Tips on Eating Safely at Fairs and Festivals

Picnic outside the Jimmy Buffet concert
Image by ShaneRobinson via Flickr

The last two posts have concentrated on the deep-fried indulging world of fair and festival food. Today I want to consider how to have safe eating and drinking experiences at those events.

Remember that food safety practices should be followed at fairs just as they are at home.

Practice cleanliness.

Keep raw food from contaminating other food.
Don’t cut fresh vegetables or fruits on the same cutting surface as you prepare raw meat.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

What should you consider before buying food from a food stand or other vendor?

Does the workstation look clean?
Is there a sink for employees to wash hands?
Do the workers look clean? Are they wearing hair nets and gloves?
Is there refrigeration on-site?
How are they keeping insects away from the food?

What are healthy food alternatives to consider at fairs and festivals?

* Fresh fruits — Apples and bananas are great choices, but they are often dipped in chocolate or caramel. Any pineapple or kiwi fruit? Do they have any fruit drinks, even some “exotic” fruit drinks? These would be a better choice than any of the regular or diet pop or sodas.

* Fresh vegetables — you probably won’t find any of these except for French fried potatoes, potato chips, and other high-fat items.

* Calcium-rich foods — Are there any low-fat yogurts without added sugars? You will probably find lots of ice cream combinations – all with a high sugar content. Other foods rich in calcium include cheese, whole fish, leafy green vegetables and broccoli, which you probably won’t find available.

* There will be lots of protein foods – hot-dogs, hamburgers, turkey legs, fried chicken, and other variations. Here again you should keep in mind  sanitation and the way it is prepared. Does it look like a healthy choice?

Are you bringing food from home?

You can prepare foods to bring from home which will be healthier and cheaper than any at the fair. Here again keep in mind food handling and storage times. Wash hands before handling any food. Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there isn’t any place to wash hands. All perishable foods should be in a cooler or insulated bag. Food should not be set out of the cooler for longer than two hours. If it is a very hot day, cut this time down to one hour or less. You can still enjoy the festive atmosphere while eating with your family.

However you choose to eat at these events, make sure you have a food-safe summer by reducing your risk of foodborne illnesses.

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Lee Jackson
Home and Family Living Coach

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How to Make Cooking Safe and Fun

Now that school is over, or almost over, children will be home for longer periods. Make those days productive and fun. Working with them in the kitchen can be a fun, educational and a safe activity, providing certain rules are followed.

Following directions
In all aspects of life, there are certain rules that must be followed. Working in the kitchen requires certain rules and directions as well. Depending on the age of the child, you may need to repeat directions on how to do different jobs.

Tell and then show the child what needs to be done. Show how to “cut-in” butter into a flour-sugar mixture, for example, using two table knives or a pastry blender. Explain what “folding-in” means and use the spatula to show how you gently bring the spatula over and over to “fold-in” the ingredient. This often refers to folding-in beaten egg whites into the remainder of the ingredients.

Some children can remember a list of more than one jobs. For example, for some you can say: please get out the big bowl, the mixing spoon and the measuring cups. For others, asking the child to do one or two jobs at a time may be appropriate.

Read the recipe out loud to help everyone know what you will be doing. Pictures help, too.

Offer praise and thanks

Make sure you praise the child for offering to help and the work  done. You can also offer such statements as: “We really make a good team here in the kitchen.” “You are doing such a good job of following directions”. “Thank you for helping today.” Won’t our family be surprised when they taste what we made today?”

Following safety rules
There are certain safety rules that must be followed when working with children in the kitchen, such as:

Always wash your hands before working in the kitchen.
Young children should not use sharp knives.
Small appliances are not play toys.
Potholders and not towels are for handling hot dishes. Towels could catch fire from the stove.
Handles of pots and pans should be turned inward.
Always use a separate spoon when tasting food.

Do you have stories about working with children in the kitchen?

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Pecan Pies Too much Trouble to Make For Thanksgiving? Try These Pecan Bars

Pecan Delight
Image by Sifu Renka via Flickr

If you want pecan pie for Thanksgiving but hate the hassle of making a pie crust, try these Pecan Bars from Amy Houts’ new cookbook, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities. Yes, you can buy ready prepared pie crust, but here is a recipe the children will enjoy making with you from start to finish.

This recipe features a delicious product, pecans,  from this great land of ours, the USA. We are thankful, especially at this season, for the rich abundance of food available.

In her book, Cooking Around the Country with Kids, Amy Houts tells about the time she went pecan picking with her friend in Memphis, Tennessee. She was surprised at how the pecan trees’ branches covered the whole area. Her friend said that pecan trees are an added bonus to have in one’s yard. “They are great for swings and offer lots of nice shade,” she said.

Here is the recipe for Pecan Bars:

1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup butter, or margarine, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Mix flour, butter, and powdered sugar with spoon or electric mixer. With floured fingers, using quick, light motions press dough into a 9-by-13-2-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, children can help measure and mix filling. In a medium-sized bowl, beat eggs with a fork or wire whisk. Add brown sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and pecans. Pour over hot crust. Return to oven and bake 20 minutes more. Cool; cut into bars.

Makes about 32 bars.

To read more about the cookbook from which this recipe is taken, go to Order your own copy or one for your favorite child.

Lee Jackson

Snaptail Books

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Going Food Shopping at the Farmers’ Market


Image via Wikipedia

Going to the local farmers’ market with your child helps him or her learn where their food comes from. Here your child will see the many varieties of fruits and vegetables that are grown right in your own region.

Understanding that the corn in the can or frozen package really started as corn in the husks on the cob is sometimes hard for children to comprehend. Seeing carrots with bushy tops and not perfectly scrubbed clean in plastic bags can be eye-opening for them as well. Even seeing the quantities of melons in the back of pickups and truck beds piled high with corn is really quite a sight.

I always think of the hard work that goes into growing this food and getting it to market. I know that those who work the soil are always dependent on Mother Nature to bring the rain and sunshine just at the right moments. The fruits of their labor relies on cooperation from the elements.

Even though farmers’ markets offer food at the peak of freshness, we still must be concerned with maintaining the freshness and keeping it safe for eating. It’s always a good idea to go right home to get perishable foods in the refrigerator.

Some produce can be ripened on the kitchen counter and then stored in the refrigerator. Foods such as peaches, nectarines, pears, and plums fall into this category.

Some foods taste best at room temperature, such as onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and squashes. They need to be stored in a clean, dry, well-ventilated place, away from direct sunlight and areas where meat is prepared.

I always like to prepare what I bought as soon as possible. The last time I went to market I bought some beautiful looking onions. I hadn’t baked onions for a long time but remembered how my grandmother used to just set the onion on the top of the cover from a metal coffee can. (I suppose because aluminum foil wasn’t readily available and the juices do run out – can you remember the time before aluminum foil)??

Anyway, baked onions are delicious.

This is what you do…and it’s easy enough that kids can help and be part of the “going to market and then using the fresh food” experience.

Baked Onions

Cut off both ends of the onion and peel the outer skin. Cut an X in the center of the onion and dribble on some olive oil or add a dab of butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place each onion on a piece of foil and wrap tightly. Set in a baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour, or until tender. You can sprinkle top with freshly grated Parmesan, or crumbled cooked bacon, or some fresh herbs.

Serve with any meat dish or pasta.

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Help Children with Their Sugar Problem

Helping children cut down or eliminate sugar from their life seems to be a never-ending task. I admit that sugar has been very hard for me to cut down, too. I believe the culture of life is different now than when I was growing up, though. Then the long-term effects of what we eat were not as well publicized. Now, most persons are aware of the excesses of sugar and the problems it can cause.

But, do we do anything about it?

I just read a blog with great information about a method worth trying to help get over the sugar craving. This blog by Connie Bennett is at

Connie has lots of other good ideas on her blog and in her book, Sugar Shock!

I must try her method, and it sounds like a good method of helping children and others cut down, too.

Here’s to better health,

Lee Jackson

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Kids and Junk Food

Image by arthurohm via Flickr

Children are influenced in their food choices by their friends, family, the media, and other outside factors. The commercials on TV make a huge impact on what children want to eat. This often influences what they want their parents to buy.

What is a parent to do?

  • You can explain to the child that the commercials on TV are one way companies use to let the public know about their product. They make products look very special because they want you to buy their product. Sometimes they may not tell you the whole story about whatever they are trying to sell. It may not always be a wise buying choice if it is not nutritious, costs more than its worth, or other reasons.
  • Perhaps it is time to limit the child’s TV viewing, or, to be more selective in the types of programs that the child watches. There are many educational programs on TV that can present learning experiences.
  • Yes, sometimes you have to give in. It’s times like these that you need to let the child know why you think the food is not what you want your family eating.

To help satisfy your child’s craving for junk food, have some ideas on how you can help them make some special foods at home. The following is one suggestion, which incorporates fresh fruits and is fun and easy to make:

Fruity Freeze

1 large ripe banana
1 teaspoon lemon juice
6 medium strawberries
1/4 cup frozen unsweetened apple juice concentrate

Child can peel the banana and slice into a small bowl. Drizzle lemon juice over banana and toss lightly so all banana pieces are covered. This will help prevent them from turning brown. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.

Wash strawberries thoroughly in cold water that has a drop or two of vinegar. Using a plastic knife, children can help hull strawberries by cutting off the bloom end, and cutting each berry in half.

In a blender, add strawberries and banana slices. Turn blender on and off briefly to chop up the fruit. Add apple juice and process until smooth. Pour into small sauce or dessert dishes and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Here’s to you and your family’s good health,

Lee Jackson

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From Kitchen to Classroom to Book Writing

Greetings to all!

Hi! I’m Lee Jackson jumping in here after Chef Crombie left. I hope I don’t disappoint! He has some big shoes that I want to fill but it won’t be easy.

I just wanted to tell you a little of my background. I was a family and consumer sciences (home economics) teacher in the middle school and high school for over 20 years. I taught subjects such as foods and nutrition, clothing and design, child development, housing and environment – all subjects that still interest me and ones I continue to find fulfilling.

Way back before I started teaching, I enjoyed recipe clipping, trying new dishes, and in general, trying to find myself in the kitchen. This is stuff, I see now, I’m still trying to do and still like to do.

Somewhere along the way, growing apples, eating apples, finding recipes for apples, and anything “apple” really appealed to me. So much so that I wrote my first cookbook, “From the Apple Orchard – Recipes for Apple Lovers“, which is one of our most popular books.

One good thing leads to another, and I asked orchards and apple cider houses to send me their best recipes and a little information about their apple business. This resulted in another cookbook: “Apples, Apples Everywhere – Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards”.

There was a textbook sprinkled in amongst teaching and some of this. It is “Careers in Focus: Family and Consumer Sciences. High schools, Junior colleges, and, I understand, some colleges use this in their curriculums. I took a year’s leave of absence to do this, but by the end of the year I had a good start on an outline. It was a long work in progress, but now, I’m very proud of it.

This blogging is rather new to me, but all media is changing so I figured I needed to keep up with the times.

I have some exciting news about another new children’s cookbook that is coming off the press very soon. But I will leave that for another time. Enough about me, I want to hear from you and about you and about other stuff that we all like to think about – food!

I hope you will come back…

Best to you,

Lee Jackson    flatstan19

(my young friend and I)          

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Graduation and End of School

Everything comes to an end. For many these last days in May are filled with graduation plans and parties and thinking about what the summer, and indeed, the future, will hold for them. These are very festive times as well as bitter sweet times when the joy of the present can turn into feelings of “What now?”

For those of you in this situation of having your years of study come to an end, I wish you well. May all your hopes and dreams for your future be fulfilled. Though “study”, in some form or another, continues throughout life

My term here on this blog is also coming to an end. I have tried to squeeze in this writing, which I love to do, in between my work with food, which I also love to do. But I am finding that the summer is becoming too crowded with work and too busy. Therefore I must close down one part of what I love, to concentrate on the other.

However, I am delegating my writing blog to my friend and fellow food enthusiast, Lee Jackson. I have known Lee for many years, having worked with her on Amy Houts’  first cookbook, “Cooking Around the Calendar With Kids: Holiday and Regional Food and Fun”.

She is working with Amy on another book and I am sure she will want to tell you all about its progress, from Amy’s initial interest in working with children, to this, her second book in the series.

I know she will take you on an engaging, informative, and fun-filled food journey.

I thank you for reading my posts these past 2 years and for all your input and comments. It’s been fun reading about your experiences, both food and other, and hopefully I may have contributed some to your love of all things food-related.

I may make some guest appearances so, until we meet again, “so long”, and I wish you good health and good food.

Best wishes,
Chef Crombie

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Bake Your Mother Something Special For Mother’s Day

2 wicker baskets full of muffins sit on a blue...
Image via Wikipedia

Get Mom’s day going in the right direction by baking her some A & B Muffins for breakfast. These are muffins without any sugar – your Mom has probably reminded you many times not to eat so much sugar. These still taste good even though they contain no sugar. Other good points: they are low in calories and you will get some nutrients from the fruits and nuts. Now you can tell her that you listen when she talks about good nutrition and the importance of the food you eat.

Can you guess what food the A and B stands for?

A & B Muffins

2 bananas mashed to equal 3/4 cup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice concentrate, canned or frozen
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup chopped nuts
2 teaspoons baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners in 18-20 muffin cups.

If using frozen apple juice concentrate, take out of freezer and open can.

Mash 2 bananas with a fork on a plate or in a pie pan. This should equal about 3/4 cup.

In a small bowl, beat eggs with hand egg beater, add mashed bananas, oil, water, and mix.

In a larger bowl, add flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and nuts. Stir. Make a little dip or well in the middle.

Pour banana, egg mixture into well and mix lightly.

If using frozen apple juice, scrap juice out of can to equal 1/2 cup. Slowly add a little of this frozen juice to big bowl mixture, stirring well before adding more. In this way you will avoid having frozen eggs and bananas.

Stir in baking soda quickly and then mix about 30 beats.

Spoon batter immediately into prepared cups to prevent the baking soda from losing its rising power. Bake about 18 minutes, until nicely browned and toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.

Close lid on the frozen juice, place in a resealable bag, and return to freezer to be used another time.

When muffins are done, cool them on a wire rack. Serve them warm – muffins are always best served warm. However, if you have some left over, cool them completely and store in an airtight bag on your counter or in the freezer.

Set the table nicely. Cut up some fruit for a mixed-fruit cup and serve in a pretty dish. Offer a hot beverage of your Mother’s choice. Now you have the perfect start to her special day.

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How to Help Prevent the Spread of Viruses and Bacteria in your Kitchen

Paper towel roll on stand
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All too often we allow viruses and bacteria to invade by not washing our hands, undercooking food, leaving food set out too long, and allowing meat juice to drip on counters or cutting boards.

Here are tips for helping prevent the spread of viruses and infections while preparing food for your family.

Wash your hands often. Especially wash with hot soapy water before preparing food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets. Using a simple chemical-free soap will help decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus or infection to your nose, mouth, or to other people. An antibacterial soap is not necessary.

Keep raw meat, poultry, and fish and their juices away from other food. Do not use the same cutting board for meat and then use it for cutting up vegetables before thoroughly scrubbing it. You must wash your hands, cutting board, and knife in hot soapy water before using it to dice salad ingredients. Using a disinfectant on the cutting board such as is described in the last tip in this article is helpful. Washing hands often after handling raw meat is important.

Use a plastic cutting board rather than a wooden board. Bacteria can hide in the grooves of the wood. However, if using a wooden board, wash in hot soapy water and disinfect using the method described below.

If you are marinating meat, place it in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter.

Use plastic gloves while preparing food if you have a cut or sore on your hands.

Thaw food in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter. Bacteria can grow on the warmer outer layers of the food before the inside thaws.

Kitchen towels, sponges and cloths must be washed often. Sponges can be washed in the dish washer when using the hot cycle. Replace them often.

Keep all counter and food preparation areas clean. Use a reliable disinfectant and wipe dry with a clean towel or paper towel. To prepare your own disinfectant, use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide that is not more than six months old as it will have lost its fizzle then. First spray this on the counter, unless it is a granite or marble counter or other material not recommended for this. Then fill a second 32-ounce bottle with 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar, filling rest of bottle with distilled water. Spray the surface first with hydrogen peroxide and then follow with the vinegar solution. Wipe dry with clean cloth.

Help keep your kitchen clean and safe.

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