Blog Directory - Blogged foodliterate: October 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Something Sweet

This is a good time for the candy makers and not just because it is coming into the holiday season. A depressed economy almost always translates into increased consumption of candy. And, if that weren't enough, the population of Americans 12 and under is expanding for the next 7 years.

Generation Y, especially the 18-24 year olds, are the heaviest consumers of sweets; they are the #1 purchaser of gourmet chocolates, the #1 purchaser of non-chocolate candies, and the most likely age group to chew gum.

Healthy treats are hitting the marketplace now that include organic, fat-free, sugar-free, high antioxidant, and fortified with B-vitamins, taurine and/or guarana for energy. In fact some gums on the shelves right now contain magnolia bark extract (kills bacteria), aloe vera, co-enzyme Q10 (used by the body to generate energy), and ceramide (protects from cellular death). Exotic ingredients are also a big trend, we are already seeing rose, violet, green-tea, lychee and chile peppers being integrated to our sweet treats.

With my motto of everything in moderation, there is always a place for a treat. Look around and experiment with some of the new flavors and forms - it may just make your life a little sweeter!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Great Pumpkin

Red & yellow leaves, harvest moons, chilly days - must mean fall has arrived. And the coming of fall means arrival of the pumpkins! They're not just for Halloween anymore.

Pumpkins are part of the cucurbita family which include cucumbers, muskmellons (what we call canteloupe), squashes, and watermelons. Their name is derived from the greek word for large melon: pepon. And they've been a part of the human diet so long that archeologists have discovered pumpkin rinds and seeds in cliff dwellings dating back to 1500 BC in Central & South America. Given their long history as part of our meals on this continent, it is no surprise that the first colonists adopted pumpkin into their diets.

The top pumpkin growing states in the US are currently Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California. And despite what it looks like around the farm stands and grocery stores this time of year, only a very small percentage of the pumpkins grown are sold for ornamenation. The majority are harvested and sold for processing into cans, pies, breads, etc. Want another couple of fun pumpkin facts? They are 90% water and 80% of the entire pumpkin supply is available in October.

Pumpkin is remarkably versitile for use in both savory applications like soups and stews and in sweet applications like pies, cakes & cookies. In addition, both its flesh and seeds are quite edible and nutritious. One cup of cooked (boiled) pumpkin flesh has about 49 calories, 2.5 grams of protein. 12 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, 564 mg of potassium, 37 mg of calcium and 12230 IU of Vitamin A. A half cup of pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, has 592 calories, 37 grams of protein, 15 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber, 606 mg of magnesium, 915 mg of potassium and 16 mg of iron.

So now that you have all of this new pumpkin knowledge, let me give you my pumpkin muffin recipe.
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup milk (I use 1%)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 to 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (this is really to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350*F; oil muffin pan or use paper sleeves. In a bowl, mix together pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients and stir for no more than 30 seconds. The mix will be lumpy, but overmixing really ruins the texture of muffins due to overproduction of gluten. Fold in the chocolate chips and pumpkin seeds. Distribute into the muffin pan and bake until done. Time will depend on your oven and the size of your muffin tins, but check after 12-15 minutes. You can use the toothpick method to determine when they are finished cooking. Remove from pans, cool on a rack and Enjoy!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dairy - Do or Don't?

Much has been said about consumption of dairy products, especially the fat content of dairy products (saturated & trans-fats) these last couple of years, which has led to much confusion about its place in our diet. Personally, I'm pro-dairy, but no one should make a decision based on my feelings so let me share some information with you.

It is true that milk contains saturated fats, in fact, 62% of the fat in milk is saturated. What isn't as widely known is that the saturated fat in milk is different than other saturated fats. The sat fats in milk have very short chain lengths and they follow a distinctive metabolic pathway (how they are used by the body) that differs from other saturated (or even unsaturated) fats. So while it still shows up in the sat fat line on the nutritional panel, its physiological effect is different.

It is also true that milk contains naturally occurring trans fats. For those who haven't read my post: Oh My Omega, I will quickly review a trans fat. All fats with a C=C bond (mono & poly fats) have a configuration, meaning the hydrogen atoms are either attached to the same side or to opposite sides of the double bond. When the hydrogen atoms are on the same side of the double bond, it is called a cis isomer. When the hydrogen atoms are on the opposite sides of the double bond, it is called a trans isomer. Because the carbons on cis isomers are on the same side their chains usually have a "V" shape, but because the hydrogens are on opposite sides of the trans isomers, their chains are straight like saturated fats. Naturally occurring trans fats are produced by biohydrogenation, of the unsaturated fats consumed by the cow, in the rumen aided by bacterial enzymes. (In English - the bacteria living in the cow's stomach convert the polyunsat fat to trans fat by adding a hydrogen atom to the fatty acid chain)

Now, these trans fats are not like the industrially produced trans fats. Where the trans configuration occurs naturally does not look at all like where the trans configuration happens industrially. Where the double bond exists on the carbon chain matters quite a bit to how we metabolize fats. Naturally occurring trans fats in milk are mostly found on the 11th carbon, while industrially produced trans fats are more evenly distributed across many of the carbon atoms. The most common fatty acid found in milk is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and of the CLA content in milk, the most common configuration (90% of total CLA) is the c-9, t-11 (cis isomer at the 9th carbon, trans isomer at the 11th carbon).

CLA is of particular interest because of some recent study results. The National Academy of Science in 1996 stated: "CLA was the only fatty acid shown unequivocally to inhibit carcinogenesis in experimental animals". Now, we aren't lab animals but this is a great finding and it started some clinical trials on humans to see if the connection carries to us. What the scientists do know is that the c-9, t-11 isomer is preferentially taken up and accumulated in mammary tissue. This connection is being studied to see if milkfat plays a role in the prevention of breast cancer. CLA is also being studied in regards to heart health. It appears that 3 grams per day has a favorable effect on blood lipid levels (those would be triglycerides, HDL and LDL cholesterol).

So, now you have some information about dairy, and specifically its fats, to form your own position on this nutrient and its place in your diet. I do hope you found this post moooving (couldn't resist) and that you check back to find out what I write about next!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Little Hand Holding

Always on the go? If you're like me, not many of your meals are consumed leisurely at a table at home, but often on the run or at your desk. In fact, Packaged Facts reported that only 60% of our meals are prepared and eaten at home, that is a lot of on-the-go eating. This means that we gravitate to the quick and portable for our sustenance.

Luckily, my industry is paying attention and has been creating new items from what seems like every corner of the world. You can find in your grocery store, the convenience store or local restaurant carry-out menu items such as:
  • Empanadas and tamales
  • Egg rolls, spring rolls and bao
  • Dosa
  • Burritos and sandwich wraps
  • Pasties
  • Cheese filled bagels
  • Pancake pods (these are pancake sandwiches filled with fruit)
  • Breakfast cookies and cereal bars

My industry is also aware that while you may be rushed, eating healthy (at least some of the time) is something that you consider when choosing a food item. We also want food that tastes good and is visually and texturally appealing as well. With this in mind, you'll find companies combining artisan breads (like ciabiatta, sourdough, whole grains) with gourmet fillings. You are also likely to see legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains used in fillings, as coatings, and included as ingredients in the bread.

So, while it would be nice to slow down and enjoy more of our meals (home cooked preferably) at home with our loved ones, we can at least take comfort that there are healthy, innovative, worldly and tasty hand held food available!