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Friday, July 29 2011

Every house has food in the pantry that has been there for weeks if not months, but according to food experts, you may want to think twice before throwing those items out. Many common food products last far longer than you might think.

"We throw out tons of food each year in this country because people don't understand how long they can keep things," said Jo-Ann Heslin, a certified nutritionist and author of The Complete Food Counter.

As Heslin and other nutritionists explain, consumers generally assume that foods should not be eaten after the use-by date on the package, but in reality, this date simply indicates the period of time when the food tastes best, not the date when it will suddenly make you sick.

It's true that fresh foods like fruits and vegetables should not be consumed much after the use-by date has passed, as these products generally spoil quickly (unless frozen), but for countless packaged products, the consumption window can last for years.

"For connoisseurs who have a real taste for a certain food, it's probably a good idea to use it by the best by date, but nothing bad will happen to you if you don't," said Keri Gans, a registered dietician and author of The Small Change Diet.

The general recipe for longevity, according to these experts, is for the food to be low in liquids, sugar and oil, all of which have the potential to mold and spoil the food, or to have "lots and lots" of preservatives, which keep the food fresh longer.

So if you're looking for groceries to buy in bulk and store in your pantry, these products are your best bet.

Canned Beans and Vegetables

Canned food, by definition, lasts longer than most products in the grocery store because it has been specially processed in air-tight cans. In general, canned items can stay good for 12-18 months, according to Gans, but some last even longer. Canned products like beans and vegetables, which are low in acid, can actually last for as long as two to five years. The only exception is if the can is dented or rusty, as that indicates the can has been punctured at some point, which speeds up the spoilage process.


You may want to think twice before replacing the containers in your spice rack. In general, most common spices like salt, pepper and oregano don't actually expire in the traditional sense, they just become less and less flavorful.

"Salt occurs naturally in nature, it has no expiration date," Heslin said. "There is no difference in 10-year-old salt at all, as long as it hasn't been exposed to moisture."

But over time, the potency and taste of the spice begins to decline, which is why Gans recommends using these spices within two to four years to be safe. Keep in mind too by that point, you'll probably have to use more of each spice in order to compensate for the loss in flavor.

Cereal and Crackers

You might as well start stocking up on crackers and cereal for the winter. According to Heslin, these products are essentially just "edible cardboard" that don't have enough moisture to grow bacteria or mold, so they can last for a very long time. Cereals like Cheerios and Puff Wheat, which have little to no sugar, can last for 18-24 months if unopened, while crackers like saltines can generally last for about two years.

"The safety and nutrient quality of these products doesn't change, but the taste and texture might deteriorate somewhat," Heslin said.

In other words, your body will be fine eating these things after more than a year, but you may find them a bit too stale to make it worthwhile.

Dried Pasta and White Rice

Just as with cereal and crackers, dried pasta and white rice do not contain enough moisture to spoil, and can therefore last for at least two years unopened. Consumers should be mindful though of what kind of pasta and rice they intend to store, though. Brown rice and whole wheat pasta may seem the same, but in reality each of these products contains more oil than their traditional counterparts, and can therefore go rancid much quicker.


Unmade popcorn kernels can last for up to two years, according to Gans, once again because they lack the oils and moisture that would lead to spoilage.


All those condiments you have left over from July Fourth festivities may just barely survive until Independence Day weekend next year. Ketchup, mustard, horseradish and salad dressings generally contain no ingredients that can go bad, and according to Gans, they will last for a solid 12 months unopened before they completely lose their taste.

Coca Cola

Old fashioned Coca-Cola is the ultimate bomb shelter beverage. If left unopened, Heslin says a can of coke will take "an extraordinarily long time" to expire. Diet sodas, on the other hand, expire much more quickly because they contain artificial sweeteners that degrade with heat and time.


Honey can take years to expire, but according to Gans, one can conservatively hold onto it for about a year before its consistency begins to change, hardening and losing its sweet taste. Interestingly, Gans says that honey stays good for 12 months whether it's opened or unopened, making it one of the only foods where that is the case.


Despite all the claims in pop culture to the contrary, Twinkies don't actually last forever. In fact, you'd be lucky to have a Twinkie that is still edible after a few months.

This article is part of a series related to being Financially Fit 
Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:44 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 25 2011

Moroccan food entrances the senses with pungent odors, colorful platters, complicated flavors and unique textures. As such, it's common for Moroccans to tell you to experience your food. Dishes have much more than just calories-they have stories. Those yearning for an authentic Moroccan "foodie" experience must understand this with each dish consumed. The first requirement for a Moroccan foodie is to eat slowly and savor. Those who follow this rule will notice some clear patterns in Moroccan cooking-no preservatives, fresh food, locally grown products and juxtaposing flavors.

Any Moroccan meal must have a dish of seasoned olives and freshly cooked, round bread on the table. The olives, coming in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors, serve as a primer for the palate. The official first dish is often a soup or light salad dish. The soup is most often Harira, a thick and hearty lentil, tomato and blended chickpea soup. Depending on the region, the spices will vary. Either way, the texture is rough, the temperature hot.

Salads also have a rather rough consistency. Much of the salad dishes are, like the Harira, a simple combination of chopped vegetables such as onions and tomatoes sprinkled with spices such as turmeric or parsley. Another salad potential is cooked eggplant mixed with onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Moroccan cooking has a knack for mixing the salty and the sweet, and this is obvious in the first dish as well as the main dish.

The main dish can either be savory or sweet, depending on the occasion. Weddings and special events tend to offer bastilla-a chicken pastry savored with sweet saffron and cinnamon. On the holy day, Friday, families cook communal dishes such as cous cous-a pasta-like dish covered in broth, cooked vegetables and meat of choice. Cous cous can, in true Moroccan tradition, also be served as a sweet dish. Cous cous is a detail dish that requires diners to sample the different flavors in the various vegetables and meats. Another more colloquial dish is tajine. This dish also echoes the Moroccan mantra of fresh, basic and local. A ceramic dish encases meat, vegetables and spices such as libzar (pepper), cumin, coriander and paprika to cook the dish as a whole. The end product is a fusion of flavors well worth a diner's time and effort.

At the very end, clean your palate with mint tea, brewed and poured in a methodically specific manner, maximizing flavor with bubbles on the top of the cup. The secret to Moroccan mint tea is not the tea itself, but the addition of real mint to a Chinese blend tea. The mint leaves are fresh and crushed adequately to release the mint flavors and allow them to interact with the dark tea. The final ingredient is, of course, a lump of pure sugar.

Speaking of sugar, no Moroccan will let you leave their home without a small desert. Pastries covered in karfa (cinnamon), anise seeds and sesame seeds are very popular. The pastry dough is often covered in pure honey and encases ground nuts, such as pistachio. For those that prefer the more basic deserts, the ultimate Moroccan sweet is extremely simple: orange slices covered in cinnamon. Following these recommendations, while emanating fresh simplicity, anyone can embrace the Moroccan "foodie" tradition.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:42 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, July 20 2011

I have been finding more and more people coming to the food vending or catering businesses. Many people either lost their jobs or found such a lack of work that they needed to recreate themselves. Everyone has to eat, right? In this turbulent economy, having some comfort food to make the heart and soul feel better, is not such a bad thing. The recreated people that I have been finding are now cooking, grilling, and deep frying food for festivals, farmer's markets, events and catered parties.

Some of the people that I have recently met were lawyers, contractors, and carpenters. Their career industries have not been doing so well. They have chosen to take up deep frying and food vending as side income or as an out and out career change. The food vending industry has blown through the roof right now. The West Coast of America has taken a great leap forward with the food truck industry. But food vending has spread it's fingers far and wide throughout the U.S. and even into Canada. And not just food trucks either. There are caterers, street vendors, food carts, mobile trailer vendors, event and festival vendors.

We are not just talking about the typical hot dog truck or coffee truck anymore. The more your fare varies compared to the cart next door, the better off you may be. You want something interesting and tasty. Not the same old burger and fries. People are not just using griddles and steam trays any more. There are mobile grills and BBQ smokers, panini and sandwich press machines. There are mobilized trailer pizza ovens. Portable outdoor propane deep fryers have become a huge added cooking appliance to some vendors. With so many different nationalities and palates in North America, the food fare options are endless!

I spoke with one company the other day. They do bratwurst for festivals. They have decided to add a deep fryer to their outdoor cooking equipment to hopefully bring in more business. They will be adding a sort of thick potato chip with different spices to their menu.

I know of another company that all they do is deep fry. They work a farmer's market in Oregon, once a week for the whole season. They deep fry empanadas, sort of a meat and vegetable pastry.

The owner of a food truck in the Los Angeles area, a native New Yorker, has taken taken food from back home to the West Coast. She took a traditional deep fried dough ball recipe, zeppoles, and made this her main vending fare. She used to use rent a funnel cake fryer for every venue but has since taken on an outdoor propane fryer of her own. In that respect the deep fryer will pay itself off in no time at all.

Potato twisters, a deep fried spiral cut potato on a stick, has become huge. Originating in Korea, where it has become the number one street food, it has hit the streets and fairs of America with full force. I saw a program on TV where a vendor at The California State Fair has taken the twisted potato and tweaked it. He put a hot dog on the stick first, then placed the spiral cut potato around it before deep frying it. Sounds odd right, but interesting. I would try it!

Fish tacos have taken the country by storm. Odd as they sound, having deep fried fish in a soft shell tortilla is all the rage. Even some of the bigger fast food restaurants have picked up on that.

There are endless ways to make money while selling food. Time and effort are involved, but ingenuity, honesty, integrity, and a little brains can get you places that you never thought you could go. There is a man that started a deep fried food tent at the Texas State Fair. He deep fries anything and everything. It brings people back for more. Just to see what they are deep frying today. This gentleman makes enough money through the fair to now sustain him for the rest of the year. Now, that's deep frying for a living!!

Like I said before. Everyone has to eat. If you are looking for a way to make extra money, and you can cook fairly well, maybe it is time to jump on the comfort food vending band wagon. Get a deep fat fryer and start making french fries at the local festivals. Take your grill to the farmer's market and roast corn on the cob. When the weather starts getting cooler, get yourself a turkey fryer, or a large stock pot and propane cooker and make some chili for the apple festival or fall leaf and craft fair. With a great idea and some time and effort, you could be on your way! The American dream starts here!

Jenifer Whelan is the owner of The Deep Fryer Depot. your online frying headquarters. For your next catered function or festival check out our commercial grade fryers.

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:29 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 18 2011

The tomato is native to the South American continent and was brought to Europe by the Spanish explorers, or by Columbus, who took them to Spain. It is said that Cortez found them growing in Montezuma's garden, but other historians say Columbus first discovered them on his voyages to find pepper and a new spice route.

Tomatoes were introduced to Europe in the early 16th century, along with corn and potatoes. The tomato and potato are related as they come from the Solonaceae family of plants, the nightshades. Because of these rather deadly relations, the potato and tomato (and aubergine/eggplant) were looked upon with suspicion. Even their Latin botanical name, Lycopersicum refers to Galen's description of the wolf peach which was poison used to kill wolves, that was wrapped in a delicious-looking packaging.

They were first grown for their ornamental value and the name, pomo d'oro in Italian would suggest that the original tomatoes were a golden-yellow. They were known in France as the Love Apple, pomme d'amour as it was believed that they were aphrodisiacs.

Pietro Matthioli, an Italian herbalist wrote in 1544 that the tomato was a poisonous plant, although he did mention that he had heard that some people ate them after frying them in oil. By 1623 there were yellow, golden, orange and red tomatoes. The yellow and gold varieties may have been one and the same, depending on how the author of a text perceived colours. There is mention of the large red tomato in 1700 which was probably an ancestor of the Mediterranean 'beef' tomatoes we have now.

They retained their mystique for many years in France where they were originally eaten only by the king and his court. In Italy, however, they were food for all, enjoyed by aristocracy and peasantry equally. They flourished in the region between Naples and Salerno and the first known recipe for Spanish tomato sauce, Salsa di Pomodoro alla Spagnola was written in a cookery book from Naples in 1692.

Clearly they were growing in popularity in Italy during this period as by 1762 Lazzaro Spallanzani was experimenting with ways of conserving them. He boiled them and then sealed them in containers, but it wasn't until the 19th century that food was canned more or less successfully. The first cans of condensed tomato soup were produced by the American Joseph Campbell in 1897. Now, of course, we know that the lycopene which makes tomatoes and other fruits red is released on heating, so canning helps. Lycopene is believed to help protect from prostate cancer and to increase the male libido and help with erectile dysfunctions, so perhaps the pomme d'amour really is an aphrodisiac of sorts.

It is believed that the Neapolitans made the first tomato pies (the precursors of the pizza) by adding them to yeast dough. By the 17th century, Naples had pizzaioli or pizza makers and tomato pies were sold on the streets of Naples. The Neapolitans were also adding the new fruit to their traditional dishes.

In the 18th century, Queen Maria Carolina the wife of the King of Naples, Ferdinando IV (1751-1821) had a special pizza oven built for her chef in the summer palace at Capodimonte and pizza with tomatoes were served to her guests.

The pizza Margherita was made in 1889 for the wife of the king of Italy, Umberto I (1844-1900). Queen Margherita di Savoia called Naples' most popular pizzaioli, Raffaele Esposito, to her palace, and he made three different pizzas for her. She preferred the one that now bears her name, made of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, the colours of the Italian flag, red, white and green, so the pizza bears her name.

Italians don't actually use tomatoes in every dish, but they are very popular; when I was in the Marché region, people frequently had spaghetti with a plain passata topped with a sprig of basil, or a fresh tomato, cucumber and mozzarella salad with olive oil and fresh basil for lunch. (Passata is fresh tomatoes, peeled, sieved and heated then blended.) Dinner may or may not have contained tomatoes, but they were on the daily menu in some form or other.

Although we think of tomatoes and Italy, they are also staples in Greek and Spanish cuisine. If you enjoyed this article and found it interesting you might like website which gives information about foodstuffs. It explores the food of different continents and gives recipes, as well as information about plants, herbs and spices that are beneficial for our health. You can read about the history of trees and other plants as well as the legends that surround them, while the recipes tend to be a mixture of Asian and European.

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Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, July 06 2011're in love and you can't wait to live together. Playing house will be so much fun. You can make meals together. On Sunday mornings you'll take turns fixing each other breakfast in bed.

Wait a minute until I catch my breath and wipe away the tears. I haven't laughed so hard in years.

I'm going to be sexist, but I can't help it. Here's what's going to happen. The first month or two, he's going to make bacon, eggs, and hash browns, covered with ketchup. He will probably mush it all together. You will think he's so cute and you will make a mental note to work out 30 minutes longer to rid yourself of those nasty calories. He worked so hard and you can't let him down.

Fast forward a few months. You come downstairs and he's making his famous breakfast. All you can see is the grease all over the pans and counter. There's probably some on the ceiling too. It's going to take you hours to clean this mess up since he certainly isn't going to do it. And you know what? Those breakfasts of his just make you feel sluggish, fat, and bloated. As a matter of fact, lover boy is getting a little paunchy around the middle.

I have to be fair so let's see this from the other side. The love of your life comes downstairs for one of your gourmet, healthy, spinach quiches. He smiles. He resists grabbing the ketchup. He cleans his plate. He expresses his appreciation for your efforts to keep both of you fit and cholesterol free. He's happy because you love him and haven't bolted out the door yet.

Wait, wait....time passes. He struggles out of bed, looks in the kitchen, sees evidence of egg whites and a green vegetable and panics. There must be meat this morning. Must have meat. What to do? "Honey, I'm so sorry, you've gone to so much work for us, but I promised Jerry that I would stop by his place to help him fix his shower. I'll be gone just a few minutes. You can put mine in the trash fridge. Love ya!" Gotta get to McDonald's before they stop serving breakfast. Ummmmm, Egg McMuffin.

This is the cold, hard truth. He wants to eat like this. He wants a tub of something covered in mayonnaise, and he wants to eat it out of the container.

And she, even though she may occasionally sneak a spoonful of ice cream out of the carton, is thinking of 14 healthy ways to fix carrots. She may even be signing up for "Cooking Light" magazine. I see a "Summer Lemon-Vegetable Risotto" in your future. Did ya know? Only 395 calories a serving.

And you thought most relationships broke up over sex or money. Well, you can add food to the mix.

Not all relationships end up like Romeo and Juliet, but if they had just gone out for pizza, things might have turned out better.

Many years ago, I thought I had met the love of my life. Everything was great, if you didn't count all of the times he hit on my roommates, but the final straw was food. I opened his refrigerator and there sat a package of tongue. An organ meat. Something that should never be eaten. Then he boiled it. I saw it in the pot....boiling. It looked like a horror movie, and then he sliced it for sandwiches. How could this ever work? It didn't. Maybe it wasn't the tongue that did it, but it certainly pushed me over the edge.

Then there's the "That's not how my mother makes it.," which is guaranteed to end up badly. Or, when it's his turn to cook for the family he orders out, which is against the rules. If you work hard to make healthy meals after working all day, then so should he.

The ex would stick his nose in the casserole, and I mean "in" the casserole, eye it suspiciously, poke at it, and finally, take a tentative bite. No comments. Just slurping. That was a relationship builder.

My darling hubby came into our relationship with four meals he liked and expected to be rotated throughout the week...pork chops (always with asparagus and rice), hamburgers, chili and spaghetti. I came into our relationship with a love of reading recipes and never making the same thing twice. We've worked it out. I do most of the cooking and occasionally I let him make one of his four specialties.

It's all worked out pretty good. He's learned that he likes lots of different foods. Duh...Do you think this was part of his plan? Do you think he knew that if he only fixed four things, it would force me into doing the majority of the cooking?

Just when I thought I knew about relationships. I wonder what would happen if I bought a tongue?

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 11:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email