Storing Foods Safely to Prevent Foodborne Illness

Ways to store food safely - cookinGenie blog

24 Sep 2021

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Storing Foods Safely to Prevent Foodborne Illness

When we think of food safety, we usually think about cooking foods properly to prevent getting anyone sick. However, storing foods properly is just as important to prevent foodborne illness. Just like the actual preparation of food, all it takes is a little common sense to make sure you’re storing food safely.

Keep foods cold

This may sound obvious, but there are some extra steps you can take to make sure your fridge is keeping food cold enough. Make sure you check the temperature gauge in the fridge regularly, about once a week. If it is consistently higher than 40⁰F, you should turn the temperature down or get your refrigerator serviced.

Also be sure to keep the fridge closed as often as possible. Leaving the door open for extended periods of time as you rummage through the shelves can expose the food inside to warm air, causing it to spoil quicker. Try not to keep the fridge too jam-packed with food. If there’s not enough space in between food, the cool air will have a harder time circulating and keeping everything cold.

Where you store matters

Certain foods, like eggs, dairy, and raw meat are more sensitive to temperatures than others. To protect those foods, store them further back in the fridge to keep them colder. The shelf in the door is the warmest part of the fridge, so you want to keep condiments, drinks, and other ingredients that are less sensitive to temperatures there.

It’s also important to keep different ingredients separated from one another in the fridge. Dairy and eggs should be stored away from raw fruits and vegetables so that bacteria from the eggs don’t contaminate the produce.

Another good rule to remember is always store raw meat in the bottom of the fridge and produce in the top. If you have raw chicken breasts stored over fresh lettuce, there’s a chance those chicken breasts drip into the lettuce and contaminate it. To be safe, always store meat on the bottom. And if you have multiple kinds of meat in your fridge, chicken should always be below beef, pork, fish, or other meats as chicken requires the most cooking to be safe.

Keep food away from chemicals

Not all foodborne illnesses come from biological hazards like bacteria or parasites. Some come from chemical contaminants. When storing dry goods in the pantry, they should always be kept far away from bleaches, detergents, cleaning supplies, or any other potentially harmful chemicals. Even storing food in the same cabinet as chemicals could lead to an accidental spill that contaminates the food, which can cause serious illness.

Don’t put steaming hot food in the fridge

It’s very common for people to throw a whole pot of something in the fridge if they don’t feel like putting it into containers. That’s fine as long as the food has cooled down first. If you take a steaming hot pot of soup and place it into the fridge to “cool down”, all you’re really doing is warming up the fridge. The heat and steam from the soup will circulate around the fridge and warm up all of the food inside, likely above the safe 40⁰F. Additionally, the soup itself probably won’t cool down very quickly either, leaving it at an unsafe temperature for an extended period of time.

Instead of putting the hot food directly in the fridge, let it cool down at room temperature first. If you pour hot foods into a long container with more surface area, they’ll cool down quicker. You can also try putting hot foods on an ice bath. To make an ice bath, fill your sink with ice and cold water. Then take the container of hot food and put it in the sink so that the water comes about three-quarters of the way up the container. Give the food a few stirs and after about 30 minutes or so, it should be cool enough to store in the fridge safely.

At CookinGenie, the chefs are experts in food safety and know how to ensure food is being handled safely all the way from shopping for the ingredients, storing them properly, and cooking them in the safest way possible.

Author – Jared Kent


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26 Oct 2019

So many people fight the traffic and come home from work tired and hungry. You want to feed your family well but the idea of chopping and prepping a real meal for your family is daunting. Add hungry kids to the formula and it’s a bigger challenge. Decision time. Few, if any, good options.

Restaurants on a weeknight? Pack the family in the minivan, wait for your table with hungry tired kids. Then you’re presented with a menu & it’s hard to stick to healthy options. You leave after eating foods you’d be better off avoiding, and likely paid more than you planned on spending. The evening is done & that homework still needs done. Or else, a green slip is headed your way from the teacher.

You could opt for home delivery like pizza, which is always a crowd pleaser. But you can’t feed your family pizza 4 times a week. Now there are options like Uber Eats, Doordash or GrubHub to help. Those help fill a gap on a busy night but it’s far from a long term solution. You’re going to blow your budget on delivery fees and once again your feeding your family less than healthy options.

Prepared meals are the go-to for a lot of busy folks. Many grocery stores offer meal kits or premade options. Although they are slightly healthier than pizza, you’re likely to get burnt out quickly on the limited menu options week after week. Most stores offer 3-5 options for this, and even if they are healthy and budget friendly and easy to cook, you’re going to find yourself dying for a little variety on your plate.

Of course, there are meal kit delivery choices. This eliminates some work, with less grocery shopping and expanded menu choices. But they tend to be light on the leftovers and they don’t really free up your time. The menu might be decided, but you’re still the one chopping and cooking after a long day of work. Not to mention the pile of dishes waiting for you after dinner. They also don’t eliminate grocery shopping all together. You’re still going to be heading to the store every few days for staples like milk and fruit. And those subscriptions don’t manage themselves make sure to set an alarm on your phone to set your menu every week, and don’t forget about when the auto withdraw comes out of your bank account.

Cooked & frozen meal delivery services are an option. But even though you might be ordering your food based on beautifully plated pictures on a website, what you receive is going to look more like something from a cafeteria. Of course, it’s still chef prepared and that alone might be a big step up if you aren’t yourself a culinary master. Just don’t forget to budget for delivery fees here too. And the meals are shipped from afar in bulky boxes. Who knows when they were cooked?

Grocery delivery services like insta cart are good way to keep your fridge stocked with all the healthy options you want to have on hand. But they can’t give you the motivation to cook at the end of a long day.

Give our Genies a try. Schedule an in home cooking session with them. They will shop, cook & clean up after themselves. You are left to enjoy fresh home cooked meals – except you don’t have to do the cooking.

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Vegan & Vegetarian - CookinGenie

02 Jun 2021

One of the most dominant food trends over the past several years has been the rise of veganism. Back in 2004, there were only about 300,000 vegans living in the U.S. But in 2019, that number was over 9 million, representing a 300% increase over 15 years. Plus, reporting using google search trends shows that worldwide interest in veganism hit an all-time high in 2020.

It’s easy to understand why this rise is happening. Extensive medical research has shown that a vegan, or plant-based, diet can have health benefits ranging from weight loss, diabetes prevention, decreased risk of cancer, improved heart health, and more.

Another great reason for a vegan diet is the environment. As the planet continues to warm, people are looking for ways to live more environmentally-friendly, and eating plant-based is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

But it’s not just hard-core animal lovers and health nuts that are driving the push towards veganism. Several high-profile celebrities such as singers Ariana Grande and Beyonce, actors Zac Efron and Liam Hemsworth, and even former president Bill Clinton, eat a plant-based diet.

Athletes are in on the trend too. There are dozens of world-class vegan athletes, including U.S. women’s soccer star Alex Morgan, NBA point guards Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving, and the world’s top-ranked male tennis player, Novak Djokovic. All of these elite athletes say that their performance improved after switching to a vegan diet.

However, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A recent survey from Packaged Facts show that eating a flexitarian diet, which is largely plant-based, with some meat and dairy, is also ticking upwards, with about 36% of U.S. consumers identifying as such.

Despite all these trends, it can still be very challenging to find healthy, wholesome, delicious vegan and vegetarian food. Many restaurant menus still offer very little meat-free options. Lots of us grew up in meat-centric households and have friends and family who still sneer at the idea of veganism. Plus, if you’re not used to cooking vegan food, it can be hard to make filling, satisfying entrees with vegetables.

That’s where CookinGenie comes in. Whether you’re a committed vegan, vegetarian, or just trying to eat more veggies, CookinGenie can help you eat more delicious plant-based meals. Genie Christian Farah even offers a 100% vegan menu. But don’t worry, his entirely plant-based menu still has delicious favorites like an impossible cheeseburger and dairy-free mac n’ cheese, so you don’t have to compromise on taste. He also has other incredible whole food vegan options like a vibrant homemade falafel platter, inspired by his Lebanese heritage.

Other genies’ menus have more tasty plant-based offerings. You’ll find hearty vegan and vegetarian items like roasted cauliflower steaks with couscous, creamy mushroom risotto, and exciting international dishes like Indian lentil stew. Many of these dishes are also packed with healthy proteins.

Wherever, you may fall on the eating spectrum, if you’re looking for an affordable, easy, healthy, and delicious way to incorporate more plant-based meals in your diet, look no further than CookinGenie.

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Guests with Food - CookinGenie

28 Sep 2021

Cooking for someone with a severe food allergy can be intimidating. And with food allergies on the rise, it’s becoming more common than ever. You want people to enjoy your food. But you would never want to be responsible for giving someone a severe allergic reaction.

Thankfully, with the right knowledge and planning, cooking for guests with severe food allergies doesn’t have to be daunting. It will take some extra steps, but it’s always better safe than sorry. Here are some things to remember before cooking for guests with food allergies.

Know your allergens and their severity

People can have food allergies to just about anything. But food allergies, which are not the same as food sensitivities and intolerances, are not all created equal. Some people have allergies with mild symptoms like hives and a stomachache. Others may have allergies that could cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock, which may include dangerous symptoms like a swelling throat, fainting, wheezing, and trouble breathing.

While all allergies have the potential to be severe, certain ingredients are far more likely to cause extreme reactions. The 8 most common severe allergens are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat.

It’s important to understand the complexities of these allergies. Someone who’s allergic to milk can’t eat other milk-derived products such as cheese, yogurt, or ice cream. And while some of these allergies sound very similar, they can be different. For example, someone may be allergic to almonds, but not peanuts. Or they may be allergic to shrimp and scallops, but salmon is fine. Whatever the case may be, make sure you talk to your guests and understand exactly what it is they’re allergic to.

Avoid allergens entirely in the meal

Some people tend to think that if a guest has an allergy, they can just leave out that ingredient for that guest and it’ll be fine. While this may be true for some, in cases of severe allergies, the allergic person may not even need to directly consume the allergen to have a dangerous reaction. For example, an invisible trace of peanuts that can be spread through the air onto a dish may be enough to trigger an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. So, if possible, it’s best to leave the allergen out of the entire meal, even for those who aren’t allergic to it.

Check labels

Reading labels can be a pain, but it’s an important safeguard against allergic reactions. Sometimes ingredients can have unexpected allergens. For example, Worcester sauce, which is a popular condiment for steak and burgers, often contains anchovy paste, making it unsuitable for people with seafood allergies. But, by the name, look, and flavor it, you would never know, making reading the labels all the more important. By law, common allergens are bolded on the bottom of the label, making it easier to identify them.

Additionally, because just a trace amount of an allergen can cause a reaction, you need to watch out for any possible exposure. Some foods, like prepackaged cookies, may not actively contain nuts but may be processed in the same facility as almonds. In this case, those cookies would not be safe to serve to someone with a severe nut allergy.

Clean and sanitize the kitchen

Before beginning to cook for someone with a severe food allergy, be sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize the kitchen, including surfaces and utensils you will use. There’s no telling if there may be trace amounts of the allergen floating around the kitchen. So, to be safe, give everything a good cleaning beforehand.

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario

If you take all the proper steps to protect against food allergies, you should have nothing to worry about. But just in case, you should be prepared to handle a severe allergic reaction. Make sure any guests with food allergies are carrying their EpiPen on them. Also ensure that someone in your party knows how to properly inject an EpiPen as the person having the reaction may not be capable of injecting it themselves.

The EpiPen will help immediately ease the symptoms of the reaction. While one person is injecting the victim with the EpiPen, someone else should call 911 to get the victim professional medical aid. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, try to keep the victim calm while lying on their back.

Anaphylactic reactions are scary, but if handled properly, everything should turn out fine. Less than 1% of anaphylactic reactions from food are fatal, according to the national institute of health.

CookinGenie takes allergies seriously

At CookinGenie, the chefs know that protecting customers from allergies is of the utmost importance and they’re experienced in cooking for people with serious allergies. Genies can modify orders to fit around allergies and the support team will work with every customer to craft the best meal.

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