Using the Right Knife for the Right Job: A Guide to the Kitchen Knife Block

Finding the Right Knife for the Right Job: A Guide to the Kitchen Knife Block - A Cut Above with Chef Todd
Chef Todd

Whether you are slicing fruit for a smoothie, deboning chicken for a crock pot meal or filleting fish, the knife you use in the kitchen is essential to the job you are trying to accomplish and to the efficiency level you will be achieving while preparing your food. No matter the task at hand or your ability level in the kitchen, it is incredibly important to equip yourself with the proper tools while cooking to ensure less time wasted, proper technique and increased skill, therefore helping to make you an even better cook. Continue reading “Using the Right Knife for the Right Job: A Guide to the Kitchen Knife Block”

Packing a Food Safe Lunch for School

Tips for packing a food safe lunch for back to school. - Coborn's Food Safety Coordinator, Kim

Well, it’s hard to say it’s time to start thinking about “Back to School”.  AND when you ask most children what their favorite thing about school is . . . what do they say??  Recess and LUNCH, right?!

I’m here to share with you some tips on packing a safe lunch.  If you keep in mind The Food Safety “Recipe for Success” you will always be successful in preparing a safe lunch.   So let’s get started!

Clean your lunch box

But, wait  . . . first, we need to find that lunch box! For some kids, it may still be squished in their backpack from the last day of school!  When you find it or if starting with a brand new one – wash it up good with hot soapy water.  Also, make sure you have an insulated lunch box as they are much better at keeping items cold.

Clean all surfaces before meal preparation

As with all meal preparation, start with clean surfaces and clean hands. This is truly a critical step, even more so now because these meals will not be eaten immediately after preparation.  The Temperature Danger Zone, which is 41°F to 140°F, is the temperature range where bacteria like to grow.  Granted, we have our insulated lunch box; however, keeping in mind the time kids leave for school until lunchtime, could be 5-6 hours.  That’s a long time until lunch!  Even an insulated lunch box with freezer packs may not keep the food below 41°F for that entire time, so it is always best to start with clean hands and surfaces to minimize any bacteria that might get onto the food during preparation.

Wash ALL fruits and vegetables

Another “CLEAN” tip that cannot be overlooked is ensuring all fruits and veggies are thoroughly rinsed under running tap water prior to packing for lunch.  This also includes those with rinds and peels that are not eaten.    Bacteria on the surface can contaminate the edible portion when peeling or cutting.

Preparing the night before

I know for me the morning can be quite hectic, so preparing lunch(es) the night before makes for a somewhat less stressful morning.  If preparing the night before, keep lunch items in the refrigerator overnight and pack the next morning.  You can keep the entire lunch box in the refrigerator, but wait to add the frozen gel packs until right before the kids leave for school.  This will help keep the lunch as cold as possible during the long wait until lunch!  I always use a couple of frozen gel packs for good measure.  Frozen juice boxes also work great!  I also like the insulated lunch boxes that have a divider in them.  This allows me to place all of the items together that need to be kept cold with the frozen gel packs and separate from items like crackers, eating utensils or napkins.  No need for the frozen gel packs to keep those items cold!  Remember, the frozen gel packs (and frozen juice boxes) are not meant for all day storage.  Keeping food cold until lunch is the best they can do.

Perishable items must be tossed if not eaten

That being said, all perishable items (items meant to keep cold) that are not eaten at lunch should be thrown away.  Encourage kids to eat those items first.  Items like leftover crackers or a sealed (manufacturer sealed) shelf stable fruit cups can be kept for the next lunch.  Fruit cups purchased cold or prepared at home should be discarded if not eaten at lunch time.

Keep it cold

It is also good to remind your kids to keep their lunch boxes away from any heat sources once they arrive at school.  Do not store by heaters or in direct sunlight.

Using insulated containers

One final tip . . . when using insulated containers for food storage, either cold or hot food, it is best to acclimate the container to the temperature of the food it will be storing.  Depending on the food item, fill the container with either very cold or boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes.  Discard the water then fill with the food item.  This will help in maintaining the temperature of the food item.  Also, sorry, to point out the obvious, but if packing hot food, this will need to take place in the morning.  The insulated container will not keep the food hot overnight.

Enjoy what’s left of the summer!

Coborn’s, Inc RD and Food Safety Coordinator

Click Here for more articles written by Kim - The Ktichen Detetive

Clean. Cook. Separate. Chill. - Coborn's Food Safety Coordinator, Kim

Happy National Nutrition Month!  Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a food safety blog?!?  Well, what’ya know!  Being a Registered Dietitian, National Nutrition Month is very near and dear to my heart and it is important to note that food safety melds in very well with National Nutrition Month and in planning our meals to be both healthy and safe.

The theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month, from the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”  When a person thinks of “eating right”, it often brings visions of fresh fruits and veggies, lean meat, low fat dairy and whole grain bread choices, right?  Right!  Well, for me, this also brings to mind visions of how do we make sure these food products are all handled safely?  So, how do we do this?….You guessed it!….by following the Food Safety “Recipe for Success” which includes the four key food safety practices of Clean, Cook, Separate and Chill.

CLEAN - Step one in preparing safe foods for your family. Learn more at www.cobornsblog.comCLEAN – Let’s take the fresh fruits and veggies for example.  Most of the items sold in our produce department are not “ready to eat.”  Unless the bag or package states it has been washed or it is ready to consume, it is up to you to wash it before eating or using it in a recipe.  This can easily be accomplished by placing the item under running tap water and gently scrubbing those items with a firmer peel or rind with either a clean vegetable/fruit brush or even your fingers.  The reason these are not washed and then put out on display for sale is that it greatly impacts the shelf life and the quality of the product.  REMEMBER: Even those produce items in which you do not eat the peel or rind, like melons, must be washed/scrubbed prior to cutting.  If not, those germs potentially contained on the rind may end up on what you are eating just with a single cut of the knife!

Keeping our attention on the word CLEAN – always make sure even the simplest of meal preparation and enjoyment starts with clean hands and surfaces.

COOK - Step two in preparing safe foods for your family. Learn more at www.cobornsblog.comCOOK – Lean meat, seafood and poultry should always be cooked to the proper internal cooking temperature.  Have you treated yourself to purchasing a food thermometer?  I can guarantee it will be one of the best purchases you make to “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” (and Safely). Food thermometers not only ensure that the right temperature is reached, it also keeps us from overcooking our food, which really can take the enjoyment out of eating!  I think most would prefer a moist and juicy meal rather than dry and tasteless – nothing enjoyable about that!

SEPARATE - Step three in preparing safe foods for your family. Learn more at www.cobornsblog.comSEPARATE – Keeping on the topic of raw meat, seafood and poultry, these items should be kept away from ready to eat foods in storage and during preparation.

CHILL - Step four in preparing safe foods for your family. Learn more at www.cobornsblog.comCHILL – The last topic of today, but certainly not the least!  It is critical to keep dairy items, meat, seafood and poultry items and prepared fruits and veggies out of “The Danger Zone” for any extended periods of time.  These items should be kept below 41°F.   Quick quiz question …does anyone remember “The Danger Zone?”  Absolutely right!  It is from 41°F – 140°F, I knew you knew it!

Enjoy National Nutrition Month and “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” (and Safely)!

Coborn’s, Inc. Food Safety Manager

Click Here for more blog articles written by Kim. - The Ktichen Detetive