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Ep# 12 – This Is Yu – Cristina Topham – Food For The Apocalypse

Ep 12 Show Notes:

Seagull sounds…

Welcome to Episode 12 of This Is Yu Podcast.

This is Scott Stewart and Carole Yu.

If you guys ever get on a gameshow and need a lifeline for food, Chef Cristina Topham is definitely the expert to call!

Today, we introduce you to the owner of Spread Catering in Sonoma. She talks to us for four straight days about her experience with Guy Fieri, her life on the open seas as a yacht chef, and the transition of her catering business into a niche market.  Plus, she has incredible knowledge of food storage and freezing for the apocalypse. She definitely schooled us on the food that inhabits our refrigerators and freezers.

Thank you so much to Cristina for joining us from Sonoma California at this time of Covid-19. You’ll be able to use her excellent time saving tips to keep your kitchen organized. So you can focus on the really important things in life, like Stockpiling toilet paper.

Do you remember when we opened episode 10 with our mouths full of Sticky Lollipop Chicken Wings. Well lucky you, the video blog post and recipe are now up on the website at This Is Yu.com

And our Photogram Surfaces(TM) have been doing really well, come check them out at This is Yu.com. We have 54 beautiful surfaces to choose from.

We handcraft a great variety of videos. We love love love making Hands and pans videos, slo-mo and long form videos. They are a lot of fun mostly because we’re playing with food! Probably more fun for me, because then Scott has to spend hours editing, color correcting, and cutting to the music! But, he does an absolutely fantastic job, and I think he’s a genius at production!!

And we are so excited to have Cristina as a guest blogger on our website. Her two articles that we discussed will be posted at ThisIsYu.com.  Top 10 Food Storage Tips for the Apocalypse, and Top 12 Food Freezing Tips for the Apocalypse.

Here’s to surviving the Corona Virus and the Zombie Apocalypse. Thanks for listening.

Find Cristina Here: https://spreadcatering.com/

Call the This is you hotline with your feedback and burning questions. 562.291.6037
Home base is www.ThisIsYu.com
Instagram is @ThisIsYuOfficial
Facebook VIP group, go to Facebook and search. This Is Yu VIP Community. 
We’ll see you in the next episode. Bye bye, bye

Start Ep #12 This Is Yu Podcast Transcription here:

Scott

Welcome to Episode 12 of This is you Podcast. This is Scott Stewart

Carole

and Carole Yu. If you guys ever get on a game show and need a lifeline for food Chef Cristina Topham, is definitely the expert to call.

Scott

Today we introduce you to the owner of Spread Catering in Sonoma. She talks to us for four straight days about her experience with Guy Fieri, her life on the open seas as a yacht chef and the transition of her catering business into a niche market. Plus, she has incredible knowledge of food storage and freezing for the apocalypse. She definitely schooled us on the food that inhabits our refrigerators and freezers.

Carole

Welcome, Cristina. We’re so happy to have you on the This Is Yu, podcast.  

Cristina

Thanks. I’m really excited to be here.  

Carole

I wanted to ask you the first question. Food Network. Do you have a story about that? 

Cristina

Oh, gosh. Do I have a story about that? Wait, How long is this podcast?

Scott

Four days. Because of the Corona virus.

Cristina

Well, it was sort of funny because I was working as a private chef in Los Angeles and I knew I wanted to leave my job and I was looking for jobs online, and I think I was on Craigslist or something. And I Googled, you know, chefs, jobs or private chef jobs. And this thing came up and it was like, Do you know how to grocery shop? Are you a professional chef be on this game show? And, you know, being a yacht chef and a private chef, I feel like I’ve been in every grocery store in the world practically and so I thought, Hell, yeah, I know how to grocery shop. I applied and they called me immediately and they said, Can you come down right now? And an audition? And the family I was cooking for happened to be out of town. So I ran down and auditioned, and they said a couple days later, they were like, Oh, we really want you to be on the show And they gave me the date. They wanted me on the show and I had just, uh, actually decided to give notice to my job the day before the game shot. And I actually had no idea who Guy Fieri was at the time and went in to do the game and they were like, Oh, Guy Fieri! And and then I recognized him, and I was like, Oh, yeah, cool. Okay, The funny thing was that when I got there, you know, to the location where we’re shooting, I just kind of looked around everybody. And I was like, Oh, yeah, I’m gonna kick all their butts luck was in my favor that day, but it was actually really fun. Like it was. It was probably one of the most fun days I had. I didn’t realize precisely how competitive I was until I participated in that game.

Carole

So what was your winning dish? What did you cook while you were there? 

Cristina

There were four different things that we had. There are a lot of different things that we had to cook, but, um, they cut it out of the final production. But everybody kind of won a dish for each course that we had to cook. And I want every course.

Carole

Oh, gosh. 

Scott

That’s a real confidence builder.

Cristina

Yeah, And then I was actually called back to do, like a winner’s, um, battle against other winners on the show and I was runner up. I lost against a really good, chef. And I actually wasn’t feeling well at the time. And if I had one, I would have to come back the next day and shoot another episode. And I was so exhausted and not feeling well that I think I kind of gave up because I just didn’t want to have to come back!

Carole

So did you actually enjoy that experience being on, you know, TV and with all the cameras?

Cristina

So much fun. I loved it totally. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Scott

And did you make any connection with people? Like any friends you’ve come to kind of hang out with or connect with?

Carole

I have definitely made friends with some of the producers and still keep in touch with them. And I’ve got a few calls for stuff here and there. But since I’m not in Los Angeles anymore, it’s a little bit harder.

Scott

Yeah, it’s a bit of a long commute to Sonoma, huh? Hey, so we know you started your catering company Spread Catering in 2016. So what did you do before then? How did you get to your present catering company?

Cristina

Spread Catering came about in 2016 out of necessity. But I was catering for a couple of years before I formalized my company, and I had moved up to Sonoma in early 2014. And I’ve made some connections pretty early on into the wine industry and became good friends with some people that had some connections and a girlfriend of mine that I had met the had a connection with a winery, told me that her event planner was looking for somebody to come in and do some dinners and asked if I wanted to be connected with her. And I said, sure, and I met the event planner and we just hit it off right away kind of grew from there. Now it’s It’s Minor Family Winery in Napa now. You know, they’re like family. They’re really wonderful winery, and they given me so much work. It’s just really helped me grow my business. So things have grown really organically.

Cristina

But my family has also been in the wine industry, so I grew up around like good food and wine. It felt like kind of a natural transition to, you know, be able to do wine pairing dinners and stuff like that, right?

Carole

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on a yacht while you were a chef there?  

Cristina

Oh, wow. You really did your homework. So well, The craziest thing was the very first yacht that I worked on. And I was living in New York City at the time, and I had been working as, ah, line cook. Well, it actually worked on Wall Street. I went to culinary school at night and got my first job working as a line cook at a restaurant. It paid $7.50 an hour. I was like, How am I gonna make this work? I kind of did. But it was. It was challenging, and it was really hard to keep my head above water for a few years in New York when I started cooking. One day, I saw an ad at my at the French Culinary Institute, where we went to school for a job as a chef on a yacht, and I applied and got it and I joined this yacht. It was 100 and 20 foot sailboat sailing from New York to the Caribbean and spending the winter in the Caribbean. I didn’t really know how to interview yacht captains at the time or how to cook on a boat or any of that stuff. I joined the yacht. Our Captain actually ignored some pretty serious weather warnings? When we decided to take off, we left port and we hit a humongous storm in the middle of the Bermuda triangle. We were in 40 foot seas or 30 foot seas for 4 days straight and the boom broke on the yacht and hit a wave and bent in half like a jack knife and punched through the pilot house for the first time in my life, actually went into physical shock and passed out cold. So I got, like, really sweaty and couldn’t breathe. And…

Scott

You know, I think I saw this in a movie. It was called The Perfect Storm.

Cristina

Yeah, it was kind of the first time I actually thought I might die. So, you know, there was that.

Carole

That is totally crazy.  

Cristina

When we finally made it to Bermuda, I met some other captains, that told me I should get off that boat and gave me a few tips for working in the industry. And, you know, within it when we finally made it to the Caribbean. Within a few days, I was on another yacht, so…

Scott

Oh, perfect.

Cristina

It all worked out. I survived. So that’s good.

Scott

One of the questions that I had that I found really fascinating is that you’re traveling around on this yacht and then you’re pulling in to different ports all over the world. How did you source food while you were on the yacht?

Carole

Yeah, so that was sourcing food was definitely an art form of its own. There are agencies set out that will actually help provisioned the yacht so we could get in touch on the bigger islands. We could get in touch with the agencies that can bring stuff to the boat. But on the smaller islands, it was a lot more challenging because a lot of times they’ll only get deliveries to their grocery stores once a week. Like on, like on Saint Barts, they get grocery deliveries, one’s weak so that one day when the groceries come in, you see all the yacht chefs lined up outside of the grocery store with carts waiting to go in and rip everything off the shelves. And if you don’t get there early. Sometimes it’s really hard to get, like milk or eggs or lettuce or really important things. But the other thing, too, is that you figure out very quickly that when you provisions you provision for a week or two or longer at a time, so that you could make us few trips to the grocery store is possible

Scott

Almost sort of like now at target, the way everything’s empty on the shelves.

Cristina

It’s exactly like right now, you know, people are having to go out and provision for really long periods of time, and it definitely take some finesse and figuring out like what to buy and what’s gonna last and how to use it in all of that.

Scott

Have you always focused on the niche of Eastern Mediterranean food? And if so, how does the niche help you with your business right now?

Cristina

Well, my family is Lebanese, and so that’s definitely inspired a lot of cooking. Actually, I should preface that, my mother’s side of the family is Lebanese, so that’s influenced a lot of my cooking. I was actually French trained, and I did my internship in a restaurant in Paris and then came back to New York and cooked at some French and French Mediterranean restaurants. And French cooking has always really interested me. I think the more I’ve worked as a caterer. Whenever I did things that were sort of Middle Eastern inspired and Lebanese inspired, I got really good feedback. I enjoyed doing that kind of stuff because I love working with all the spices, and that was one of the things that really intrigued me. When I first started cooking professionally when I lived in New York, I would go to the Indian markets and by all the spices I’d never heard of before and then figure out how to use them. And when I was in the Caribbean, we had amazing spices. So a few years ago I started doing more and more Middle Eastern cooking, and actually just about a year ago, I decided to switch my whole company over so that it was all Lebanese. I kind of went through a period where I felt really uninspired. I felt like my cooking was kind of what everybody else in Sonoma Napa was doing, which there’s a lot of Italian. There’s a lot of French. There’s a lot of Southern and I wanted to put my own spin on things. And so I did. And it worked really well with wine pairing, you know, like Lebanon has a huge wine country and wine culture. So you know, the food works really well with it. And I just thought it was something different to be able to offer people. Plus it it inspires me a lot.

Scott

And it would really help separate you from the rest also.

Cristina

Yeah, absolutely. I definitely wanted to do something that was gonna stand out, but it was also very organic. It wasn’t like I sat around and thought, Oh, what’s gonna make me stand out? It was just I just sort of followed this natural progression. You know, the one thing with my business is I feel like I’m always looking around and seeing what avenues, air working and what’s not. And depending on what’s working, I intend to shift more in that direction and focusing on whatever’s going well, you know. And I was getting a lot of really positive feedback whenever I did Middle Eastern Mediterranean Lebanese food, And so that’s what I decided to really focus on.

Carole

It sounds this look because you said you used to work on Wall Street. So I know the type of mentality that you have to have there is very detail oriented, really thinking about the future, and it sounds like you’ve taken that mentality and applied it to your business.  

Cristina

The one thing that did carry over, though, is that I seem to naturally work in male dominated environment. So, you know, I feel like working on a Wall Street trading floor definitely helped me in getting into restaurant kitchens.

Scott

So you’re based out of Sonoma. How do you source ingredients from farms and producers in your area?

Cristina

I have a lot of relationships with local farms so I can email them or just text the farmer and tell them what I’m looking for. Get a list of what they have coming up and just go over and pick it up. It’s really nice because we get so much beautiful produce.

Carole

So what is a typical day when you’re busy with catering jobs and when does your day start?

Cristina

So my day probably starts at about seven o’clock in the morning, and it’s organizing prep lists following up on deliveries, maybe going around and picking stuff up from farms than heading to our catering kitchen, which is in Napa meeting with my sous chef going through the prep list. If it’s ah slower day and I don’t want to have a lot of help there, I may jump in and do some prep. I do oversee a lot, but I also still do a lot of hands on prep, and I feel like that’s kind of what makes us a little bit different than some of the bigger caterers out there is, I don’t take on so many events that I’m just sending out warm bodies to work on. You know, I’m usually the one that’s running the events and at the events. I don’t really have the desire of some people to be like a big wedding caterer or something like that. I really want to offer, like, ah, unique, organic, handcrafted experience, you know, that I’ve totally participated in, and not just something where, you know, turning out.

Scott

Well, it sounds like it’s quality above quantity.

Cristina

I’m not motivated by doing big weddings and stuff like that. And of course I like to make money. But that’s not like a huge motivator for me, either. I’ve always kind of viewed what I do as more of a creative endeavor, which isn’t always the best when it comes to business. But I love what I do, and I see that’s a big creative outlet for me. I feel like I feel like I’m gonna artist and food is just kind of my palate, you know, that’s what I know how to work with.

Scott

Nice

Carole

That it’s really awesome.

Scott

You’ve been given great kudos on your cultural food knowledge. How do you do research on your ingredients?

Cristina

I read an obsessive amount of cookbooks. I really collect a ton of cookbooks, and I’m the crazy person that when I have nothing to do or actually wouldn’t say when I have nothing to do. But I’m that crazy person that just sits around and reads cookbooks and I dog ear pages and have sticky notes on everything. And I love to read, so that helps, too. But I also have a few cookbook authors that I really love, and I tend to buy all their cookbooks when I love a particular author and I read everything I can buy them and test out some of their recipes. And another thing, too, is, you know, with my family, I can always call my cousins and, you know, talk food and, you know, talk about where something came from and how our family does it. And I’ve also been a private chef for a Lebanese family before. That was not somebody I was related to. And so, you know, I learned a lot of different stuff from them because they’re family while their Lebanese that come from a different region than our families, who they prepare things different, you know, similar dishes. But they might make him in a different fashion or have a different, you know, spice or something in it then the way our family does so. But I think the biggest thing is that I just really love to read,

Scott

Right.

Cristina

And I also watch a lot of food documentaries. And usually when I watch food documentaries, I always end up buying airplane tickets somewhere. So…

Carole

I noticed that you did go on a big trip recently. That must have totally inspired you for your catering company.  

Cristina

If you’re talking about my Lebanon trip. Yes. I went to Lebanon two years ago and that was actually inspired by a documentary. I watched on Netflix about Israeli cuisine, and I thought I should go to Israel. But then I thought if I was gonna go to the Middle East, I should really goto Lebanon and see where my family’s from because I’d never been there and I thought, you know, I could always go to Israel at a later date. So I ended up booking a trip to Lebanon. That was a huge inspiration for me. I just really felt a sense of my roots in history there. And as soon as we got to Beirut, there was so much that just felt strangely familiar and even going into grocery stores. It was all the stuff that I think of here that are in specialty markets or I have to order online or whatever. You just walk in the grocery store and it’s really calm in there, you know? And there was such a really deep sense of connection that I felt to the culture instantly when I got there, and it was when I got back, that really inspired the big change to my business here, or actually met a cousin there that I had never met before and, you know, just got to try so much amazing food and met so many wonderful people and really toward a good part of the country. And it was it was an incredible, incredible experience.

Carole

So you mentioned that you like to read a lot and you have a lot of cookbooks that you know that you like to read. So what could you recommend to our listeners in terms of Lebanese or Mediterranean food? Do you have some authors that you could recommend?  

Cristina

Yes. Actually, one of my favorite cookbook authors is a Lebanese woman, and her name is Anissa Helou. She just came out with a fantastic book called Feast Food of the Islamic World, and it covers the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and the Arab Gulf States. It’s a big book. It’s really thick book, but the recipes in it are incredible, and she’s got a whole section on spices and spice blends. That has been probably one of my most inspiring books that I’ve read lately. Anissa Helou is actually on Season Two of Ugly Delicious when they visit Lebanon. I love that show. They’ve done a really nice job representing Lebanon on it, which I thought was really cool. But another author I really love is Barbara Massaad, and she has a book called Minutiae, which is Lebanese flatbreads, and I love that book. And she has another book called Mouneh. And Mouneh is the Lebanese word for kind of preserving food preservation and pantry. So the book is full of all kinds of tips on pickling and preserving food and making cheese and all kinds of stuff. So, yeah, those are my two biggest favorite and most inspiring authors and actually have the chance to work with Anissa Helou. A few months ago, I volunteered to work at Flavors of the World, which is kind of an industry event that takes place every year that the Culinary Institute of America and Anissa Lulu was one of the guest chefs, and I volunteered to work with her when I was there. So I got to spend three days making her recipes in helping her cook and stuff.

Carole

That must have been an amazing experience.  

Cristina

It was great. I brought a stock of her cookbooks to her to sign. I have, like five of her cookbooks with me, and she wrote some funny notes in my cookbooks. When she signed him, she wrote like in one, she wrote, Oh, I’m so happy to see how many of my cookbook is you have. And there was a recipe called Toum for it’s like this whip garlic sauce. She asked me to make it one day and she gave me the recipe and I was like, Oh, yeah, I make this recipe every day anyway, I don’t need the copy of the recipe because I know how to make your recipe and this particular sauce is really hard. It’s just a little bit tricky to make it without it, breaking and keeping it together is like there’s there’s definitely technique involved in it. And so there’s a couple of hacks. If you can’t get the sauce to stay together, you can add an egg yolk or whatever. And I told her I was like, Oh, I know how to make it without the egg yolk. No problems in one of my books. She signed it. You make a very nice Toum. I felt like it was kind of feather in my hat.  

Carole

What advice do you have for people who are at home wondering how to make their passion into a business.  

Cristina

I would say if somebody wants to make something they’re passionate about into a business, they really need to think about how it’s going to change if they’re under the pressure of making money for it. I absolutely love to cook, but it has been a really hard road. You know, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it’s been a really difficult road, totally love what I do. Would I do it all over again? I can’t say 100% that I would. You know, I’ve sacrificed a lot to be in this industry. I’ve sacrificed relationships. I’ve sacrificed my physical and mental health I’ve sacrifice myself financially. You know, the food industry calls for a lot of sacrifice to work in it, and I feel like that’s changing slowly. It’s still a really difficult industry to work in, right. I think for anything that you do that you love, once you have the responsibility of providing for your household and keeping the lights on by doing that thing, it changes it a lot. My advice would be if you’re passionate about something just keep doing that thing and, you know, see if it grows organically and takes roots on its own. If you’re breaking your back and starting to hate what you do and you know it’s making you unhappy, then you kind of have to know when to cut and run.

Scott

Great advice.

Carole

Now that we are all stuck at home, what are some easy dishes that you can make with only a few basic staples?  

Cristina

Well, I think that this is a great time to polish up your bread baking skills. You could make sour doughs at home, and you don’t necessarily have to have a sour dough starter. But you can age breads, and you can use commercial yeast to make a sourdough starter. You know, there may be some people that poo poo that, but there’s also a lot of instructions on the Internet for making a starter, starting from grapes or something that you buy at the grocery store. Do you have a favorite bakery that’s still open? Sometimes you can go in and ask them for some sourdough starter. I know there’s a few bakeries around here that are happy to give it away and I don’t wanna say their name on air because I don’t want them to get flooded with people asking for their their starter because they’re kind of big, well known bakeries, right? I think it’s a great time to take up bread baking. I think it’s a great time to take a baking. In general, the hard part with being at home like this is I think a lot of people are gonna put on weight with all the baking and bread.

Carole

That’s funny. I was just saying that about just before we started recording. I was telling Scott, I’ve been eating a lot more carbs since we’ve been home the last few days.  

Cristina

Well, I think a lot of people are craving comfort food. You know, it’s kind of how we are, our bodies functions in times of stress is to turn to the things that bring us comfort. So there’s a lot of lasagnas and bolognese sauces  being made right now.  

Carole

You recently had an article that was published on Medium.com. Can you please tell us what that article was and step us through the tips.  

Cristina

The article that I posted on Medium.com actually came out of my experience as a yacht chef, and I titled it 10 Food Storage Tips for the Apocalypse because everybody’s out apocalypse shopping, you know, filling up their refrigerators. There are a lot of things I was trying to think about, what I could do that would be useful. You know, every chef out there is making cooking videos right now and, you know, posting recipes and I’ll probably do some videos and recipes too. But I wanted to try to hit on something that other people weren’t doing. It occurred to me that there’s a lot people don’t know about food storage. That’s what kind of inspired me to write the article. One of the first things that I mentioned in the article is that food last longer in a clean refrigerator. You know that there are plenty of people out there and myself included from time to time, where some stuff in our refrigerator turns into science project. You know, I’m sure like the most unclean thing in a lot of people’s homes is that produce drawer, where stuff you know, sinks to the bottom and disappears and gets lost. The more bacteria that’s floating loose in your refrigerator, the quicker your food is going to spoil. And that was one thing that I really noticed on the yachts. You know, one thing about working in ah yacht is that you have to keep everything really, really, really clean, not just from, ah, hygiene and sanitation perspective, but also because people are paying huge money to come and stay on a yacht. So you have keep it out kind of five star standards. I cleaned out a lot of refrigerators and detail clean things with Q tips and toothpicks. If you clean out your refrigerator and wipe everything down with bleach or some kind of sanitizing spray, there’s less bacteria and less germs and bugs and things that are gonna float around in your refrigerator and land on your food and make it go bad. The second thing I mentioned is washing produce and wiping down all your jars and bottles and containers, and you can wipe them down when you pull him out and clean your refrigerator, especially in the time of Corona virus. It’s a really good idea to wipe stuff down with bleach before you put it in your refrigerator, you know, and before you put in your mouth for sure.

Carole

That was something that I thought about when I went to Costco yesterday and brought back a bunch of food. I needed to wipe down all those jars and bottles.

Cristina

Yeah, so I just have some diluted bleach that I’ve been spraying on things and are spraying on a rag and wiping everything down and then immediately throwing the rags in the in the washing machine. The other thing, too, that a lot of people don’t know when you’re packing a refrigerator is in order for a refrigerator to maintain its temperature of there needs to be really good air flow. Otherwise, the back of the refrigerator can freeze up a bit, and they’ll be warmer spots and cooler spots. When you’re packing, a lot of food into your refrigerator really stymies the airflow. And so the back and freeze, and it’s really important to know what you can stick in the back of your refrigerator that will hold up to the freeze. To the back of the refrigerator is really good place for stuff like bread and butter and doughs and maybe hardier vegetables like cauliflower or something like that. But you don’t want to put your salad greens, your herbs or your spinach or anything like that back there because it may a freeze up. If you’re trying to preserve herbs, actually, remember this from one of the yachts I worked on, we had been out for like, two weeks with guests aboard and really remote locations. And I love to cook with herbs, and I was like, God, how am I gonna keep everything to last? The whole direction of the trip and one of the tips that every yacht chef learns is to wrap your herbs and paper towels and then stick him in a paper bag because it kind of keeps the moisture off of the herbs and keeps him a little fresher. And I remember two weeks into the trip, like unrolling my paper towel with my basil in it and having like four basil leaves left that were still like bright green and usable and being like, so excited. So, anything like also arugula, lettuce, anything like that, wrap them in paper towels and stick them in the bags. Another really big thing that I learned in the yachting world when we would be out with guests for weeks at a time is to use up the stuff early on that isn’t as hardy. So when it comes to proteins to use fish early on, because that stuff may not last as long. And it doesn’t hold up as well, freezing as other proteins like beef and chicken do. And berries don’t last long. So use those first herbs, all your soft lettuces and things and then keep the heart of your stuff for, you know, down the road. Cauliflower, broccoli, kale, escarole, potatoes, onions. All of that stuff is gonna last a few weeks in the in the refrigerator. So…

Carole

That’s interesting. Do you actually keep potatoes in the refrigerator? I don’t keep potatoes in the refrigerator.

Cristina

Even like potatoes and onions. You don’t have to refrigerate, but they’re gonna last a few weeks, as opposed to bananas and stuff. You don’t refrigerate those either, but those if they’re yellow, they’re gonna go off sooner. So yeah, and then the more controversial one is eggs. When I worked on yachts, a lot of times, we’d have, um, really limited storage so we wouldn’t refrigerate the eggs. And this is kind of common knowledge in the yachting community. But in the United States, people get a little freaky about refrigeration. But the other thing, too, is that in Europe, in a lot of other countries, it’s a requirement that egg laying chickens are inoculated against salmonella. It’s not a law in the United States, so there used to be more of an issue with salmonella from eggs in the United States. But now, even though it’s not a law, about 90% of the egg laying flocks in the United States are vaccinated against salmonella. You don’t necessarily have to refrigerate eggs. There is a slight risk of salmonella, but you know you have to kind of weigh what you’re okay with. We do have a lot of access to free range chickens here. Those are probably a little safer than you know. Those hen houses where there’s 20,000 chickens packed into really confined spaces and more a chance for them to get sick.  So we actually like would keep the eggs out. And the only thing that I really noticed in keeping the eggs out was that you want to make sunny side up eggs for something it could be really difficult because the membrane between the yoke and the white gets really soft, and so the yolks tend to break a little easier than they do if they’re refrigerated.

Scott

Oh, right.

Carole

Now you also talked about making bread that you thought that would be a good thing that people could make right now. So how do you keep your bread?  

Cristina

Well, if I’m storing bread like I would store what I’m not using in the freezer and just pull out what I need at the time. Freeze half a loaf and keep half a loaf out or just pull out, if it’s a sliced bread, you can just pull out the slices as you need it, because they only take a few minutes to frost. The other thing too when it comes to food storage that’s really important is putting stuff in small container. So if you scoop something out of the big container in the refrigerator and that big container has room for a lot of air in it, there’s a lot more room for bacterial growth. So it’s really good idea to switch stuff to a smaller container, and that’s actually kind of a general rule in the professional food business. When you go into getting a refrigeration or whatever and you’re taking food out of containers or at the end of night after service, you always wanna put anything that you’re putting away in the smallest container possible. Not only so frees up room in your refrigerator, but also to have less surface area that’s exposed to the air.

Scott

You have another great blog post about freezing food for the apocalypse. So is that the Corona Virus Apocalypse or the Zombie Apocalypse?

Cristina

You know, right now we got to go with the Corona virus Apocalypse.

Scott

But it could probably work for the Zombie Apocalypse also, for people that are listening.

Cristina

Yeah, I definitely think it would work for the Zombie Apocalypse, but I’m trying to think on Walking Dead, did they have power during that Zombie Apocalypse? I’m not quite sure if they were…  

Scott

Probably not. Maybe the odd generator here and there!

Cristina

Right right. Yeah. So that actually came about because when I posted the first article about food storage, a couple of people texted me and said, hey, can I ask you questions about freezing stuff and then I thought, Oh, yeah, that’s probably another thing that people don’t know is how to freeze things properly. So a couple of things I you know, I always assumed it was totally common knowledge that if you froze watery fruits and vegetables and leafy greens that you couldn’t use them fresh when they’re defrosted. But I get that question so often from people that I’m cooking for. They say, oh, can I freeze tomatoes and use them in a salad and them like no, as something freezes, the water in the cells expands and it breaks the cell structure. So whatever especially really watery fruits, you know, if it’s watermelon or tomatoes or something like that, or leafy greens, they’re gonna be really mushy when they defrost. But you can free some for sure and use him and smoothie use and things like that. Like whenever we have a heat wave, I always freeze a bunch of chopped up watermelon, and then I make waterman smoothies with it to get me through. You know, you could add a splash tequila to it if you want to also.

Scott

Nice!

Carole

That’s a great idea. Yeah, we need that now.  

Cristina

But the one thing, too, When you’re freezing fruit, you know you don’t want to just throw it in a bag in the freezer, because then you’re gonna be left with an iceberg of frozen fruit, and it won’t fit in your blender because you have, you know, 10lb. of fruit frozen into a block. So what I like to do is actually spread my fruit out on a sheet pan with some parchment paper, plastic wrap or something like that. Underneath it is the fruit is frozen. Then you can scoop it up in individual pieces and put it in a big Ziploc bag. And that way it’ll be loose and you can go in and grab what you need from it when you decide to use it.

Carole

That’s really smart, because I have often I have smoothies every day for breakfast, and often I’ll go and I’ll get my bag of mango pieces, and I’ll have to be smacking them on the on the counter to t take the pieces apart.  

Cristina

If you buy frozen fruit from the store and it defrosts before you get home, that’s always the hard thing. Is that thing, you throw it in your freezer and it just clumps up, right? So I was fine bringing stuff home from the store. I kind of make sure that the bag is laying flat instead of like up on its side, where everything goes to the bottom of the bag and get a brick.

Carole

Exactly.  

Cristina

Another thing, too. And this actually came about because I’ve grown some tomatoes in my garden and I could never process anything at the speed that they’re becoming ripe, especially because they’re usually getting ripe right in the middle of my busy season. So what I started doing my tomatoes. It’s just cutting out the little core on top and throwing him in is a black bag and throwing him in the freezer or even chopping him up and throwing them in a little quart side Ziploc bag. Because I find the quart size kind of enough. I’m making a sauce or something, and I know I’ve got a quart of frozen tomatoes in there. I could just dump it in a pot and the tomatoes will be squishy. And, you know, if the skin really bothers you, you can pick it out or whatever, but if you puree it, nobody’s really gonna notice and it’s easy. And, you know, I’m sure a lot of people went out and bought a lot of tomatoes for stocking up. And now there’s, you know, fruit flies and tomatoes molding on there or getting overly ripe on their counter. So really easy thing to do is just throw it in a bag and throw it in the freezer. You know, it’s it’s really hard right now because the part of the reason I wrote that the frozen article too is because, you know, everybody has these grand ambitions. But I feel like, unfortunately, I feel like as we see things move forward with this virus. You know, a lot of people are gonna lose their kind of momentum and stuff, you know, everybody’s embracing it with so much positivity right now, which I think is great, you know? But I’m sure there’s gonna be moments where we all kind of waiver and, you know, we’re all going to be going through periods of financial difficulty from this. So why not try to prevent as much food spoilage and waste is we can, because that’s just money being thrown down the drain. One of the questions I got texted was can I freeze milk? And yes, you can. It’ll separate. So you need shake it when you take it out of the freezer. But also, you know, we get a lot of really nice farm fresh milk these days in glass jars and you don’t want to stick those in the freezer because when you freeze any kind of liquid, you need to have head space on the top of the jar for things to expand. And you need a couple of inches because, ah, liquids air going to expand a lot when you put him in the freezer. And if they don’t have room to expand and the jars were gonna break, I’ve actually broken like in one batch, when I was freezing a bunch of chicken stock one time I overfilled all the jars and I broke like 10 jars of chicken stock.

Scott

I learned that lesson when I was a kid because my dad always used his freeze his beer and he’d always tell us to go run and get him a couple beers. So we go and open up the freezer and they just be blown right up. So it just be this frozen frosty beer all over the inside of the freezer!

Cristina

Yeah, so if you’re freezing liquids, you definitely want to leave a couple inches of head space. And if you’re freezing milk, you can pour it into like a mason jar or something. But I can’t really vouch for whether the milk bottles that milk that a lot of milk comes in these days. We don’t really know if those are freezer safe, so it’s probably best to err on the side of safety and not through those into the freezer, because glass needs to be tempered for it to be frozen without breaking. So…

Carole

How about eggs? Can we preserve eggs? I actually went to Costco and bought a huge 36 pack of eggs.  

Cristina

Yeah, you can freeze eggs. You want to take them out of the shells first, cause again it’s a liquid. The shells will burst, but also to be really hard to get an egg out of the shell if the egg is frozen. It’s really important when you’re freezing eggs to freeze them in the quantity that you’re gonna use them because you don’t want to be defrosting large batches of eggs and then re freezing it. And part of the reason for that is as stuff defrosts hits warmer temperatures. There’s a lot of bacterial growth that can take place. If you’re refreezing something, you’re gonna be freezing that bacterial growth. And then when you take it out again to defrost it, there’s gonna be more bacterial growth. That’s really the biggest issue with re freezing items. You always hear about whether to re freeze stuff or not. And eggs were definitely something that you don’t want to re freeze. So great thing is to freeze them in the quantity that you’re gonna use or use relatively soon after defrosting. And one thing you could be with if you have those silicone cupcake tins are muffin containers is to just crack one egg per silicone cup or two eggs per cup and stick those in the freezer. And then, as soon as they’re frozen solid, I could pop amount and stick him in a bag.

Cristina

You can free some whole or, you know, whipped up, but, um, if you freeze them whole when they defrost, the likelihood of being able to separate the yolk from the white is going to diminish because of the breakdown of the membrane between the two.

Carole

What if you are making lasagna and you have a huge army of people to feed? What do you suggest with lasagna? Can you freeze lasagna?  

Cristina

You can definitely freeze lasagne. Yet when I worked on, yachts had to make a lot of dishes that the crew could kind of help themselves to, especially when we were doing long passages, different locations. You know, the crew works 24 7 in shifts aboard the yacht, so people need to be able to get up whenever they can and, you know, heat something up easily in the microwave and then get up to the helm to keep track of things and relieve whoever else is on duty. So I would make big trades of lasagna, fully cook them put him in the refrigerator overnight, let it chill and then pull it out of the refrigerator and cut it into single portions, scoop it out, wrap it in wax paper and then plastic wrap and then stick it in a Ziploc bag, threw him in the freezer or stick him in some kind of like plastic container where people can reach in and help themselves to what they want.

Carole

How about using aluminum foil? Could we wrap the pieces in aluminum foil?

Cristina

I wouldn’t wrap stuff with tomatoes in it, in aluminum foil. Because the aluminum foil and the acid from the tomatoes can react, the acid will actually eat up the aluminum foil. So that’s why I definitely would recommend, like parchment or wax paper, plastic wrap or something like that. I think plastic wrap is best, but really, when you freeze anything, there’s always a chance of freezer burns really hard, especially in home freezers. It’s really hard to prevent freezer burn. The best thing for that is those little vacuum sealers. And even if it’s like one of those little $20 vacuum sealers from Costco, you’re going to get much better storage than you would get out of just wrapping something in plastic wrap because those vacuum sealer suck all the air out, and then your surface area has plastic pressed against it from the bags from the vacuum sealed bags. And so that’s really the best way to prevent you know, something from becoming freezer burn.

Scott

Great, tip.

Carole

How about dairy products?  

Cristina

Yeah, most dairy products can actually be frozen, so yogurt, ricotta, butter, hard cheeses. Those could be frozen. If you’re freezing something like shredded cheese again, you want to freeze it in little portions that you’re gonna use. And that goes with anything you’re gonna freeze, whether it’s sauces or soups or anything, just freeze in realistic portions that you’re going to use fairly quickly after you defrost them.

Carole

Those are amazing tips. Christina, thank you so much for all of those. I’m sure our listeners will definitely be able to use all of these tips.  

Cristina

Oh, you’re very welcome.  

Carole

Where can our listeners go to read your articles and connect with you.  

Cristina

If you want to read my articles, you can go to my website at SpreadCatering.com and just click on the little button that says blog and all my tips are right there for you to see. You can also follow me on Facebook @SpreadCateringSonoma and on Instagram @SpreadCateringSonoma Thank you so much for having me on. This has been really fun and I hope that people enjoy it and use some of these tips.

Scott

Great. Thank you!

Carole

Thank you so much to Christina for joining us. from Sonoma, California at this time of Covid 19. You’ll be able to use her excellent time saving tips to keep your kitchen organized so you can focus on the really important things in life, like stockpiling toilet paper.  

Scott

Do you remember when we opened Episode 10 with her mouth’s full of Sticky Lollypop Chicken Wings? Well, lucky you. The video blog post and recipe are now up on the website at ThisIsYu.com

Carole

And our Photogram Surfaces(TM) have been doing really well. Come check them out at ThisIsYu.com We have 54 beautiful surfaces to choose from. We love, love, love, making hands and pans, videos, slo mo and long form videos. They are a lot of fun, mostly because we’re playing with food. Probably more fun for me, because then Scott has to spend hours editing, color, correcting and cutting to the music. But he doesn’t absolutely fantastic job, and I think he’s a genius at production.

Scott

So true, Carole, so true!!! And we are so excited to have Cristina as a guest blogger on our website. Her two articles that we discussed will be posted at ThisIsYu.com Top 10 Food Storage Tips for the Apocalypse and Top 12 Food Freezing Tips for the Apocalypse. Call the This Is Yu Hotline with your feedback and burning questions. 562.291.6037

Carole

Our home base is www.ThisIsYu.com Spelled t h i s i s y u dot com

Scott

Instagram is @ThisIsYuOfficial We have a Facebook V I P group. Go to Facebook and search – This Is Yu V I P Community.

Carole

Thanks for listening. We’ll see you in the next episode, bye bye!

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