Thursday, August 27, 2009


Reheating in the Microwave Oven

* Cover foods with a lid or a microwave-safe plastic wrap to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating.
* Heat ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs, luncheon meats, fully cooked ham, and leftovers until steaming hot.
* After reheating foods in the microwave oven, allow standing time. Then, use a clean food thermometer to check that food has reached 165 °F.

Containers and Wraps

* Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven. Glass, ceramic containers, and all plastics should be labeled for microwave oven use.
* Plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time use containers should not be used in microwave ovens. These containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.
* Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving.
* Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave oven.


Researcher Dispels Myth of Dioxins and Plastic Water Bottles
Rolf Halden, PhD, PE

The Internet has been flooded with email warnings to avoid freezing water in plastic bottles so as not to get exposed to carcinogenic dioxins. One hoax email has been erroneously attributed to Johns Hopkins University since the spring of 2004. The Office of Communications and Public Affairs discussed the issue with Rolf Halden, PhD, PE, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and the Center for Water and Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Halden received his masters and doctoral degrees researching dioxin contamination in the environment. We sat down with him to set the record straight on dioxins in the food supply and the risks associated with drinking water from plastic bottles and cooking with plastics.

Office of Communications and Public Affairs: What are dioxins?

Rolf Halden: Dioxins are organic environmental pollutants sometimes referred to as the most toxic compounds made by mankind. They are a group of chemicals, which include 75 different chlorinated molecules of dibenzo-p-dioxin and 135 chlorinated dibenzofurans. Some polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) also are referred to as dioxin-like compounds. Exposure to dioxins can cause chloracne, a severe form of skin disease, as well as reproductive and developmental effects, and more importantly, liver damage and cancer.

OC&PA: Where do dioxins come from?

RH: We always thought dioxins were man-made compounds produced inadvertently during the bleaching of pulp and manufacturing of pesticides like Agent Orange and other chlorinated aromatics. But dioxins in sediments from lakes and oceans predate these human activities. It is now generally accepted that a principal source of dioxins are various combustion processes, including natural events such as wild fires and even volcanic eruptions.

Today, the critical issue is the incineration of waste, particularly the incineration of hospital waste, which contains a great deal of polyvinyl chloride plastics and aromatic compounds that can serve as dioxin precursors. One study examined the burning of household trash in drums in the backyard. It turns out that these small burnings of debris can put out as much or more dioxins as a full-sized incinerator burning hundreds of tons of refuse per day. The incinerators are equipped with state-of-the-art emission controls that limit dioxin formation and their release into the environment, but the backyard trash burning does not. You set it ablaze and chemistry takes over. What happens next is that the dioxins are sent into the atmosphere where they become attached to particles and fall back to earth. Then they bind to, or are taken up, by fish and other animals, where they get concentrated and stored in fat before eventually ending up on our lunch and dinner plates. People are exposed to them mostly from eating meat and fish rich in fat.

OC&PA: What do you make of this recent email warning that claims dioxins can be released by freezing water in plastic bottles?

RH: No. This is an urban legend. There are no dioxins in plastics. In addition, freezing actually works against the release of chemicals. Chemicals do not diffuse as readily in cold temperatures, which would limit chemical release if there were dioxins in plastic, and we don’t think there are.

OC&PA: So it’s okay for people to drink out of plastic water bottles?

RH: First, people should be more concerned about the quality of the water they are drinking rather than the container it’s coming from. Many people do not feel comfortable drinking tap water, so they buy bottled water instead. The truth is that city water is much more highly regulated and monitored for quality. Bottled water is not. It can legally contain many things we would not tolerate in municipal drinking water.

Having said this, there is another group of chemicals, called phthalates that are sometimes added to plastics to make them flexible and less brittle. Phthalates are environmental contaminants that can exhibit hormone-like behavior by acting as endocrine disruptors in humans and animals. If you heat up plastics, you could increase the leaching of phthalates from the containers into water and food.

OC&PA: What about cooking with plastics?

RH: In general, whenever you heat something you increase the likelihood of pulling chemicals out. Chemicals can be released from plastic packaging materials like the kinds used in some microwave meals. Some drinking straws say on the label “not for hot beverages.” Most people think the warning is because someone might be burned. If you put that straw into a boiling cup of hot coffee, you basically have a hot water extraction going on, where the chemicals in the straw are being extracted into your nice cup of coffee. We use the same process in the lab to extract chemicals from materials we want to analyze.

If you are cooking with plastics or using plastic utensils, the best thing to do is to follow the directions and only use plastics that are specifically meant for cooking. Inert containers are best, for example heat-resistant glass, ceramics and good old stainless steel.

OC&PA: Is there anything else you want to add?

RH: Don’t be afraid of drinking water. It is very important to drink adequate amounts of water and, by the way that’s in addition to all the coffee, beer and other diuretics we love to consume. Unless you are drinking really bad water, you are more likely to suffer from the adverse effects of dehydration than from the minuscule amounts of chemical contaminants present in your water supply. Relatively speaking, the risk from exposure to microbial contaminants is much greater than that from chemicals.

And here’s one more uncomfortable fact. Each of us already carries a certain body burden of dioxins regardless of how and what we eat. If you look hard enough, you’ll find traces of dioxins in pretty much every place on earth. Paracelsus the famous medieval alchemist, used to put it straight and simple: it’s the dose that makes the poison.--Tim Parsons

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Lowe at 410-955-6878 or


Review: D'Allesandro's

I hope my next trip, if I make it, is better than the first. In these economic times, I can not make multiple trips hoping a restaurant will be better on the second or third try.

The good news: Allesandro's is very attractive and tastefully decorated with soft, mellow light shades bearing their logo. The waiter was well informed about the menu and very pleasant. The bread was warm. My main dish, Pollo Rosamarino, was tasty.

The rest of the story: No side of pasta served or offered. The olive oil for dipping bread was as bland as tap water with no spicing. My main dish, while tasty, consisted of pounded chicken breasts, with faint sprinkling of chopped rosemary served over riced potatoes said to be mashed.

The portions were small. The mashed potato serving was about a 1/2 to 3/4 cups. There was no color on the plate except a scant sprinkling of rosemary. White meat, on a white plate, with white potatoes. It was the most unimaginative way to serve the dish that I could possibly imagine.

The salad that came with the meal was served without any choice for salad dressing. The dressing served was a mediocre balsamic dressing of no significant merit. Maybe a restaurant of this stature should offer several home-made dressings. We were offered no choices. Balsamic dressing was all that was served.

In such an elegant surrounding, I expect something that is more than border-line bland, poorly presented, and of modest taste. I expect something more than an average salad and, lastly, turn the music down!

I will not be back even though the restaurant has its good points.

The Hungry Mouse: Photos accompanying recipes sparkle

Do check out The Hungry Mouse in my links section. The photography that accompanies each step by step recipe are stellar, as good as it gets. Don't miss this one!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Subscribe to this magazine

I think Eating Well does a service to humankind and I recommend that you subscribe. Read it cover to cover every month and then take action for yourself, your family, and your world.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Pass at Merlion, 3610 SW 13th Street: Lovely Restaurant, Tasteless Lunch....Can I Afford to Give Them a Second Chance?

The decor of the restaurant is superb and the staff is friendly but that is it for high marks. My dish at lunch today, Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken, had the least flavor of any dish I have ever had in a restaurant.

The chunks of pineapple were finger-nail size and hard to find in the rice. The chicken pieces were more like shavings, not enough to taste in the dish. I finally used the dipping sauce served with my spring roll (tasty) to bump up the rice. Without it, there was no flavor. Minute rice tastes better.

Two tiny flowerettes of broccoli and one snow pea pod constituted my vegetable ration accompanied by one small slice of orange as the garnish. I knew the meal was not up to snuff when I thought to myself, "Thank God for the orange slice."

If decor is what you are after, this restaurant is first-rate. If you are looking for good food, do not buy the rice dishes, but try one of the curries and cross your fingers. Personally, I will wait for new ownership.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tips on How to Cook Grass-fed Meat from Slow Food Gainesville

A note from Anna Prizzia of Slow Food Gainesville:

Some of you who were a part of the recent cow pool, and others that
have purchased grass-fed meat in the past have asked me if there are
tricks to cooking this meat to bring out its full character and
flavor...the answer is YES! Grass-fed meat is quite different from
it's grain-fed cousin. It is leaner and denser, and therefore cannot
take the high heats and rough handling that we have learned as
standard for industrial meat. In fact, for a while I thought I could
not eat meat because one alternative was a meat that did not meet my
philosophical beliefs and one would not satisfy my palate. Luckily, I
learned that with a few simple tricks, I could have my steak and eat
it too...

I highly recommend Shannon Hayes books, especially the Farmer and the
Grill. She has studied the art of cooking grass-fed meat and has lots
of great tips and info. Her website is

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is this- for reliably
sourced grass-fed meat, ideal internal temperatures (get a meat
thermometer, its worth it!) are lower than many of the USDA
recommended temperatures for meat....Shannon's recommendations based
on her research are (Fahrenheit):
Beef/Bison- 120-140
Ground meat- 160
Veal- 125-155
Lamb and Goat- 120-145
Pork- 145-160
Chicken (unstuffed)- 165
Turkey (unstuffed)- 165

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Michael Pollan article in today's NY Times mag is a must-read


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