Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

Food-safety during the summer season

July 3rd, 2015
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Many are getting together for potlucks with family, friends and co-workers this holiday weekend. It is also a time for a potential increase in food-borne illnesses as a result of improper food handling, according to Peter Oshiro, environmental health program manager in the Hawaii Department of Health's Sanitation Branch.

Peter Oshiro, DOH

Peter Oshiro, DOH

"As consumers, we're all concerned about eating at restaurants with proper food-handling procedures. The Department of Health holds restaurants to high standards and they are motivated to correct any violations and make any improvements to retain customers," said Oshiro, who oversees the restaurant placard program that was launched in Hawaii six months ago. "However, many people do not realize that many food-borne illnesses are not from restaurants, but from the home."

Oshiro said his group holds public facilities accountable for food safety, but in the home, it is the individual's own responsibility to adhere to safe-handling practices. Whether you're hosting a buffet party or bringing a dish to a potluck, here are 10 holiday food safety tips to have safe holiday celebrations and prevent giving friends and family a case of food poisoning.

Food left out for long periods of time leaves the door open for uninvited guests - bacteria that cause foodborne illness. This makes foods at potlucks and buffets especially vulnerable.

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1. Shop and Store Food Properly

Safe food handling starts when you're buying the ingredients. Shop for your groceries last and do not leave perishable foods in your vehicle. Bring a cooler with ice or ice substitute to store your milk and other perishables, if you have a long drive home, or if you have other stops to make. Make sure all perishables are placed in your refrigerator or freezer as soon as you get home.

2. Wash Your Hands / Make Sure the Cook is Healthy

Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling any food. Be sure to wash your hands after handling any raw meats or poultry because they may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Do not prepare food if you are not feeling well -- especially if you have experienced any vomiting or diarrhea in the last 72 hours. You do not want to share your illness with friends and family. Ill food handlers are one of the major causes of food illnesses.

3. Prevent Cross-Contamination

Make sure that both you and the grocery store bag all raw meats and poultry separate from each other, and all other foods to prevent blood and other raw meat juices from contaminating any other foods. Arrange or plate ready-to-eat foods, like salads, poke, and, baked goods first. Poultry should be prepared separately if possible from other raw meats. Thoroughly wash and clean all surfaces between poultry and raw meat preparation so you don't cross contaminate ready to eat foods or other food items during their preparation.

You should also keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean.  Always serve food on clean plates, trays, or platters - never re-use containers or plates that were previously used to hold or prepare raw poultry or meats.  Bacteria that may have been present in raw meat blood and juices can cross-contaminate the food to be served.  Prepare ready to eat foods or foods that do not require cooking on separate cutting boards from the ones you use for raw meats and poultry.

4. Cook Meats and Poultry Thoroughly - Use a Cooking Thermometer

If you are cooking foods before your party, cook foods thoroughly to safe temperatures. When taking temperatures, make sure that the tip of the probe is in the center of the thickest portion of meat. Cook beef, veal, lamb, pork, fish and other seafood to at least 145°F.  Roast whole poultry to 165°F, and ground turkey and all other poultry to 165°F.  Hamburger, meat loafs, and other should be cooked to 155°F. Using a cooking thermometer not only ensures safe temperatures; it also prevents overcooking your meats, so you can always have that perfectly done, moist cut of poultry or meat.

5. Proper Food Cooling and Heating

Cook no more food than your kitchen's refrigerator/freezer and oven can handle.  Most home refrigerators cannot safely cool large quantities of food. Keep cooking in advance to a minimum. If you must cook large quantities in advance, place food in large re-sealable bags, squeeze out the air and bury completely in ice to chill a few hours prior to placing in your refrigerator or freezer. Reheat chilled foods rapidly to 165°F for serving. Keep the rest of the food hot in the oven (set at 200-250°F), or cold in the refrigerator until serving time.

6. Maintaining Foods at Proper Temperatures

Foods that have been cooked to the proper temperatures should be held at 135°F or warmer by using the oven, chaffing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 41°F or below. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice, otherwise use small serving trays and replace every two hours.

7. Thoroughly Wash Fruits and Vegetables

Always thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables prior to preparation and serving. Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.

8. The Two-Hour Rule

Foods left out for long periods at potlucks and buffets are especially vulnerable to uninvited guests - bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting out on the table and immediately refrigerate or discard anything that was left out for more than two hours.

9. Storing Leftovers

After the meal is over, put away all leftovers promptly, remembering the two-hour rule. All meats should be cut off the bone and placed in re-sealable bags and buried in ice to chill quickly. If ice is not available, place in shallow containers (less than 2" deep) to chill and store in the refrigerator. This same quick-chill method should be used for all other perishable foods that need cooling. If ice is not available, use shallow containers to refrigerate or freeze promptly. Don't forget to refrigerate the noodles and rice, too!

10. Preparing Leftovers

Use leftover meats, turkey, stuffing and other perishable cooked foods within three to four days. If you do not plan to use these foods in this time frame, consider dividing them up and freezing them for later use. Always reheat all foods rapidly to 165°F prior to eating.

Officially Eight

June 29th, 2015
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"I'm not technically eight yet," Olivia informed us in the days after her birthday.

"What makes it official?" we queried.

"A party." We had set a party for a week after her actual birthday, due to timing and scheduling issues.

"Not really," I corrected. "If I was only as old as the number of parties I've had, I'd be 25."

"So you've only lacked four birthday parties?" charmed Claus. Oooooh, GOOD ONE, Husband. He got points for that.

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On a sunny Sunday, we held Olivia's eighth birthday party at A Cup of Tea in Kailua. I tried it once before and it got rave reviews from the little girls I took, including a direct request from Olivia to have her party there.

Request accommodated, and it was a hit with everyone. It was perfect for me, too. It was the easiest party I've ever hosted.

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All I did was show up with a cake that I made her (and candles) and parasols for party favors, and the restaurant did the rest.

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Cool air conditioning was a bonus. I would definitely recommend this!

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Previous parties have been at the pool or my yard (lasting hours in the summer humidity) and while they've been fun, I've always been pooped after.

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I think a tea party works really well for this age. I'm not sure younger girls would have done as well sitting politely for 90 minutes in a restaurant.

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They ripped through the finger sandwiches, nibbled at the scones, and ravaged the dessert tray with mini-cupcakes, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and vanilla ice cream. They were kind of full by the time we sang the birthday song and cut my cake.

Because I like to bake, I have made Olivia's birthday cake every year, and this year I involved her in the process. She loves color, so I let her choose the colors to dye the cake batter, mix it, and decide what order to pour it in the pan.

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When that was done, I also let her design the color and method of frosting the cupcake-shaped cake. (Striped bag? Swirled colors? Star or round tip? Pipe the frosting in a swirl, little rosettes, or stars? Etc.) She loved her cake.

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She enjoyed picking the colors, deciding which order to put it in the bag, mixing the dye, helping pipe the frosting, and applying the decorations and sprinkles. I enjoyed watching her do this.

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Olivia said she had a great time at her birthday party, and I love to hear that. Now I can rest for another 11 months until the next party!

Half & half

June 26th, 2015
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I cook and I bake, and I'm decent at both. I wanted to make a coconut creme pie with whipped cream frosting (from scratch), so I went to the store and looked for whipping creme as part of the ingredients.

Toasted Coconut Cream Pie with Lime Whipped Cream. Recipe: Flour, by Joanne Chang.

Toasted Coconut Cream Pie with Lime Whipped Cream. Recipe: Flour, by Joanne Chang.

The grocery store was out of whipping creme so I bought Half & Half, thinking I could make a substitution work. I know baking is a precise art, but I was also tired and lazy to drive to another store.

I had never made this recipe, so I didn't consider the whipping creme was for actually whipping into frosting. I made the custard and it turned out delicious.

When it was time for the frosting, I - still on auto-pilot- poured my Half & Half into the bowl and set it to whip. Nothing happened.

Claus, who once wanted to be a chef and likes the culinary arts even more than I do, researched it online and pronounced, "It might be because the dairy is at room temperature. Let's chill it."

I had to get somewhere so I said, "I need to take a shower. Can you take over?" He's a kitchen god so I know my stuff's in good hands with my husband.

I love a hot shower. Love it, love it, love it. There ain't nothing a hot shower can't fix, I believe, including an addled brain.

Suddenly, when I got out of the shower, I realized: It's because it's Half & Half! D'oh!

I ran to the kitchen laughing. I could hear the Kitchen Aid whirring the entire time. "Honey! It's Half & Half!"

He looked at me pseudo-disdainfully. I saw a big bowl of ice which he'd just used to chill the dairy, and saw the blender, which had been working overtime for 15 minutes to try to whip something that would never whip.

"Um, hey. Did you realize Half & Half is half milk, half whipping creme?" I joked. He rolled his eyes.

I used the failed frosting for the rest of the week in my coffee, and later that day he drove us to the store to get actual whipping creme - that he insisted on finishing himself.

The pie, by the way, was wonderful. Team effort.

Hey, did you know Half & Half won't whip up not matter how hard you try?

Cafeteria food on Kaho`olawe

January 7th, 2015
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Most of us went over not expecting to be so well fed on Kaho`olawe, and we were happily surprised that in the mess hall, a real chef spends the day cooking us 11 course meals. Gerald worked in food and beverage at hotels before opening his own cafe, and now goes over to cook for the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission staff and volunteers when called upon.

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We guessed that the idea is to reward you for hard work and give you an incentive to risk your life; after all, most of the island is not cleared of bombs, and a good percentage are unexploded ordnance. The days start early and end late, and we appreciated two hot meals a day at the mess hall (lunch was usually sandwiches on the road).

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So whatever calories I worked off during the day came right back on by nightfall!

More in this video:

[youtube http://youtu.be/FdDbYYvKF3Q ]

Sharing Day

December 19th, 2014
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Olivia wanted to bring our cat, Ocho, for Sharing Day at school. There is no way Claus is going to arrange his schedule to bring the cat, wait for the cat to be presented, and then bring the cat back home.

Just so happened I took a couple of vacation days to just catch up on errands and personal things (including sleep!) so I offered to do it. The teacher was nice enough to rearrange the Sharing schedule to accommodate this.

Unsuspecting Ocho, before her whole day went down the drain.

Unsuspecting Ocho, before her whole day went down the drain.

Ocho should be a pro at it because we've trotted her out for the past two years, but - cats, go figure. She was unhappy at being paraded for a class of second graders.

Ocho: "Too! Many! Hands!!!"

Ocho: "Too! Many! Hands!!!"

I tried to spin it positive for Ocho, telling her this is more petting in 30 minutes than she would get in a whole year. She would hear none of that. Or was it because she couldn't hear over a chorus of excited children greeting her?

Cat Hell.

Cat Hell.

Ocho was actually a real trooper and allowed herself to be groped by 20 children. She didn't really try to run away (much). She didn't yowl, and she doesn't bite or claw in general, so she is a good cat to introduce to new people.

The night before, Olivia and I also baked and frosted cupcakes for the whole class. Olivia was very proud that she (sort of) did it all by herself, frosting and all.

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She was super pleased with herself for being a hit on Sharing Day, and I was very happy to make her happy.

Now if only we could get the cat on board with all this warm fuzzy. Rest up, Ocho. Next year comes sooner than you know it!