Monthly Archives: February 2012

Obscure Food Holidays – March

food-holidaysWelcome to the first entry of our monthly look at some of the most obscure and unique food-related holidays. Let’s show some love for these overlooked holidays by indulging in one of life’s greatest gifts: FOOD!

Meat-Out Month
The entire month of March is home to the Meat-Out Challenge, where everyone is invited to try a strict, vegetarian diet. Meat-Out was first introduced in 1985 by the Farm Animal Rights Movement, and it aims to educate the public on the positives of a diet that focuses on fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, this is a great month to start!

National Nutrition Month
The American Dietetic Association sponsors this educational campaign that highlights the importance of diet and exercise. As temperatures start to warm up, March marks a great month to get out of the house, start exercising regularly, and really start tackling those New Year’s resolutions.

International Hamburger and Pickle Month
While you’re attempting to avoid meat and eat more healthy foods, March does a complete 180 and forces you to recognize a great American food tradition: the HAMBURGER. Whether you’re cooking juicy patties on your grill at home, or you’re enjoying a gourmet burger at your favorite restaurant, take the time to top it all off with a deliciously crisp dill pickle in celebration of one of the most amazing condiment pairings of all time.

March 1
National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day
Peanut butter is delicious, but most people only use it on sandwiches and crackers. Instead of eating peanut butter in the traditional way, why not try a new recipe? Check out this awesome recipe from Peanut Butter Lovers for Edamame Dumplings with Thai Peanut Sauce.

March 6
National Frozen Food Day
This day isn’t about eating a depressing frozen dinner in front of a glowing television screen in your lonely apartment. The point of National Frozen Food Day is to recognize the importance of the technological advancements that have been made in the realm of food preservation and storage. Lives have been saved because of this wonderful implementation of Science, so take the time to pay your respects to Clarence Birdseye, the man responsible for developing the quick-freezing process that we still use today.

March 9
National Crabmeat Day
Imitation crabmeat is a crime against humanity. Do yourself a favor and seek out the real deal on this day of the month. If you can’t find anything other than standard crab legs, head to your local seafood grocer and buy some crabmeat to cook at home. Try this recipe from Cajun Daughters for Crabmeat Casserole if you want to experience a taste of Louisiana.

March 27
National Spanish Paella Day
Paella is a rice dish that typically consists of chicken, beans, green vegetables, paprika, and rosemary. Saffron is used to give the rice a beautiful golden color, and the dish is best when cooked over an open flame. Find a local restaurant that sells authentic Spanish paella and you won’t be disappointed!

March 30
Turkey Neck Soup Day
Take the time to celebrate the fact that we live in a world where eating turkey neck soup is a choice, not a requirement.

March 31
Tater Day
According to the UN, “the potato yields more nutritious food more quickly on less land and in harsher climates than any other major crop.” To put it simply: Potatoes are incredible. It is nearly impossible to find a restaurant that doesn’t sell potatoes in some form or another. Help make Tater Day unique by experiencing this familiar vegetable in an unfamiliar way. Check out this zesty recipe from Many Faces of Potatoes for Easy Peasy Bombay Potato Curry.

Dangerous Foods For Your Pet – Part 2

dangerous-food-for-petsLast week, we provided you with a list of foods that are unsafe for your cat or dog. This week, we continue the list with several foods that you should also avoid. Some of these may even surprise you!

Raw Fish – Like milk, raw fish is commonly associated with cats. A freshly caught fish contains a large amount of Thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys vitamin B1. The cooking process destroys Thiaminase, erasing the potential dangers of B1 deficiency. It’s true that cats love fish, but you should always make sure that it’s thoroughly cooked before you feed it to your pet.

Walnuts & Macadamia Nuts – Walnuts are unique in that they sometimes carry a certain type of mold that can be deadly to small animals. Store-bought walnuts do not pose much of a threat, but fresh walnuts that fall from a tree can be far more dangerous. Macadamia nuts, on the other hand, contain a toxin that can make your pet extremely ill. Symptoms of poisoning from macadamia nuts include muscle weakness, paralysis, increased heart rate, and vomiting.

Meat Scraps – Leftovers and scraps from the dinner table create a less obvious risk for pets. While it may seem perfectly safe for a dog to eat a bone or two, hundreds of dogs die each year by choking on cooked bones or by receiving internal injuries from bone fragments. Chicken and turkey skin, as well as other high-fat meats, can lead to pancreatitis.

Nutmeg – High levels of nutmeg can cause seizures, tremors, and death in animals. Chefs typically use ground nutmeg seed, but the stems, roots, and leaves of the nutmeg tree are also just as toxic to dogs and cats.

Raw Egg Whites – Avidin, the protein found in raw egg whites, creates issues with vitamin B absorption in cats. Vitamin B deficiency can result in various skin and coat problems.

Avocados – This unique fruit contains Persin, an acid derivative that has been known to cause breathing and heart issues in dogs and cats. You should definitely avoid sharing your leftover Mexican takeout food with your pet, as guacamole consists primarily of avocados.

Liver – How can liver be dangerous for pets when it’s used in so many dog foods? Liver is actually fine in small amounts, but it contains a very high percentage of vitamin A that can cause long term bone and joint damage.

Alcohol – The Ethanol that is found in alcoholic beverages is especially toxic to small animals. Dogs and cats can become intoxicated just like humans, but Ethanol poisoning can actually lead to slowed respiratory rates, cardiac arrest, or death.

What To Do In A Food Emergency – Contact your veterinarian with specific details regarding the exact food and how much was ingested by your pet. If you are unsure of the food that was consumed, make note of the symptoms that your pet is displaying and seek immediate help. You can contact a local veterinarian or animal hospital as well as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Use Color-coding to Help Prevent Cross Contamination

san-jamar-cutting-boardsEven more so than the threat of an IRS-audit, the thought of customers getting food poisoning can keep many careful food service operators awake at night. One of the main suspects in food poisoning cases is the cross contamination of foods.

Since you probably have had some HAACP training, the type of cross contamination we’re discussing here occurs when a nasty bacteria on one food product is transferred to another, clean food product. If that second product is then served uncooked, as in a salad, you have a big problem. Cutting boards are often the cause of cross contamination. Typically, someone uses a cutting board to cut raw meat, say chicken, and then the same cutting board is used for chopping lettuce for a salad. In between, the board is not properly sanitized and cleaned.  Oops.

Thankfully, there’s a very easy solution: color-coded cutting boards. Using a standardized system of colors, the color of each board represents the only type of food that should be prepared on that board. There are six colors in the system:

Yellow = Raw Poultry

Red = Raw Meat

Green = Fruits & Vegetables

Tan/Brown = Fish & Seafood

White = Dairy & Cheese

Blue = Cooked Foods

To implement the full program, we offer several complete 6-board sets from San Jamar and Johnson-Rose. San Jamar now offers a purple board and purple utensil set to isolate foods for allergens.

To minimize the cross contamination risk even more, use color-coded knives . Dexter-Russell has a number of their Sani-Safe Knives in color coded versions. To round out your cross contamination prevention system, be sure you have proper hand-washing supplies and equipment sanitizing solutions and materials.