I don’t know who decides these National Food days, weeks, and months, but sometimes it’s fun. In fact, July has been deemed grilling month, my favorite time of year. I love to cook and I absolutely love to grill. Maybe I get this from my Dad. He was the “King of BBQ” in our house. I still remember his paprika chicken he would cook on Sunday afternoons. It was a hit of the neighborhood as we would have to set extra places at the table.
Along with the warmer weather comes an increase in food borne illness. This is because bacteria can multiply quicker in the warm weather. Some simple basic steps would be to wash your hands, before and after preparing raw meats, marinate in the fridge, and keep raw foods separate from cooked foods and fresh produce. In fact, raw foods should be on the lowest shelf in the fridge, or in its own cooler at a picnic. Fresh produce should be on the top shelf, and cooked, cold dishes on the middle shelf. This way the food on top will not contaminate the food below.
Some helpful tools would be a food thermometer, multiple tongs and spatulas, if using coolers, different ones for raw and cooked foods, and plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot foods hot, at or above 140º F, cold foods cold, at or below 40º. If it is a hot day, serve cold folds on a bed of ice. Also, don’t forget the two-hour rule (see May 2011 article “The Danger Zone” for more details) “discard any perishable foods left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours”.
A benefit of grilling is that the fat in the food will drip off, just watch for flare- ups. Be creative, you can grill just about anything. I often grill our entire meal. For instance, I will start by slicing potatoes and placing them in some foil with herbs and a little oil. I close up the packet and place it on the grill over low heat while I prepare the other items. You can add a lot of flavor to your meat items by using a dry rub or marinating. I have my favorite marinade I have been using for years, just visit my website at http://rd4health.com/?p=521&preview=true if you would like to give it a try. I use it on just about everything, chicken, pork, and even veggies. Speaking of veggies, why not try them on the grill. They take the least amount of time, so it’s best to add them to the grill towards the end of cooking. I often toss asparagus with some oil and balsamic vinegar, and then grill a few minutes. Don’t forget, half of your plate should be color. You can even grill some fresh fruit for dessert. I like to grill peach halves; the grilling caramelizes the natural sugar in the peach and makes for a special dessert.
To keep it healthy stay away from processed foods such as sausage and hot dogs. Even if the package states “natural” or “organic” this does not mean it does not contain nitrates and nitrites, both cancer linked preservatives. Stick with chicken pieces, fish, or the “loin” cuts of beef and pork, which are lower in fat.
I invite you to visit my website often this summer as I add new grilling recipes. Wishing a Happy 4th of July to you and your families.