September is National Food Safety Month – Here are Some Keys for Cooking and Serving Food Safely

National Food Safety Month— Keys for Cooking and Serving Food Safely

24 Sep 2021

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September is National Food Safety Month – Here are Some Keys for Cooking and Serving Food Safely

Cooking for friends and family is one of the great joys in life. But without practicing proper food safety, cooking can make your loved ones sick, or in extreme cases, even kill them. Luckily, all it takes to prepare and serve food safely is following a few simple rules and using common sense. In honor of food safety month, here are some of the most important things to remember when cooking.

Wash your hands

One of the most important things you can do to keep food safe is constant handwashing. The first thing you should do when you walk into the kitchen is washing your hands. And wash them again after every completed task or when you start handling different ingredients, especially after touching raw meat.

One of the most common ways foodborne illnesses are spread is by bacteria jumping from dirty hands to the food. So, you cannot wash your hands too often. When washing your hands, make sure you run them under warm running water for at least 20 seconds, using antibacterial soap. Scrub between your fingers and under your fingernails every time and dry off with a clean cloth or paper towel. For extra protection, turn off the knob on the sink with that paper towel instead of your bare hands.

When in doubt, throw it out

Nobody likes to waste food. But holding on to old food after it’s gone bad is a good way to get your guests sick.  If anything in your fridge or pantry is moldy, slimy, smells rotten, or is well past its expiration date, just throw it out.

When cooking with canned ingredients, beware of cans that are rusted, dented, or swollen. Swollen cans are a sign of botulism, a dangerous spore that can be fatal. If there are any physical deformities on the can, put it right into the trash. There is a chance that every now and again you may throw out some food that’s still safe to use, but it’s always better safe than sorry.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold

As a general rule of thumb, you should try and avoid keeping foods out at room temperature as much as possible, especially more sensitive items like meat, dairy, and eggs. When cooking and storing food, be mindful of the “temperature danger zone”, a temperature range between 41⁰F and 135⁰F. This is the range in which bacteria grows and multiplies most quickly.

Temperatures above or below this range are usually too extreme for most bacteria to survive. So, if a dish is meant to be served hot, you should keep it on the stove or in the oven at 135⁰F or higher for as long as possible, and if it is meant to be served cold, you should keep it in refrigeration at 41⁰F or lower until it’s ready to serve.

It may be helpful to have a digital thermometer on hand to help ensure you’re keeping foods at the proper temperatures. If any highly sensitive foods like meat or dairy are left out in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours, they may be unsafe to eat. Any cooked food that is being reheated should be heated to 165⁰F for at least 15 seconds before serving.

Beware of Cross Contamination

Cross contamination occurs when bacteria or other contaminants are passed to food from shared surfaces or through the air. For example, if you cut raw chicken on a cutting board then later use that same cutting board for fresh vegetables, the vegetables may be contaminated with bacteria from the chicken. To avoid cross contamination, use different utensils for raw meats and vegetables. Also be sure to wash and disinfect counters and other kitchen surfaces frequently.

Consider food allergies

One of the scariest parts of cooking for others can be dealing with food allergies. Allergic reactions to food can range anywhere from a mildly upset stomach to life-threatening anaphylactic shock, where the victim’s throat can begin to shut.

Before your event, ask all your guests if they have any food allergies. If anyone in your party has a severe allergy, consider serving something without that ingredient at all. For people with severe allergies like nuts or shellfish, they may not even need to actively consume the allergen to have a dangerous reaction, just an invisible trace amount may be enough to cause serious symptoms. So, just making a portion without that ingredient may not be enough to keep them safe. When it comes to cooking for people with food allergies, you cannot be too careful.

Cook proteins properly

A common cause of foodborne illness is undercooked meats, especially chicken. Meats need to be cooked to proper internal temperatures to kill the majority of bacteria and parasites that can make you sick. When cooking meats, use a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature and don’t serve it until the meat comes up to a safe level.

For example, chicken and other poultry need to reach an internal temperature of at least 165⁰F for 15 seconds before they’re safe to eat. For more specifics, check out our complete guide to safely cooking meat.

Wash raw ingredients well

Before cooking with fruits, herbs, or vegetables, rinse them off under cold running water to remove any debris, bacteria, or chemical coating. This is especially important with cantaloupe and honeydew, which always should be washed before cutting. It’s also good practice to rinse off your eggs before cooking with them.

Be extra cautious with the most vulnerable members of your family

When cooking for older or immunocompromised people, you have to be extra careful and attentive. For someone who’s young and healthy, a case of salmonella from an undercooked chicken breast could cause a few days of illness. But for an older person or someone suffering from an autoimmune disease, that salmonella could be fatal.

CookinGenie takes food safety seriously

When you book a chef through CookinGenie, you can be sure that food safety will be the top priority. Many of the genies are professionals with formal food safety training, and others are experienced home cooks with a proven track record of keeping people safe. Food safety is stressed, and every genie knows that’s the most important thing when cooking for you.

Better yet, when you allow a CookinGenie chef into your home, you can watch them cook to be sure the food is being handled properly. Unlike a restaurant, this in-home set-up allows much more transparency and peace of mind than dining out or ordering takeout.

Author – Jared Kent

 


Related Post

Bibimbap-CookinGenie

07 Apr 2021

CookinGenie lets you travel with food all around the world. Next stop: Korea. 

Sometimes, the humblest foods are the best foods. That’s certainly the case with bibimbapKorea’s answer to fried rice, and—if you ask us—one of the top must-try foods around the world. 

The word “bibimbap” means “mixed rice with meat and vegetables,” and variations of the dish abound. It’s a dish that is endlessly customizable based on whatever the cook has on hand: some versions are made with raw beef and eggs, while others incorporate cooked seafood or pork and fried egg. What all these versions have in common is a base of rice topped with ingredients that are individually prepared and carefully seasoned, then stirred together just before serving. The result is a colorful dish with flavors and textures that are hearty, bold and harmonize beautifully with one another.   

In its article about bibimbap, the Korean Culture Blog cites different origin stories for this famed food, which is centuries old. “One story is that ancestral rituals were performed in the countryside away from home and after the rituals, instead of bringing all the foods back home which was cumbersome, the people mixed together all the foods in one big bowl and ate them all. Another story is that bibimbap came from the ancient custom of mixing leftover cooked rice with all the remaining side dishes and eating it as a midnight snack on the eve of Lunar New Year.  Another story is that while working out in the fields, the farmers mixed together all the nutritious ingredients in one big bowl to have a quick and healthy meal.”1  

Over time, regional variations developed with the most famous version coming from Jeonju, a small city in South Korea. Jeonju bibimbap is made with bean sprouts, gingko nut, pine nut, chestnut, spinach, lettuce, bracken, mushroom, turnip, carrot, seaweed, and beef. It beautifully represents the philosophy of Hansik (traditional Korean food), by combining the five colors that represent the elements that make up the universe—green/water, red/fire, yellow/wood, white/metal and black/earth—and the five flavors: sweet, hot, sour, salty and bitter.2 

There are also variations based on the type of dish bibimbap is made and served in. Traditional yangpun bibimbap is served in a yangpun, a large brass bowl, although these days many Korean cooks reach for a stainless steel bowl to make yangpun bibimbap instead3. One of the most beloved varieties is dolsot bibimbap, which is made in a dolsot—a heavy stone or earthenware bowl that’s heated to a high temperature before ingredients are added. The rice goes in first so it cooks in the hot bowl and forms a crispy, crackling bottom crust that adds a satisfying crunch when everything is stirred together.  

Bibimbap took flight outside Korea—literally—and gained notice as one of the best foods in the world in the late twentieth century when South Korean Airlines began serving it for inflight meals. Its popularity quickly spread: Wikipedia calls the dish a global symbol that symbolizes the harmony and balance in Korean culture4 and CNN Travel listed it at number 40 on its 2011 list of the World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods.5  

CookinGenie’s Jared Kent makes his bibimbap by topping seasoned white rice with spicy ground pork and garlicky carrots, soy-glazed spinach, quick-pickled cucumbers, green onions and kimchiand crowning it all with a crispy fried egg. (He makes a just-veggies version for you vegetarians out there too). Just before serving, he drizzles the bowl with a sweet-and-spicy gochujang-soy sauce that ties it all together.  

And just a quick note: we added bibimbap to our menu at the request of one of our customers. Are you craving a dish and don’t see it on our menu? Just ask! Our team of Genies are inventive cooks with a deep repertoire of recipes—so chances are one of our chefs can help you satisfy your cravings for famous food from around the world. Send us an email with your special request to support@cookingenie.com 

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Aphrodisiac Recipes for Valentine’s Day - CookinGenie Blog

14 Feb 2022

You’ve heard the word aphrodisiac before, and often, the first thing that comes to mind is something like oysters. But, truth be told, there are actually more foods that are considered aphrodisiac or aphrodisiac recipes to help you and your partner get in the mood this Valentine’s Day and beyond.

What is an Aphrodisiac?

Aphrodisiacs are foods that are believed to help stimulate human desire. As eating a great meal is always a pleasurable experience, these foods are thought to go a step further in heightening sexual emotions.

Historically, there are five different types of aphrodisiacs and why they are said to arouse passion.

  1. Exotic foods were thought to be erotic because they were rare and expensive compared to more everyday foods in the past.
  2. Spicy hot foods were thought to fire up passion through their spicey heat, while more bland foods were said to have the opposite effect.
  3. Foods that resemble the sexy parts of your body were also thought to be aphrodisiacs, such as oysters and asparagus.
  4. In addition, eating reproductive parts of animals, such as caviar, was believed to be an aphrodisiac.
  5. Finally, foods that were to stimulate your senses were also considered to be aphrodisiacs. When you eat, you’re doing more than just fueling your body. You’re engaging your senses. You’ll use sight, scent, touch, and taste during a meal, and it’s believed that these foods help heighten your sensual feelings through these senses.

While scientifically speaking, no studies have been done to examine the claims that these foods work to increase your libido, it can be a more personal experience that helps spark a fire. Food works to create a pleasant atmosphere, and that can be enough to help stimulate your evening. Keep in mind what helps to create a more romantic evening will depend on the person. Someone that can’t stand seafood probably will not appreciate your attempt to use oysters to stimulate their senses, while chocolate may be more of a boon than you realize this Valentine’s Day.

Examples of Aphrodisiacs and Aphrodisiac Recipes:

  • Chocolate: Between the taste and how the silkiest chocolate melts in your mouth, it’s easy to see why chocolate has made the cut on this list. Chocolate can help to make anyone feel good. Don’t forget that this Valentine’s Day, when you book with CookinGenie, you’ll receive a complimentary Chocolate Mousse to enjoy after your dinner. If Chocolate Mousse isn’t exciting, you can also try the Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Bars or the Red Velvet Cupcakes with Creamy Frosting.
  • Asparagus: Asparagus is a healthy food that offers plenty of potassium and vitamin E, which are both excellent for helping to improve overall health and sexual health. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s shaped rather conveniently to be added to this list. For your Valentine’s Day menu, you may want to try Garlic Butter Steak Bites with Oven Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus or the Lemon-Herb Salmon with Parmesan Crusted Asparagus and Mashed Potatoes.
  • Finger Foods: There’s something sensual about finger foods that adds them to this list. Not using utensils and being able to feed each other easily helps to give this food an added layer of allure. Charcuterie can be a fun addition to your Valentine’s Day dinner.
  • Hot Peppers: When you want to kick things up a notch for your palate, hot peppers like jalapenos can be great for adding hot flavors to any recipe. Thanks to the capsaicin in the peppers that give them that spicy effect, your heart rate increases, your endorphins start pumping, and it stimulates your nerve-endings. All-in-all sounds like a great time! Here are some tremendous CookinGenie options that feature peppers: Jalapeno’s Cheddar Cornbread, Baked Lemon Wings With A Kick And Homemade Ranch, and Veggie Pad Thai.
  • Brussel Sprouts: Before you dismiss these little green balls, Brussel sprouts have a lot to offer regarding male libido. These tasty guys have Indole-3-carbinol, which helps reduce estrogen in men and helps to spark desire. Some choice dishes that feature these humble veggies include Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Stuffed Salmon with Roasted Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts.

Setting the Right Mood

Now that you’ve got an idea of some of the best meals to add to your Valentine’s Day, the next thing to consider is how to set the right mood for your special dinner. Although you’re at home, that doesn’t mean that you can bring the romantic restaurant feel to your house. So think about how you can go about setting the right mood.

One of the things that romantic restaurants offer is the ambiance. Music, lighting, and more combine to create the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner atmosphere. Pick out romantic selections for the music you and your special someone enjoy. Classical music, R&B, jazz, and other musical selections can work. You’ll also want to find ways to mute your lighting. You may need to add some candles around the table if you don’t have a dimmer switch. Plus, you can add a nice tablecloth on the table from vintage lace that’s a family heirloom or go with a classic Italian restaurant-style red and white checked cloth.

Another thing to consider is plating. The way that your food is presented helps to evoke being in a nice restaurant. It’s time to break out your fine china and silverware to add to the ambiance. Slopping food on the plate doesn’t add to the presentation. You’ll want to plate it carefully, so you’re not ignoring one of the most important senses of sight when it comes to eating.

Let CookinGenie Help Your Valentine’s Day

Give CookinGenie a try this Valentine’s day with these dishes featuring these aphrodisiac recipes. You and your special someone will dine on a meal specially prepared in your kitchen by a professional chef. Make Valentine’s Day a special day where you won’t have to worry about shopping, cooking, or even having to clean the kitchen afterward—leaving you with plenty of time to enjoy the rest of your date night. Check out these fun dishes and more on the CookinGenie website to find the perfect Valentine’s Day meal, whether you believe in the effects of aphrodisiacs or not.

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16 Sep 2019

You already have a lot on your plate – juggling kids sports, school events, professional schedules, groceries, shopping, and kids’ homework.Exhausting? We think so. Add an early morning or a late evening meeting (OK, make that a corporate firefight) at work & all of a sudden, putting breakfast or dinner on the family table can become a daunting challenge. Both your work and family require your attention and time. It can be very hard to make great choices towards eating fresh & healthy. Busy parents can hardly take out time to cook fresh and healthy food. To make matters worse, with all your kids’ activities, you might not have any free time over the weekend as well – travel soccer, or baseball leagues? A trip to the pool? A birthday party? Play dates? You navigate those successfully. You remember to grab the birthday present sitting on your kitchen countertop. You find the right soccer jerseys (unlike me). And then, its dinner time & cooking is the last thing on your mind. No wonder, you struggle with finding fresh, healthy food.

According to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics, one in three American children eats unhealthy food daily. This reason is why many American children suffer from diseases associated with malnutrition and obesity. Unhealthy eating or fast food has become a new diet trend. Moreover, wrong food choices bring with them additives, dyes, saturated fats, and preservatives. Those bring more health issues in the long term.

So, how can you overcome this hurdle? Surely, you don’t have the time to

  • grab fresh ingredients from groceries
  • prepare the ingredients, marination etc
  • cook & clean up

And all you have to do is enjoy your food freshly cooked in your kitchen. What if there was someone who could do all that for you? I must be dreaming you say? But what if……….

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