Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Where’s The Pumpkin in My Pumpkin Spice Latte?

August 28, 2014

 

As the summer starts to wind down and the days begin to get just a little bit shorter, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are just around the corner. This seasonal treat has a cult like following, with over 200 million of them sold to date! Starbucks recently announced it would start offering the drink extra early this year, to feed the frenzy.  I’ve never actually had one, (really!) so I am interested in what makes this so special.
Food Babe, an investigative food blogger was interested too, and what she uncovered may change your mind about ordering another one!

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Starbucks defines the drink as “[made of] pumpkin and traditional fall spice flavors, combined with espresso and steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice.”

What Food Babe discovered, is that while it contains way more ingredients than anticipated, it doesn’t contain any pumpkin.

The base of the drink is espresso; just coffee beans and water. No surprise there.

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Next up on the list: pumpkin spice flavored sauce. Operative word: flavored. Contents:
sugar( and lots of it,) non-fat condensed milk, high fructose corn syrup, annatto ( for color), natural and artificial flavors, caramel color(class IV), salt and potassium sorbate.

Annatto is derived from a seed. It is considered safe, but can possibly effect blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Class IV caramel color is a laboratory creation, made by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperature, creating a by-product that has been linked to cancer, even in small doses, and is under investigation by the FDA.  Do you really want to risk your life to make sure the syrup in your latte is brown?

Potassium sorbate is a preservative made from the salt of sorbic acid. Although it has been found to be toxic to human DNA cells, the World Health Organization has deemed it safe in small quantities.

The “latte” part is made from steamed milk. The dairy option uses what is affectionately referred to as “Monsanto Milk”, which comes from cows raised with antibiotics, and fed GMO corn, soy and cottonseed.

While vegans and lactose intolerant can order a soy milk option, it is most likely that they won’t be informed that there is milk in the pumpkin sauce. Oops!

The whipped cream topping contains cream, and vanilla syrup which is made from more sugar, natural flavors, potassium sorbate, citric acid, and caramel color class IV.

Finish it off by sprinkling it with pumpkin spice topping, containing cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and sulfites, another potentially dangerous food substance.

A non-fat grande pumpkin spice latte contains 50 grams of sugar and 330 calories, among other things, none of which are actually pumpkin. And while the $4.55 price tag may seem steep, the health risks are even more staggering.

For those who crave the drink, no worries. You can make a healthy version of it at home!

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Mix a shot of espresso with warm or steamed milk, a teaspoon of honey or pure maple syrup ( no Aunt Jemima’s please!) and a healthy sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.

To read Food Babe’s post in it’s entirety, click HERE.

photos: Glasshouse Images

UPDATE: Starbucks has issued a statement regarding the ingredients in their popular drink:

“The standard recipe for Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte at company-operated and licensed stores does not contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and is sweetened with sugar. We are actively looking at phasing out caramel coloring. In any instances where it is used in our beverages, the level is well below the No Significant Risk Level (NSRL) and safe to consume.

As a company, we take pride in providing full ingredient transparency to our customers so they can make whatever choice is right for them on their beverage selection. The high level of personalization of Starbucks beverages available allows customers to enjoy a unique Starbucks Experience and tailor their drink to match their own personal taste preferences – including the selection from a variety of fresh dairy selections and soy milk, a combination of syrups, and coffee/espresso options and toppings. If customers have questions about any of the items offered in our stores, they can ask their barista for a list of ingredients. We’re also working on listing core beverage recipes online via Starbucks.com and hope to have an update in the near future.”

 

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Peeling a Mango

August 26, 2014

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Peeling mangoes can be messy business. This kitchen hack, which first emanated from Buzz Feed, makes the job a lot easier.

Split the mango in half lengthwise. Rub the mango on the edge of a large drinking glass, between the flesh and the skin of the fruit. The skin should end up in your hand on the outside of the glass, and the fruit should drop into the glass. Pretty easy, am I right?

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Zucchini Bread

August 21, 2014

B is a banana bread fiend, so it would seem that zucchini bread would be an obvious alternative. Or maybe not.

This rich, moist and mostly healthy treat was met with skepticism, when she demanded to know why there was green stuff in her banana bread. Did I have to put zucchini in EVERYTHING? ( Well, lately yes I do!)

Her father, who hates bananas, liked the cinnamon and allspice flavor and bread-like texture.

You can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. Or something like that…

Here is the recipe. See for yourself if you are on Team B or Team S.

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Zucchini Bread
Sift together 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour, (or a mix of regular and whole wheat if you prefer),1/2 teaspoon each of baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and all spice in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl mix together 1 egg, 1/3 cup of canola oil, or another neutral oil such as sunflower or grape seed oil, and 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce, 2 tablespoons plain yogurt, (I used non-fat Greek), 2 teaspoons vanilla,and 3/4 cup sugar. Mix well and stir in flour mixture until combined.

Fold in 1 grated medium sized zucchini  ( about 1 cup ) to the batter, and stir to mix.

Pour mixture into a loaf pan which has been sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled.
Bake at 325 degrees for about 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack and enjoy! ( or not, as the case may be.)

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Garlic

August 19, 2014

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I love garlic, but the strong aftertaste, and the lingering scent on my fingers…not so much.

The center of the garlic clove where it sprouts is the harshest, and removing it, can mellow the garlic’s flavor.

The sprout in the middle of the clove is called the germ. Young garlic has a small, pale germ, which is tender and milder in flavor. As garlic ages, the germ continues to grow, turns green and becomes more bitter.

To remove the germ, cut the clove in half and use the tip of a paring knife to pry it out and discard it. This should take a bit of the “bite” out of the garlic, especially if it is being used raw.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Cold Brewed Coffee

August 14, 2014

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There is lots of buzz around cold brewed coffee these days ( pun intended.) It tends to be lower in acidity than it’s hot counterpart, and is” iced coffee ready” when you are. The concentrated brew means it doesn’t taste watered down when the ice starts to melt, which happens pretty quickly this time of year. It keeps for a week ( some say 2) in the fridge, making it well worth the wait.

It’s easy to make, and requires only coffee, water, and a lot of patience.

Cold Brewed Coffee:

Place 12 oz. of coarsely ground coffee into a large container.
Add 7 cups of cool water, making sure the coffee grounds are fully saturated.
Cover, and allow to steep at room temperature for about 12 hours.

Place a coffee filter into a mesh sieve, and slowly pour the coffee through it, into a pitcher. Avoid stirring, as it will make the coffee cloudy. Be patient, this process is slow and could take up to an hour for the water to fully drip through.

Cover the pitcher and chill until ready to use.

This makes a very concentrated brew. When you are ready to drink it, pour the coffee over ice, and dilute it with water and/or milk depending on your taste, and enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Scooping Ice-cream

August 12, 2014

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It’s so annoying when you are ready to serve ice-cream, but it’s hard as a rock. Microwaving it is a slippery slope: it often over melts around the edges, staying hard in the center.
No worries though…here is the scoop on scooping ice-cream that is frozen solid:

Dip a sharp knife in hot water and slice across the ice-cream container in both directions, forming a grid about the size of your ice-cream scoop.

Dip the scoop in hot water, and use to scoop out a section of the grid.

The ice-cream should be the perfect consistency.

To avoid over freezing in the first place, some suggest placing the container in a sealed, ziplock bag.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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What’s On My Mind This Week

August 7, 2014

After almost 10 months of traveling endlessly for work, I am back in New York for awhile and settling into my new, OLD routine again!

I am finding joy in the mundane things that I haven’t been able to do lately. Here are just a few of them:

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Cooking and eating greenmarket fresh vegetables : I love vegetables and finding a variety of fresh, simply prepared produce isn’t so easy to come by on the road.

Many hotel restaurants don’t offer a lot of vegetable choices, and slathering them in butter, a creamy sauce or frying them doesn’t help matters. My current fixation is zucchini. It has become my main course when the family is having meat ( which I don’t like,) or pasta, ( which doesn’t especially like me!) In addition to spiraling it into noodles and eating it with my other current fascination, tomatoes, I am playing with it in zucchini bread, and instead of lettuce in a salad, among other things. I’ll keep you posted with unrecipes soon!

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Nesting: I am reveling in being home, and taking time to do some improvements. I shampooed the bedroom carpet, and am slowly reorganizing.  My sofa needs recovering, and the whole loft could use a coat of paint. I have been discussing this for months, but the current downtime is allowing me to look at fabrics and paint chips, and actually make it happen. I didn’t plan to do anything else, but yesterday I swatted a mosquito that had flown in through the kitchen window, and both the insect and the glass backsplash in my kitchen did not survive. I’m thinking of replacing it with mosaic glass tiles in neutral tones. Any ideas?

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Training…hard! I have been a gym rat for many years, but it’s not easy to keep up with a fitness routine on the road. Yes, there are hotel gyms, and I do run outside a little, but those workouts tend to be maintenance, not real training. Travel days and early morning meetings wrecked havoc on my schedule, and I have been finding my fitness level has slipped. I was lifting lighter weights, running shorter distances, and biking at lower wattages. I am back on a serious regimen, and feeling great about it!(Okay, a little sore, but energized!)

Slow foods: I got a slow cooker a long time ago, but lately, I am actually using it! I can prep everything early in the day and leave it cook while I do whatever else I need to do. It means that I am not scrambling to get dinner ready at 7, or slaving over the hot stove when it’s hot outside. So far, BBQ pulled pork and Bolognese sauce were a hit, and I popped my favorite coconut miso chicken with shiitake mushrooms in there a few hours ago. It smells great!

Rebooting: It feels so good to relax, reconnect with friends, and think about what’s next. I love what I do, and the busier I am, the happier I am. Yet, I have missed a lot of social events, kid’s milestones, and just sitting back and relaxing! It’s also giving me enough breathing space to think about what I really want to do next, instead of just taking on the next project blindly. I usually panic at this stage, but this time I am enjoying it. Before the craziness began, I was working on a new concept for Indigo Jones. Perhaps now, I can take it to the next level. I’m pretty sure that will be what I will obsess over next week! I can’t wait to be able to share it with you.

Finding balance: These days it seems like it’s all or nothing with me. I’m not retired and I do still have work to do. I need to find the balance between committing myself to it fully, and living a normal life. And that is what I intend to do.

photos: Glasshouse Images

 

Eat To Win

August 6, 2014

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I am always intrigued by how nutrition plays such a strong role in athletic performance. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains is  usually the norm for good health. But when you are racing a bike through the mountains of France for 6 hours a day, for 3 weeks straight, it seems one needs a bit more than that to power through.

Esquire magazine tracked Tour de France champion Thor Hushovd’s food consumption  for the day, and the amount he eats is truly staggering!

Breakfast consists of oatmeal, toast, ham, eggs, cereal and rice. Once on the bike, he snacks on 4-6 Clif bars, 2 packs of shot blocks and 2-3 gels, some rice cakes, and a small sandwich,washed down with 6-8 bottles of a special energy drink made for his team.

Post race, there is more rice, curried chicken or a tortilla of some kind, and 2 bottles of a recovery drink,consumed on the bus ride home.

Once back at the hotel, dinner consists of stuffed tomatoes, zucchini and more rice, beet salad, avocados, spaghetti, turkey and prunes, and sorbet for dessert. It all adds up to about 9,000 calories a day, or almost a week’s worth of food for me.

Although Hushovd burns about 6,000 calories on the bike, the most the body is capable of absorbing during exercise is about 250-300 calories per hour. Fueling up is more than just loading up. He is careful to go light on gluten and fiber, to avoid bloating and intestinal issues during the ride. Rice is his carb of choice.

So far, it’s all paying off, with Hushovd holding a top spot in the race so far.

I rode about 16 miles in 45 minutes in my indoor cycling class today, and burnt about 650 calories. While that may be child’s play for these athletes, surely it qualifies me for a little treat, doesn’t it?

photo: glasshouse images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Clean As You Go

August 5, 2014

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I used to make a colossal mess when I cooked. The kitchen would be covered with food, dishes and who knows what, every time I made a significant meal. As I have honed my skills over the years, that has changed. While I won’t say I don’t make a mess, I will say that it is more contained. They say that the best cooks are neat cooks, and I am starting to agree with that. S can use the entire kitchen, just making a smoothie, and I end up chiseling the remains of it off the counters for the rest of the day.
Here are a few tips to keep the kitchen clutter at bay while whipping up meals:

Plan ahead. Think about the ingredients and the tools you need before you start. Dripping things across the kitchen and measuring things all over the kitchen, instead of where they are going is a recipe for disaster. Searching frantically for a tool when you have your latest creation all over your hands just spreads the mess to cupboard handles and countertops. Assemble things in one central location, for maximum efficiency.

Clean as you go. Placing used dishes and utensils into the sink keeps them contained and off the counters. Wash the dishes and especially wipe the counters immediately before you move on to the next dish. Always start with a clean slate, even if that just means the countertops are food and clutter free.

If you are making multiple dishes, don’t put the utensils you need again into the dishwasher. Hand wash them so they are immediately accessible for the next round.

Wipe spills off the floor, the cupboards and refrigerator door as soon as possible. Once they dry, they are harder to clean off. Everybody spills and splatters, but not everybody wipes them up. Get my drift?

Catch the overflow . Place a cookie sheet under cakes, pies and casseroles  before putting them in the oven. That way, if they boil over, or spatter, you can clean the cookie sheet, instead of the entire oven. Even better, cover them in aluminum foil to avoid having to scrub the drip pan.

Use a garbage bowl.  TV cooks often use a garbage bowl to collect the food scraps as they appear, Toss vegetable peels, and other food refuse into the bowl as you go, and simply empty it and rinse the bowl when you are done.

Cooking can be great fun. Cleaning up: not so much. Cleaning as you go can make the task less daunting and give you more time to enjoy your delicious meal!

 

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Zucchini Pasta with Shrimp

July 30, 2014

On a summer evening, we’re looking for a meal that has it all: bountiful seasonal produce, great flavors and textures, and one that won’t leave us feeling overly full. When it doesn’t involve too much slaving over a hot stove, or heating up the house with the oven, it’s an added bonus.

Saturday night’s dinner fit the bill. Using zucchini as a base, with ripe tomatoes and fresh basil blanketing fresh Florida shrimp, it was as tasty as it was easy to prepare.

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Zucchini Pasta and Shrimp with Tomato Sauce and Basil Oil

For the “pasta”:

Using a spiralizer, cut 2 zucchini into noodles and set aside.

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Saute 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add fresh tomatoes ( I prefer them peeled, but it isn’t necessary) cut into chunks, and a few fresh basil leaves. Season with salt and black pepper, and cook on a low heat until the tomatoes start to melt. Stir often until it is the consistency of a thick, chunky sauce. Add the zucchini noodles, and cook, tossing, for just a couple of minutes until the zucchini is cooked, but still crisp, and completely covered in the tomato sauce.

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For the shrimp:

Peel and devein the shrimp. Spread out on towels after rinsing to eliminate any extra moisture.

In the meantime, place a clove or two of garlic and a large handful of basil leaves into the work bowl of a food processor or blender and process until it is finely minced. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil until the mixture emulsifies.

Place the shrimp on a cookie sheet, and brush them with the basil mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil or grill them for a couple of minutes until pink and opaque. Conversely, they can be sautéed in olive oil, adding the basil mixture at the end and coating the shrimp thoroughly.
Add them to the zucchini noodle mixture and toss. Serve in shallow bowls and enjoy!

photos: Indigo Jones

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