Celebrating July 4th!

Food Talks Blog | Sponsored by The Women's Journal

July 4th  Hosting a July 4th barbecue for the first time may have some hosts anxious about throwing a summer soirée to remember, but fun is sure to be had if hosts remember to include the following backyard barbecue essentials this Independence Day. 

July4thJuly 4th Celebration Hosting a July 4th barbecue for the first time may have some hosts anxious about throwing a summer soirée to remember, but fun is sure to be had if hosts remember to include the following backyard barbecue essentials this Independence Day. 

The 4th of July is fast approaching and revelers across the nation are preparing to toast their independence with family and friends. For many Americans, backyard barbecues are synonymous with the Fourth of July, a day that, in the United States of America, commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
Precious few Americans can say they have not been present at a 4th of July barbecue or witnessed a fireworks display honoring America’s official declaration of independence from Great Britain. Hosting a July 4th barbecue for the first time may have some hosts anxious about throwing a summer soirée to remember, but fun is sure to be had if hosts remember to include the following backyard barbecue essentials this Independence Day.
No Fourth of July barbecue is complete without food, so hosts should be sure to stock up on popular barbecue fare like hot dogs and hamburgers. Though such foods likely won’t be mistaken for gourmet fare anytime soon, Fourth of July revelers often embrace the tradition of grilling up some hot dogs and hamburgers even if they tend to avoid such foods throughout the rest of the year. Hosts should not feel pressured to provide gourmet fare on July 4th, but it is a thoughtful gesture to ask guests in advance if they have any food allergies or need to avoid certain foods for other reasons.
It goes without saying that guests will need refreshing beverages at parties held in early July, but be sure to stock up on a variety of beverages so guests are not forced to consume drinks they don’t want. Be sure to have plenty of water available to guests, and provide sodas, iced tea and lemonade as well. Offer alcoholic beverages to adult guests, but don’t go overboard stocking up on alcohol, as that might encourage guests to overindulge.
Backyard barbecues are most fun when guests are entertained, so plan to have some games available for guests of all ages. Encourage guests to bring a change of clothes or swimsuits if games will involve water or something that might soil their clothing. If you have a pool, purchase some pool games so swimmers can do more than just wade in the water or take a few laps. Plan a Wiffle® ball game for kids and dig some horseshoe pits or buy a ring toss set so adults can engage in some friendly competition as well.
Though no one wants to think of a 4th of July celebration taking a turn for the worst, hosts must prepare for emergencies. Restock the first-aid kit if necessary and keep a constant eye on guests, especially children, to ensure everyone is having a safe and happy time. Program a list of local taxi companies into your phone so you can easily call for transportation should any guests have too much to drink during the festivities. Hosts should abstain from alcohol so they can serve as designated driver should the need arise at the end of the night.
Backyard barbecues are a staple of July 4th, and there’s no reason your summer soirée can’t be one to remember for years to come.

My Hubby has a New Grill!

Food Talks Blog | Sponsored by The Women's Journal

 My hubby has a new grill!


I bought my hubby a new grill for his birthday along with all the trimmings. Of course, we are having ‘discussions’ on how to grill and especially how to clean the grill. So I Googled “How to clean your grill during summer party season?’

Grilling season has arrived, and amateur grillmasters everywhere are gearing up for another summer of backyard barbecues and family dinners outside under the summer sun. But once you fire up that grill and cook your first hot dog of the season, your work is not quite done. Cleaning the grill after you have eaten makes it easier to prolong the life of your grill and ensure the foods you eat are safe to consume.

  • Turn the grill off. Unless you own a charcoal grill, chances are your grill has dials that govern how hot the grill gets when cooking. Make sure these dials are turned to the off position before you start cleaning. If your’s is a gas grill, disconnect the gas while wearing gloves to reduce your risk of accident or injury.
  • Use the residual heat to make cleaning easier. The sooner you start cleaning the grill after you cook, the easier it might be to make the cooking surfaces sparkle. That’s because the residual heat can make it easier to remove any leftover buildup from barbecue sauce or seasoning that stuck to the grill after you removed yourfood.
  • Use a wire brush to clean the cooking grates. Wire brushes are ideal for cleaning cooking grates. Such brushes can quickly remove grease and foodparticles, saving grill owners the trouble of scrubbing away with traditional sponges. Once the wire brush’s work is done, you can then clean the grill with a soapy sponge.
  • Removefoodthat fell into the well. Food inevitably falls into the well of a grill no matter how skilled a grillmaster might be. If left to fester in the well, such foods can pose a safety risk and promote the growth of bacteria.
  • Clean the remaining areas of the grill. Marinade, sauce or condiments may find their way onto areas of your grill, and if left unattended, such substances can make a grill very dirty over time. Remove these substances after each barbecue to keep your grill looking new through the summer.

I will let you know how many ‘discussions’ we have when we clean our grill next.


How to Plan the Perfect Picnic?

Food Talks Blog | Sponsored by The Women's JournalHow to Plan a Perfect Picnic!  Submitted by The Medina County Health Department

PerfectPicnicNo ants, no bees, no food poisoning!  What better way to celebrate a beautiful summer day than with a picnic outside at the park, at the beach, or even in your own backyard.  Here are some tips to keep your picnic perfectly safe:

Plan ahead so you don’t forget essential items such as a food thermometer, cooler chest with ice, plenty of clean utensils, storage containers for leftovers, hand soap, paper towels, and trash bags.  Find out ahead of time if you’ll have running water, grills, picnic tables, and trash receptacles at the site.

If clean water will not be available, be sure to bring plenty of water for drinking, handwashing, and dishwashing.  Avoid drinking and using water from ponds, lakes, and streams.

Pack dish detergent to wash dishes or bring disposable utensils, plates, bowls, and cups.

In preparation for your picnic, don’t thaw meat on the counter overnight—that’s not safe.  Thaw food in the refrigerator or cook from the frozen state.  Cooking frozen meat or poultry will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.  Don’t partially cook meat and poultry ahead of time.  That can be risky.  It’s safest to cook meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature at the picnic.

For a worry-free picnic, place perishable foods, such as hot dogs, burgers, poultry, deviled eggs, and macaroni or potato salads in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs.  They need to be kept cold at 41ºF or below. Also store raw meats separately to keep juices from dripping on other foods.

When you arrive at the picnic site, the first task is to wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food.  If running water is not available, use disposable wet wipes. Apply hand sanitizer to clean hands before touching food and after touching raw meat as well as after changing diapers, using the restroom, or handling pets.

Don’t leave foods out in the sun. Keep the cooler in the shade.  Serve food quickly from the cooler and return it fast.  In hot weather, above 90ºF, food shouldn’t sit out of the cooler over an hour. Since beverage coolers tend to be opened frequently, store them in a separate cooler.

Cook meat and poultry to a safe temperature as measured with a food thermometer.  Just because a hamburger looks done on the outside doesn’t mean it is done on the inside.  Use your food thermometer to be sure! Insert the thermometer in the thickest area of food. Fish, steaks, and pork should be cooked to 145ºF; ground meats (hamburgers) to 155ºF; and poultry and stuffed foods to 165ºF.

Insulated containers and foil should be used to transport hot foods from home. Check in advance if electrical outlets are available for keeping foods hot in roasters and crock pots.

Serve food items  from the grill on a clean platter.  Don’t use the same plate and utensils for cooked food that were used for the raw food.  Use a clean plate and utensil set for cooked food.

Don’t forget to unpack that cooler as soon as you return home.  Refrigerate leftover meats and salads which have stayed cold; discard if they can’t be refrigerated or stored in ice within an hour of serving .

For more information about food safety, contact the Medina County Health Department at 330-723-9688, option 3.  www.medinahealth.org

Veggie garden tips for beginners!

Food Talks Blog | Sponsored by The Women's Journal

Veggie garden tips for beginners!

PalletteHerbPlanting a vegetable garden can be a worthwhile endeavor for anyone who has an available patch of land. Gardens don’t need much space, and even apartment and condo dwellers without yards can plant small gardens in containers they place on patio’s or window boxes.



Although establishing a garden is easy enough, beginners may make a few mistakes along the way. Those who already have paved the garden way before can offer novice gardeners some worthwhile tips.

One of the first decisions novice gardeners must make is which crops to grow. This will help determine how much land you will need and which supplies or soil amendments will be necessary. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a common error for beginners is planting too much and more than anyone could ever consume, so it’s best to start small and be proud of that small garden.

Plants such as peppers, squash and tomatoes produce throughout the season, so you may not need many plants to provide for your needs. Less prolific plants may require a greater investment to produce a similar yield.

Locate your garden in an area that gets adequate sun. Many vegetables need between six and eight hours of sunlight per day. Without enough light, they will not bear as much and could be susceptible to insect infestation. Vegetables and fruit also need plenty of water because they’re not very drought-tolerant, so keep gardens close to a water source.

Another good tip is to locate the garden near the house or barbecue grill. This way you can easily harvest fresh produce and use it when cooking.

Soil preparation is also key. Till the soil and remove debris like rocks, sticks and hard clumps of dirt. Work with organic material, such as manure or compost. Apply mulch after planting to help maintain moisture levels in the soil.

Plant the tallest crops at the rear of your garden bed. Work forward with shorter crops. Try to leave a foot or more between planting rows for cultivating.

It’s easy to get a garden started and enjoy fresh food for many months to come.


How do you know you’re Irish?

Food Talks Blog | Sponsored by The Women's Journal

How do you know you’re Irish?

. . .During your youth much of your food was boiled in like potatoes

. . .Your mother’s maiden name was Marshall

. . .Her grandfather’s name was Meyers

. . .By age five you could repeat the history of the Irish Potato Famine

And your first grandchild was born on St. Patrick’s Day and she will be fourteen on Tuesday. 

Many of dishes prepared by my grandmother featured potatoes; Shepard’s Pie, Colcannon, Boxty and Donegal Pie all made with mashed potatoes.

The dish that has stood the test of time and tradition in our family is the Donegal Pie.  At Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other family celebration my Donegal Pie is on the must have list.


Donegal Pie I use to make Donegal Pie (center picture) from scratch; pie dough made with lard, homemade mashed potatoes and diced fried bacon.  Nothing low cal about my Nana’s Donegal Pie.

 Ingredients: two pie crusts, 24 oz. of mashed potatoes, 3-4 hard-boiled eggs, 3/4 lb. of bacon, one stick of butter.

Instructions:  Now with all the conveniences of store bought pie crusts, mashed potatoes and cooked ready to use bacon the making of a Donegal Pie is easy! Truly, it’s so easy.  Line a 9” pie pan with  pie crust, a layer of mashed potatoes.(your favorite store bought mashed potatoes or leftover work just fine), 3-4 grated hard-boiled eggs, a layer of diced cooked bacon(so you can’t see the egg or potatoes.  Melt a stick of butter and pour over the ingredients.  Top with a second pie crust and crimp the edges.  Four or five fork pricks on top.  

Use a cream or egg wash if you feel so inclined. Bake at around 350 degrees until golden brown for around 45 minutes. I know you will want to cut into the pie immediately but it needs to rest for 5-8 minutes.  

Potato history: Potatoes are one the world’s most popular foods. Agriculturists in 17th century Europe found potatoes were easier to grow and sustain than many other crops and, when coupled with their nutritional value, potatoes gained popularity, particularly among the working class in Ireland.

Potatoes may be indelibly linked to Irish culture because of the widespread potato famine in the 19th Century that forced many people to emigrate from Ireland. But there is more to the modest potato than many people may know.

Potatoes are an important addition to any diet, as they are a starchy root food that contains plenty of carbohydrates, which makes them closer to grains than other vegetables. Potatoes were first cultivated by the Incas in Peru around 8,000 B.C. The word “potato” comes from the Spanish patata. When Spanish conquistadors traveled to Peru, they discovered potatoes and brought them back to Europe.

Potatoes did not reach North America until 1621, when the governor of Bermuda included potatoes in a care package sent to Governor Wyatt of Virginia in Jamestown. By the 1700s, permanent potato patches had been established.

Miscellaneous facts about potatoes: While there are thousands of varieties of potatoes, most of them are not commercially produced. Potatoes have been served hot, cold, sliced, pickled, and even as a dessert. Benjamin Franklin once attended a banquet where the food was nothing but potatoes served in 20 different ways.

Potato chips and French fries are favorite snack foods. Thomas Jefferson is credited for introducing Americans to French fries. The popularity of fries has skyrocketed, and millions are consumed each and every year.

Some believe that potatoes are an aphrodisiac, while others feel they have medicinal properties, including curing warts. The Incas used to place slices of potatoes on broken bones to promote healing. Some people believe you can ease a sore throat and alleviate aches and pains with potatoes.

Potatoes have been enjoyed for thousands of years and provide a wealth of nutrition. While potatoes may be most associated with the Irish, these beloved starchy plants are truly a worldwide favorite whether mashed, fried, or baked.

What happens to children when mom or dad goes to prison?

Collateral DamageCollateral Damage

Children whose parents have been imprisoned may suffer emotional, social ,economic and poor outcomes in school. These are all recipes for diminishing the potential of our children for their lifetime.  Please take the time to attend this community conversation and find out what you can do to help children in need.

Our children need our help!

Let’s Resurrect the Family Meal

Let’s Resurrect the Family Meal

By Medina County Health Department Registered Dietitian

Family MealMany of us remember the days when our parents sent us out of the house to play and didn’t expect us back until the next meal. “Dinner at 6:00 and don’t be late!” Families of today tend to look very different than those of the past. After-school activities, late work days, long commutes – it’s no wonder few families eat dinner together.

Family meals are much more than just having something to eat; they are an opportunity to teach, enjoy, and bond with each other.

Sharing a meal is one way to build family unity. It gives children a sense of belonging and helps them feel safe and secure in a busy, and often confusing, world. Family meals offer the chance to teach social skills, manners, and even basic cooking skills that will last a lifetime.  Evidence indicates that children have better report cards and teens are less likely to become depressed, abuse drugs and alcohol, smoke, develop eating disorders and get pregnant when they participate in regular family meals.

Family meals offer an opportunity to model healthy eating habits and reduce a child’s risk for obesity. Children who have more family meals eat more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and milk. They also eat less fried foods and drink less soda.

The family meal doesn’t have to be fancy, complicated or at the same time every day. The importance is to find a time to come together with the people you care about to eat, laugh, discuss and share. Turn off the television, silence the cell phones; connect with your family.

Tips to make your family meal a success:

  • Involve your children in meal planning and preparation. It teaches them valuable life skills and increases the chance that they will eat the meal.
  • Choose a meal that fits into your schedule. Family mealtimes do not have to be a dinner.
  • Start small. Choose one or two times a week to set aside for a family meal. Build up as your schedule allows.
  • When cooking a meal, double up and freeze half for another busy day.
  • Parents should decide what time the meal is served and what food choices will be available. Children decide which foods they eat and how much. Make the meal stress free.
  • Keep the conversation light. Avoid conflict and discipline during meal times.
  • Keep your meals distraction free. Turn off the television, silence the cell phones and put other electronic devices away.

The Medina County Health Department offers many programs and services that can help you plan and learn more about healthy eating. For more information, log onto www.medinahealth.org or contact us at 330-723-9688 or toll-free at 1-888-723-9688.

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