Outdoor cooking tips

Family-BBQ-4-kidsNo matter the season, more and more of us are cooking outdoors. During the warm summer months outdoor cooking and dining are even more popular. Here are some steps you can take to stay healthy and reduce your risk of illness during the summer months.

When meat and other protein foods are cooked at high temperatures, chemical compounds can form that are believed to increase risk of some types of cancer. To decrease formation of these compounds use a lower flame on your grill, trim away fat on meats to avoid flare-ups and marinate meat prior to cooking.

The heat of summer makes for perfect outdoor BBQs, but it also sets the stage for foodborne illness. Leaving food out for even a short period of time in the heat can result in rapid growth of harmful bacteria. Here are some tips to help you keep food safe:

  • Immediately refrigerate all perishable items when you get home from the grocery store.
  • Keep meats and other perishable foods refrigerated until ready to use, and pack coolers just before leaving.
  • If using coolers, keep out of sunlight and avoid opening too often (a good rule is to keep beverages in a different cooler to avoid opening frequently).
  • Return foods to the refrigerator or cooler immediately after serving.

For cooked foods:

  • Completely defrost foods prior to cooking so they cook evenly.
  • Cook completely; use Dream Dinners cooking instructions which include safe minimum internal temperatures, so there is no guess-work.
  • Use clean utensils and platters for cooked foods to avoid contamination of prepared foods.

Source: Cindy Farricker, MS, RD, CDE, Registered Dietitian, Dream Dinners, Inc.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan with Garlic Bread

September is National Chicken Month and luckily our menu hosts a variety of chicken dishes for you to serve up. For chicken dishes the whole family will enjoy, order these family favorites:

Crispy French Onion Chicken makes the perfect kid-friendly finger food if you slice the chicken into strips before coating and baking.

Try our new Fully Loaded Chicken and Potato Soup with Breadsticks. It is warm and hearty for those first days of fall. Continue reading

Get your Family Prepared for Back to School!

Back to schoolHeading back to school involves more than just buying new pencils and shoes. This August, get your whole family prepared for the demands of the new school year.

-  Reading throughout the summer keeps children’s minds sharp even when they’re not in school. Make a weekly trip to the library to get your kids excited about reading. Check out this article from Parenting for the best books to read with your kids.

-  Get into a school routine at least two weeks before the first day back. Follow these tips for readjusting your child’s sleep schedule before school begins. Help your kids establish a homework routine during the summer by setting aside time each afternoon for reading, working on an activity book, or any other brain-sharpening activity. Continue reading

Get all the seasonings out of the bag!

You know how you pour out the seasonings from the quart size bags and sometimes, a bit of it sticks to the sides?  Co-founder Stephanie Allen is brilliant at providing the simplest little tip that gives you the biggest bang of flavor.

-Simply pour the liquid out as directed.
-Then put a tablespoon of water in the bag.
-Seal it.
-Swish it around and then pour it all out in the pan.
-Voila! You got it all without jeopardizing the recipe or flavor of your dish.

Saucy Tips for Dream Dinners Cooking

Sometimes it is hard to get all of the sauce out of your sealed bag. Especially if the sauce is less fluid. Here is a great way to get all of the sauce out.

-Take the sealed bag and push it flat and get as much of the sauce out of one corner as you can.
-Take your scissors and snip the empty corner so that you have an opening that you can pour out from.
-Squeeze the sauce out of the bag and get it all without leaving a drop behind.

One Pan Wonders in Your Baking Dish

Ever wanted to serve your Dream Dinners pan meal in something prettier than the foil pan you made it in? It can be easy to do if you follow these steps.

  • Spray your rectangular baking pan
  • Peel the foil pan away from the frozen dinner.
  • Insert the dinner right into your baking dish.
  • Bake as directed.
  • Serve beautifully!

Continue reading

Quick stress Rx

Write the word “breathe” on a sticky note. Put the note where you will see it often; on your computer, dashboard, workstation, cash register, or cell phone. Or program it into a pop-up e-mail or PDA reminder.

When you see the note, do this:

  • Stand quietly. Take your mind away from what is going on around you.
  • Take several slow, deep breaths. Count to five each time you inhale and exhale.
  • Be right here, right now.

Most of us worry about things that never happen or things that happened in the past. What is real is what is happening in the present — right now.

Say to yourself as often as needed each day: Where am I? Here. What time is it? Now.

What to do when you have too many things on your plate

Don’t know where to start?

One way to reduce the stress and anxiety produced by an overcrowded schedule is to complete things systematically before you start new projects.

Review your calendar for the week, the day or even the hour. Then pick one item you need to get done or one decision that you can make in five minutes or less. Make a phone call? Send an e-mail? Decide what to have for lunch? Go for a walk?

Once you’ve finished it, cross that item off and say out loud: Done! No matter how small the task, give yourself credit for completing it. As your list shrinks, your sense of control and competence grows. One success sets you up for another.

Source: Recharge in Minutes, by Suzanne Zoglio, PhD, TowerHill Press

Storing fresh fruits and vegetables

Taking the time to store produce properly will help you to make the most of this season’s wonderful fruits and vegetables. Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables is a great way to improve your health. It is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Most vegetables should be stored unwashed in the refrigerator in a plastic bag until ready to use. Most will keep four to seven days.
  2. Berries of all types should not be washed until just before eating or using them in a recipe. Prepare by rinsing gently in water. You can freeze unwashed berries for later use by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, divide them into servings and store in small plastic bags or containers. Thaw and rinse gently with water when you are ready to enjoy them.
  3. Nectarines, pears, plums, peaches, and apricots can be ripened in a paper bag on the kitchen counter. Once ripe, these fruits can be stored in an open plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. It is important to keep fruits separate from vegetables as both produce natural gases that can affect the taste of one another.