Tomatoes are a summer gift, even during a pandemic

During this summer like no other, there is one thing to be thankful for — fresh tomatoes are here, whether you grow your own as I do, or buy them from farm stands or in farmers’ markets. When you taste a fresh tomato, you quickly realize those things we buy in the supermarkets are just pretenders to being real tomatoes.

A quick tomato salad I made recently with mozzarella and basil from our garden.

So if, like me, you stock up on tomatoes every summer, here’s just what you need from Cooking Light magazine — 100 Ways to Use Fresh Tomatoes This Summer.

The article is from 2018, but the recipes are largely timeless, so enjoy. Some that caught my eye as I scrolled through them —

Greek Tomato Salad

Cherry Tomato Confit

Red Snapper With Chunky Tomato-Watermelon Salsa

Seared Salmon with Balsamic-Blistered Tomatoes

Bruschetta with Warm Tomatoes

Hold the onions: 34 states impacted by salmonella-tainted onions

As if cooking during this Covid-19 pandemic has;t been difficult enough, what with various food shortages and the difficulties associated with grocery shopping, now there’s another worry — several types of onions are being recalled as people become sick from salmonella-laced red onions.

Roughly 400 people in 34 states have become sick because of tainted red onions, California producer Thomson International is recalling red, white, yellow and sweet onions. The problem so far has been with red onions, but the company is recalling other varieties “that could have come in contact with potentially contaminated red onions, due to the risk of cross-contamination,” the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

It’s almost impossible to know if onions you bought come from Thomson, the FDA announcement does not list retailers that may have stocked the contaminated onions. So it advises, “if you cannot tell if your onion is from Thomson International Inc., or your food product contains such onions, you should not eat, sell, or serve it, and should throw it out.”

The outbreak has spread to Canada as well.

Here’s a look at states that have been affected, the various shades of blue indicate how many people have become sick because of the tainted onions:

Pandemic binge eating: foods to avoid before bedtime

A lot has been written about people overeating during the Covid-19 pandemic. And why not, with all the tension and changes in routine the pandemic has brought into our lives?

My low-fat, low-salt home-made pizza.

If you’re trying to get a grip on your pandemic eating, try starting with not eating for at least two hours before you go to bed. And, according to this piece on Foodnetwork.com, avoid these eight foods before bedtime:

  • Pizza
  • Coffee
  • Soda
  • Orange Juice
  • Wine
  • Spicy foods
  • Burgers
  • Sugary cereal

Why? Read all about it by clicking here.

 

Pandemic food storage tip: You can freeze ground beef for up to four months

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused almost everyone to do more home cooking, and more food shopping to go with it. Which means we’re all storing more food in our pantries, refrigerators and freezers. So it’s a good time to remember some food storage safety advice.

Hamburgers are an American staple, especially during the summer grilling months. If you’ve bought ground beef to make them, or bought them already made, how long can they be kept? Some people think once you freeze food, it can stay in the freezer indefinitely.

96% lean ground beef
96% lean ground beef is great, if properly stored and handled.

Well, not exactly. This piece in Myrecipes.com suggests four months is the amount of time you can keep ground beef in the freezer. If you bring it home from the store and stick it in the fridge, don’t leave it there more than a day, two at the most, the article notes (I’d say a day tops to be safe).

I usually immediately divide a one-pound pack into four burgers, wrap them in some type of cling wrap, and freeze them.

Continue reading “Pandemic food storage tip: You can freeze ground beef for up to four months”

Pandemic summer shopping tip: Carry a cooler or insulated bag when you food shop

The pandemic has changed how we grocery shop, cutting down drastically on the number of trips to the store we make each week. In colder times, you could leave food from one store in your car while you ducked into another to grab a few more items, but summertime is different (as is shopping in perpetually warm climates).

Cooking Light recently had a piece on the dangers of leaving groceries in your car, you can read it by clicking here. One of the tips it suggests is something I’ve been doing for years  – bringing a large cooler filled with ice or reusable ice packs.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how we grocery shop.

I started that practice years back when Costco was still selling fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt in its food court and I would stock up on yogurt swirl cups every week. Costco stupidly cut chocolate frozen yogurt two years ago, something I wrote about in a rage, and now has almost no carryout items at its food courts because of Covid-19. Continue reading “Pandemic summer shopping tip: Carry a cooler or insulated bag when you food shop”

More pandemic food casualties: Salt-free teriyaki sauce, low- and no-fat cheeeses

Healthier food options have definitely been casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. With demand up because people are eating at home more, food processors have stepped up production of their most popular offerings — normally the least healthy ones — and dropped healthier ones. The same is true for mainstream supermarkets which are having trouble keeping their shelves stocked, still today.

Preparing salmon with Mrs. Dash no-salt marinades.
Preparing salmon with Mrs. Dash no-salt marinades.

The latest healthier product that’s become impossible to find in stores near me — Mrs. Dash sweet teriyaki sauce.

Mrs. Dash teriyaki is salt-free, a miracle when it comes to anything with an Asian flavor to it. I use it constantly on fish and in stir fry veggie, chicken and shrimp dishes I create.

In normal times, I could buy it locally at Food 4 Less, a Kroger store in my area.

But the pandemic has wiped it from the shelves here. Checking the store website, it’s not even listed for shipment. Continue reading “More pandemic food casualties: Salt-free teriyaki sauce, low- and no-fat cheeeses”

Foods to avoid to get the sugar out of your diet

I’ve written before about hidden sugars in foods where people least expect it. I’m always on the lookout for such lurking demons of food.

So I was interested in this piece from Ecowatch.com:  18 Foods and Drinks That Are Surprisingly High in Sugar

I've found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.
I’ve found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.

 

Some are ‘usual suspects” — fruit juice, ketchup, barbecue sauce, prepared spaghetti sauce. There are low- and no-sugar versions fo these you can track down. Check my ingredients page for some tips.

One managed to surprise me, like low-fat yogurt. Check the labels before you buy such offerings.

Another Pandemic Shortage: Propane for backyard barbecues tough to find

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about all sorts of food and home supply shortages — try buying disinfectant hand wipes if you don’t believe that. I stumbled across the latest shortage just before July 4th — propane tanks for backyard barbecues are non-existent at most of the usual places.

I went to five places one day, mostly Walgreens that carry the propane brand I usually buy with rebates it offers, and none had any. I then started calling places instead of driving, and was told much the same thing, whether it was a local home center or my neighborhood CVS — tanks are scare and stores never really know when a delivery is coming or how much they’ll receive. Continue reading “Another Pandemic Shortage: Propane for backyard barbecues tough to find”

Pandemic Food Casualties: Costco sheet cake, McDonald’s salads, yogurt parfaits

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of food purveyors, whether retailers or restaurants, to cut back menus and just concentrate on their top sellers, or, for restaurants, on items that are quick to prepare. So several of my favorites have fallen by the wayside.

The most painful loss is that McDonald’s has cut what I considered the two healthiest items on its menu — salads and yogurt parfaits. I was a regular at a local McDonald’s before the pandemic, ordering a salad, side salad and two parfaits. The staff came to know me by my order, which I usually placed ahead of time through the McDonald’s ordering app.

What had been my weekly Costco lunch is no more. Who dumps chocolate from the vanilla-chocolate combo? Shame on you Costco.
Those were the days my friend — gone now. No frozen yogurt at Costco, no salads at McDonald’s.

With those options gone now, there’s no reason for me to stop at McDonald’s, even if it has reopened for eat-in service.

On the other end of the food scale — totally unhealthy but delicious, Costco has stopped selling its giant sheet cakes. Those were a mainstay when we had large parties, there was inevitably enough to freeze for ourselves to have on later occasions as well.

Costco already broke my heart when it dropped its fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt for the trendy acai. I used to eat lunch there once a week, getting a salad (bringing my own oil and vinegar to avoid it’s fatty dressing) and a yogurt swirl. I had shifted to McDonald’s salads after that. Now with both gone, there’s I am confined to eating lunch at home.

By the way, Costco also has dropped acai from its food court! Ha!!!!

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