Food and Spirits

Food Safety Tips for Summer Cookouts and Picnics

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Summer-CookoutCookouts and picnics are frequent and honored traditions of summer, a time for family and friends to gather, socialize and have fun. But summer outings can be ruined if safe food handling and preparation techniques aren't observed. Hot summer temperatures can help food-borne bacteria multiply at a rapid pace, spoiling food and causing illness. Outbreaks of food poisoning that caused illness and death in other parts of the country underscore the importance of proper food handling.

When left unrefrigerated, many foods can become contaminated with bacteria that produce the dangerous toxins that cause food poisoning. These bacteria are undetectable by sight, smell or taste and thrive on foods that are left out for very long, especially at warmer, summer temperatures.

Food-borne illness symptoms are much like those of the flu, which include headache, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever. These signs may not appear until several hours to several days after eating a contaminated food. Food poisoning can be especially harmful for children, older adults, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses.

Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs should never be eaten raw. These foods should be maintained in a refrigerator at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and cooked thoroughly before eating. A cooking temperature of 160 degrees is advised. When cooking, use a meat thermometer or follow these tips:

Cook it until the meat is white, and don't eat it if you see blood or pink meat.

Cook it until there are no traces of pink in the center, or blood in the juices.

Can be safely cooked medium; that's because harmful bacteria in beef are found on the surface of the steak, not in the interior like in ground meats.

Cook until it flakes easily and is no longer translucent in the center.

Cook eggs and egg dishes thoroughly. Don't even sample anything containing raw eggs such as uncooked dough and cake batter.

Other Tips For Safe Food Handling, Preparation And Storage

Keep foods cold, below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or hot, above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Foods left out between those temperatures for more than two hours should be discarded.

Keep cooked foods separate from raw foods. Cross-contamination of foods could occur if bacteria-harboring raw food comes in contact with cooked foods. Wash hands, utensils, cutting boards and counter-tops after preparing or handling raw meats.

Avoid interrupted cooking. If you are partially cooking foods indoors to finish cooking on the grill, make sure the food goes directly from the oven to the hot grill. Don't let the food stand partially cooked for any period of time.

Store leftovers in separate containers and refrigerate.


U-Pick Blueberry Fields are Open

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Blueberries2Blueberries are in season here in central and north Florida.  The season usually runs from May 1 till mid July.  These luscious blue gems, draped on emerald green bushes, are not only delicious, but are healthy for you as well.  They are loaded with antioxidants, potassium, and fiber; and what a treat to eat!  Great in smoothies, muffins, pancakes and pies; Oh the possibilities!  Always available in stores but, for the freshest sweetest fruit why not a trip to the local farmers market or U-pick farm.
In the Clermont area, Mark’s U-pick Blueberries welcomes the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays 8:00 am to 2:00 pm.  A recent visit there revealed mix of seniors, young adults, and families.  Old memories relived and new memories made, tasting and picking berries in the sunshine right off the bush.
Sunscreen and hats are recommended, as are closed toe shoes; after all it is a farm field.  It’s recommended that you call ahead for information regarding crop availability and hours.  Most farms provide picking and carry-home containers.
U-Pick Farms in Central Florida:
Mark's U-pick Blueberries
18900 County Rd. 561
Clermont, FL  34715

Bennett’s Produce
8684 County Road 209
Wildwood, FL 34785

Center Hill Berry Patch
8142 CR 702
Center Hill, FL 33514

Misty Meadows Blueberry Farm
8801 East Greys Lane
Inverness, FL 34453


Basic Cake Decorating Class - Clermont, Fl

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Clermont, Fl – Kim Holt of Let’s Go Dutch Café is offering a 4 week Basic Cake Decorating class to anyone who is interested.  Classes will be from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm and begin either April 6th or 7th.  Classes will be held at the Michaels in Clermont off of Hwy 27

Pre-registration is required and four people must sign up in order to hold the class.  The cost is $22.50 for the 4 weeks.  For more information or to pre-register contact Kim by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Check out some of Kim’s previous cakes by clicking here.


Empty Bowls Dinner - Groveland, Fl

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Groveland, Fl - The charity project “Empty Bowls” began in South Lake County 12 years ago. It is a project that brings elementary, middle, and high school students together with the local community. It makes children aware of those in need right in our own area. South Lake High School writes a grant each year to the state to fund enough clay and glazes for all willing schools in the south end of the county.

We coordinate 2 days that the high school art students can come to East Ridge Middle School and help our student artists make clay bowls. The bowls are then fired, glazed and fired again for the “Empty Bowl” dinner where parents, students, teachers and friends can come and donate $5.00 for a handmade bowl, dinner, and entertainment. All proceeds benefit charities in our own community. Each year we raise about $5000.00. Please come and enjoy dinner, pick a beautiful bowl, and watch live entertainment.
The Empty Bowl Dinner will be held on Thursday, March 25th at South Lake High School from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. If you are unable to attend the dinner, you can still participate by stopping by the Art Room and picking out a bowl.

For more information contact Christina Nichols at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Hot Blues, Cool Reds

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2 tbs     butter, melted
1 tsp     salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon     pepper
2 tablespoons     all-purpose flour
12     medium fried soft-shell blue crabs
1     14-1/2 ounce can stewed tomatoes
      fresh parsley, chopped
In a medium sauce pan, saute onion in melted butter or margarine over low heat 2 to 3 minutes. Stir flour into onion mixture until blended. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Arrange fried crabs on a platter. Pour tomatoes over crabs and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

6 servings.

Make tomato sauce first so crabs can be served immediately after frying.

This article was submitted Courtesy of Florida Agriculture Department.

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