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Avoiding Food Allergies for Food Allergy Awareness Week

Food Allergy Awareness Week 2016

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, so we’re bringing you facts about food allergies each day. Learn more.

Food Allergy Breakdown

 

Bodily Reaction

 

Milk and Egg Allergies

 

Allergy Signs and Symptoms

 

Treating a Reaction

 

Cleaning Surfaces

 

Cooking for Those with Food Allergies

 

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Safe Food Prep

Preparing Your Food Safely

Safe food prep is key to cooking at home. As we’ve talked about before, storing your food correctly and washing it well are both important parts of safe cooking, but food prep is actually where it’s easiest to accidentally contaminate your meal.

Tip #1

Always wash your hands before and after dealing with food and after each time you touch raw meat (before you touch anything else).

Tip #2

Make sure everything is cleaned correctly and that all bruises or rotten spots have been cut off of your fruits and veggies.

Clean the lids off the top of cans before you open them. You never know how many people or things have touched that can before it touches your food!

Tip #3

The fridge is the best place for slow, safe thawing, especially if you thaw out meat unattended while you’re at work or busy during the day. Make sure that thawing meat juices don’t drip on other foods. You can refreeze meat you’ve thawed in the fridge if needed.

You can also put meat in a sealed Ziploc bag and submerge it in cold tap water for faster thawing. You need to change this water every 30 minutes and cook as soon as you’re done thawing it.

If you thaw meat and poultry in the microwave, always cook it right after that.

Don’t just set food out on the counter to thaw!

Tip #4

Don’t cross-contaminate. This is when it’s easiest to accidentally cause sickness!

Keep raw meat, its juices, and eggs away from other food. Use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat and veggies.

After cutting raw meat, wash cutting boards, utensils, and countertops  with hot, soapy water or a bleach cleaner (1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water).

Tip #5

Marinate meat in a closed dish in the fridge. Don’t reuse marinade that has touched raw meat unless you bring it to a boil first.

Up Next:

Make sure you’re always cooking your food to a safe temperature.

Safe, Fresh Food Storage

Keeping Things Fresh

Storing your fresh food correctly is important. It protects you from contamination that can make you sick, and it helps you get the most out of your groceries. If you store your fruits and veggies in the wrong way, they can go bad more quickly, before you have the chance to use them. These tips can help.

Tip #1

Keep them cold. Most importantly, make sure your fridge is at the right temperature, 40°F or below, and the freezer should be 0°F or below.

Foods that need refrigerated should be put in the fridge as soon as you get home. Never allow food that should be refrigerated, including leftovers and takeout, to sit out for more than 2 hours.

As soon as you get home from the store, freeze any meats that you aren’t going to cook in the next 2 days.

Tip #2

Some things always need to be refrigerated. All produce that is pre-cut or peeled needs stored in the fridge.

Eggs, meat, chicken, and seafood need to be refrigerated.

Tip #3

Some fruits and veggies shouldn’t be refrigerated. Tomatoes get mushy and lose their flavor; bananas will turn black, and the starch in potatoes turns to sugar when kept in the fridge.

And while potatoes and onions do best in a cool, dry place, don’t keep them under the sink where leaking sinks can ruin them. And never store any food near cleaners because they can poison you.

Tip #4

Some fruits should be ripened on the counter and then refrigerated. Avocados, kiwis, and fruits with a pit, like peaches and plums, take a few days on the counter to ripen and then can be kept in the fridge.

Tip #5

The containers some produce comes in are good ways to store them. When you bring home berries, make sure you go through them and remove all spoiled ones so they don’t spread mold to the other berries. Their containers also allow for air to get to them.

Things like grapes and onions also come in bags that let air get to them.

Salad mixes also often come in good storage containers. It can be a good idea to put a paper towel between the lid and greens to prevent condensation.

Always make sure your meat is wrapped well, both for the best quality and to protect other food.

Tip #6

Some things shouldn’t be stored together. Never store anything you eat raw, like fruits and veggies, near anything that must be cooked to be safe to eat, like raw meat, chicken, or seafood.

And even though potatoes and onions both do well in cool, dry environments, you shouldn’t store them right next to each other. That goes for most foods and onions because other foods can take on the onion flavor. (But make sure to store green onions in your fridge in the crisper drawer.)

If you buy root vegetables with their tops still on, like radishes, turnips, beets, and carrots, cut the greens off and store them separately. Never used the tops before? Don’t worry, we can help!

Tip #7

Use water to keep some things fresh for longer. Asparagus and fresh herbs, like basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint, stay fresh for longer when you store them with the ends in a jar or cup of water.

Still not sure how to handle a certain food? This handy guide can help:

How to Store Your Groceries
Image via Buzzfeed

Up Next:

Wondering how long your food is actually good for? We can help make sense of all those dates!

And make sure you keep your food bacteria-free by washing your produce and practicing safe food prep.

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Cleaning Produce at Home

Cleaning Before Eating

Cleaning produce carefully before eating it is important for lots of reasons. Some people blame all foodborne illnesses on meat, but in recent years, fruits and veggies, like spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce, have played a role in many illnesses.

Your fresh fruits and veggies can get contaminated by animals or harmful substances in the soil or water during farming. And after farming, they pass through many people’s hands, raising that risk even more.

Easy Steps for Cleaning Produce

  1. Start by washing your hands with soap and warm water.
  2. Always wash and cut off bruised or damaged parts of fruits and veggies before eating or preparing them.
  3.  Always wash fruits and veggies before you peel them, so dirt and bacteria don’t go from your hands or knife onto the parts of the fruits or veggies you eat.
  4. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, like melons, squash, and cucumber.
  5. Gently rub fruits and veggies under cold, running water. You don’t need to use soap or cleaners.
  6. Dry them with a clean cloth or paper towels to help get rid of any other bacteria.

Tips for Cleaning Produce

Fruits with Stems

Fruits like apples and pears can hold bacteria around the stem, so it’s always a good idea to wash them off right before eating them. And it never hurts to cut off the core’s outer ends before eating.

Fruits with Rinds

Even though you don’t eat the peel of things like oranges and grapefruits, make sure you rinse them well before peeling them. You can always scrub bumpy foods, like avocados, to kill bacteria. If you’re going to use zest in a recipe, cleaning these kinds of fruits is really important.

Berries

Rinse berries gently. Using a colander can make it easier to drain them of extra water.

Lettuce and Cabbage

Throw out the outer leaves of all heads of leafy greens.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

These have lots of spaces for bacteria to hide. Soak these for a few minutes if rinsing them can’t get every spot.

Celery

Things that come in a bunch, like celery, should be pulled apart before washing, so you can get each piece clean.

Root Veggies

Veggies like potatoes and carrots need scrubbed well to get all of the dirt and bacteria off, even if you’re going to peel them after.

Mushrooms

Some mushrooms can absorb water, so it’s important to not let them soak. Rinse them gently or wipe them off thoroughly with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Organic Produce

Still needs washed! And while farmers markets are a great place to get local, healthy produce, you should still wash it all carefully!

Up Next:

Your fruits and veggies can also get contaminated after you’ve bought them. Learn more about storing your food to prevent this. And make sure your food prep is safe.

Fresh Fiddlehead Ferns at Your Farmers Market

Making the Most of a Farmers Market

There are lots of reasons to get out to your local farmers market, but going to a farmers market for the first time is very different than going to the supermarket. We can help make sure it goes smoothly with these tips from a farmers market veteran:

1. Prepare.

  • Illinois has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Check it out on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site for details and participating counties and markets .
  • Many vendors only take cash (and some take SNAP and WIC benefits). Some booths only take small bills, 20s and smaller.
  • Many vendors don’t offer bags, so it’s a good idea to bring a few cloth ones you can use.
  • Most markets don’t allow dogs, so leave them at home.
  • Have an idea of what is in stock at that time of year, so you know what to expect. Use this map to find out what’s in season where you live.

2. Check the info booth first. If your market has an info booth, check there before you start shopping. The people working can let you know if there are any special things going on that day, like cooking demos.

Certain markets, like the new Champaign Farmers’ Market downtown, have special deals for SNAP users, so it’s always good to check with the info booth. At their market, they will double up to $20 of benefits per person while funds last when you bring your Link card to the market booth!

3. Go early or go late. If you go early, you will have first pick of the freshest and largest selection. If you go late, some farmers will offer discounts to clear out their stock before heading home.

4. Take a lap. Unless you know your market really well, don’t just buy the first things you see. By walking a lap through the market first, you can get the lay of the land, compare prices and selection, and taste samples.

5. Talk to the farmers. The farmers can answer questions about how the food was grown and harvested, talk about why their produce is or is not organic, offer recipes, give info about something you’ve never tasted, or recommend their favorites.

6. Be mindful. It’s considered rude to squeeze stone fruits, like peaches, plums, or tomatoes, because it can bruise them. And it’s considered rude to open husks of corn before buying them, which can actually make them less sweet. Also, look for whole produce, meaning veggies like carrots and beets with their green tops still whole. These will stay fresh longer, and you can make things like pesto sauces with the greens.

7. Take a risk. Sometimes you find things that are new, different, or even strange at the farmer’s market. This is the perfect opportunity to try something new because the farmers can usually give you advice on how best to use it.

8. Bring a friend or the family. Grocery shopping, unlike the farmers market, can feel like a chore. Take people with you to talk and walk with outside, and the farmer’s market instantly becomes a more fun activity. And you can always save money and split certain produce.

9. Keep it simple. When you’re cooking your food at home, go for simple recipes. Because you bought such fresh produce, you should let it shine. Put fresh wild strawberries over a salad or in a breakfast parfait instead of baking them into a cake. If you’re worried you won’t be able to use all of something you bought you can always freeze it and use the rest later. Use this guide from the FDA to make sure you’re storing and washing produce correctly.

10. Find the right market. Many areas have more than one farmers market within driving distance. If you can, test them all. Large farmer’s markets have a lot of energy, selection, and sometimes even dining options, but smaller markets often have good deals. Find the one that works best for you.

Find farmer’s markets near you. Learn more about which ones take SNAP and WIC, or check out this list of all the farmer’s markets that take Illinois Link Benefits.

Up Next:

Do you really understand what you’re getting when you buy organic? We break it down in Organic 101.

And make sure you’re cleaning your fresh fruits and veggies the right way to keep your family safe.