the microwave on your own. If you notice any corrosive damage or unhinged door, stop using it and take it to a repair shop.

Food-specific Tips

★ If you use the microwave to defrost food, set the correct temperature and do not use foam and plastic trays to defrost, as they cannot withstand extreme heat. Poultry, fish, and meat items begin to cook during defrosting, and bacteria and germs can thrive in partially cooked food. So it is best to immediately cook them thoroughly once they have been defrosted. For best results, switch to low power settings and rotate the food at least twice during defrosting.

★ Invest in a food thermometer if you regularly use the microwave to cook and reheat poultry, beef, veal, lamb chops, and meat. Check to see if the internal temperature has reached 165°F. That is the safest minimum internal temperature that foods should attain before they can be consumed. You can continue to cook it further as per your personal preference. Let the food continue to stand in the microwave for three to four minutes before you remove it to check the temperature. Ideally, foods should be steaming hot before you eat them, whether it is poultry, fish, casseroles, ready-to-eat hotdogs, or leftovers.

★ Observe recommended standing times as per the manufacturer’s instructions when heating prepackaged foods. Even after the microwave is switched off, food continues to get cooked for a few minutes.

★ Do not heat stuffed chicken or other poultry items in the microwave. The stuffing inside might not get cooked thoroughly; it is recommended you cook the stuffing separately. If you are heating a roasted whole chicken, always leave it inside for at least five minutes after the microwave has been turned off, it lets the heat pervade deep inside and the food item gets cooked well.

★ Be cautious when heating food items which are layered, especially pies and pasties. The outermost layer might not feel too hot to touch, but the insides can be burning hot. Do not pop it right inside your mouth. Wait for a few minutes or cut it with a knife to allow excess heat to escape before you eat it.

★ Eggs should not be boiled in a microwave. Steam will build up inside the eggshell and the egg will explode inside the cooking chamber.

★ Be aware of foods that can cause arching. Arching refers to the sparks that are caused when certain ingredients in the food react with metallic elements found inside the cooking chamber. Hotdogs and carrots are known to cause arching. The salts present in hotdogs and minerals found in carrots can produce sparks when heated in a microwave. If that happens, immediately turn off the microwave and cook the food by other means.

★ Liquids can superheat in a microwave if heated for a longer duration than necessary. This can very well happen if you use a very smooth container or a squeaky clean bowl straight out of your dishwasher, fill it with a liquid and heat it in the microwave. The water or liquid will be perfectly motionless once the microwave stops, but the moment you disturb the bowl or agitate the liquid, it might explode causing serious burns. To avoid this, let the bowl stand in the microwave for a few minutes before you remove it so it cools down, or add a pinch of sugar or salt to it to prevent superheating.

★ If you are heating baby food, stir the food and taste it to check the temperature before you feed your baby to prevent scalding.

Microwave ovens are no doubt one of the greatest inventions of the last century, and studies have shown that food retains more of its nutrients and vitamins when cooked in a microwave as compared to other means of cooking. By adhering to the suggestions mentioned above, you can be sure that food is prepared quickly and safely, saving you both time and electricity.