The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die annually from foodborne illnesses. While some of these instances cannot be avoided, a large number of them are preventable. And summer is the perfect time to create awareness, as it is known as the “season of food poisoning.” The rising temperatures in the American summer create certain food safety risks – bacteria multiply faster in warmer temperatures and preparing food outdoors (or going back and forth between the indoors and out) makes safe food handling more difficult. The CDC has four basic tips for safely preparing, serving, and storing foods:
Wash your hands and work surfaces before, during, and after preparing food. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, cutting boards, and countertops.
Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cutting boards and keep raw meat away from other foods in your shopping cart and refrigerator.
Cook food to the right internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer.
Keep your refrigerator 40°F or below. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking (or within 1 hour if food is exposed to a temperature above 90°F, like in a hot car).
For additional information and detail, check out Food Safety.
So, what can you bring to a get-together if you are unsure of the setup, access to electricity, cooling/heating, etc? Salads provide a great opportunity to bring flavor, nutrients, AND a peace of mind! But not all salads are created equally for food safety. There are many Picnic Perfect Summer Salad recipes available online, but here are the basics – skip the mayonnaise and dairy-based ingredients and dressings! Think color, various textures, and fresh ingredients like this Black Bean and Avocado Salad by KitchenStewardship. Its short prep time, list of common ingredients, and healthy and filling balance of carbs, fats, and protein make this salad a great go-to for your summer get-together!
Black Bean and Avocado Salad
Yields: 6 servings
- 1 can or 2 c. cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 large or 2 small avocados, cubed
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded, diced finely
- 1–2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 c. frozen corn, optional
- fresh cilantro to taste, chopped (about 2 Tbs. is good)
- 2–3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1–2 Tbs. lime juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Optional: diced fresh tomatoes
- Mix everything together and give the salad about an hour at room temp or in the fridge for the flavors to meld together. Because the avocado will brown quickly, make the dish the day you serve it (or at least add the avocado at the last minute).
- Serve as a salad to be eaten with a fork or as a relish/dip to be eaten on corn chips or crackers. Makes a great cold topping option for gourmet tacos or quesadillas as well.
- Store cold for up to three days, but remember that how fresh your avocado was when you made the dish will make a huge impact on its longevity.