Author Archives: Claudio Martin

Ways to Prevent Freezer Burns

Buying food items in bulk is a great way of saving money. Many people prefer to buy in bulk to keep their favorite food items available 24×7. However, bulk food requires special storage arrangements. Most foods require freezing to retain their goodness. Foods stored in a freezer for a long time, are many times seen to develop pale, grayish spots which impart a dull appearance to the food. The food item does not appear fresh and is often thrown away. These grayish spots are termed as “freezer burns”, which not only alter the visual appeal of the food item, but also spoil its natural taste. These either cover the entire surface area of the food or appear at some spots. If the burn has affected a small area, it can be simply cut off, but when it has covered a major chunk, the entire item has to be thrown away. That means, you buy in bulk to save money but end up having losses. So, how can you prevent freezer burns using simple and easy ways? Given below are a few tips to make your job easy.

Tips to Prevent Freezer Burns

The main reason behind such burns is air, and to avoid it, it is important to reduce the air content around the food. This can be done by packing food items tightly so that air does not enter the pack. Also, the air present in the pack must be removed to decrease the risk of these burns.
Having a vacuum sealer at home can definitely help in eliminating the chances of freezer burns as it is capable of completely sucking out air from the storage pack, which can be sealed and stored. Food items packed by this method keep the food intact for around three years, which is really a long time.
Organizing the items stored can help in burn prevention. Food must be stored in such a way that the top part of the freezer and its sides are empty. This space allows air to circulate properly within the freezer and render uniform cooling. Irregular cooling leaves some areas at a higher temperature than others causing thawing and refreezing, ultimately leaving burns on stored food.
Storing food in air-tight containers and plastic containers with zip locks can solve this problem. Aluminum foil can also be used to seal the entry of air though, it is not so effective for long-term storage. If an item has to be stored for a short time span, aluminum foil can be a good sealer.
Keeping food in large portions can speed up the process for burn formation. This is because frequent removal of small portions from the large pack results in thawing and refreezing which has to be avoided. It is therefore better to store food in required portions so that the entire content is not disturbed.
It is quite obvious that some foods are stored near the freezer vent and some distant from it. It is better to consume foods near the vent first and then the ones stored at a distance because they are at higher risk of developing burns due to close proximity to the cooling vent.
Food savers can be used to completely suck out air from the food packages and save food from developing burns. They must be used specially, if a lot of food has to be stored in the freezer.
Double wrapping food is also a good way to store food in cold storage.
Overstocking food can lead to improper air circulation thereby, increasing the chances of freezer burns.
Food stored in a refrigerator’s freezer is more prone to burns due to frequent opening and closing of the fridge door, as it hampers the refrigerator’s ability of maintaining stable temperature within the freezer.
It is good to consume food items within 3-6 months. Anything stored beyond this time frame is likely to have this problem.
Storing food when warm is also a reason behind this problem, therefore, food must be kept in cold storage only after it acquires the room temperature.
Writing the date of storage on food packages can help in identifying the older ones which can be consumed earlier to protect them from spoilage.
Saving meats from burns can be achieved by storing them in special freezer containers, and fruits can be saved by the addition of citric acid, which prevents oxidation and freeze burning.
The freezer temperature must be set as low as possible to maintain a good storage condition.

Freezer burns are mainly caused due to dehydration and oxidation. Water is known to evaporate at all temperatures, and it sublimes from ice to water vapor at freezing temperatures. This loss of water renders the food unfit for consumption. Using these simple tips for storing food can help in preventing food burns to a large extent. A little effort can avoid food spoilage and save a lot of money from being wasted.

Eat Local, Eat Fresh

Every time you grocery shop, you have an opportunity to do great things for your body. You buy the highest quality food you can afford, you pick through the produce to find the freshest stuff, and you try to buy organic. Great. Except that most of the stuff you get from the grocery store is not the best stuff – although it’s priced like it is.

Yeah, it might look pretty good, but that meat only looks bright red because it’s been dyed or irradiated to react well under the fluorescent lights – that’s why when you open the package and turn over your steak, it suddenly looks brownish. They do that because the meat is generally trucked in from far away, and they have to keep it looking fresh somehow, or nobody would buy it. That’s also why they pick produce before its fully ripe – it has to survive a week in the back of a truck without going moldy. The result is a product with lackluster taste and a too-firm texture.

Even if you don’t care about the environmental impact, irradiation, GMOs, etc., you should still care about getting great-tasting food for your hard-earned money. Especially as food prices are set to rise – in some cases, triple – in 2013. The solution is to eat locally-grown food.

You usually won’t find it in the supermarket – ironically, Florida grocery stores sell oranges from South Africa and limes from Peru, and similar shenanigans go on in your state. No, you have to look outside the big box store to find the best food for your money.

CSAs

Community Supported Agriculture is your best bet for a steady supply of fresh foods. What happens is this: local farms sell shares in their upcoming crop, and the holder of a share is guaranteed a big box of that crop weekly for however long the term lasts. Your share will vary throughout the year as various things come into season, and there’s usually a pretty nice variety.

The websites for these farms usually list an example of the typical share so you know what to expect. Fruits and vegetables are most common, but some farms offer meats and dairy as well. Check the Local Harvest website to find participating farms in your area. Share prices vary, but most farms offer the option of a half-share so you don’t end up with more food than you can handle.

Meat Shares

So there’s a rancher down the road with beautiful grass-fed cows. Great. Chances are, though, he won’t just sell you a single Ribeye. Smaller farms generally sell meat by the whole, half or quarter animal – that can be an awful lot of meat. If you have a deep freezer and a spare $2,000, this may not be a problem – but if storage or cost is an issue for you, consider a meat share.

A meat share is basically a group of people who get together to split the cost of a whole cow or pig, and divide the meat equally. It’s best to do this with people you know, because money will exchange hands and you have to trust them to not take all the steaks and leave you with the organs (unless you like that kind of thing), but there are options. Some farms organize meat shares themselves, and all you have to do is sign up for however much you want and pay – in some cases, you can even choose your desired cuts. Some CSAs that offer meat do this, or they may offer a separate meat and dairy membership. If all else fails, try Craigslist or your favorite foodie forum for volunteers.

Farmer’s Markets

True farmer’s markets are great because you don’t have to make the long-term commitment of a CSA, and you can just go pick up what you need for a couple of days instead of buying a huge amount of food at once. But make sure the food is actually local – there are open-air markets that call themselves “farmers’ markets” but they actually sell trucked-in grocery store rejects.

If there are no farmers’ markets near you, check your city’s Chamber of Commerce website’s local calendar to see if there’s a weekly green market. These affairs are usually held in open public spaces, usually early weekend mornings. The selection may be limited, but what you do find is often very high quality. Always ask if the food is local though, because there usually isn’t a law that says it has to be.

Garden Swap

If you enjoy gardening, try growing as much produce as you can. Make friends with other like-minded individuals, and you can trade wares at harvest time. This can be great for those with limited space – you only have room for an herb garden, but the guy down the street with the beautiful heirloom tomatoes might be willing to trade for a bunch of fresh tarragon. Never hurts to ask. Some neighborhoods have community gardens that operate like a mini-CSA, where everyone gets a share of the crop – as long as they put in their share of the work. For bonus points, try starting one of these in your neighborhood.

Buying local doesn’t have to mean buying expensive. In many cases, it’s actually cheaper because of the lower transportation costs. It may mean sticking to foods that are in season (no strawberries in February), but once you get used to just-picked produce, you’ll feel spoiled rather than deprived.

The Concept of Local Food

Technically speaking, local food refers to regionally or locally produced food. Buying food products from mass scale producers is one thing, but in recent years we have seen a major awareness and local food movement to give more importance to locally manufactured food products. This movement lays importance on economic and environmental benefits associated with local food as well as its general health benefits to the consumers.

Buying from Local Markets
Believe it or not, transportation distance for local food is on an average 1500 miles lesser than the distance crossed by food products from mass scale producers. Farmers and local producers are now encouraged to sell their produce in large quantities directly to big supermarket chains or these products are made available on retail basis in many smaller outlets as well. At other times, one can see a steep rise in farm sales with fresh vegetables, grains, fruits, eggs etc sold by farmers in outlets adjoining their own farms or poultry. One of the most popular variety of foods available in local foods includes organic food products, organic dairy products, organic poultry, organic meat and fish, etc.

Economic Benefits of Local Food
Buying and selling of local food is beneficial not only to the producers and buyers but also for the nation as a whole. With a rise in local food movement, there is a sharp rise in demand for organic food products. The total sales doubled in a span of 4 years from $3 billion to approximately $6 billion by the end of 2006. This gives an assurance of ready markets to the local producers. Local food manufacturers have reported that selling their produce to local supermarkets is more viable than selling products to local farmer markets. Similarly local food purchases happen to be cheaper because there is slashing of expenditure on transportation and warehousing. As far as the national economy is concerned, there has always been an impetus to local food markets since it helps to curtail the drainage of cash reserves on account of import payments. By year 2007, producer to customer sales of local foods accounted for approximately 0.4% of the total sales. Increasing popularity of local food has created a sharp increase in job opportunities in this field too.

Environmental Benefits of Local Food
Local foods are produced keeping in mind the environmental sustainability issues. Here, farming activities take place without usage of any chemical fertilizers, hybrid seeds or chemical pesticides. A natural farming method devoid of any contamination of fertile soil is the main plus point of local food as it helps to keep land pollution under check. This also has long term benefits to the health of the consumers. Similarly, there is a sharp fall in transportation distance between farm and consumer’s kitchen. This helps reduce carbon emissions that contaminate the air during transportation. Some biodiversity issues give a ‘thumbs up’ to local food. This is because food products like fruits and vegetables manufactured under commercial agriculture banner use hybrid varieties of plants for faster and larger quantity of food production. These hybrid plant varieties may yield larger quantities but nutritional value of these products is poor.

Health Benefits of Local Food
The quality and health benefits of local foods are so high that many of us keep wondering as to why we stopped their consumption in the first place. It is like looking out for health and nutrition all around the world and then discovering that, all that you wanted was right there in your backyard. Local food products are definitely fresher due to their proximity of farms to their markets. Similarly, consumers vouch for their better taste too. There are no traces of artificial fertilizers in these foods, thereby making them safer for human consumption. Organic meat and poultry products are produced, keeping in mind animal welfare. Organic poultry farms are maintained without the usage of harmful chemicals.

Rising Local Food Movement
Local food movement is also known as food patriotism. While all those people who stress on consumption of local food are known as localvores. Here’s more…

There has been an increased awareness about local food movement since the past 10 years. Many local manufactures pack their food products with specific tags stating ‘Certified Organic’. Many supermarkets have demarcated sections or aisles specifically selling organic food products.
We can see a steep rise in farm to school sales for school meal programs with numbers having crossed 2000 schools by the end of year 2009.
There is a growing importance for organic milk products with dairy industries engaging in maintenance of organic pastures for producing better quality milk.
New York state has even passed a legislation in the year 2001 stating “The legislature hereby finds and declares that farmers’ markets provide a vital and highly effective marketing mechanism for thousands of New York farmers, improve the access of consumers and wholesalers to New York farm products, and contribute to the economic revitalization of the areas in which the markets are located.”
A closely related but a sister sector of organic food farming is growing importance of organic clothing wherein natural fibers like cotton are produced by strictly following organic practices.

They say, it’s better late than never. It is always a welcome idea to shift to a healthier lifestyle and opting for the local food movement in your personal life is like crossing a new milestone. I cannot end my article without mentioning the words of late President John F Kennedy. He said, “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We also need this planet to provide us with food. Maybe we ought to figure out some way to take care of it.”

Mild Food Poisoning

Mild food poisoning is a frequently manifested ailment, caused due to consumption of contaminated foods and drinks. To be more precise, food items are fouled by carelessness in cooking, storing, and preserving, which overall may cause bacterial growth and accumulation of toxins. Food poisoning is often a mild and short-term ailment, but at times, the symptoms may be severe and life-threatening, lasting for more than a week.

Causes

Mild food poisoning is caused by contamination either with infectious agents or toxic components. The former implies to disease causing microbes, such as bacteria (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli), viruses, and parasites; whereas, the latter represents non-edible or toxic food sources (e.g., pesticides, poisonous mushrooms) and improper cooking of certain food items. In majority of the cases, poor hygiene while cooking is the leading cause.

Depending on the cause and the extent of poisoning or the amount of contaminated food consumed, the discomfort symptoms vary from one patient to another. As per health experts, the condition usually lasts for 1-2 days. However, depending upon the cause of the ailment, it may take about 2 weeks for complete recovery.

Signs

Mild to severe poisoning that affects many people at a time after consuming the same contaminated food, is called an outbreak. Commonly manifested signs include stomach pain, upset stomach, loss of appetite, and other gastrointestinal problems, like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Though fever is usually not seen in most cases, some patients do have high temperature.

Symptoms may be observed immediately after consuming the toxic foods or may occur after several days. For example, consuming poisonous mushrooms causes abnormal symptoms within a few hours; while having foods contaminated with bacteria may take some time to cause noticeable symptoms. It is not unusual to mistake this as stomach flu, in which the latter is exclusively caused due to a bacterial or viral infection.

Treatment

As the symptoms are rarely dangerous, most people do not require therapeutic intervention for treatment. And many of them recover successfully after trying effective remedies. Thus, there is lack of medical data that reveals the actual statistics of such incidences. Some of the best recommended home treatments are:

Drink ample amounts of water and keep yourself hydrated. Otherwise frequent diarrhea and vomiting may result in dehydration.
Even if you do not feel like eating, try consuming dry and easily digestible foods. Strictly avoid hot, spicy, and acidic foods, which may aggravate the symptoms.
An effective home remedy is to include probiotic foods and electrolytes drinks in your diet. This will help in treating the symptoms and replace the lost electrolytes.
Take adequate rest and stay calm while dealing with the symptoms. Follow personal hygiene and simple self-care tips to prevent contamination of food as far as possible.

This was in brief on how to treat mild food poisoning at home. In case of dehydration or persistence of the poisoning signs even after following natural remedies, therapeutic treatment by a qualified doctor is necessary. The physician may conduct urine and stool tests for presence of blood cells and harmful germs, after which appropriate medicines are prescribed.

Bacterial Food Poisoning

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, food poisoning is the cause for about 76 million illnesses, 3,25,000 hospitalizations, and up to 5,000 deaths every year. Food poisoning is a common illness that occurs immediately after consuming contaminated food or drinks. Although generally a mild condition, it can also result in death.

This illness reveals itself in the form of diarrhea, vomiting, fever, chills, dehydration, bloody stools, etc. It can be caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, parasites, or even viruses. Moreover, it can also be caused by toxic agents like poisonous mushrooms, pesticides on fruits and vegetables, or improperly cooked foods. Improperly handled, packaged, or stored foods also lead to food poisoning.

What is Bacterial Food Poisoning?

Bacteria dwelling in the intestines of infected humans or pets, poultry, cattle, etc., can cause diarrhea in humans. Their feces can contaminate recreational water, drinking water, soil, meat during slaughter, etc. Not washing one’s hands after using the washroom also results in this condition. Ear, throat, nose, and urinary infections can also result in food poisoning. Moreover, consuming undercooked beef, shellfish, raw eggs, raw milk (not pasteurized), non-adequately stored or cooled food, can also result in bacterial food poisoning.

Symptoms

Symptoms will begin to appear about 48 hours after consumption of contaminated food. The symptoms that may occur are as follows:

Nausea and occasional vomiting
General malaise with fever (occasionally)
Diarrhea (loose or watery stools)
Bloating
Abdominal cramps

These were some mild food poisoning symptoms. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration, tiredness, sunken eyes, thirst, and decreased urination.

In bacterial food poisoning, the bacteria spearheads inflammation of the stomach, small intestine, colon, or rectum. This inflammation reduces the amount of nutrients and water absorbed in the small intestine, thereby, resulting in diarrhea. Severe cases of infection can lead to ulcers and in some extreme cases, bacteria can even enter the blood and affect other organs of the body.

Common Bacteria Involved in Food Poisoning

Staphylococcus aureus
Food poisoning due to this bacteria occurs mainly by consuming foods that involve bare hands preparation, such as in salads, sandwiches, etc. When such food items are left at room temperature for a long period of time, bacteria grow and produce toxins. Maintaining good personal hygiene and refrigeration of food items will keep bacterial invasion at bay.

Salmonella
Salmonella is passed to humans from animals (poultry and pets). It is commonly caused by consumption of unpasteurized milk or undercooked poultry, meat, or eggs. Bacteria can spread from the intestine to other organs of the body.

Clostridium botulinum
This bacteria is responsible for one in every 400 cases of food poisoning in the US. Clostridium botulinum can exist as heat-resistant spores that grow and produce neurotoxins in processed, home-canned food products. The toxin produced by this bacteria can be destroyed by boiling the food for 10 minutes.

Campylobacter jejuni
This bacteria attacks those with a weak immune system, and at times even causes arthritis, brain and nerve problems, etc., besides food poisoning.

Listeria
This bacteria is mainly found in soil and water. Vegetables growing in contaminated soil can be vectors of this bacteria. They are found in several types of uncooked meats and vegetables. Processed food like soft cheese and cold cuts can also get contaminated after processing.

Shigella (traveler’s diarrhea)
The bacteria is transmitted through feces and may cause dysentery and severe diarrhea. Unhygienic conditions in highly populated areas form breeding grounds for these bacteria.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Escherichia coli can also cause bacterial food poisoning.

Mild form of food poisoning usually subsides on its own within 2-3 days. During this time, the patient is advised to drink lots of water in order to prevent dehydration. Severe cases of diarrhea call for stool culture tests, since the tests will determine the kind of antibiotic treatment required. Presence of leukocytes and mysterious blood can be signs of bacterial invasions and need to be treated with antibiotics.

Types of Food Packaging

Food products are the items that play an important role and hence are an integral part of our daily life. Food that we consume should be fresh and safe and the packaging used directly affects its safety, freshness and overall shelf life. Food is more susceptible to damage than any other item in the world. Food manufacturers are bound to take utmost care of their products after production until the time they are sold, because even the smallest mistake can lead to a huge financial loss as well as wastage of time and labor. When the food items are produced, the most important thing to be done is its packing. The packing depends on various factors like the type of food item, the process of production, the quality of the food, etc. Since there are different types of food products, there are also different ways of packing them. The following part of the article will throw light on the types of food packaging.

Materials Used for Food Packaging Containers

Plastic, glass, metal, aluminum and cardboard are the common types of materials used for making the packaging containers. We will look at each type of food packaging that makes use of these materials to store food.

Glass
It is used to make glass jars and bottles and is mostly used for storing liquids and sauces. The lid of the jar or the bottle’s cap keep the food product fresh, and the packed food does not require refrigeration before the first opening. These containers are breakable but if handled with proper care, can protect the food for a long time. They are the best refrigerator storage devices for leftover food. Another advantage of a glass jar is that the consumer can see the product inside if the glass is transparent, but sometimes it is invisible because the container is colored dark in order to prevent exposure to light.

Aluminum
We all are aware about the use of aluminum foil for keeping food warm and fresh. The best thing about aluminum containers is that they are inexpensive and made out of recycled materials. But if steel is the main component in aluminum cans, it cannot be easily recycled. Aluminum is also reusable. It can protect beverages like juices, beer and soft drinks for longer periods. It is cheaper and hence convenient to use for packaging large quantities of food.

Plastic
It is one of the most common materials used for packaging and comes in a wide variety of containers, wraps, buckets, bags, etc. Buckets are useful in storing items in bulk like wheat, cereals, sugar, rice, etc. Plastic wrap is a thin film with a sticky tape used to seal containers after putting the product inside it. Plastic food pouches have become very popular nowadays because they are lightweight, small to fit in the pocket and reusable. Plastic bags are also very useful as they increase the shelf life and maintain the freshness of the product. A technology called Modified Atmosphere Conditions (MAP) allows control over atmospheric conditions inside the bag resulting in slower deterioration. Items that are extremely moisture free can be stored in plastic bags for long without adopting the above technology. However, there is a problem with storing food products in plastic containers. These containers or buckets do not have the capacity to stop the entry of oxygen into the container. There is a slow transmission of oxygen through the polyethylene walls into the container. To fix this, you can use oxygen barrier bags made out of plastic or metal to increase the shelf life of the product.

Metal
Metal cans or containers are commonly used to store items like vegetables and fruits as they have an airtight seal and can preserve these items for a considerable amount of time. It is advisable to make use of plastic or metal wraps to seal containers like plastic bags to block oxygen transmission. Metal cans have an inner coating to prevent the food from reacting with the metal and getting contaminated while the heating process is on.

Paper and Cardboard
Tubes and cans are made out of cardboard to store snacks, spices, nuts, etc. These containers are environmentally friendly, as they are made from wood pulp. Dried food products can be stored in them for a long time maintaining its original condition. Paper is also used to make lightweight cartons and bags and sometimes, is used a colorful outer cover for products packed in plastic or metal containers.

Another type of food packaging is clamshell packaging which is also one of the most useful ones. Henceforth, do not let your food products get damaged only because of unawareness or incomplete knowledge about its packaging. Make use of the above food packagings, which you can utilize according to the need of your food product.

Milk Substitute

Milk substitutes replace milk in recipes as well as in a person’s daily diet. Though milk is a good source of protein and calcium, especially for vegetarians, many people are reducing its consumption due to lactose intolerance or allergies. Substitutes can be equally nutritious. Some products like ice creams use these alternatives instead of dairy products like cream.

Almond Milk
Almond milk is made by grinding blanched almonds with water. It is high in protein content and has no saturated fats. It was used as a popular beverage in the Middle East and Medieval Europe. Health benefits of almonds include treating constipation and lowering blood sugar levels. Due to high amounts of antioxidants present in this substitute, it helps in fighting the ill effects of free radicals. Organic almond milk can also be prepared at home. Soak one cup of almonds in water for a minimum of eight hours and blend them with four cups of water for a milk-like consistency. Store this in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. You can use almond milk as a substitute in cakes, cookies, puddings, and other creamy desserts.

Soy Milk
Soy milk is mostly used because it has a high protein content and reduces cholesterol levels. It is a stable emulsion of water, protein, and oil. It is prepared by grinding dry soybeans with water. The nutritional value of soy milk is similar to cow’s milk. Consuming half a cup of soy milk along with a bowl of cereal for breakfast can supply the body with high quality carbohydrates, vitamins, and proteins. It includes concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart. Soy milk can be used as a substitute for milk in recipes such as cream sauces, pasta sauces, and salad dressings.

Grain Milk
Grain milk is processed from grains like brown rice, oats, rye, or wheat. It can also be made from flour or fermented grain. It is higher in carbohydrates and lower in saturated fats and protein compared to cow’s milk. It contains no lactose, so is beneficial for people who are lactose intolerant. Grain milk is also fortified with vitamins and calcium. Since it is free from milk protein, it is suitable for vegans and people with milk allergies.

Condensed Milk
Condensed milk is made by extracting water from cow’s milk. It is prepared from pasteurized milk and is not heat processed. To make your own condensed milk, you need to blend boiling water, melted butter, dry milk (fat-free), and a few drops of vanilla essence. Before using this substitute in any recipe, cool and refrigerate it for about a week.

Evaporated or Dehydrated Milk
Evaporated milk, or dehydrated milk, is fresh milk from which about 60% of water is removed. It is sterilized using a heat treatment and vacuum process, making it more concentrated than whole milk. These treatments give it a longer shelf life. It can be used to add a creamy texture to thick sauces, crock-pot recipes, and puddings.

Powdered Milk
Powdered or dry milk is made by treating evaporated milk to dryness. It has a long shelf life and can be used in various recipes like cakes and puddings. It is convenient to use and does not compromise with the recipe’s flavor.

Though there are many substitutes available in the market, nothing can completely replace milk. Consuming substitutes have some side effects, so care must be taken while choosing a suitable substitute for milk.

What do Food Expiration Dates Really Mean

Okay, so, you’re not the kind who stops in the mid of a supermarket and reads the entire list of ingredients on the carton of a product that you’re about to buy. You’re the kind who’re driven by the name, and the moment you locate the product, you drop it in the shopping basket. I think, I know. Take for example, you prefer Diet Coke over any other drink, an established brand name that it is. Paying a few dollars for that, you go home, take out the coke, and begin to drink, only to realize that it doesn’t smell like Diet Coke at all! What’s the first thing that strikes your mind? Have the Coke guys changed their trademark taste? Nope. Is it Diet Coke that you picked and not anything else? Not at all. That’s when, you read the words in black scribbled over the can, and realize that the Coke you were about to consume was expired. Conked. Perished. Dead.

Ohhhh, is all you say. So, got a fluttering peek of what expiry dates mean? They refer to the quality, which automatically questions the safety of a food product you’re consuming. Canned or packaged food products come with an expiry date, which means it’s unhealthy to consume them after a certain amount of period, considering the fact that not only does the food tend to become stale, the packaging gives way to a number of harmful bacteria inside. The following words make it easy to understand what food expiry dates stand for, and what is the importance of the same. You wouldn’t want to buy a product without checking the expiry date of the same hereafter. Trust me on that.

The Truth About Food Expiry Dates

Food expiry date refers to the date till which the food product inside the package is safe to consume, and that its quality deteriorates after that certain date. These dates are often assigned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States and America, which contribute to providing quality and safety to food products. This means, that if a product carton says that its expiry date is ‘June 30, 2011’, you should trash the product for the sake of yours and your family’s health. Today, almost all packaged food products have in written their Manufacturing Date as well as their Expiry Date. Many others quote the period during which you can consume a particular food product. For example, a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar can be consumed within 1 year from the production date, which means, it’s safe to eat the chocolate bar anytime during the year it was manufactured. However, if you preserve the chocolate bar beyond its expiry date, it may be unhealthy to eat it considering a few ingredients inside it that tend to ruin the flavor and the color. However, chocolate alone does not have a specific expiry period.

From now on, anytime you read words like ‘best used before’, ‘best use by’, ‘MFG DATE’, or ‘EXP DATE’, you know how to bring your brain cells to use, calculate, and grab a product that has the longest expiry date. You know, either you take some efforts to make sure you aren’t picking up an unhealthy product, or you simply avoid the expiration hassle by picking products that don’t have an expiry. However, products such as bread, cheese, milk, juice, and ketchups should never, never be bought without considering the expiry date.

All right, above all, you don’t need to totally rely on the expiry dates of your products, since, many products lose their quality and produce harmful bacteria when stored in unfavorable circumstances. For instance, even if your milk carton says you can drink this milk anytime up to 2 weeks, you can’t leave the carton on your terrace, and forget about it! The general guidelines of storage of milk say that you need to store milk and milk products in a refrigerator so that they don’t get spoiled. Along with checking the expiry dates, ensuring your products are stored safely is an important move you can’t ignore. All in all, the significance of checking the expiry date is only understood well after you’ve had a not-so-good experience with the food you’ve bought. To save yourself from such instances, sniff the food, check all the lingo that’s associated with the term ‘expiry date’ on your food product, and then, shell out your precious dollars.

Half and Half Substitutes

Half and half basically is what the English in the United Kingdom call half cream. It is indeed a rather light variety of cream that cannot be whisked, and has a butterfat content standing anywhere between 10 to 12.5%. Half and half gets its name from the concept that it is a homogenized mixture of separately pasteurized milk and cream, in equal parts.

Given that a single fluid ounce of half and half has only 39 calories (31 coming from fat), it naturally is a low in calorie cream option as a coffee additive. It also has about 3.5 grams of total fats, 39 mg of potassium, and 12 mg of sodium in a serving of 1 fluid ounce, along with 0.9 grams of protein and 1.3 grams of carbohydrates. Half and half can be used in the making of some creamy scrambled eggs, cocktails such as White Russian, some yummy pasta sauce, some good French pastry ganache, and of course, ice cream. But instances wherein one tends to run out of half and half will naturally force an individual to look up a viable substitute which will work just fine, without tampering with the flavors or taste of whatever it is that you are concocting. So, here are some substitutes that you can use in times of need.

Half and Half Alternatives
Say, you couldn’t find any of the individual serving containers of half and half that are available in the market, and do not want to buy one of those ½ gallon packs, as using up that much before the thing expires can be a little dicey. Then, suddenly you need a little bit of it for this recipe. That is when these substitutes will prove handy.

Substitute a cup of half and half cream with an equal amount of evaporated milk.
Commingle 120 ml of whole milk with the same amount of 5% butterfat light cream, to equal a 1 cup half and half requirement.
Take 25 grams (2 tablespoons like) of the unsalted variety of butter, and heat it until it melts. To this, add 210 ml (almost ⅞ of a cup) of whole milk, and voila! The best part about this recipe is that you can store it in the fridge for like 2 weeks, and just reheat the concoction before using it the next time.
Another variation of the butter-milk mixture in mixing together ⅞ cup of milk and 4½ teaspoons of molten normal butter that has been allowed to cool for about a minute. Whisk the two together to mix very well, and use it to replace a cup of half and half for dishes that need baking. Works great if your making some Polish babka with icing. Some people say that a single tablespoon of molten butter is enough. So, try both and see what suits your purpose better.
If you are using margarine instead of butter, then mix a tablespoon of molten margarine with ¾ cup and 2 tablespoons of milk.
Take ½ a cup of heavy whipping cream with 35% butterfat, and whip it with an equal part of partly skimmed milk, which would be about 120 ml.

It is said that one can refrigerate and package half and half for up to 10 days. The above options are indeed very viable substitutes, that can be used in any recipe that you may be making. Of course, if you are looking for a more instant choice, then just thoroughly combine ½ cup milk and ½ cup cream, and use it instantaneously, before the two have an opportunity to carve up. Do let me know of any other substitute that you may happen to discover while experimenting in your own laboratory at home, popularly known as the kitchen!

Local Food and its Benefits

The concept of buying things from the local market had diminished due to the globalization and availability of products of international brands. How many of us stuff our weekly grocery with processed foods loaded with preservatives? Processed and preserved foods are not good for health and can cause several disorders in the long term. Therefore, nutritionists and doctors always recommended us to go for fresh and local food. The food that we eat should not only taste better, but, should also provide us with all the essential nutrients and health benefits.

What is Local Food

The term ‘local food’ is a generic term and has several connotations. It can be used to define the food that is grown and sold in the same town. On the other hand, it can also mean the food that is directly sold by the farmer to the consumer (not necessarily grown in the same place); rather than it being processed and packaged in between. In either of the cases, local food is the food that is grown in a proximity of the consumer and sold directly to him. It is as good as growing food in your own garden and consuming it fresh. The foodstuffs that are included under local food are fruits and vegetables that are grown locally; or even bakery products and other foodstuff like jams and cheese that are prepared using local ingredients, and served fresh. You must have come across foods in market tagged as ‘local’ or will even get local food in the smaller food markets. But, what are the advantages of choosing local food over processed food?

Local Food Benefits

When you go to the local market to buy food, you can interact with the farmer who has grown the food that you will be consuming. There are health, economic as well as environmental benefits of local food. Let us take a look at them in detail.

One of the biggest advantage of going for local food is that the food is fresh. As it is grown at a close distance and sold immediately, there are no preservatives added to it. Secondly, as the food is fresh, it has a longer shelf life and will last longer in your refrigerator.
Another health benefit associated with local food is that it is more nutritious and contains all the essential nutrients. As the time in between the farm and table is very less, the nutrients in the food do not get washed off. Therefore, it is always beneficial to go for local food.
Your small contribution in buying only local food can help reduce global warming. As no transportation is required for transporting food, there will be decrease in the use of fossil fuel. Secondly, as few chemicals are used for these products, the environment is protected.
When talking about the economic benefits of local food, note that buying local products can boost the local economy. The farmers who sell products directly to the consumers will receive the full retail value for the products.
The local food movement, as it is called, also helps in retaining the local food traditions and customs. Therefore, the place will retain its individuality through this.
Lastly, local food tastes a lot better as it is fresh and does not contain any unwanted ingredients like preservatives, flavor enhancers, etc. Secondly, buying seasonal foods is also a good option as they are inexpensive.

If you wish to make healthy food choices, then local food is the best thing. As there are several economic, environmental as well as health benefits of local food, opting for local food is definitely a good idea. So, contribute in reducing global warming and prevention of diseases by making a start right now. Good luck!