Why You Should Be Chicken of Chicken

I love to cook and eat chicken, but chicken is a potentially hazardous food if handled improperly. It even scares me. About one in four pieces of raw chicken carry salmonella. Salmonella from poultry sickens over 200,000 Americans a year, according to USDA food safety data.

Chicken and the juices found inside the package is a perfect environment for the growth of salmonella and other bacteria. Additionally, chicken and chicken dishes can become hazardous if not handled properly. It is my hope to provide you with a few guidelines to safely handle chicken, before and after it is cooked. These same guidelines can be applied to other raw foods as well.

Handling chicken properly and cooking it correctly should kill salmonella. However, the findings of a recent study I conducted, it is clear that people often make mistakes that can cause them to unknowingly contaminate their own kitchen. This is what creeps-me-out, and I’m relieved, food-safety has always been a beginning teach-point when I work with culinary students.

The primary condition required for bacteria to live and be happy is between 40’F and 140’F. Anytime food falls in this temperature range, bad bacteria can grow comfortably. Professionals call it, “The Danger Zone. If food sits for a long period of time in the danger zone, bacteria will begin to grow rapidly. So, be safe and protect your family. It’s important to keep the temperature of uncooked chicken below 40’F degrees. Once the chicken is cooked, but not refrigerated- it should be stored above 140’F degrees.

As mentioned, I performed my own poultry handling-fact-finding study. I sent questionnaires to thirty households. Those that participated in the study seemed to know how to handle raw poultry based on their responses to the questionnaire. But when it came to observe them in a cooking class (The hands on portion of my study) on the actual prepping of raw chicken- all of the individuals were observed making mistakes that risked spreading salmonella around counters, counter tops, work surfaces, sinks or utensils.

The data I collected proved to me, many people are simply not aware how they are cross-contaminating their kitchen surfaces at home. But how could they know, they are not professionally trained on food safety, and they cannot see the bacteria- so how would they notice.Its a simple mistake we all make. Most of them just mopped up the juice on the counter with the sponge they later wash the dishes with. Did you just cringe?

The other subject that is like nails-on-a-chalkboard is… cross contamination.This is how people unknowingly spread bacteria. In the kitchen, with raw chicken it’s really easy to do. The contamination of other foods such as fruits and vegetables coming in contact with raw chicken or its juices is an additional threat. Be sure and wash all utensils and all surfaces that might have come in contact with the chicken or its juices. Use hot, soapy water and if you are really crazy about a clean kitchen, you can make a solution containing a gallon of water mixed with 1 to 2 oz. of bleach.

After washing your work surfaces with soapy hot water, I strongly recommend spraying the stovetop, countertops, and the sinks with a high pH balanced cleanser- (like the bleach water described above) that will kill bacteria on contact. Vinegars will work too. I’m usually teased by my colleagues- that my favorite perfume is, “Eau de’ Bleach”- because I use it so much.

Leftovers… I love leftovers… My Mom would cook for my Dad and after dinner she would leave the leftovers out on top of the stove. My Dad would get up in the middle of the night and graze. Now that I’m a food professional- I think back and wonder if my pops ever had to run to the bathroom the next morning. That habit is just CRAZY! No matter how tired I am after dinner, I always store leftovers in an airtight container, pop right into the fridge.

The safest bet is to always, keep hot food hot, and cold foods, cold. Food borne bacteria can also harm the elderly and children much quicker than a healthy sized adult, or anyone with a compromised immune system. Keep your family safe.There are simply too many other things we need to worry about these days- don’t fall victim to a microscopic bug.

Plan ahead, thaw frozen foods in a controlled environment- (the fridge). Clean as you go, use proper refrigeration and cooking temperatures, and don’t leave food sitting out in warm environments. This will not only keep foods safer, but protect the quality and nutritional value as well.

You’re welcome.

Chef Gigi Gaggero is recognized nationally as an expert in culinary education and has coached thousands of children and their families how to shop, prep, cook and eat better. Co-author of, “Learning with Little Lulu Lemon” and has been featured on Radio Disney and Bay Area local television broadcast with Spencer Christian, on NBC’s “View from the Bay” and CBS, “Eye on the Bay”. Currently publishing additional works including,”The Fun Filled Cooking Party Guide” for children’s parties – and ” Food Fight, for Parents of Picky Eaters” is expected to become a pantry staple for parents!

Exquisite Eggplant Recipe, Also Known As Aubergine – A Coveted Eastern and Mediterranean Dish

Exquisite eggplant recipe, also known as aubergine- a coveted Eastern, or Mediterranean dish.

Eggplant the purple vegetable with the curious shape.

Mediterranean-inspired eggplant dish…

To begin, select a ripened eggplant, before purchasing, select the vegetable with the fewest abrasions, marks or bruises. Select a nice deep purple or maroon- whichever color you choose to describe your eggplant works well with me.

1 large eggplant, also referred to as aubergine, ripe and of medium texture, delicious when roasted.

Fire-roasted, on a barbeque grill, or gas grilled infuses so much more smokey flavor to cooked vegetables, requiring cooked skin for easier digestion: leave the skin intact, as much as you can, for this particular vegetable dish.

2-3 minced garlic cloves- I use the smaller side of a cheese grinder for mincing.

3 – 5 Roma tomatoes or 2 large regular fire-roasted tomatoes.

fresh parsley, cleaning well, drying and utilizing the parsley only, cutting off and discarding the stems.

fresh cilantro, same as per parsley directions above, remember; only the cilantro, cutting off and discarding the stems.

5 fire- roasted green or red peppers, peeled, seeded and divined, add olive oil for taste…

apple cider vinegar for taste, this recipe calls for a little acidity; usually one teaspoon should suffice.

sea salt to taste – SIDE NOTE; sea salt is lighter than regular table salt so add a double-portion versus the regular measure of table salt. You can add any herbs, oils or spices and improvise, according to taste.

fresh, ground cumin: about 1-1 1/2 teaspoons

chili powder or smoky paprika to taste: about 1 teaspoon

½ cup each of cilantro, parsley and or celery leaves

deep skillet with a lid to avoid spilling and for minimal splashing effect..

Begin by roasting eggplant, green or red spicy peppers, or other mild peppers, and red, ripe tomatoes. I use all of these vegetables, both for color, and the impact of the flavors when blended together. Remove the seeds, veins and skin, if desired slice the peeled chili peppers and eggplant and finely chop parsley and cilantro; leave some parsley and cilantro behind,to be used in your recipe, once more, wait until the end, to blend into your dish again.

In a deep skillet, saute with vegetable, olive, or grape seed oil, eggplant and chili, add tomatoes and blend well; add dry ingredients; season to taste, cook on medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

You can also add I teaspoon vegetable bouillon, while you saute your vegetables, or add one of my favorites seasonings- Old Bay. seasoning can impact, or enhance the flavor. SIDE NOTE- You can substitute celery salt for sea salt, garlic salt, or even use Ms. Dash, for salt-sensitive recipes, a great tasting salt substitute.

If you have fresh celery on-hand, you can clean and slice the celery leaves and add to your parsley and cilantro for extra flavor… After removing the skillet from your heat source, add a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil to energize the spices and seal-in your flavors… Goes great with pita bread!

Eggplant is one of a variety of vegetable-based delicious, cold salads, served for lunch or dinner.

I enjoy learning from you and from others offering me knowledge continuously!

Soulful Spinach Salad, Served Hot or Cold, As a Side Dish or Enjoy As a Vegetable Spread

Soulful Spinach Salad: eaten cold or hot

In the southern part of the U.S. spinach and greens are known as staples and eaten regularly like salad in some parts of the country and rice in other parts of the world. Many recipes in the southern part of the United States are made with greens; being spinach,collard or kale or any other of an extended variety of healthy greens. Family cooking styles, choice of vegetable and way of eating, sheds light on soulful ways that we choose to keep our traditional family recipes alive and utilized in today’s world, to be traded, enjoyed, shared or eaten when assembling with family, friends, or at social events.

Ever wonder how to make spinach, an oftentimes bland vegetable also known as greens, capture more flavor and more of an appealing aroma; interesting to the sensation of your taste buds as it is healthy already: complete in vitamins and iron?

Purchase fresh, organic, pesticide-free spinach and place to clean in a large, deep dish, stock pot or bowl.

Let soak for 10-15 minutes or so, letting the spinach rise to the top and the sand settle to the bottom of the dish… Sort through it with your fingers and unleash any surprises that you don’t want to eat…

When satisfied with the rinsing; strain with a colander and sort through again, cutting off the harder portion of the stems that are not as tasty, or easy to cook.

Suggested preparations and ingredients:

Finely chop and simmer spinach by adding:

3-4 cups of sodium-free, or low sodium chicken, or vegetable stock that is previously boiled- previously salted with kosher salt or sea salt. (Add ¾ more sea salt than you normally would as table salt has more strength.)

When spinach is completely cooked, let rest and drain in colander, for 15 minutes to release excess water.

In another skillet, lightly fry on medium low temperature, in olive oil,

1 cup chopped scallions,

1/2 cup freshly peeled and chopped, cilantro and parsley

½ cup chopped mushrooms, optional [ previously cooked in a teaspoon of butter,]

2-3 minced garlic cloves,

add a touch of lemon zest, about 1/2 a teaspoon;

1 tablespoon each of paprika, smoky cumin powder, sea salt, one low-sodium cube or ½ pack of dry vegetable or beef bouillon cube, or 1 teaspoon dry complete spice blend.

Combine sauteed ingredients with drained spinach blend and lightly saute again to blend in all flavors…

For the finale: 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, ( the last step before serving, usually done table side)

Savor your palate, enjoy a new way of cooking this green,delicious, nutritious meal accompaniment…

Enjoy as a side dish; main dish, or as a vegetable spread over Melba toast or sliced baguette bread…

Note: sea salt is easier for the body to digest than regular table salt.[ noted only for your information, and has nothing to do with this recipe..]

I enjoy learning from you and from others offering me knowledge continuously!

A Twist on Macaroni and Cheese

Today’ s overcast and a great day for some comfort food! I, like most Americans, enjoy a good meal of feel good comfort food on cloudy, overcast days- Today is a fine example! Mac and cheese was one of my first inspirations, a go-to comfort food, for me and my family. There are so many different variations that can make your cooking preparation and imagination go wild with interesting, healthy or exotic vegetable and spice combinations.

As I awoke this morning, I glanced into the ice box, pantry and noticed a brightly orange and blue decorated box of mac and cheese. The brightly colored box caught my eye as did two t-bone steaks, I also made it a point to take stock of the fresh and frozen herbs and vegetables, available for a quick and easy weekend dinner. Sometimes I buy packaged products and make a different variation to appease the taste of everyone in my home, and modifying according to their taste and mine.

First, the t-bone steaks, I defrosted in the refrigerator the evening before, so after morning coffee, I am ready to marinade and return to the ice box.

Drizzle olive oil on both sides and season with salt and fresh ground pepper from a pepper grinder; sprinkle with paprika, fresh grated garlic, three cloves for both steaks, fennel springs, if unavailable, fresh parsley, cleaned and chopped, fresh minced ginger, or ground ginger and paprika- let sit and marinade until ready to reach your heat source.

Macaroni and Mozzarella cheese: In a stock pot add vegetable bouillon, replacing water for stock water, boiling and seasoning, as needed. *I always use low-sodium stock, or add sea salt, perform a taste test of the water to achieve desired taste. I add chopped, fresh green, yellow or red bell peppers, sometimes all 3 of these if available, and boil for 3 to 5 minutes prior- before adding pasta to the water, after boiling all to completion, 2 minutes before the pasta is Al dente, add fresh-frozen peas, checking again for salt and finally checking for all ingredients to be cooked to satisfaction.

Drain, do not rinse, separating your pasta, and adding a tablespoon of vinegar immediately to hot pasta, season with fresh springs of parsley leaves, a few chopped and pitted black olives of your choice, *I prefer three to four black Mediterranean olives black, purple, yellow or green olives, if available. Next I blend my pasta with a little bit of saffron threads, for even more color, blend with vegetables;adding salt if needed.

To cut down on salt, I may boil the olives in a small sauce pan filled with water,on the side to reduce the salt, though usually you only need to do that while adding cured olives to stews that are pressure cooked. Lastly, season with a teaspoon of oregano and half a teaspoon of smoky cumin. Garnish the recipe with small chunks of Mozzarella cheese, or sharp cheddar cheese for added creamy flavor, add olive oil, maybe a few teaspoons, stir and let set in the refrigerator to marinade..

A small side salad of peeled, chopped Red Ugly tomatoes, my favorite, or Roma tomatoes, half a chopped red onion, chopped parsley, chopped green peppers, three to four chopped Spanish olives, one to two teaspoons of equal parts extra-virgin olive oil and red, wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a few pieces of red or green bell pepper slices for color and parsley sprigs.

*Finish with apples ready to be sliced after dinner; served with a side of local honey to aid with allergy relief!

Dinner is prepared, when dinner time arrives is to let t-bones rest to room temperature for a few minutes before grilling the steaks and while grilling; make the fresh small side salad and chop apple slices. Bon appetit!

I enjoy learning from you and from others offering me knowledge continuously!

Simple Chicken for Two – Lightly Fried, With Lemon and Mustard Flavoring

Simple Chicken- Lightly fried with zesty flavor.

Ever been in a time crunch, and meal preparation is at the bottom of your list? Sometimes planning for lunch or dinner gets lost, on your list of things to do around your house with so many other things taking priority. I like to have a favorite go-to entree that is easy to defrost, prepare and a quick way to add immediate zesty, or spicy flavor, especially when you don’t have all day to marinade.

I like to marinade meats or cold salads, and I usually do stay a few steps ahead of the meal preparation chore, though sometimes before I am ready. I recognize that I didn’t allow time to marinade. Wow, it’s time to either cook or prepare to cook lunch or dinner, yet again!

I will usually look in my freezer first, take inventory of what I have and what I can defrost or cook for the day. Then I look into my spice rack and see what seasoning’s and spices I have or what fresh or frozen herbs could be assembled with my protein or vegetable dish.

Yesterday I found chicken breast, from my freeze that would need the least amount of time to defrost and be readily defrosted for cooking on-time before dinner, and I also found Italian bread crumbs in my cupboards, and nice lemons. Make sure to check the expiration on all spices and bread crumbs items in your cupboards before using to cook healthy meals, keep it fresh and healthy for everyone!

Suggestions for marinade and chicken: 2-medium-sized portions of chicken breast only, no bone, no skin. (dinner for 2)

Take two large pieces of chicken breast and marinade with one part olive oil and one part vinegar along with a few splashes of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. If time permits, let marinade for a few hours in your refrigerator,alternating sides at least once to get the full flavor on both sides. Once marinated, or not- set aside your chicken, at room temperature,for 15 minutes, toss the marinade; warm a caste-iron skillet, if available, on low to medium heat and when hot add the cooking oil of your choice.

In a separate bowl, add a generous portion of your favorite mustard to bind the chicken to the bread crumbs. I keep Italian bread crumbs handy for times that I need to season and fry quickly. Next, spread your rested chicken portions with the mustard and then dip in the other bowl of bread crumbs. Drop in your skillet to be fried from 4 to 6 minutes per side using the best course of action for the size and width of your chicken breast.

Mustard suggestions:

Spicy Dijon, grainy mustard, honey mustard, German mustard

Make a side-salad of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. If you are in a pinch for salad dressing, mix one part olive oil, one part vinegar in a small bowl adding a splash of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve dressing separate from your salad, some folks, such as myself,only like a small sprinkling of salad dressing on their fresh salad. For some crunch in your salad, I always keep fresh-frozen vegetables in my freezer: I boil or steam broccoli or mixed vegetables in salted water and upon desired texture; I season with sea salt, pepper, and any type of season salt available, maybe Ms. Dash seasoning, lemon pepper salt, or even cumin, and a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar. Serve with warm bread of your choice. The chicken has a tangy, but simple taste and can even be used again on a crispy chicken salad.

I enjoy learning from you and from others offering me knowledge continuously!.

Freelance Writer of Inspirational Articles, Motivational Speaker and writer of catchy, trending, poetic advertising and more! You pick the topic and I will poetically write it for you. You can reach me via U.S. mail in Orlando, Florida. Writing is my hearts desire to teach, share, learn, motivate or engage my readers in an original, poetic, whimsical or informative tone, you pick the discipline, and I will write, rhyme or promote it for you! If you enjoy my writing and articles, please follow me on my personal website or on Twitter.
Namaste,

Make Some Great No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

I love to be in the kitchen, maybe because I don’t get enough time in there, but regardless when I have the chance, I get in there and bake or make cookies for my grandchildren, cook dinner for my kids or prepare some tasty treat for my co-workers. It gives me great pleasure to spend time in the kitchen because I know that many will enjoy the outcome of my time there.

Of all of the tasty treats that I will make or bake, the one that seems to get the most comments and compliments is the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. They love these cookies at work, at home and at parties. Many times people will ask me to make the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies for a wedding or shower, at a graduation party or even at a church social.

I started make the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies at a young age. When I was a child, my grandmother made these cookies for our family reunions. They were in BIG demand by everyone. She would have to hide a stash of them so that they were not eaten all at once and when everyone thought that her No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies were gone, she pulled out the stash, only to see big smiles yet again.

Sadly in 1979, my grandmother passed away and somehow I obtain her recipe and started making them for the family reunions. I found that I, too, had to put a stash away for a later time in the day (or weekend) so that they would be spread out for the group to enjoy. Since that time, I’ve been requested to make them for many occasions.

Do I think my recipe is special? No. Do I think there is anything different in my No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies that is not in other recipes? No, not really, but I do have a few handy tips that can help you to make good No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.

Before I give you the recipe, please let me give you a few helpful hints:

1. Do not double the recipe. It never seems to work for me because of the formula of the ingredients and the amount of heat and boiling that it requires. If you need to make more than one batch, simply make them individually. It really doesn’t take any more time and they will be perfect each time.

2. Be sure to use the timer. The recipe will call for bringing the ingredients to a boil. Make sure it comes to a complete full boil and then start the timer for one minute. You do not want to over cook or under cook these cookies. Over cooking them will result in crumbly, dry cookies. Under cooking them will give you a runny mess.

3. Let Stand for One Minute: I typically let my cookies in the pot for about one minute before dropping them by spoonful on the wax paper. This gives it a little cooling time and will not drip as much.

4. Shape them for appeal. After dropping them by spoonful on the wax paper, I take a fork which has been dipped in cool water, and press them around the sides to give them a more round appearance and eliminate the round oatmeal edges that tend to spread. Then I press the top lightly to flatten the top without squishing the cookie. Dip the fork in cool water often to keep it from sticking to the cookies.

5. Lift the Wax Paper to loosen. After the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies have hardened (several hours later), you can remove them from the wax paper more easily, if you list the wax paper off the counter or table top so that they are not stuck. They will easily peel from the wax paper.

6. Store in air tight container. For longer lasting cookies that will not dry out, keep them in an airtight plastic storage container. Keeping them on a plate with plastic wrap is good, but a container that is air tight works better.

The recipe for No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies that I make follows:

1 stick of margarine
2 cups of sugar
½ cup of milk
Combine in a sauce pan, cook ingredients and bring to a boil. Once the margarine is completely melted and the sauce comes to a hard boil, boil it for one minute, stirring occasionally.

Add:
½ cup of peanut butter

One melted, add:
4 tablespoons of cocoa
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Mix well and add
3 cups of 1-minute oatmeal.

Stir well. Let stand and then drop by teaspoons on wax paper. Yields approximately 42 cookies

Enjoy.

How to Make Indian Burritos

I have lived in the US for 12 years (I live in Europe now) and during my stay, I have indulged myself to spicy and some delicious Mexican dishes that really satisfied my taste buds and since I come from the Indian subcontinent (countries that include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives), some of the dishes have a similar version where I come from. The fact is that I love cooking and enjoy trying out dishes from other countries and also blending them in with Indian style dishes which I find it as a creative thing to do. Take the Burrito for instance.

Now before I begin, I just want to let you guys know that I’ll be using a lot of Indian names when describing some of the food items and will explain what they are after, so bear with me if you don’t get it, I totally understand! So anyways, I have been thinking of doing an Indian version of the Burrito and below is the recipe.

You will need: (This accounts roughly for 2 to 3 servings)

1. Cut 400g of minced beef.
2. Crushed garlic (2 or 3 cloves) or use garlic paste (1/2 tablespoon).
3. 2 medium sized chopped onions (You can use one if you are not a fan of onions!).
4. 1 teaspoon Chilli powder or use 2 chopped green chillies.
5. 1 teaspoon Cumin powder.
6. salt (add to your taste).
7. 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
8. A few chopped Parsley (adds flavour to your dish).
9. Sunflower Oil (my preference for a healthy alternative. You an use vegetable oil if you prefer).
10. Ready made Indian flatbread (Roti or chapati. You can buy frozen ones from Indian grocery stores).
11. 2 chopped medium sized tomatoes.

Preparation:

1. Use a medium sized cooking pot and bring it to medium heat and pour about two tablespoons of Sunflower oil.

2. After about 10 seconds, add chopped onions and crushed garlic or garlic paste and stir it for 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat.

3. Add the recommended Chilli powder or chopped green chillies, cumin powder, salt, Turmeric powder stir again for 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir for another 2 minutes.

5. Add the cut up minced beef in to the pot and mix all of the ingredients using your spatula so that all of the spices, onions and garlic get onto the beef and cover the pot with a lid and let it heat for 20 minutes, stirring in between every 4 to 5 minute intervals to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Add a little bit of water.

6. After 20 minutes, turn of the heat. Open the lid and let the steam out for a couple of minutes.

7. Take 2 or chapatis (Indian flatbread) and heat it on a frying pan and then lay them out onto a plate. Cut up a lemon and place it on the side of the plate.

8. The minced beef dish which is called ‘Keema’ is similar the ‘Chili’ (in the US, chili is a dish cooked using ground beef with tomato sauce and some spices like oregano, chilli powder, salt and cayenne), but the Indian style ‘chilli’ is more dry without the tomato sauce.

9. Use your spatula and spread the cooked minced beef in the middle of the flatbread (chapati) and squirt some lemon juice from the chopped lemon slice and add some finely chopped parsley to add flavour and then wrap the flat bread around like how burritos are wrapped and Viola!! There is your Indian styled Burrito!! You can add your own preferred sauces as you like and also add lettuce or chopped tomatoes or sliced onions, as you like to suit your taste.

So there you go, hope some of you try it out and let me know what you think! I have more recipes to post but want to start with one and see people taking a shot at it and come back with some feedback.