Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lunch Box Safety

Classes started last week and that means two things for me. Firstly, I will be missing my daily dose of The Chew.  Secondly, I've got to pack my lunch.  I could purchase lunch, but that's a little expensive and a few more calories than I need to consume. 

Packing a lunch is an excellent idea for those trying to save money and consume a healthier diet.  However, carrying lunch to work or school may mean it will not be refrigerated.  When you pack a lunch, consider food safety.  It may not be a glamorous topic, but neither is a foodborne illness.

Here are a few tips to help you consume a safe lunch.
  • Purchase an insulated lunch bag.  These bags are better for keeping food safe until it is consumed.  Remember, cold cut sandwiches and yogurt can only be left at room temperature for 2 hours. 
  • Reusable bags should be washed with warm soapy water after each use.
  • Wash hands and any food contact surface before you prepare the lunch.  Also make sure to wash your hands before eating.  If you can't wash your hands before lunch, pack a moist towelette.
  • Freeze a juice box or an ice pack.  This will help keep your lunch cold and by lunchtime, you should be able to drink the juice.
  • If you are packing hot foods, such as soup, use an insulated bottle like a thermos.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.  If all the food is not consumed, toss it.  Better safe than sorry.
For resources on purchasing lunch boxes, check out these sites.
Laptop Lunches
Fit and Fresh

Hope you have a safe and nutritous lunch.  Check in next week when I will be talking about my lunch box favorite.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What I Did This Weekend - Baked!

Okay, so it doesn't surprise you that I baked this past weekend.  It was just one of those weekends.  And I needed to bake, not cook, but bake.  It's just something about baking that seems to release a different set of creative juices. 

I decided to make a plum upside-down cake.  The picture just looked sooooooooo good!  Once I got into baking it, I thought, "this is a version of a pineapple upside down cake".  A chef friend of mine says there are only so many recipes.  I guess she's right.

But whatever it is, this cake is a nice change of pace from the traditional pineapple upside cake.  If you don't want to use plums, apricots or peaches would be a nice substitution.

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Serves 8.


Plum mixture:
12 Tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter, divided
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon honey
4 to 6 large plums

1½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup milk

whipping cream or ice cream, optional


1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
2.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Stir in  brown sugar and honey.  Heat until sugar and honey blend in, forming a thick, smooth sauce.  Transfer to a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch high sides. 
3.  Cut plums in half; remove pit.  Cut in half into sixths.  Arrange plums on top of sauce in overlapping concentric circles.  Set aside.
4.  Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a medium bowl until light.  Add sugar and beat until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in extracts.  Add dry ingredients, alternately with the milk, beating until just blended.  Spoon batter evenly over plums.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Transfer to a cooling rack; cool in pan for 30 minutes.
5.  Using a knife, cut around pan sides to loosen cake.  Insert cake onto serving platter.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Clafoutis Anyone?

A few days ago, a colleague and I were discussing recipes for another project that I am working on.  She suggested that I might do a clafouti recipe.  I decided that it might not be a good choice for the other project, but it might be a good blog topic.  After all, it is a French dessert and we (or rather PBS) are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Julia Child's birth.

I must admit that I do not have any fun childhood memories of Julia Child.  My mother and I did not cook her recipes together.  However, with my job of helping people develop food preparation skills, I have come to admire and respect Julia Child.  She had great love of food and inspired Americans to become better cooks.  While Julia may have used her share of butter, she died 2 days before her 92nd birthday and was not overweight.  As Julia used to say, 'all things in moderation, including moderation'.  While I am all for healthy eating, I am also for good eating and I do not not believe these are mutually exclusive terms.  It is with that in mind that I am writing about clafouti and Julia Child.

Clafouti also makes excellent use of summer fruits, such as peaches, plums, and cherries.  I've even seen recipes with raspberries, apples and pears.  I've had my student make it with pears and did not care for it.  It needed a fruit with more intense flavor.  However, if you have nice, flavorful pears, why not give it a try. 

Apparently, the clafouti is a French country dessert from the Loire region of France.  I think of it as fruit baked in a custard. It was originally made with cherries.  I also understand that the pits add extra flavor.  I can't say that I have ever left the pits in.  I'm just not that brave.

I have seen tons of recipes for clafouti, with varying levels of milkfat.  Because I like a soft custard, I decided to use a combination of half and half and whole milk.  To satisfy more of my 'foodie' colleagues, I made half plums and half peaches.  This is my version of clafouti. 


Serves 6 to 8.

¼ cup, plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
¾ pound fruit, such as peaches, plums or cherries
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup half and half
¾ cup all purpose flour
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoon almond liqueur, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a pie plate.  Sprinkle with one tablespoon sugar. 
2.  Slice fruit.  Place over sugar in a pleasing design.
3.  In a blender, blend milk, half and half, flour, eggs and salt.  Blend until smooth.  Add the one-fourth cup of sugar, vanilla and almond liqueur.  Pour over fruit.  Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until puffed and golden.
4.  Dust clafouti with powdered sugar and serve at once.

Normally, I would not use liqueur, however since we are celebrating Julia Child, I felt a little alcohol would be appropriate.  If you are celebrating Julia Child, let us know what you are doing.