You get your brains, looks, brilliant multitasking abilities and some of your best recipes from your grandmas, ma’s and grandpas, or any other family member, but you may have picked up bad kitchen habits~That’s OK.~

After all it was the norm, familiar in the kitchens were blessings of togetherness, sharing all the good gifts of life, family, friends, health and provisions doing what they did everyday. The kitchen was the nuclear “center”. So much hubble and bubble going on, no one never really thought that anything they did in that kitchen was actually a bad habit, it was the way they were brought up and you as well. I know you all have modeled yourself after them for so long, it’s expected that you inherited things that are handed down, just normal to say, maybe not so great, of course, we shouldn’t characterize ourselves and say these pesky bad habits are all Grandma’s or Mom’s fault. These habits were learned, so they can be unlearned.

I’ll explain why you should stop them now! And why you may want to encourage Mom to stop them too. We certainly have come a long way since 1930, 1950 even the 60’s and 70’s. Every once in a while Mama will throw something at me like, “When I was little, I remember the stamps we had, to get the ration of sugar or flour.” So no judging, these are more modern times, new age of cooking compared to old school of cooking. I realized that my kitchen habits were learned generational and I had to separate and learn “new age modern” cooking and where the rules of the kitchen now-days are so much different than old school cooking, it’s a kitchen! As I was saying you didn’t know and probably didn’t realize you were making these mistakes, but correcting them will help you become a better cook and you’ll make even more delicious food. Some habits are tough to break when it comes to cooking. Some may have been a few that you were not even aware of. Even when comparing recipes with MaMa, we used similar ingredients, her recipe are from her cooking days 40-50 plus years ago, mine are modern day and I elevate the ingredients to another flavor profile and flavor level. We are far more advanced in our technology and advancement in manufacturing, growing, transportation, equipment, and individual taste. Our recipes need to be sophisticated enough to envelope the new age methods of cooking and foods. So embark on my comparison and how we had to change the way we do things because of our awareness to sanitation, health standards and food spoilage, and how kitchen rules have changed.

1. They left leftover foods on the counter all day~.

Once everyone has cleared the table, the Ma’s wrapped up leftover veggies, meats, salad, biscuits or any other salvageable bites and wrapped them in plastic, or put one of those elastic little “hats on” or popped them into a container and…left them on the counter. No…Refrigerate ASAP!

2. Oh mom, It’s OK to leave food out @ room temperature for about 2 hours, but beyond that you put yourself in danger of contamination. These could lead to upset stomach, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea~Spare yourself the risk and put any leftover food in the fridge. You can warm them up when you want them. This goes for everything out of the cabinet that has a twist top and seal around it!. Don’t put it back in the cabinet (like me finding a sauce bottle from 2014, and I hear…”It’s still good!”). Take time also to screw lids on securely, it’s one of those kitchen faux-pas that seems harmless at first but not only the contents spoils faster, half opened containers can also act as invitations for household pest. Place it in the fridge, after all, it does say on the bottle neck-Refrigerate after Opening. You don’t want to mess around when it comes to food safety.

3. Thawing meat in the sink. Funny story from decades ago, Friday night dinner was always fish…back in the hay day, not being fortunate to be living near any body of water other than my bathtub or the whatever creek behind the house, we bought frozen fish, it came in a rectangle blue box. Pulled the box out, heading out the door in the AM so it would be thawed by the time I got home (see what I mean? Learned Behavior!) only to find that the cat, “Herman” his name was, a big fat blue Siamese, had feasted on the whole box of fish before we got home and there he was laying on the floor licking his paws and chops like it was the most delicious thing he’d eaten. He had carefully ripped the blue cardboard box apart, in the sink, “Thank you, I’m saying” He looks up at me, purring and purring in his drunken state. Change of plans for dinner! We’ve all been there, you forgot or needed to thaw chicken or something for tonight dinner right before you walked out the door or it’s too close to dinner time. EEK!-Placed the whole frozen package in the sink- after all that’s what the Ma’s did! And do…But don’t~

And how hard is it to break that habit? I sometimes catch myself doing so! Take it out and leave it in the sink to thaw so I can cook it to put dinner on the table.

In reality it’s a recipe for a serious bacterial dilemma. So much like cooked food, you shouldn’t leave raw food out at room temperature for more than two hours, particularly in warmer temps, bacteria can start to grow rapidly and especially may make you sick if you cook it and leave it out until serving time or even eat it later.

Proper thawing falls in 3 categories…A) the fridge…B) under cold water…C) in the microwave…(especially if you are going to use it right away). Proper planning for meal prep gives you time…I’ve read it, preached it and now telling you about it, but I am also trying to undo a bad habit! And who nowadays is that organized to know or what you’ll be in the mood for and what you’ll be eating in a couple of days, never mind tomorrow, unless your house is opened for business serving lunch or dinner to the public. Put any frozen food needing thawing into the fridge, even if it needs up to 24 hours to thaw. But does that fit well with your schedule? For safety sake, If it’s not thawed go to method B. cold water, otherwise change your menu and order pizza.

4. I remember as kids, and I must say I was guilty of this as well and even saw babysitters do this,

The throwing of spaghetti noodles at the wall to check its doneness. Sticky pasta will cling to the wall, but in reality it has nothing to do with the doneness and more to do with well, being sticky. Spaghetti or any pasta should be cooked “A-la-dente”, tender with a bit of a bite, not mushy. If you wait until it sticks, it will be overdone. Was that just maybe an excuse to nibble on a few strands of pasta? Spare your wall, pull a piece out and let it cool some and bite it. Just remember as well, it does keep cooking by itself when it’s hot and then you have overdone pasta.

5. They rinsed the chicken in the sink before cooking it.

Your sink is not a bird bath! Yes, chicken is packaged with a little sodium solution to keep it plump and juicy, but rinsing it in the sink opens your kitchen to a spray of bacteria. Rinsing it sends off spritz of germs as far as 3 ft. from the sink. Mama did this because her mom did this and her mom did it, and you do it because it’s a learned behavior. Pat your chicken dry with paper towels then carefully discard them in the trash, wash your hands thoroughly and bleach down your preparation area and sink and up to 3 ft. around. It’s very important to food prep and cleanliness, to include clothes, aprons and floor space. Sanitizing helps you from sharing potential illness-inducing germs with others and the rest of your home.

I don’t think sanitation, safety and kitchen rules were as strict back then as they are now. I literally freak out now with unwashed hands, dirty towels and unbleached boards and prepping and surrounding areas. We are more educated now as far as bacteria and germs, but did the old school way of doing things really hurt us? “Nouveau kitchen” does not lack of steps or practice, thought, savoir-faire, knowledge and with commercialization and inspections, kitchen filth is just plain imbecility. Germs will harbor with bacteria in your kitchen without invitation. Stay Healthy! Pay attention to sanitation details and bleach clean, just because…
Keep your kitchens orderly and free of germs and illness.

6. Plastic containers with #3, #6 and #7’s on the bottom should not be used for food storage over again and again and again. Let me guess like the Ma’s, you have that cabinet of containers overflowing, some with lids, some without. They should go straight to recycling, you should avoid reheating foods in them because the heat releases harmful chemicals and toxic into your food-It is much better to use glass storage or made for food storage containers or paper plates.

7. Using cracked eggs. Why would you put a cracked egg back into the egg tray with the unused ones? Step to the trash, crack it and throw it away! Bacteria that lives inside the egg spreads to the new eggs and you and other eaters are at risk of an upset tummy. Foremost don’t reuse the egg carton except to place in your garden pots to make drainage. Bacteria from the little reservoir spreads easily. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle.

8. The Dish Cloth. Lordy, Lordy, Lordy! My worst pet peeve! You clean your dishes, wipe the counters, table and chairs, oven top, coffee maker, trash can cover, wipe after the dog or cat, refrigerator door and then (hugh!) maybe even the baby’s hands and face!~That cloth is a “germ mop”. Everywhere you go with that cloth-your army of germs follow. There is no harm in using cloth towels or sponges, in fact they are an Eco-friendly alternative to paper towels, but when that one item is used for everything from doing dishes to wiping down the counters after raw food or spills, you just can’t use it to wipe the baby’s face, wipe out your cup, Etc.

Can you remember the last time you changed your dish rag out because it hung to dry from the previous day? You need to give it a break and set up designated cloths or sponges for certain jobs. While most of these cleaning things stay damp all day, the bacteria multiplies and multiplies and multiplies. Keep a fresh stash of towels on hand so you can use a clean one very frequently!

9. You don’t properly preheat your cooking surface. Anything that hasn’t been preheated will throw off your cooking time and cause your food to be unevenly cooked or burned.

10. You don’t let your meat rest before serving.. Resist the urge to dig into that steak you just pulled off the grill. Let it rest! By doing this, it redistributes the juices and you’ll get juicier steak. Same goes for meat baked in your oven.

11. Over Filling your Pan and Stirring and Flipping too much. Sometimes cooking requires a little patience. It may be faster to overcrowd the pan to the brim, but doing so can slow your cooking and give you a big pile of mush. Cook in small batches for best results. It’s tempting to move, flip and poke your food as you go, but you must resist! Resist the urge to stir unless the recipe tells you directly, it will break your food apart and get soppy. Chefs know that food needs sufficient, uninterrupted time over heat to develop that awesome crustiness. When it’s good and ready, your meat will tell you when to flip it, therefore flipping it back and forth and back and forth is not good for the cooking process.

12. Put Pyrex dishes on top of the stove or under the broiler? The Ma’s did. Pyrex is great for making casserole but they are not designed even for a short time to withstand the heat from a broiler or a stove top. They shatter and you’ll have a big mess to clean up and you’ll have to start from scratch all over again.

13. Relax. Put some music on, get an apron, make a cup of tea or have a glass of wine. Read your recipe, gather your ingredients, imagine your steps, measure accurately. Use a bigger bowl to avoid bigger messes, always have fresh towels and potholders within reach, and clean as you go! A nerveless happy cook is a more efficient cook.

14. You don’t Keep your knives sharpened.

You probably heard it a million times…Sharpen your knives and meal prep will be easier. Invest in a stone or honing rod or take them to your local butcher to sharpen.

15. Resist the urge to ignore cleaning off your stove top. you’ll save yourself countless time scrubbing a mess in the future.

The Science of Spoilage

What makes food go bad is actually the reproduction of bacteria on food..Even when food is cooked at high temperature, bacteria is never completely eradicated. A small amount remains in the food and continues to multiply as time goes on~Bacteria in food is actually eating your food because it is not being stored properly or cook correctly. The decomposition process releases chemicals into the food that can make it smell pretty rotten. The strains that are the most harmful tend to go more in protein rich foods than in starchy, sugary and foods like rice. Carbo rich foods are a safer bet to refrigerate while you may want to freeze your protein as soon as possible. Bacteria is more likely to grow in moist environment. Less prone, dried foods will last longer. Another factor to include is when and how fast the food was cooled. The biggest cause of food borne illness is improper cooling of cooked foods. Bacteria grows fastest at 40-140 degrees or lower so it will slow but not stop growth in the fridge. Freezing at below 32* will actually stop bacteria growth. The Guidelines state any food kept out of the fridge for more than 2 hours should be thrown out as bacteria multiplies and multiplies. Which brings me to leftovers.

-leftovers should not be reheated more than once.

Now, I see myself struggling to follow all the guidelines and myself take risk sometimes eating day old food or something not refrigerated right away. It’s really the stuff that’s been hanging around for more than three-four days that really worry me, but it doesn’t mean I’m not mindful of eating questionable food or how I feel after eating or wait for something to happen now or in the future. You can connect food with any physical symptoms that a serious illness your body is trying to fight off.

Don’t risk getting sick eating old leftovers. I hate to throw anything leftovers away and the fridge always has them which we eat on a rotating schedule or modify as the perfect dinner. The thought of throwing away something uneaten is sacrilege to me…I for sure know that it can be repurposed into something amazing tomorrow. I’m sharing 6 rules to eating leftovers so you can feel confident about food safety and storage.

1. The 2+2+2 Rule. Refrigerate within 2 hours. Store in dishes that are 2” or less to completely cool and eat within 2 days. All of these will minimize potential for bacteria growth. 2+2+2

2. No leftovers~ you get to heat up leftovers once and only once. Heat to 165* to kill off potential cooties. Toss out what you don’t use, don’t remember what it is or can’t be used again.

3. Keep it covered.~Cover from the air to prevent from drying out. No cross contamination. That extra minute to cover your food before placing it in the fridge will make a difference.

4. Contain wisely~ I strongly recommend-glass, porcelain or stainless steel. If it’s plasticize use only BPA Free. No Cream cheese containers, yogurt, cottage cheese etc. Only containers build to be used for leftovers or food keeping.
5. Know The Rules~ Each rule is more resilient than the other. When in Doubt~Throw it out! Look, Smell, Taste aren’t always the most reliable.

6. Health Benefits 101~ The older, the less nutritional. Light, air exposure, time chips away at the healthfulness!Rule of thumb~Pair with a big bed of greens to maximize the nutrient value of your meal. Stay healthy!

So diving back into the sanitation and health standards, I could not find myself finding recipes to share with you. I need to clean the kitchen! As always you can share your ideas, comments, discussions with me as I can be reached at…[email protected] And the final word this week: ~If your arteries are good, eat more ice cream. If they are bad, drink more red wine. Proceed thusly:~ Sandra Byrd, “Bon Appetit” ~and Larry McCleary of “Feed Your Brain” added ~About eighty percent of the food on the shelves of supermarkets today didn’t exist 100 years ago.~

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