Sprouts, e.coli, and food safety

Yesterday, I read an article from the NPR food blog about an outbreak of illnesses among people who ate sprouts on their sandwiches at Jimmy John’s restaurants. Read the full article here.

This is scary for so many reasons. With more and more people eating out on a daily basis and expecting to purchase safe meat and vegetables at restaurants, it leads me to question whether our food is actually safe enough or if we putting ourselves at risk by eating out.

It’s not as simple as just choosing to forego sprouts on your sandwich. Visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service section of the USDA website and just take a look at the current list of recalls. Already in 2012 there have been 7 recalls. I clicked on the Cobb Salad entry warning of possible Listeria contamination. The description of the disease is enough to knock your socks off and discourage you from eating packaged Cobb Salad ever again:

“Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Healthy people rarely contract listeriosis. However, listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy.”

I wanted to read more about e.coli outbreaks and lucky me, there was a recall on December 16, 2011. 40,948 pounds of ground beef were recalled. That’s a whole lot of ground beef to go to waste. Also, question: when meat is recalled, where does it go?

I don’t think we should just have to deal with these food safety problems. Contaminated meat and vegetables should never even make it to the shelves for consumers to buy. But until the FSIS inspects every food processing plant and shuts down the ones that are pumping out 40,948 pounds of contaminated ground beef, we’ll be buying our meat from sources we can trust and growing our own, non-contaminated vegetables.

Will research how to grow sprouts and post knowledge here.

Easy Calzones – Repurposed Cheese Finds Home

The other day, a kitchen quest to find missing plasticware led me to some leftovers hidden way back in the back of the fridge. With all the composting we’ve been doing lately we’ve rarely had to use our disposal and he was getting hungry. I fed him some sad leftovers and wept a solitary tear that I hadn’t been able to save the eggplant salad or the dill dip. Then I decided I should tackle all the shelves and drawers in the fridge, just for fun.

Lucky for Jordan, there wasn’t any rotting food, just 9 different containers storing bits of different cheeses. I really think cheese is the reason we could never go vegan.

I recently learned that Americans eat about 31 pounds of cheese per year; the majority is probably consumed on pizza and hamburgers while most of ours is lovingly sliced and eagerly consumed via cracker. I just hope our love of cheese doesn’t end up with our bodies looking like the ones on the PCRM billboards (see above link).

These are the cheeses we had in the fridge in varying amounts: Provolone, Mozzarella, Feta, Parmesan, Goat, Cheddar, Trader Joe’s Toscano, Pimento and of course, Cream Cheese. Lucky I had some of those cheeses around, because it’s exactly what I needed to make delicious calzones!

I used the first four cheeses from the list, shredded them, and mixed them up in a bowl. I can’t say it enough: everyone needs to learn how to make bread because bread baking is key to making dinner up on the fly. I used a calzone bread recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, but you could use any pizza dough recipe. Once you mix together the bread ingredients (flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt), beat it up a bit, and let it rise, you just roll out the dough into 5 or 6 circles, add some cheese and sliced garlic, fold, and crimp the edges with a fork. They baked at 450 for about 24 minutes. It’s really that easy, I promise.

I also happened across a small container of leftover marinara sauce from a previous spaghetti dinner and it served very well as a dipping sauce for the calzones. I can’t decide what made me happier: using up the leftovers and not wasting food or biting into the warm and cheesy calzone…yum.