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Keeping Picnic Foods Safe

 

Although you couldn’t tell it by the temperatures here yesterday, June 21st, at 1:16 p.m. Eastern Time and right on time as it has been for eons, summer officially began. The summer solstice is the day of the year with the longest number of daylight hours.

According to the song Those Lazy, Crazy, Hazy Days of Summer the season is for soda, pretzels, and beer. It is also a time for picnics and cookouts. However, these wonderful activities present certain challenges in keeping our food safe.

So today I am going to share the best of the best tips for having not only an enjoyable time on your picnics and cookouts, but a safe one as well. Many of these we know intuitively. But a reminder never hurts.

Remember bacteria grow and multiply rapidly in warmer weather. Like many of us humans they thrive in warm and hot weather.

One of the biggest problems is simply clean hands. On picnics or at the Little League games we may forget to wash our hands, or there may not be a convenient place to wash them before touching food or eating. Keep a wet washcloth in a resealable plastic bag with a bar of soap in your purse for such times. Or use some sort of handi wipes before eating that hot dog.

That watermelon, or any melon for that matter, you take to the park for a picnic sure looks delicious. But be sure you wash the rind well before slicing into it. Many micro-organisms may be on the outside rind and are transferred to the fruit when you cut into it.

Make sure to keep cold foods cold (40 degrees Fahrenheit is the recommend temperature) with ice or an frozen gel pack both during transportation and at the picnic site itself. An insulated cooler is the best way to transport cold foods. Cover and return foods to the cooler right away. Do not allow foods to sit in the hot sun or more than one hour out of the iced container.

Fill the cold container up. A full container will maintain the proper temperature longer than a partially filed one. 

Use a separate cooler for drinks as this is the most often opened container. That way you will decrease the amount of warm air that gets to your food.

Do not place vegetables and fruits on any surface where raw meat has been.

Do not fix foods for your picnic more than one day before hand.

It is not advisable to pack food for a picnic in the trunk of your car as temperatures there can quickly rise to 150 degrees in minutes causing the ice to melt sooner. Cold water is not cold enough to safely transport cold foods.

Pack plenty of utensils and never use any utensil that has touched raw meat for any other purpose.

In 90 degree temperatures you have about one hour to eat your picnic foods and get it back into an iced container before the food will start to spoil.

And now, let’s lay back, kick off thoseshoes, and enjoy these lazy days of summer with Nat King Cole.

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 Featured Recipe    Butter Glazed Tarragon Carrots

This simple carrot side dish is a perfect accompaniment to this past Monday’s Pork Chops Creole recipe.

This is a recipe I created based on a dish my older brother made one Thanksgiving. He cut the carrots into thick slices, placed them in a pot, covered them with water and cooked them until they were tender. Then he drained them and placed them back in the pot, added some butter and some fresh tarragon, salt and pepper from his herb garden. It was a glorious dish!

Some times I make this recipe with regular carrots and slice them as my brother did. But other times, when the carrots look good at the store, like they did today, I make them with baby carrots. Not those prepackaged so-called baby carrots. Those are generally not really young or baby carrots. They are regular carrots that have been cut down, soaked in bleach, and called baby carrots. Any resemblance to baby carrots is purely unintentional

The baby carrots I bought today make a very nice presentation. They look really cool. But either way you make them they taste the same – DELICIOUS!

Tarragon is a licorice flavored herb that I just love.

This is what you will need for 3 people:

1 bunch of baby carrots

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon

3 tablespoons butter

About 1/3 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Here is what you do: 

Cut the tops off the carrots, leaving about an inch or so of the stems on the carrots. Also cut off any root string from the bottom of the carrot too.

Wash the carrots. I do not peel these. I just use a rough towel or vegetable brush to get the dirt off. The skin is very thin on baby carrots so I don’t feel a need to peel them off as I get too much carrot. That is a personal decision however.

Place the water and the butter in a skillet large enough to hold the carrots. Heat the water over medium heat till the butter begins to melt.

Add the carrots.

Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for about 20-25 minutes turning the carrots at least once.

Those times are approximate. Test the carrots with a small knife to determine when they are done. I cook mine till crisp tender. You may want yours a bit softer.

While the carrots are cooking chop your tarragon. Pull leaves from the thick hard stem and cut the tarragon leaves into pieces.

When they carrots are cooked to your liking remove them from the skillet.

Now turn the heat up to high. This will not take long, 1-2 minutes at most. Boil the liquid until it forms a heavy syrup.

Lower the heat and add the carrots back to the pan. Salt and pepper to taste and add the tarragon. Turn the carrots to coat all side.

Place on a plate and serve. Heavenly delicious.

Bon Appetit! 

Cost

1 bunch of baby carrots       $2.49

1 tablespoon tarragon          $0.37

3 tablespoons butter            $0.45

About 1/3 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost = $3.31
Cost per person = $1.10

Quote of the Day

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. 

Albert Camus

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