Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Food Expiration Dates: What Do They Really Mean?

Photo from Flickr

According to the USDA, expiration dates are not a safety date. However, the USDA does recommend that if a product has a "use-by" date, you should follow that date. They also define the different expiration terminology. The "Sell-By" date suggests you buy the product before the printed date, but it doesn't indicate that the product has spoiled. And the "Best if Used By" date suggests consuming that product before the date for optimal quality.
But the amount of time an item stays safe to eat largely depends on how it is stored, not how long it's been produced for. Milk kept in the fridge will unquestionably last significantly longer than milk left out on the kitchen counter.
And since "more than three-quarters of U.S. consumers mistakenly believe certain foods are unsafe to eat after the expiration date has passed," reports The Boston Globe, we feel that it's time to get the facts straight. Don't waste your money by throwing out foods with expired dates.  Below is a list of common grocery store items and how long they remain safe to eat.

The information for the life span of food items was found on StillTasty.com. If curious about the expiration dates on other products, visit their site for more information.

Ketchup 

Ketchup will maintain its quality for six months in the fridge. It's still safe to eat after this date (unless it has developed an off odor or mold appears).

Olive Oil 

Olive oil can stay fresh for 18-24 months either in or out of the fridge. It is recommended that you keep it in a cool dark place -- and refrigeration is suggested if you live in warm climates. Most times, you will have long finished the oil before it comes even close to perishing.

 Eggs 
 
Eggs stay good for 3-5 weeks in the refrigerator and up to one year in the freezer (note: it's not recommended to freeze them in their shell). Eggs will normally keep long past the sell-by date; but to ensure that they last as long as possible avoid storing them in the refrigerator door -- the coolest part of the fridge is best.

  Milk

Milk will stay good one week past the sell by date, and three months in the freezer. But of course, if milk has developed on off odor or flavor, it's best to discard it.

  Yogurt

You have a 7-10 day window after the sell by date to enjoy your yogurt, (and one to two months if stored in the freezer.) But if mold appears, discard the yogurt. And if it was frozen, it's best to thaw it in the fridge.

Mayonnaise
 
Don't throw it out just yet! An open jar of refrigerated mayonnaise is safe and good for consumption up to 2-3 months after the marked expiration date. And even then, the product may still be safe to eat, it just might begin to change in terms of texture and color.

 Peanut Butter

An open jar of peanut butter will remain fresh up to three months in the pantry. After that point, it's recommended to store the peanut butter in the fridge (where it can maintain its quality for another 3-4 months). If you don't refrigerate, oil separation may occur.

 Pickles

Pickles, once opened, stay good for a whole year in the refrigerator. So if you've just come across a jar in your fridge, chances are, they're still delicious. Same goes for brine-packed jars of olives and capers.
Soy Milk

Despite what you might think, soy milk has a similar self life to regular milk. It lasts about 7-10 days after the date indicated on the carton.

 Sour cream 

Sour cream is a tough food item to judge, since it's supposed to have a slightly soured taste. It can keep two weeks, tightly covered, in the fridge. And unlike most other dairy products, it doesn't freeze well.

Additional information can be obtain from:




Monday, May 28, 2012

6 Tips for Staying Hydrated

By: Maryse Chevriere 
Keeping your body hydrated is essential, especially as seasonal temperatures peak.   
So how do you do it? There's the easy answer, of course: Drink a lot of water. But that doesn't quite satisfy the question. What if you have trouble remembering to drink your daily dose? How do you know if you're dehydrated in the first place? What if you don't even like water? 
Check out the following tips for advice on how to stay hydrated. 

 1. Keep a Water Bottle Handy
Here's a piece of advice that's easy and efficient: Always try to keep a reusable bottle or cup of water with you throughout the day. If you're one of those people who has trouble remembering to drink as much water as you should, having a bottle near you will help keep it at the top of your priorities list. Plus, refills are free. 
 
2. Don't Wait Until You're Thirsty
Fatigue, headache, dizziness — all can be indicators that it's time to rehydrate. But what about thirst? Interestingly enough, many maintain that by the time you actually feel thirsty, you've probably already lost a significant amount of water. For this reason, it's important to drink small sips regularly throughout the day (chugging a full drink in one sitting isn't required, it's not like you're at a college frat party after all).
 
3. Make Your Water More Interesting
Not much of a fan of plain water? Many recommend adding herbs and fresh fruit — citrus and berries are popular choices — to you water to boost the flavor intrigue. (We love this recipe for watermelon, mint, and cucumber water.) Some also claim that lemon water (made by mixing in the juice of a quarter a lemon) helps balance electrolytes and promotes the absorption of water into your cells. Or if you're a big soda drinker, opt for sparkling water or club soda instead which at least offers a similar texture — just make sure it doesn't have any
added sugar or sodium.  
 
4. Drink Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Juices
Believe it or not, water is not the only star of the hydration show — electrolytes, essential fatty acids, and minerals are also important when it comes to keeping you hydrated. So opt for fresh juices made from high-water content fruits and vegetables to supplement your body's needs. Think watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, strawberries, and the like. (Watching your weight? Try diluting the juice with water or club soda to help cut down on the sugar and calories.) And actually, you don't just have to drink your juice — fresh fruit popsicles are a great (not to mention tasty) hydrating alternative.   
5. Other Water Alternatives
Aside from fresh fruit and vegetable juices, drinks like coconut water and skim milk are also good hydrators. Some have claimed skim milk hydrates better than Gatorade, while coconut water is an isotonic liquid, and packed with a variety of good-for-you vitamins and minerals. 

6. Minimize Your Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
This one's a bit of a no-brainer but worth stating nonetheless. Both alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and soda act as diuretics and can contribute to dehydration. You don't have to give up your morning cup of coffee or nightly glass of wine, just be mindful to consume these types of beverages in moderation. 




 


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quinoa (keen-wa) the True Protein


Quinoa
Most commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard.  Native to South America, quinoa was once called "the gold of the Incas,".  
Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. 
Because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as magnesium, folate, and phosphorus, this "grain" may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis. 
While relatively new to the United States, quinoa has been cultivated in the Andean mountain regions of Peru, Chile and Bolivia for over 5,000 years, and it has long been a staple food in the diets of the native Indians. The Incas considered it a sacred food and referred to it as the "mother seed."

 
 Curried Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango
Serves 4 - 6
Ingredients
1 cup quinoa
1- 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped
½  red pepper, chopped
¼  English cucumber, chopped
1 mango, diced
2 cups (packed) baby spinach, torn or sliced
8 ounces black beans, drained
handful of chopped cilantro (optional)
For the Dressing:
¼  cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons  white wine or white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons mango chutney, chopped if chunky (optional)
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼  teaspoon cumin

Method
Rinse quinoa well under cool water in a fine strainer.
Cook in a pot of boiling salted water over medium heat until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. (Just like you’d cook pasta.)
Drain well, return to the pot, put the lid back on and let it sit until cooled – this will produce fluffy quinoa.
Combine the oil, vinegar, chutney, curry and cumin in a jar or small bowl and shake or whisk to blend. If you like, season the dressing with salt and pepper.
Put the quinoa, mango, vegetables and beans in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing and toss until well coated

Quinoa Salad With Apples, Walnuts & Cranberries 
6 - 8 Servings


Ingredients:
1 ½ cups quinoa
½ teaspoon sea salt
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 ounces arugula (about 3 cups)
1 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large, crisp apple cut into ½ inch dice
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely diced fennel
¾  cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Method
In a bowl, rinse the quinoa with water, rubbing it between your fingers for about 10 seconds.
Drain and transfer it to a 3-quart pot. Add 2-1/2 cups water and 1/2 tsp. sea salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, until the quinoa is tender but still delicately crunchy, about 15 minutes.
Drain the quinoa and return it to the pot. Cover and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes; then fluff it with a fork. Let cool to room temperature.
While the quinoa cooks, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
 Add the onion and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring frequently, until tender and brown around the edges, 6 to 8 minutes.
 Add the balsamic vinegar and toss with the onions until the vinegar cooks away, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, mix the quinoa, onions, arugula, celery, apple, walnuts, fennel, and cranberries.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil with the sherry vinegar, ¼ teaspoon sea salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Add the dressing to the salad and gently mix it in. Let rest a moment; then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add more olive oil if the salad seems dry.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Serves 4 - 6
Ingredients
½ cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
2 scallions chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup black beans, drained, rinsed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed red chili peppers
¼ cup cilantro or parsley, coarsely chopped

Method
Rinse quinoa in cold water then drain.
Place quinoa, water and bay leaf in a pot bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
Drain, discard bay leaf and transfer to a mixing bowl and cool.
If using fresh corn, cut it off the cob and add it to the quinoa.
If using frozen corn, rinse until thawed then add to the quinoa.
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours prior to serving.
The longer grain salads marinate in their dressings the better the taste.