Thursday, November 24, 2011

When Holidays Attack

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday but mostly, I hope everyone stays well.

While we are busy preparing and flitting around the kitchen on holidays, we sometimes forget to be careful of seemingly innocent items that can become cross-contamination traps. It's hard enough cleaning, searching out recipes, shopping and doing everything on time to produce a wonderful meal for everyone let alone be cautious for the ones that we love. There are just a few items in your kitchen that I wanted to remind you about. They are our friends during preparation but they can instantly become our allergy enemy.

1) Chip Clips                     

Chip clips are great- they keep our chips bags closed up tight, they prevent little unwanted critters from trying to sneak into our foods. But have you ever inspected your chip clips? Many of us will use them on one thing, then remove them and transfer them to something else without washing them. What's the harm? It's on the outer packaging, right? Well, next time you use one on a bag of cereal, check your chip clip. Many times when we open and close a bag of something, dust particles are blown out while we are removing the air to get a better grip. This could be a disaster if you have allergenic foods (such as cereals with nuts). Please inspect, wash and reuse with care. Save the environment and save a possible reaction.

2) Blender/ Food Processor Attachments

There, lurking on the bottom of your attachment piece on your beloved food processor are specks of food particles! Do you see them? They are tricky and try to disguise themselves. Who knew that during the use of these machines and switching back and forth to make separate courses that they would try to invade your other foods? Those cute little buttons are harbouring traces of egg or dairy can beat them at their own game. Simply wipe the attachments with a warm, soapy sponge to eliminate their strategy. If you are really busy, Lysol wipes are very convenient as well. ( The food particles HATE Lysol wipes, I heard them talking about it!)

3) Pots and Pans with Exposed Handle Attachments

Look very, very carefully (I'm hunting food crumbs). Do you see how the handles are attached on the inner side of the pots and pans? Those small, silver dots can be traps for cooked-on food items. Even dishwashers don't always scrub off the egg particles left on those circular bad boys. But now that you have a heads-up, you are ahead of the game for next time. Make sure the pots and pans with these types of handles are soaked in warm, soapy water and thoroughly scrubbed with a sink brush or a sponge that is double-sided with a semi-rough underside. Place into the bottom rack of your dishwasher to get the full effects of cleaning and voila- you should be good to go!

4) Microwave Ovens

Microwave ovens are a girl's best friend sometimes. They are wonderful for heating up and helping out. Especially during a busy day on Holidays, this little light-up box can offer you the extra hand that you seem to need while you are cooking 15 different things at once. However, stop and think for a moment - when was the last time you cleaned your microwave? Do you have a husband, kids or a family member that refuses to cover their plates whenever they use it? Food splatters + food particles = falling food debris! The microwave oven animal likes to spread itself all over- on the top, on the walls, on the glass plate and even underneath the plate at times. It almost seems like it saves up it's bits and then spreads them out in the middle of the night when nobody is looking. If you are a person who covers with care each time you use it, you should be safe. If not, double-check your mini oven and make sure falling food is not a future disaster.

5) Stove Top & Ovens

Picture this- you are cooking a wonderful omelet for your husband, baking muffins for the kids and cutting up veggies for the platter later on. During all of the frenzy, you are flipping your omelet and part of it falls onto the stove top. Mental note- 'I'll wipe it up later". Flash forward to dinner that night when you are just too tired to even consider who will be doing the dishes that night. Dinner is ready and you are serving right from the bowl onto the plate at the stove. You are tired and plop! A large portion of dinner drops onto the stove top. Do you a) pick it up and put it onto a plate? b) throw it away or c) leave it there for someone else to clean? The correct answer depends on who is doing the serving for the family (no offense Dads!). But beware- that minor slip and reserve could cause a bad case of hives to your egg-allergic individual who's starving and just wants to eat.

This brings us to the oven. A warm and toasty place. It's the place that cookies are made, dinners are formed and a good source of extra heat on cold, winter days. You are grateful you have two or more shelves in your oven, especially when cooking several different dishes and sides. But have you ever noticed that foods can splatter or spill uncontrollably? If you are brave enough to share the oven with multiple food items, be aware and place your allergy-friendly entrees on the upper rack. You may even want to place some aluminum foil underneath for a little extra protection. That way, when the foods beneath act up and misbehave, your foods up top will be safe, cozy and ready to be eaten without the cross-contamination cooties.

6) Water Bottles & Sippy

We all like to pitch in and save the planet by using refillable water bottles and sippy cups. If you have more than one child, you may also need to also save a child. When our children are young, we often purchase twin packs of sippy cups or buy the cute ones that are on sale. This could mean having multiples of the same colors. If you have more than one child and there is a threat of allergies through shared cups, try keeping different colors for different kids (girlie colors for the girls, boy colors for the boys). I know this will not prevent the future "I want the color she has" argument but it will help let your children know which cup is theirs to use. And, with a family who has food allergies and needs to teach their children at an early age not to share, this is a great way to start them off.

Water bottles have the same prevention methods. Yes, there are tons of models to choose from- big ones, little ones, metal, colored, designs, bottles that can steer your car for you. But in the end, choose water bottles that can be distinguished. Perhaps Dad can use the larger, manly models while your son or daughter can choose their own style in a specific color range. Another option that we have tried when you have multiple bottles of the same color is to put something on one of them to differentiate them (ex: my daughter will put a cloth hair scrunchy around the top of hers). It's very easy to grab the wrong water bottle when you are thirsty but it's also very easy to choose one and use it safely.

Don't let those Holiday attack, be armed and fight back! The kitchen (for most of us) is the heart of our family. Use it wisely, lovingly and it will bring your family nourishment and memories for many years.

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