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Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

This June will be the 10th annual observance of National Safety Month, originated by the National Safety Council in an effort to promote public awareness and ultimately decrease the number of injuries and deaths.
Kitchen fires kill hundreds of people and injure thousands every year in this country. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in this country. Whether you are cooking outside on the grill or inside in your kitchen, it is important to pay close attention to what you are doing.
Practice safety when grilling
Disaster can strike without warning no matter if you’re using a charcoal grill or a gas grill. Some key safety tips should always be observed:
1. Be sure someone is attending the grill at all times to ensure the heat source does not get out of control. Keep children and pets away.
2. Always keep your grill clean for maximum effectiveness and to minimize grease buildup, a lethal potential for a fire.
3. If you’re using a gas-fueled grill, make sure the hoses and connections are not leaking when using the grill.
3. Never, ever use your grill inside your house, garage or on or under balcony fixtures.
4. Keep your grill positioned a safe distance from any combustibles or structures to ensure that the fire will be confined to the grill.
5. When using charcoal, only use regular charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going. Never use any other flammable liquids. Once the fire is ignited, do not add any additional starter fluid to the coals, as this will just increase the chance of a fire spreading.
Following these few but extremely important safety tips will allow everyone to have a safe and enjoyable day in the sun.
Cooking safety in the kitchen
Following basic fire-safety tips can help prevent most of kitchen fires:
1. Never leave anything cooking on the stove unattended, especially when you leave home. Turn off stoves and appliances promptly when you’re finished using them. It’s also a good practice to unplug electrical appliances when they are not in use.
2. Keep your appliances clean to avoid any grease build-up from the stove, oven or exhaust fan. Cooking grease and oil ignite easily and burn rapidly.
3. Don’t store cookies or other “treats” near the stove, as it may tempt little children to reach or climb up on the stove.
4. If something catches on fire in your oven, turn the oven off and leave the door closed, preventing additional oxygen from reaching the fire.
5. Don’t overload your electrical outlets, as having too many appliances-like toasters, coffeepots, waffle irons or electric frying pans plugged into the same electrical outlet could overload your circuit and cause a fire.
Portable Fire Extinguishers
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to keep an ABC fire extinguisher in your kitchen, at least 10 feet away from your cooking appliances. Portable fire extinguishers can be effective in fighting small, contained fires. Extinguishers are all identified by class:
Class A-ordinary combustibles (paper, wood, cloth).
Class B-flammable liquids (gasoline, oil, grease, and kerosene).
Class C-energized electrical equipment (wiring, fuse boxes, machinery, power cords).
Multipurpose fire extinguishers, marked ABC, can be used on all three classes of fires.
Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
The flavor of German potato salad with a twist, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers and balsamic vinegar make up this delicious salad.
1 lb. orange sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1/2 cup red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsps. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled

Heat grill on medium heat. Place sweet potatoes, onion and red pepper onto a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil; dot top of vegetables with small pieces of softened butter. Top with another piece of foil and seal edges by folding over twice. Place foil packet onto grill. Grill, turning once, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Carefully open packet; spoon vegetables into serving bowl. Add all remaining ingredients; gently toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes six servings.
Grilled Quesadillas
4 medium flour tortillas
1-1/3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 tsp. chopped green onion
1 tsp. Mexican grill rub

On one-half side of each tortilla, sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese, 1 tsp. chopped onion and 1/4 tsp. Mexican grill rub; fold in half to close. Grill over medium heat one to two minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted, turning occasionally. To serve, cut each quesadilla into 3 wedges. Makes six servings
Grilled Sea Bass               with Salsa
1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh limejuice
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
4 (2 lbs.) sea bass fillets
1 jar (26 oz) of white corn and black bean salsa
4 large collard greens, washed, untrimmed

Combine first four ingredients in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Whisk to combine. Marinate fish for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Blanch greens in a large pot of boiling, salted water, just until the water returns to a boil. Refresh with iced water and drain.
Wrap each fish with greens so that only the head and tail are exposed. The dampness will make them cling. Transfer fish to grill, reserving marinade. Grill or broil 7 to 8 minutes per side; blacken. Don’t be concerned about the greens sticking. To serve, place fish on a serving platter; top with the salsa. Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Steak Sandwiches with Onions and Red Bell Peppers
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. coriander
3 tsp. cracked black pepper
l lb. beef flank steak
1 medium onion, cut into 4 thick slices
1 red bell pepper, halved
1/2 cup thick & chunky salsa
4 onion sandwich buns, split

Preheat grill. In small bowl, combine garlic, coriander and black pepper; rub the mixture on both sides of the flank steak. Grill steak, onion, and pepper over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove vegetables when tender. Turn steak and grill until cooked as desired. Slice vegetables and place in bowl with salsa; toss to mix. Cut steak into thin slices, diagonally across grain. Toast onion buns (optional). Arrange steak slices on bottom bun and top with vegetables and salsa, cover with top buns. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.