April 26, 2012

The Shelf Life Jargon: What are all these numbers on my food?

You open your fridge and you find a milk bottle. It’s April 28  and the expiry date is April 26. You open it to check it. It appears good with no signs of mold and no “vinegar” smell. But is this the proper way of checking its safety? Read the date again. Did the milk actually get spoiled? Or is the date merely a safety margin? How will you know that the milk really got spoiled?

Food safety experts explain all the time about shelf-life of food, proper storage, and what expiration dates, and lot codes means to you.
 “Shelf Life” is the time it remains safe for consumption before it gets spoiled. Spoilage is affected by countless reasons, mainly air, light, sun, bacteria, heat, humidity, storage temperature, and packaging material.

What are those stamped codes ?

Lot Code:  Manufacturing products come in batches, where each batch has a unique series f numbers that allow the manufacturer to tract any problem or defect that occur later and thus allowing them to be recalled from the market.

Expiration Dates: These are the dates that should concern the consumer and serve him as a guideline to know when the product is either no longer safe to eat or might not taste as good as it did when originally produced.

The expiration dates are of three types:
"Sell by" is for the stores to know how long it can display a product for people to buy.

The "best before" or "best if used by" date indicates the time that a certain quality or flavor of food starts to deteriorate. But the food still remains safe to consume even after this time.

"Use by" works is like the expiration date of medicines. Thus, consuming the food after this date is not recommended, as they may lose nutrients, potentially harmful bacteria might develop and the quality gets impaired.

Quick Tips for storing food
  1. It is recommended to check for dents, tears or broken seals in the product. Don’t buy it if you found these defects because even if the date is still safe, the packaging is supposed to be designed in a way to maintain the food. For example, can’s bulging is an indication of bacterial growth.
  2. Keep your cans away from humidity, air or light. Keep them in a stored closet. 
  3. Foods with short shelf life don’t need numbers. It is advised when purchasing perishable food, such as meat, poultry, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables, to bring them home quickly and refrigerate. But if you don’t want to cook the meat, poultry or sea food, store them in the freezer within two days of buying it to avoid their spoilage. Despite the fact that freezing ensures that food remains safe, it can affect its taste after defrosting.
  4. Meat and poultry can last 6 months in the freezer, but the taste will be compromised. 
    ( For the shelf life of other food, check this Ultimate Shelf life guide: Keep it or toss it? from sill tasty website) 
  5. Your refrigerator should register at 40° F (4° C) or below and the freezer unit at 0° F (-18° C). 
  6. Hot food won't harm your refrigerator, so it's okay to place hot food inside. Be sure to divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
    Marinate foods in the refrigerator - not at room temperature.
  7. Don't pack the refrigerator too full with food. Cold air must circulate to keep food safe. More on food storage guidelines here From what's cooking America?
How should you put your food in the fridge to keep them lasting longer!

8 . Herbs and Spices?
        Whole Spices and Herbs
  • Leaves and flowers — 1 year
  • Seeds and barks — over 2 years
  • Roots — over 2 years
         Ground Spices and Herbs
  • Leaves — 6 months
  • Seeds and barks — 6 months
  • Roots — 1 year
 8. What about sauces, condiments and pastes? ALways follow the expiration date. Sauces such mayonaise, and ketchup can get spoiled fast as they contain a considerable amount of water that makes it hub spot for bacterial growth.  Check the below graph and click on it to enlarge

In the end, it’s your own mindfulness and knowledge that will make your food safe to eat. Don’t rely on governmental regulations, whether in Lebanon or USA, as they are usually diminutive regarding these expiration dates.

April 20, 2012

Mommy Made: A factory that needs your votes

Food Security and Hunger is something I have always tackled in my blog. Stabilizing Food Prices and Misconceptions about the Hunger Crisis) . When it comes to achieving food security, food processing comes as the immediate solution.  And the best way is by building simple factories that can use the available resources in the area.
That's what students from the American University of Beirut are doing. The team have designed a full plan that will tackle almost all issues in an impoverished area.  How? By designing a food factory called
“Mommy Made”: and it needs your votes to win in the campaign ( Ripples of Happiness)
Photo from the FACEBOOK PAGE

  • HEALTHY MEALS It is a food manufacture that provides socially responsi
    ble production efforts yielding healthy meals for everyone. 
  • SELF SUFFICIENCY Mommy Made recruits, trains and employs mothers suffering from financial or physical challenges to transform them into self sufficient persons and have better lives for their families.
  • EDUCATION for FREE: In addition, since the manufacture will be located in the basement of St. Vincent de Paul School in Borj Hammoud-Nabaa, the employees children will be able to go the school for free, which will improve the lives of these families on the long term, and take them definitely out of poverty for better lives for their families. In addition, the employees children will be able to go to school for free, what will improve the lives of these families on the long term.
So you will see how it is just any voting campaign. It is for a good cause!

Ripples of Happiness" is an educational program that is jointly developed by the Coca-Cola Foundation and INJAZ Al-Arab with primary emphasis on social responsibility, entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy, and workplace readiness.

THE AUB STUDENT TEAM is supported by the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) and is composed of: 
Abdul Khalek Amal
Political Studies
Awada Sara
Business Administration
Batikhi Omar
Public Administration
Bu Jawdeh Samer
Mechanical Engineering
Chams Jana
Chehade Hind
El Jarrah Rana
El-Dana Reem
Business Administration
Hobeika Vanessa
Mechanical Engineering
Hussein Judy
Moussawi Rasha
Najem Yara
Environmental Health
Oumaya Redouane
Ramly Sami
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Salame Clara
Nutrition & Dietetics
Saliba Philippe
Chemical Engineering
Sarieddine Marwan
Civil Engineering
Sfeir Samer
Business Administration
Terro Maya
Zahreddine Rayane
Civil Engineering
Zakhia Erik
Mechanical Engineering

April 18, 2012

The Paleo diet: Would you eat like your ancestors?

Have you ever wondered what our ancestors used to eat? How male bodies were fit and masculine and females were of medium weight yet healthy?
They never counted the calories, and they ate whatever they liked without any dietician dictating those annoying “No carb”, “No fat”, sometimes “No eating” diets! The notion of " nutrition" , "diet", " nutrients"  just emerged in the last century.
So how would the next human be like?

April 16, 2012

Home Made Lasagna

"What's your favorite restaurant" is the question I get asked the most.
Why? Because once they know about my profession or my blog, they assume that I have tried all restaurants in Lebanon.
But I would answer proudly: " My Mother's food?" . .. Then I add" I want to inherit her kitchen's secrets someday and become like her!"

As much as this answer might be cliche, as much as I hold more on it with time.
And those who know me, know that I always campaign for home made food.   Why would anyone  deprive  himself from the greatest pleasures in life, his own or his family's food?
Indulge your senses in this kind of food! Fresh, healthy and delicious! Don't be cheap on yourself by ordering food!

So, this month's special homemade recipe is for Lasagna! Below you will find the recipe I learnt from my mother . Yes I am sharing mom's kitchen secrets!  Lasagna is one of my favorite meals! As much as Lasagna seems complicated but the trick is trying, experimenting with it, seasoning it, layering it ! Cooking is all about taking chances  and in most cases they work out unless you end up burning your food. ( which happens twice per year to me).

April 12, 2012

The guy who doesn't read

In reply to "The girl who reads" ... (not a  food related post) and upon a reader's request:

The guy who doesn’t read simply doesn’t need books to understand what life is about, or how humans  act foolishly, or how systems and powers rule the world. He doesn’t read Oliver Twist books as he already knows that life is full of miseries. He doesn’t need Mark Twain  to teach him about civil rights. He doesn’t need Tolstoy to teach him about romance. He knows what nobility and chivalry even before reading Alexander Dumas’s novels.  He never read High Expectations but he knows in life one shouldn’t have high expectations on people and situations.

Talk to him about the authors of the books you read, he won’t remember their names or maybe he will.  He doesn’t have a vocabulary rich language that will make you lost or feel inferior.Neither will he make you feel as an outcast of his thoughts.

April 10, 2012

Where the streets have no name..

I have just been merely talking and discussing food and health issues. I miss sharing a song or a random thought on my blog. So, here is a non-food related post about a song :)

I hate discussing music but this song "Where the streets have no name" is special and holds deep meanings.

I always loved what Bono says about Samuel Beckett and the tribute he played for him when he died. At the beginning, Bono says :
"His voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide
The whole body of the man did seem
Like one whom I have met in a dream
Sam Beckett dreamt of other roads
Sam beckett dreamt of other lands
Of another home, of another home
Where the streets have no name
Take me
Take me"

 Bono was actually adapting lines from the wordsworth poem, "Resolution and Independence". Here's a few lines:

          The old Man still stood talking by my side;
          But now his voice to me was like a stream
          Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
          And the whole body of the Man did seem
          Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
          Or like a man from some far region sent,
          To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.

I always play this song in my head when I am walking for hours around Beirut streets, streets with no name or atleast I haven't memorized their names. As I walk to find myself something to make me smile, make me ponder for a while about life, people and things.

We all dream of other homes, and of other lands. Maybe it shouldn't be our purpose in life, maybe it should be  justa way to find ourselves...
"Waiting for Godot" play for Samuel Beckett. I guess most of the people I know have read it . But  I never actually finished reading it. Maybe I didn't want to wait with the characters.Maybe we shouldn't wait for something to happen to us. Maybe we shouldn't wait to get home, but create home where we are at the moment. And maybe we shouldn't dream from the beginning. We should fight. Fighting is better than dreaming..
Or maybe you shouldn't read my words. Those words of someone scared of her dreams.

April 7, 2012

Food Against Breast Cancer

Who gets breast cancer?
I had the utmost pleasure in supporting through media the campaign " AUB is going pink" last month.The campaign which was organized by AUB's Red Cross club ( Sponsored by Beesline and Le Gustav), intended to raise awareness among college students about Breast Cancer.

April 1, 2012

Are you Label Literate?

I posted few minutes ago an article on twitter that talks about genetically modifying wheat to resist insects.( More from the Telegraph UK). Here is a snapshot of the discussion about how people percieve GMO:

It is true that this technology offers great solutions and here I quote from the article " "We don't believe there is an alternative, but we are providing a new way of controlling the pests that doesn't rely on toxic modes of action".
But are those scientists, that developed this technology, aware of the effect of genetic manipulation. I wont go into the endless debate of GMO's versus non GMO's. There are billion of articles that discuss it.( Read here : Non GMO project).
Setting aside my scientific arguments and background, I will merely discuss this as a normal being who wants to eat.  "Why eat something manipulated?  And why are GMO's banned in Europe if they are safe ? What's the matter of natural food? Our ancestors lived billion of years and nothing really happened. Why now? One has to be aware that there are no studies yet done on the effect of humans who have been consuming GMO's for a long term "

That's the continuation of the reply:

This brought me to the subject of food awareness and "label literacy" that I will be posting each month about.

We really don't have to be scientists.  We just need to act like aware consumers. Do you buy a car that wastes alot of oil? Or do you buy a shoe that makes you uncomfortable?
While buying food from your grocery, be aware of the food that will make your body more comfortable, more healthy and more energy efficient. Choice is the key.
And do you buy a fake gold bracelet?  Then why do you buy fake food, food that is an imitation from the natural form.
So, read your label. Check the manufacturer. Check the country of production.
Remember it is your health and your children's health that will be affected. 

Check this quick and easy guide that you should know about your food label.

Do you care more about the ingredients or calories?