CHILD PROOFING THE KITCHEN

I have had the privilege of becoming a parent. As a single parent I knowing how hard it can be to keep an eye on them, and learning when to intervene and when not to is a learning process I hope all us parents try to learn. After all, I feel it is our job to teach these wonderful little size people to grow into amazing independent and self reliant adults. But, they are fast when they are so close to the ground, and they see things we just did not.

Armed with curiosity these little individuals explore worlds fulled with excitement. Become rock stars with my pots and pans, world class chefs of the famous mud pie with my spoons and forks, or creative architects building towers with our dishes, chairs, and table cloths. The one thing that I do not want is for them to become experimental chemists with my cleaning products, or knife throwers or little surgeons. So, to help them explore the worlds of their imagination safely, lets put things in a proper place to try to keep them safe.

Now I know that there is not a  100% way to keep them 100% safe. In all honesty, I wouldn’t want to either. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to hurt them, nor am I wishing they get hurt. I am not Dobby from Harry Potter, who does not want to kill anyone, only maim or seriously injure. But that is how we learn and grow, by experiencing life in all its good, bad and ugly. I only want to keep them safe from things that will permanently damage or kill them. I want my children and grandchildren to live life and learn. To do that they will need to experience a black eye from the baseball that they forgot to catch. Or maybe they fell off their bike and scraped their knees and hands. (But they wore their helmet so they are safe). Learn conflict resolution through arguments and learning to communicate better next time.  The kitchen is a hot spot for danger, so to keep them alive and well I want to share some possible ideas that can help.

CHILD PROOFING THE KITCHEN!

Step One: Walk in a child’s shoes.

Rule of thumb is look at the kitchen through the eyes of a child. Really. I’m serious, get down on your hands and knees and crawl around the kitchen. Open your mind and try to think like a little individual. What can I do in this cupboard? Can I climb that to see what’s up there? Ask yourself questions that are what a curious person might ask seeing things for the first time. Look for things like cleaners, chemicals, sharp tools, soap, bleach, food, the garbage can. What do you see that could cause the child to choke, to cut or poison themselves? There are many horror stories of children drinking cleaners and soaps – this can painfully kill anyone and if survived they are left permanently damaged.

You will soon discover that when children reach for an item on the counter or stove they are just trying to see what you see so high above them. It is all very innocent and they are only trying to emulate you. They want so much to learn and see what you see, do what you do that they don’t always stop and consider getting a stool to look instead of grabbing.

Step Two: Put things in its place

  • Supervision is the best – if you can’t keep an eye on your precious little one while you’re busy cooking (as most of us can’t) then it is a great idea to find another spot for them. Like in a playpen out of the kitchen but still within eye shot
  • Install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen (and while you’re at it, on each floor of the house). I suggest purchasing an all-purpose fire extinguisher that can be used on electrical and grease fires. Make sure you know how to use it, but only attempt to extinguish a fire if it’s small and contained. Otherwise, get your children out of the house and call the fire department from a neighbor’s home. More help with ideas on fire please go to your local fire department. They have always been helpful and happy to talk to me.
  • Put a child proof lid on your trash can.Our lid had roll down clips on either side and then I also put it outside on the back step. Dispose of anything else that’s dangerous such as a sharp metal can lid or broken glass, immediately taking it out to the large city trash can if you have one.
  • Keep recyclable cans and bottles in bins or bags stored out of your child’s reach or outside. I once lived in an apartment where the only outside I had was the balcony. I put the trash and recyclables out there and locked the door as always.
  • Remove all cleaners, chemicals, soaps, gardening herbicides and chemical from the bottom cupboards where a child will easily reach.Many people put it in the cupboard under the sink. Keep detergents, pesticides, cleaning products, and any other toxic household chemicals, even dish soap items to high places, also put a child lock on it. I would put my cleaning stuff in the cupboard above the fridge and locked it. For places that don’t have that cupboard put the cleaners in a different cupboard above the counter out of reach of the child. I still do this as a habit, never know when grandchildren will come around.
  • Gardening and mechanical stuff put outside or in a tool box in the garage. I have a lockable tool box that I put other cleaners and chemicals in and have a key lock on it.
  • Use baby locks and baby latches on cupboard you do not want child in. These do not always keep these curious little ones out, they are cleaver and some learn/figure out how to unlatch them quickly. So putting things up and away is best. Out of sight out of mind! But these latches are helpful.
  • Consider switching from hazardous chemicals, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia glass cleaner, to safer products, such as non-chlorine bleach, vinegar, borax, beeswax, mineral oil, and compressed-air drain openers.
  • Don’t forget those bags that could cause suffocation, plastic bags and cling wrap can suffocate a child. Use a cupboard in the garage to store those, or try to put them in a drawer with a latch on it. I would put all my grocery bags and garbage bags in a garbage can and put it outside with the garbage and recycle bins.
  •  I have noticed many parents telling their children that vitamins are like candy, they are good for you. This gives the wrong message, in a child’s mind it is OK to have so they go get more when they feel like having a treat.Vitamins and other medications, should have child-resistant caps, and keep everything in its original container. Never transfer a hazardous product into a generic container or, worse yet, into a food container because that could lead to a dangerous mix-up. These should also be stored safely in a child proof latch cupboard.
  • Store knives and other sharp tools, such as food-processor blades, in latched drawers or high cabinets. Peelers, graters, and other kitchen utensils can be sharp and should be treated just like knives. I put these with the cleaners or plastic bags depending which has more room in them. I never have a counter knife holder, its just too easy for a child to climb a chair and grab a knife.
  • When using knives keep them away from the edge of the counter so child cannot reach it.
  • Don’t forget glass can hurt also – glassware and china should be stored up high
  • Move the toaster, coffeemaker, and all other electrical appliances out of your child’s reach. Unplug them and hide the cords when they’re not in use. I make sure they are pushed as far back to the wall on the counter as they can go.
  • Choking is very common as children taste everything to learn what it is. Don’t put grapes, hot dogs, balloons, coins, or other choking hazards on low surfaces.
  • Burns happen so fast so please never leave glassware, knives, or hot food and beverages unattended on counters or tables, not even for a few moments. turn the handle on the pots towards the counter not sticking out from the stove. Don’t walk away from the cooking. If you must leave the cooking put everything off, push everything to the back of the counter and make sure the infant / child leaves the kitchen with you. Don’t use place-mats or tablecloths because a child can pull them and what’s on top of the cloth– down on themselves. Remembering they can’t see what is up there.

Step Three: Leave a bit of fun.

In the bottom cupboards I left one for metal pots and pans. My child was a regular rock star, playing me the clash music with excitement,this is great for the child’s development. Something as simple as banging pots and pans and make all types of noise helps to develop a little mind and creativity. I would also use the other cupboard for metal baking pans such as muffin tins, cookie trays, cutting boards. Large unbreakable items that they can touch and you have no fear of them seriously hurting themselves. If you have many bottom cupboards please make sure nothing dangerous is in them (as listed above) and have child locks on the ones you don’t want the child to get into.

Actually none of my bottom cupboards had locks on them. I always had items in them that were not breakable or dangerous. I had one cupboard with the breakfast cereals and baby cookies. One had the towels and table cloths and wash cloths in, two were designated for the baking dishes and pots and pans and lids. The last on was the Tupperware cupboard.

Please consider leaving at least one cupboard free for baby to investigate and play in. My child loved playing hide and seek in the pots n pans cupboard. Pick a cupboard that is not too close to the stove and fill it with safe but interesting objects. Think plastic storage containers, metal pots n pans, metal pie plates, empty clean yogurt or cottage cheese containers. Large wooden spoons they can use as drum sticks.

Sometimes I would take all those items out of the child cupboards and put in pillows just to give the child a surprise. After a couple of days, I would replace the pots n pans and stuff. Sometimes I would change the order of the cupboards, my little angel would get confused and even spend time putting things back in the original cupboard. This is a great development skill to change things up from time to time. Changing things up with safe items can bring a huge amount of delight to your child as this is their entire world – low to the ground adventures that are safe.

Step Four: Extra Ideas

  • When cooking use the back burners and always turn handles back towards the wall – away from where child could grab.
  • You can purchase latches for doors to the oven, microwave, and refrigerator, and also knob covers for all stove knobs so your child can’t turn on the burners. If you have a gas stove, you may be able to easily remove the dials when you’re not cooking.
  • Close your dishwasher when not in use. Dishwasher detergent can be toxic if your child eats it, so don’t put any into the dishwasher until you’re ready to run it.
  • Use the straps when your baby’s in his highchair, and never leave him unattended.
  • When carrying a hot beverage in one hand, don’t attempt to hold your baby with the other. (And make sure you know where your baby is when you’re carrying something hot so that you don’t trip over them.)
  • Consider equipping your kitchen faucet with an anti-scalding device or setting your water heater to 120 degrees or lower. This is also a good idea for the bathroom.

As always supervision is the best, play with you little angels often and show them what you are doing so they don’t have to reach. I would let my little one stand on a chair that was next to the counter but pulled away from the stove, (but not so ridiculously away that they were in another zip code, just enough they couldn’t stretch out an arm and burn themselves.) then we would “cook together”. I would put some ingredients beside where she would be standing and ask her to pass me the ingredients as we cooked. These wonderful individuals love to help and love to feel helpful and needed. So have fun, be creative in how to involve them in your tasks, and be safe. I wish you many happy cooking memories together.

Tina Curtis

Picture of kitchen if from The 36th Avenue

Goat Feta Tossed Salad

This is one of my many favourite salads. I will eat this for a meal and be satisfied for hours. I love the sweetness of the dressing and the saltiness of the goat feta cheese.

I must admit, goat feta cheese is a weakness of mine. I don’t much like the cow feta, but get me some goat feta and I’m hooked.  I think it is mostly the texture of the cow feta that turns me off. There is a different flavour, slight as it may be, but just enough to notice.  Sometimes I have to really hunt in my grocery store to find a brand that is made from goat, but well worth the hunt. I hunt for the style that is in brine, I find the feta that is sealed in a bag or tub without the liquid is far too dry and brittle. It lacks the creaminess and saltiness I like. So I usually purchase a larger tub as that is usually the only size I can find that has the brine. I’m not worries as it can be used in my rice casserole and lentil dish.

I love the salad dressing, oil based but not oily. The secret is the honey, when you mix an acid and an oil you need something to hold the two together or you get that very distinct oil taste. I was not going for the oily flavour here, so just add a  bit of warmed honey and whisk the dressing up. It is creamy looking but it is actually sweet. I use it on almost all my salads. Of course the type of oil I use makes a difference. I use Organic Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I have tried many different oils to find the right mix and Olive Oil won hands down.

A bit about the lettuce, I prefer the taste of Romaine for this salad but Iceberg works great as well. You can use any lettuce that is your favourite. I used Iceberg in the picture. Once you have washed the lettuce  I like to cut it into thin shreds, (about 1/2 inch) and then chopped into small bite size pieces. I love the texture and flavours it gives. I don’t personally like large chunks of lettuce stuffed in my mouth. With the shredded and chopped style cut I get more flavour in every bite.

I chop all my ingredients small so I can have many tastes at once. When growing up my mother made salads with large cut pieces of tomato, carrots, lettuce leaves and so on. I did not eat much salad because the chunks were so large I fought with my food to fit it in my mouth, and when I did get the food in my mouth it was only one item. This is not a pleasurable mix of flavours I felt, so, when I was old enough to cut for myself I chopped it small. I have not once had anyone complain about the small chopped size of my salads. I have had a senior citizen crowd comment how small chopped the salad was, but once they tried it, there was never a complaint.

For me salad is all about textures, I love the crunch, the creaminess of the dressing or the feta and the juiciness of the tomatoes or other fruit choices. The hardiness of the leafy green is the most important as it must not get soggy and it must stand up for itself against all the other flavours, but never be over powering.

cropped-cropped-feta-salad-food-blog-013-copy11.jpg

Goat Feta Tossed Salad

Prep Time: approx. 15 min.  /  Difficulty: Beginner / Portions: varies on size desired

Sweet and salty tossed salad, great for a meal not just a side dish.

Ingredients

1/2 small size head of iceberg lettuce or 1 small – medium size head romaine lettuce

2 roma tomatoes or 2 vine ripened tomatoes

1 stick of celery

1/2 cup snap peas

1/2 cup shredded carrots or diced if preferred

1/2 to 1 cup diced English cucumber or field cucumber

1 Tbsp hemp seeds (optional)

1/4 – 1/2 cup diced goat feta cheese

Directions

Wash and chop all ingredients, put into large bowl and mix together ingredients. Pour the dressing on individually or on it all if serving immediately and toss together.

FOOD SAFETY

The safety in the kitchen is just as important as a construction site or even a firefighter so please take kitchen safety seriously.

In this article:

  • Types of food poisoning
  • How is food/drink contaminated
  • How to boil water during a boil water warning
  • Who can get sick?
  • Symptoms
  • Proper food handling to prevent food poisoning or contamination.

Personal hygiene is a big cause of food poising. Just washing your hands after using the toilet/bathroom and regularly during food preparation can stop people from getting sick. It is that simple – wash your hands!

Most food poisoning can be traced back to one of the following:

Bacteria – Is the most prevalent cause of food poisoning! Bacteria like

  • Campylobacter from mostly undercooked poultry and burgers and shellfish.
  • Listeria from Cheeses, especially soft ripe cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, poultry, meat, pate and salads
    salmonella from Raw eggs, raw meat and poultry
  • E-coli from Raw and undercooked meats, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, unpasteurized apple juice and raw vegetables.
  • botulinum (botulism) grows on food and produces toxins that, when ingested, cause paralysis. From foods that are not canned properly. Swollen cans, cans with dents or small holes carry this bacteria.
  • Cholera from when someone ingests food or water contaminated with the feces or vomit of someone carrying the disease.
  • Ciguatera (Fish Poisoning) if from eating fish that is contaminated by ciguatera toxin. Ciguatera toxin is a heat-stable lipid soluble compound. Meaning cooking the fish will not kill it. Found in tropical fish like grouper. Causes neurological damage, usually fatal.
  • Staphylococcus from the picnic or bar-B-Q. This staph grows with the comfortable room temperature foods like mayo in that potato salad. This is why you should put food out of the heat into the cold and cold to hot quickly so staph has no time to grow. Reheating the food will not kill this bacteria once it has taken hold. Symptoms are explosive. Good news is once it’s out of your body it is out and you can go on with your day. Can be worse for weaker individual that are higher risk.
  • Shigellosis – attacks the large intestine rather than the small. This infection bacteria comes from – human waste – feces. So wash your hands.
  • Potentially lethal bacteria that can lurk in our food. Salmonella is by far the most dangerous – according to the CDC 1 million cases of food poisoning was caused by salmonella, 20 thousand were hospitalized. All these dangerous poisons are very preventable by proper food handling and washing your hands after using the toilet, washing your hands after using raw meats and washing your work area regularly especially after using raw meats.

Parasites – Though not as common as bacteria but still very dangerous. Toxoplasma is the most often seen parasite in cases of food poisoning. It’s typically found in cat litter boxes. Parasites can live in your digestive tract undetected for years. However, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women risk serious side effects if parasites take up residence in their intestines.

Viruses — The Norovirus, also known as the Norwalk virus, causes over 19 million cases of food poisoning each year, it can be fatal. Sapovirus, Rotavirus, and Astrovirus bring on similar symptoms, but they’re less common. Hepatitis A virus is a serious condition that can be transmitted through food.

So how does food become contaminated with these bacteria, parasites, and viruses?

Most contaminants can be found in all the human food or drink before we get drink it home. Some comes from not washing your hands after using the toilet like the E-coli from our feces. Meat, eggs, and dairy products are frequently contaminated. Water may also be contaminated with organisms – so when there is a boil water warning this is why. The water is possibly contaminated.

Cooking your food can kill a great deal of these pathogens before it gets to your plate – eating raw meats and raw eggs are common ways to get sick. However, there are some parasites that cannot be killed by the temperature either frozen or the heat that we cook at – these resistant to heat parasites are found in pork and fish particularly.

Boil water warning and how to do it:

During a boil water warning you should boil your water at a steady hard boil for at least 1 minute after the water has reached the hard boil point start the timing – not when you put the water on the heat! This is the recommended guideline. I have lived in the mountains and in high river water I make sure I boil the water for at least 5 minutes. To some that is a bit much but I have been sick from it and do not ever want to experience that again, so I am a bit extra careful.

Who can get sick?

Anyone! It is not just the young or elderly – everyone who eats is at risk. Drinking is also a form of eating so pureeing your food will not save you either.  The most vulnerable are the Elderly, children, if you are pregnant, and those with suppressed immune systems.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can vary depending on the source of the infection. Symptoms can start anywhere from one hour to 10 days after ingesting infected food items. This makes it hard sometimes to track where you got sick from.

Symptoms are:

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • mild fever
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • fatigue

Life-threatening symptoms are:

  • diarrhea persisting for more than three days
  • a fever higher than 101.5°F
  • difficulty seeing or speaking
  • symptoms of severe dehydration, which may include dry mouth, passing little to no urine, and difficulty keeping fluids down
  • dizziness, double vision, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, muscle weakness, paralysis.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately

How to prevent Food Poisoning and contamination!

By following these steps, you are able to take the necessary precautions to keep you and your family safe.

  1. Personal hygiene – always wash your hands after using the toilet. Wash your hands after touching raw meats and clean the work area that raw meats may possibly have touched or juices dripped on. Never put cooked meats back on the plate that was used to hold the raw meats.  When washing hands or work area always use soap, never just a rinse.
  2. Cook food fully – be sure to cook food to its full suggested temperatures. Ground meat patties should be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Don’t just think that the colour says it’s done use a thermometer. Poultry and meats the juice must run clear – no blood.  Meats eaten raw or under cooked can cause food poisoning such as in sushi and other fish products served raw. Deli meats and hot dogs that are not heated or cooked. Ground beef eaten rare or uncooked. Some dairy products. Raw unwashed vegetable and fruits.
  3. Temperature – Keep hot foods above 140 degrees Fahrenheit and cold foods below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything in between these temperatures is ideal for bacteria growth.
  4. Defrosting – Defrost meat/poultry and fish in fridge or microwave.
  5. Never allow raw meats to come into contact with other food. Do not put the cooked foods on the plate you had raw meats on.
  6. Store foods in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Within 2 hours after being cooked.
  7. Don’t eat raw meats -Don’t eat raw or lightly cooked eggs. Homemade eggnog must be heated and cooked to kill the salmonella. Make homemade mayo without raw eggs.
  8. When in doubt toss it out – discoloured meats, strange smell from a food item or just was in the fridge for some time, just toss it out.
  9. Boil water warnings – be sure to boil water during boil water warnings. During high water times after winter thaw. When hiking and drinking from rivers be sure to take water for fast-moving water to reduce possible contamination. Stagnant water is known to carry contaminants. Boil water when hiking and or camping.
  10. Cooking area and equipment – always sanitize your cooking area as you cook. Sanitize your cutting board with soap and hot water after each use. Sanitize dishcloths with hot soapy water.

Cleaning

  1. Always clean kitchen counters with hot soapy water or commercial kitchen cleaners. Can also use vinegar after soap and water to kill off what the soap did not. Vinegar is a great bacteria killer.
  2. Allow dishes to air dry to eliminate re-contamination from hands or towels. You can even use a 50/50 vinegar/water rinse on your dishes after washing with hot soapy water and let them air dry.
  3. It is best to have separate cutting boards, one for raw meats and one for vegetables and fruits.
  4. Avoid using sponges
  5. Wash reusable grocery bags regularly.

Purchasing Foods

  • buy foods that are cold or frozen at the end of your shopping trip to help keep them cold or frozen before coming home. Purchase an insulated bag to help keep cold and frozen items.
  • Check the best before date on your foods
  • Keep raw meats, poultry, fish, and seafood away from other groceries. Put them in a separate bag – even double bagged is good.
  • Examine fruit and vegetables carefully and avoid buying items that are bruised or damaged
  • If you use reusable grocery bags or bins be sure to label which is for raw meats and use it only for raw meats.

Whew! was that a lot of information. It soon becomes habit and get easier to do as you keep going. Before you know it, your washing your hands all the time and changing over cloths regularly after wiping down surfaces. It is a easy as a piece of cake.

I wish you a safe and healthy cooking experience.

 

Picture by docs.google.com