Napping: Is it good for everyone?

woman napping hammock

Everyone knows long hours of sleep are essential for small children to grow up strong and healthy. But what about adults? A brief nap during the day can be the perfect solution for some. Dr. Adnan Pervez, a sleep medicine physician at REX Pulmonary Specialists answers four key questions about the health benefits and risks for taking a quick daytime snooze.

1. What are the benefits of napping?
Taking a short nap can offer health benefits such as:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased relaxation
  • Increased alertness
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improved performance
  • Improved memory

“Memory consolidation is one of the major benefits of a good long night of sleep,” Dr. Pervez says.

2. Who should consider taking a nap and why should they?
Depending on your daily schedule, napping can be beneficial under certain circumstances.
Habitual napping
occurs when you take a brief snooze at the same time each day. “People who are consistently unable to get enough sleep at night would benefit from a habitual nap, taken at the right time and for the right duration,” says Dr. Pervez.

Planned napping is particularly useful for night shift workers. “For many people a nap before they depart for their night shift, or during a break in the early part of the shift, in combination with strategic exposure to light and use of caffeine at the right time can help them cope with an unusual schedule,” Dr. Pervez says.

drowsy drivingEmergency napping is advised when you’re too sleepy to continue a crucial activity, like if you feel drowsy while driving. “If drivers are feeling sleepy, they are typically advised not to rely upon extraneous measures like rolling down the window or turning up the music. Instead, we advise people to park at a rest stop and take a short nap before continuing,” says Dr. Pervez.

3. When and how long should you nap for?
For people who would benefit from napping, Dr. Pervez recommends a 10 to 20 minute nap in the early afternoon. At the most, try limiting your naps to no more than 30 minutes. “The longer or later we nap, the greater the chances that it may prevent us from going to sleep at a decent hour at night,” Dr. Pervez says.  Napping for longer periods can also cause sleep inertia (a state of feeling groggy and disoriented when awakening from a deep sleep) which may interfere with functioning in the period immediately following the nap.

woman_nappingIt is also important to remember that while short naps may be beneficial for some individuals, excessive napping may be a sign of serious medical conditions like sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Establishing consistency in your sleep habits is key to a healthy lifestyle. Both sleep deprivation and excessive sleepiness can have serious health consequences.

The recommended amount of sleep at night depends on a person’s age.  For example, adults between the ages of 26 and 64 should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night. View the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended sleep times chart for more details.

4. What kind of environment should we nap in?
Protect your time and environment; sleep in a dark and quiet area. Resting in a tranquil and dark room will increase your chances of falling asleep faster. Powerful sources of light in a room can have an impact on the quality of your sleep.

Light and darkness are strong signals that let your body know it’s time to rest. Your brain continues to process sounds while you’re sleeping. Noise can interrupt your dozing, leading you to wake up and shift between stages of sleep.

Learn more about our sleep services offered at the REX Sleep Disorders Center. Plus, find out if you’re at risk of a sleep disorder by taking our Sleep Aware health assessment.

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Making the Gym Part of Your Lifestyle

Post by Rodney Jenkins, a Group Exercise Instructor at the REX Wellness Center of Garner. He is also a business teacher, a soccer coach and an athletic trainer with the Wake County Public School system.

After one of my recent water classes in Garner, I had an opportunity to speak to some of our members about our July 10 Garner Sprint Triathlon. Ultimately, the question of training for a triathlon came up and after a short discussion about the training program that many of our participants used, I made the statement that there is a difference between simply working out and training. They asked me, ”what do you mean?”  My response was pretty simple. Working out does require a commitment but it is a commitment that can easily be broken. But training has purpose and requires a commitment that cannot easily be broken.

For various reasons, people walk away from working out at the gym every single day with seemingly no consequences. Some return while others do not.  However, if you’ve ever taken that leap of faith and trained for an event, you know what it feels like to find purpose in the workout. It’s called Race day. Race day is the ultimate reward where you prove to yourself that all of the training was worth the time and effort.  Without race day, it is easy to fall into the Doldrums. (aka, inactivity which I blogged about back in 2012).

Let’s use the Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon in Knightdale as a perfect example of an opportunity for commitment and purpose. Race day is Sunday, September 18 (purpose).  As of today, the cost is $ 65.00 but after September 14, it goes up to $75.00 (procrastination fee) eventually going up to $85.00. So let’s say you sign up (commitment) and use an 11 week Sprint Training Program. You grab a calendar and count back 11 weeks from September 14. You begin reading the program and you start training. Week 1, you are excited. Week 2, you realize that this is hard work but you have made a commitment so you keep training. Week 3, you ask yourself, what have I gotten myself into?  I can miss a workout or two but I can’t stop and certainly cannot quit going to the gym (purpose and commitment). Week 4, you start to feel stronger and your confidence grows, you begin to understand what training is all about and start to see real purpose in swimming, cycling and running. Before you know it, September 14 has arrived and thanks to the training program you committed to 11 weeks ago, you are ready. Will you be successful? Until you sign up, the end of the story cannot be written.

It was not at all difficult to create this scenario because I see it played out over and over again. When members sign up for an event and find purpose in their training, the gym becomes part of their lifestyle and they are less likely to walk away. Purpose in your gym routine seems to make the commitment to a gym membership all worthwhile. So how do you start? Talk to a runner or triathlete at your wellness center. If you are in Garner, talk to me and I will be happy to show the path toward finding your Race/Reward Day.

Here are a couple of pictures from the Garner Triathlon.

Garner Triathlon

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5 Reasons Teens Should Limit Caffeine

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teenagers consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine a day. (See a chart from the Center for Science in the Public Interest that shows how much caffeine is in popular drinks.) Why? Consuming high amounts of caffeine can cause irritability, nervousness, rapid heartbeat and anxiety.


Here are five more good reasons to help teens limit their daily caffeine intake.

  1. Empty calories — many caffeinated drinks also have lots of sugar and fat. Drinking too much soda may rob teens of valuable nutrients like calcium.
  2. Dental problems — drinking coffee or tea can stain teeth. The sugar in many caffeinated beverages can lead to cavities.
  3. Trouble sleeping — caffeine can make it hard to fall asleep at night, which could lead to insomnia and daytime sleepiness.
  4. Heart and head — large amounts of caffeine can raise blood pressure in some people. It can also cause headaches.
  5. The cost — caffeinated beverages can be expensive, especially when you buy coffee drinks from popular coffee chains. Think about how much money you could save if you didn’t spend so much on caffeine!
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Strawberry S’mores

Go fruity with this twist on a summertime favorite! Try this sweet three-ingredient treat without going overboard on the calories. You can also add in raspberries, blueberries or bananas for an extra burst of fruity flavor!


Prep time: 5 minutes
Number of servings: 1


  • 2 strawberries
  • 1 graham cracker (broken in half)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat vanilla yogurt


  1. Rinse the strawberries in water.
  2. Slice the strawberries.
  3. Add the yogurt and strawberries to half of graham cracker.
  4. Top with the other half of graham cracker.

Nutritional information per serving: 57 total calories; 1 g fat; 2 g protein; 9 g carbohydrates; 1 g dietary fiber; 64 mg sodium.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,

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Pokémon Go Safety Tips

Pokémon Go surpassed Candy Crush Saga to become the most popular mobile game of all time with the highest amount of active users ever recorded. Here are some tips to keep in mind while playing:

  1. Like the game says, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t play while driving or walking around roads or parking lots. Also, be mindful of your own hiking skill level if you take on challenging terrain while trying to catch that elusive Dratini.
  2. If you plan to play for an extended period, prepare yourself! You should always stretch before exercising. Also, consider taking water with you, it’s hot out there.
  3. Be respectful of real world locations like museums, hospitals, or churches. Some public spaces may take exception to random trainers walking through checking in at a Pokestop. Use your best judgement.
  4. Be careful late at night or visiting remote locations. There have been some reports of robberies. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations.
  5. Encourage others to play with you. It is more fun to play with other people, and they can get some exercise too!
  6. Volunteer! Some local animal shelters encourage the community to take their dogs for walks. Why not stop by and walk a dog while you play?
    1. Saving Grace Animals for Adoption
    2. Wake GOV Animal Center
    3. SPCA of Wake County 
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West Virginia Flood 2016

On June 23, 2016, a devastating flood hit the state of West Virginia, taking 26 lives and damaging or destroying more than 1,200 homes. Jim McGrody, Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services, and three UNC REX chefs, Ryan Conklin, Paul Berens, and Steve Pexton volunteered with Mercy Chefs to cook meals for victims, volunteers and first responders in Greenbrier County. In this blog post, Chef Jim McGrody shares his experiences in White Sulphur Springs and Rainelle, West Virginia with his team.


(L-R) Steve Pexton, Ryan Conklin, Jim McGrody, and Paul Berens

Rainelle West Virginia, social media and an old friend

How those things will permanently affect four UNC REX chefs from North Carolina

Last weekend while watching TV, I saw a news clip about the massive flooding that was occurring in West Virginia. As I watched I thought to myself, I know people in West Virginia, and I hoped that they were OK. And like possibly many Americans that was all the thought I really gave it. I hoped that they would be safe but even though it is a state close to North Carolina, it seemed a world away.

That all changed when my old friend and classmate from the Culinary Institute of America, Sue Bastian and her husband Paul Brian Ciciora, started posting pictures on Facebook of the massive destruction. We had been friends for years and followed each other lives through social media.

The pictures on Facebook showed me how they were smack in the middle of a major disaster. I was glued to what was going on there. Sue was a great friend of mine while we were students at the CIA some 26 years ago. I was worried and started thinking about how I could help.

I reached out to her husband Paul who was on site working at a mobile kitchen in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. I asked him how I could help and he told me to check out the nonprofit group he was volunteering with. Paul is a full-time chef at the Greenbrier resort. The resort was closed due to the flooding, so many of the chefs that worked there were volunteering to help feed hundreds of people with absolutely no way to cook food for themselves. It was a community in absolute distress.

The nonprofit he directed me to was Mercy Chefs. This group is out of Virginia and was born out of the need following Hurricane Katrina. They travel the country going from disaster to disaster, helping people not only through nourishment but through spiritual healing as well. I checked them out and knew I had to be part of this. I reached back out to Paul and said that I wanted to help. He gave me the number to the chef in charge, Fred Tiess. After a few emails to Mercy Chefs and to Fred, I saw they desperately needed help. They pride themselves on professionally prepared meals served to people in need. I wanted on this train and said I want to volunteer. I was going to drive to West Virginia some 4 1/2 hours way. I quickly thought of my UNC REX Healthcare chefs and realized that we could use them too.

I texted Ryan Conklin, Paul Berens, and Steve Pexton late Sunday night June 26 and laid out my plan. I told them about my friend, and how I connected on Facebook and how the town they lived in was devastated. I told them about Mercy Chefs and how they needed help and would they want to come with me. In very short order I got return texts: “count me in,” “when do we go” and “hell yeah.” I was so proud of them — they had only basic information but they wanted to help and jumped right on this.

So there we were the next day with blessings from UNC REX leadership (who rock, by the way), driving from Raleigh. Our truck was loaded down with suitcases, knife kits, chef coats, aprons and side towels.

Chef Ryan Conklin drives the Mercy Chefs truck filled with knife kits, chef coats, aprons, side towels and food.

Chef Ryan Conklin drives the Mercy Chefs truck filled with knife kits, chef coats, aprons, side towels and food.

We arrived in White Sulphur Springs about 1 p.m. As we rolled down the highway, everything looked normal. Every once in a while, we would see some damage to trees and dirt and debris on the road but nothing serious that would make us believe a disaster had occurred. We then got off the exit to White Sulphur Springs that all changed.

Our first image was massive destruction of the creek beds, cars upside down, sheds, garages and debris all over the place. We saw a lumber yard that looked like it had been blown up. Construction crews were hard at work everywhere. Front end loaders, bobcats, dump trucks all over the place. People were swarming trying to clean up this major devastation.  We saw tractor trailers literally ripped apart and left in a pile of shredded metal. It was humbling to see such damage.

We didn’t really know where to go so we pulled into a grocery store parking lot. When we did we saw Army medevac helicopters, coming and going.  There were Army medics and civilians giving out tetanus shots, cleaning supplies and bottled water. We had never seen anything like this.

We got to the Mercy Chefs site and were immediately impressed. We met the key players and told them to put us to work. Lunch had already been served so we started to work on dinner. We diced onions, roasted pork loins, cut cabbage and made desserts. We made side salads and generally did whatever they asked of us. This was not our gig — we were volunteers and wanted to help in any way. So if that meant wash dishes or take trash to the dumpster, that is what we did. It was very satisfying to be there.

What we saw was an organization that was deeply committed to helping people. The permanent staff of Mercy Chefs are amazing. Their head chef Walter was a former US Marine Corps cook that had an amazing culinary skill set. He was totally devoted to his mission. In fact, he told me it was his calling. And by the way, it was definitely his kitchen (in a very good way). He was grateful that we had come all the way from North Carolina.

After that meal, we went back to our hotel 30 miles away. There was no water or electricity in the town we were serving. We all said we felt guilty that we had the ability to shower and be in air conditioning. This was something that many in White Sulphur Springs were weeks and possibly months away from having.

Jim McGrody in mobile kitchen

Chef Jim McGrody arranges supplies in the mobile kitchen

The next day we went back to White Sulphur Springs to prep and cook for lunch, but our new mission would be Rainelle, W. Va. This town will forever have an effect on all of us. It certainly has changed me.

This small community of Rainelle was about a 45-minute drive from where we were located. We were told that if you think White Sulphur (as the locals call it) is bad, wait to you get to Rainelle. When we got there, we saw that indeed it was much worse.

White Sulphur had teams of construction crews, grocery stores, food trucks and BBQ tents — Rainelle had none of that.

What we saw was an active military operation. The West Virginia Army National Guard was in charge here. They were everywhere — Humvees, military police, state police and Guardsmen everywhere. They had heavy equipment moving material that was placed in front of homes and businesses. It was bedlam. The stench was at times overbearing. It was a totally different feel than White Sulphur. It was far worse off and it was 6 days since the flood had occurred. The people were visibly torn apart emotionally. They had all lost everything they had ever owned.

What we did not see was adequate port-a -potties, hot food and disinfectants. We had people ask us if we had bleach and another ask us if we had hand sanitizer. It was sad to see all of this unfold in front of us.

We went for a short walk to survey the area when we first got there. We saw cars that were completely covered in mud inside and out. All of these cars were totally destroyed. Houses with water marks 5-6 feet up the side were commonplace. People were scraping mud out of their houses and pulling out sheet rock. There were piles of garbage everywhere we looked. We knew we needed to get to work.

So we set up operations on a corner lot that used to be a car dealer, right next to a trailer dealer. The trailers in that lot were completely destroyed. They looked like a can opener had ripped open the metal. Everything around us was destroyed. People were cleaning out their business all along Main Street. The Army was just down the road using front end loaders to clear debris, which was everywhere. All the homes in the downtown area and I mean all of them were destroyed.

The thing that I remember most was an immense sense of community. You could tell that before the flood, this was a close-knit town. It was even closer in the face of this disaster. Everyone was so nice and thankful that we were there.  They were amazed that we had come from another state and were willing to help. We were like, are you kidding me, this is an honor to be able to help out. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else that day.

One of the commodities’ that we had was fresh fruit — we had bananas, apples, and oranges. People were so happy to see them. Fresh food was pretty scarce at that time. We also had BBQ pork and beans, peach cobbler and a cold marinated vegetable salad. It was a meal many had not seen in more than six days.

About an hour after being there Ryan Conklin found a 5-foot statue of a chef, like the kind you see in some restaurants. We moved him over to our site and put a cardboard sign on him saying we had fresh hot cooked meals and fresh fruit. It was pretty cool. The people in the neighborhood stopped by and took pictures of it.

WV Flood Rescue

It was then that I noticed something that we had not seen since we arrived. People were smiling. They loved the chef statue and for just that one moment they forgot about their loss and just smiled. I couldn’t believe how powerful that was. Kudos to Ryan for making their day just a little bit better. We took the chef back home with us to Raleigh and we will clean it up and bring it to our café.  It will be dedicated to the people of Rainelle, W. Va.

We plated up about 200 meals and we split them up into four trucks. Many of the people in the town could not get to us, so we went to them. Ryan, Steve, Paul and I went to go find some people to feed. Paul and I were on the tailgate of the truck as Ryan drove through the neighborhood. We handed out meals to people as we pulled up beside their homes.  Everyone was so appreciative. It was very emotional for Paul and I and we both got a little teary-eyed when we saw how a simple hot meal had such an effect on people.

Steve Pexton, Ryan Conklin, and Paul Berens help prepare meals with their fellow volunteers.

Steve Pexton, Ryan Conklin, and Paul Berens help prepare meals with their fellow volunteers.

The saddest thing was we learned about the people that had died. A total of 26 people died and 13 of them came from this little town of Rainelle. One of the ones who died was bed ridden and lived alone. He drowned while lying in bed. We learned about the animals that drowned and how some people barely made it out of the water. It was very touching and very sad.

After we were done, we met up with the Mercy Chefs again at a small church. We all got together and they said a prayer for our safe return to Raleigh. We had only been there two days but we felt very connected to these people. They are an amazing organization and I am so glad our paths crossed.

The next day we drove back to North Carolina, we all reflected on what we had seen and done. We felt proud to have gone but were all sad that we were leaving. Had it not been for a few commitments, we all would have stayed longer.

When I got home, I looked around my house saw the furniture, pictures, and my dogs. I couldn’t imagine all of it being gone, with no way to ever get it back. None of the people in Rainelle had flood insurance. It was all just gone.

I am humbled by this experience and I want to send a message to all that read this, please reach out to groups like Mercy Chefs and volunteer or donate money. They do great things. We will be lifelong friends and a big fan of theirs forever.

To the people of Rainelle and White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., you will always be in our thoughts and prayers.

-The UNC REX Chefs from North Carolina


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Summertime Sunshine: Good vs. Bad

Sun Protection

Summertime is here! Now that the warm weather’s arrived, you’re probably ready to head to the beach, go to the pool and have some fun in the sun. But it’s important to prevent overexposure to harmful sunlight while also maximizing the beneficial aspects that can enhance mood, energy and sleep. Dr. Charles Eisenbeis, an oncologist with UNC REX Cancer Care, shares the pros and cons of sun exposure.

Health Benefits of Sunshine

sunblock_sunglassesWhile too much sun can be harmful to your skin, a moderate amount of sun exposure can provide numerous mental and physical health benefits. Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, which is also known as the “sunshine vitamin.”

“In general, vitamins are compounds that are not produced in the body and need to be obtained mostly from food sources,” says Dr. Eisenbeis. “Vitamin D is different in that the body is able produce vitamin D on its own after skin is exposed to sunlight,” Dr. Eisenbeis continues.

Vitamin D enhances the absorption of other key minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. These minerals promote healthy functions of the body including:

  • Bone health – Vitamin D regulates calcium in the body, which helps maintain and grow strong, healthy bones.
  • Sleep and mood – Vitamin D helps with the production of melatonin, a hormone that’s known for regulating the sleep cycle. Melatonin can lead to more energy during the day and better sleep at night. Melatonin also helps to decrease inflammation and improve your immune system.
  • Immune function – Vitamin D works at the level of the cellular lining of the intestines to help with the absorption of minerals when we eat food. When vitamin D is absorbed, it helps to reduce inflammation and pain.

“In the past ten years we’ve received a lot of information from research on how deficiencies of vitamins are related to higher risks of some diseases such as prostate cancer and breast cancer,” said Dr. Eisenbeis.

Health Risks of Sunlight

Sunburn and Skin Aging
The amount of exposure to the sun over a lifetime can cause damage to the skin and to the DNA, which can lead to dangerous forms of skin cancer. Sun damage can also occur within the collagen of the skin, which can lead to premature aging such as sun spots and wrinkles.

Skin Cancer
Skin cancers are linked to sun exposure and are caused by damaged DNA within the skin itself. Many skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are troublesome in terms of causing cosmetic issues for patients. People who’ve been out in the sun their entire lives tend to have many of reoccurring skin cancers that need to be treated surgically. Melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma are three types of skin cancer that are largely attributed to excess sun exposure (UV radiation).

Best Practices Under the Sun

Most sun damage stems from our childhood and adolescent years. The best way to avoiding sunburns and excess sun exposure in our children and teens is to encourage best practices for skin protection.

  • Pay attention to time of day and length of sun exposure – Some people may need to have a small amount of sun exposure in order to receive the health benefits of vitamin D. You can obtain enough benefits of vitamin D with about 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure, two to three times a week and between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Apply and re-apply – Dr. Eisenbeis recommends using sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 to 50 and reapplying sunscreen every two hours.
  • Cover key areas – Wearing sunglasses will help protect your eyes from harmful effects of radiation. Skin cancers tend to form behind the neck and ears. Be sure to apply sunscreen in those key areas and wear a hat to provide extra shielding from the sun.


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Do’s of Safe Grilling

Summer is the most popular time of the year to host outside grilling parties; in fact, two of the busiest holidays for grilling occasions are Memorial Day and Fourth of July! Three out of four households in the U.S. own grills, which means there are lots of tasty meals to go around. At the same time, the growing number of grilling use leads to an increased risk for home fires and injuries. Before firing up your grill this summer, read these recommendations on safe, healthy, and tasty ways to prepare your food this cookout season!


Choice Grilling Foods
Start grilling lean cut meats with a limited amount of visible fat and skin. When buying meats with the least amount of fat, try looking for loin and round cuts of red meat and pork at the grocery store. Different types of fish such as salmon, trout, and herring are a great source for heart-healthy omega- 3 fatty acids and are low in saturated fat. And almost any vegetables can be grilled to add natural flavor to your meal!

Make sure frozen meat, poultry or seafood is thawed before grilling so that it cooks evenly. The refrigerator works best for slow, safe defrosting. You may also place sealed packages of frozen meat in cold water to thaw. Never defrost meat at room temperature, as this can promote bacteria growth and foodborne illness.

shutterstock_404044714A Boost of Flavor
Marinades can boost the flavor of meat and help keep it moist. You can marinate meat for several hours or a day or two in the refrigerator. As with defrosting, the kitchen counter is no place to marinate meat. If you plan to use a portion of the marinade for cooked food, make sure to boil the marinade for at least three minutes to kill any bacteria.

Marinade bonus: Not only can marinades enhance flavor, they may provide health benefits. Marinating meats before grilling may reduce cancer-causing substances that occur when meat is charred over high heat. In addition, some marinades contain antioxidants and vitamins that may offer protection against heart disease and cell and tissue damage.

052814_grill3Be Clean
Scrub the grilling surface with a wire grill brush to remove any charred food. Have plenty of clean grilling utensils and platters on hand, and prevent the spread of harmful bacteria by using different platters and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat. Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water after handling raw meat.

Prepare Your Grilling Zone
Instruct children to stay away from the grill, and keep pets away from the grilling area. Set up your barbecuing station in a well-ventilated area and only use approved fire starters with a charcoal grill. Let the starter fluid burn off before putting food on the grill, and keep a squirt bottle of water nearby to douse any flare-ups. When heating up the grill and flipping food, wear flameproof mitts and use cooking utensils with long handles.

Reach the Right Temperature
Heat meat to a safe internal temperature to kill bacteria. Use a food thermometer and place it in the deepest part of the meat to determine if it’s done (see chart). Turn meat at least once during the cooking process, and make sure it’s no longer pink inside.

052814_grill1When food has reached a safe temperature, remove the meat with clean tongs and place it on a clean platter. Serve food as soon as possible after cooking. In hot weather, food should never sit out for more than one hour. Immediately refrigerate any leftovers in shallow containers.

Now you’re ready to make grilling season a breeze! By following these health and safety tips, you’ll know your grill has the sweet smell of success.

Ready to Serve?

Food Cook to at least…
Whole poultry and thighs 180°F
Poultry breasts 170°F
Ground poultry 165°F
Pork (all cuts), ground beef hamburgers 165°F
Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts and chops, fish and seafood 145°F



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REX on Call Recipe: Green Coriander-Poached Yellowfin Tuna and Cucumber Noodle Salad

Recipe by James Castellow, Executive Chef at  Zest Cafe and Home Art.
Zest Cafe Dish

Follow these instruction’s to make Chef Castellow’s preserved lemon, pistachio & green coriander-poached yellowfin tuna; cucumber noodle salad in avocado lime dressing with Japanese vegetables and black garlic mustard.


  • 4 5-oz. pieces yellow fin tuna, 1 inch thick
  • 2 medium Japanese cucumbers, cut lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 8 cups loosely-packed kale leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, julienned
  • 3 scallions, green parts only, sliced lengthwise
  • 10 snow peas, julienned
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted pistachios, crushed


Set sous vide to 108⁰F. Toss tuna in marinade (recipe below) and place in four separate vacuum bags. Add remaining marinade evenly to bags and seal. Place bags in sous vide and cook for 25 minutes. Remove to an ice bath and chill completely.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water (about one gallon) to a boil. Blanch the kale for 30 seconds and remove to an ice bath. Remove from ice bath, squeeze out all the water and reserve. Next, add the carrots to the boiling water, wait 30 seconds and add the red pepper, snow peas and scallions. Blanch for 30 more seconds and remove to ice bath. Once chilled, strain, pat dry and mix with the Japanese dressing (recipe below) and reserve.

Run the Japanese cucumber through a mandolin to create “noodles”. Mix the noodles with the kale and the avocado lime dressing (recipe below) and reserve.

To Serve

Slice one piece of tuna in six pieces and plate. Sprinkle with ¼ of the crushed pistachios. Place 1/4 of noodle salad on plate and top with 1/4 of Japanese veggies. Add a 1/4 of the black garlic mustard. Repeat for all four plates. Serves 4.

Avocado Lime Dressing

  • 2 large tomatillos
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1 scallion
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro

Place all ingredients into blender and process until smooth.

Tuna Marinade

  • 2 Tbsp. preserved lemon, minced
  • 1 tsp. green coriander, minced
  • 1 tsp. pink peppercorns, minced
  • 4 tsp. preserved lemon brine
  • 4 tsp. pistachio oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt.

Mix all ingredients and reserve.

Japanese Dressing

  • 3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. chili garlic sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper

Whisk all ingredients until smooth.

Black Garlic Mustard

  • 3 Tbsp. mashed black garlic
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. extra hot Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon verbena syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper

Mix all ingredients until smooth.

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REX On Call Recipe: Summertime Stuffed Peppers

Chef Ryan McGuire from The Chef’s Academy shows us how to make this delicious summertime stuffed pepper with a coriander-tomato sauce.
Stuffed Pepper Cover


  • Pepper, Poblano- 1 each
  • Buckwheat, cooked- ½ Cup
  • Black bean, cooked- ½ Cup
  • Tomato, slicing, ripe- 1 each
  • Pepper, seranno, chopped fine – 1tsp
  • Coriander, ground- ½ tsp
  • Cilantro, chopped- 1 Tbsp
  • Lime juice- 1 tsp
  • Olive oil- 1 Tbsp
  • Salt, kosher- to taste
  • Black pepper, crushed- to taste
  • Pumpkin seeds, toasted- 2 Tbsp


  • Roast poblano pepper over burner or under broiler until the skin of the pepper is evenly charred. Place pepper in a bowl and cover to allow steam to take place.  After about 5 minutes remove pepper from the bowl and remove the charred skin from the pepper.  Carefully make an incision in the pepper (lengthwise).  Carefully remove seeds from the top of the pepper being careful not to split pepper any more.
  • For the sauce- Make an incision in the shape of an x on the bottom of the tomato just deep enough to go through the skin. Remove the core and discard.  Carefully place tomato in a pot of simmering water. Once the skin from the tomato begins to visibly peel back from the tomato remove from the hot water and place in an ice water bath.  Once tomato has cooled, remove the skin, cut in quarters and remove any visible seeds.  Dice tomato reserving a quarter for filling and place the other ¾’s in a blender with ground coriander, the diced serrano and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Puree the mixture until smooth.  Be sure to not over blend or it will become a lighter in color. Strain any large chunks and push through a sieve.  Reserve sauce for a later step.
  • For the filling- gently combine cooked buckwheat, cooked beans, chopped cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and reserved diced 1/4 of tomato with a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste for proper seasoning. Carefully stuff pepper, scooping the filling into the cavity of the pepper where the incision was made.  If there’s leftover filling you can place it under the pepper to hold it steady on the plate.
  • For plating, place the sauce in the bottom of a plate and place the pepper over the sauce.

Yield – 1 serving

Note: This recipe has been created to take advantage of the produce that’s in season during the summer in this part of NC.  The peppers, tomato and beans which are all in season could easily be replaced with many other varieties.  Please support your local farmers and visit your closest farmers market.

 Other plating suggestions– an herb oil made from a variety of fresh herbs, or edible flowers and herb sprigs to garnish the pepper. 

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