PrairieFare: Prepare food safely regardless of the number of guests
“Mom, I feel like a bandit,” my 16-year-old daughter said as she adjusted her cloth face mask as we entered the grocery store.
I’m glad she has kept her sense of humor.
I wiped the handle on the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe. I adjusted my mask and looked over at her.
With her mask and flowing, long blonde hair, I barely recognize her. Her hair is not naturally flaxen blonde.
Her hair was lightened this winter to achieve the color she needed for her role as Alice in “Alice in Wonderland.” She had all 700 of her lines memorized.
A stack of posters lies on my dining room table with the April 2020 show date at the bottom.
Unfortunately, like most things in 2020, the show didn’t go on.
Her emerald green prom dress hangs upstairs, unworn at the March 2020 prom that didn’t happen.
“I’ll wear it next year,” she said.
Now I have that promise in writing.
As we all know, many plays, proms, sport tournaments, music events, high school and college graduations, conferences, school reunions, weddings and funerals have been postponed, canceled or held virtually.
We will remember the pandemic of 2020. I hope the children of today grow up to be resilient adults ready to take on any challenges.
At this time of year, I usually write reminders about food safety and graduation parties. Most of this year’s events will have 10 or fewer people, at least 6 feet apart, with bottles of hand sanitizer nearby.
Food safety still is important, regardless of how many people gather.
Here’s some good news: According to the Food and Drug Administration, “currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.”
The coronavirus causes respiratory illness, while viruses such as norovirus and hepatitis A cause gastrointestinal illness. Norovirus and hepatitis A can be spread through food.
Food safety begins with cleanliness. However, some people have not followed the rules and calls to U.S. poison centers about cleaner and disinfectant exposures increased by 20% from January to March 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Be careful with cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. When preparing food, start with clean hands, countertops and utensils. In general, a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of water is the sanitizer concentration for countertops and cutting boards.
Be sure to wash the surfaces with a detergent-water solution, then rinse, sanitize and air-dry.
If you use too much bleach in the sanitizing solution on food-contact surfaces, you could be introducing a chemical hazard, which could have severe consequences.
Follow the label directions when cleaning other surfaces. Never mix cleaning and disinfecting products (such as ammonia and bleach) because harmful, even deadly, gases can be produced.
Be sure to rinse all vegetables and fruits under running tap water, even those with skin/rinds you do not eat. Use a produce brush to scrub them as necessary. Rinse produce before you peel or prepare it so you do not transfer dirt and microorganisms to the fruit or vegetable. However, you can use commercial salads directly out of the bag without rinsing.
Even though you may have seen people on TV giving their fruits and vegetables a bath in soapy water, experts recommend that you avoid soap/detergents or bleach on food. These products are not meant to be ingested by us and can be very harmful to our health.
What about rinsing fresh produce in a vinegar-water solution? Researchers in Canada have shown that vinegar (diluted acetic acid) is not an effective disinfectant.
Although it won’t hurt you to rinse your produce in a vinegar-water solution, it probably will not make your food safer. Besides, your lettuce might taste like pickles as a result.
Here is a food safety resource to help you whether you are cooking for two or 10 people.
“Cooking for Groups” is an NDSU Extension publication with tips on planning, shopping, storing and preparing food safely. See https://tinyurl.com/CookingforGroupsNDSU.
This week’s recipe features onions, tomatoes and cilantro, which we can grow in home gardens. Consider planting a traditional or container garden this spring or summer to grow some produce.
Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, which may help protect us from certain types of cancer. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, which is heart-healthy.
2 avocados, cubed
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare ingredients as directed and combine in a bowl. Gently stir to combine. Serve with chips or crackers.
Makes four (1/2-cup) servings. Each serving has 170 calories, 15 grams (g) fat, 2 g protein, 11 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber and 10 milligrams sodium.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.
Online: For more Prairie Fare columns: www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/columns/prairie-fare/