Archive for August, 2014

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.”

 

I’m With The Band(eau)

August 27, 2014

Young Hollywood turned out for the awards ceremonies this week, and the accessory of choice was a toned midsection.

The VMA’s drew an edgier crowd, with black leather playing a starring role.

Miley rocked a leather bandeau with high waisted leather pants, for a look that was sexy and age appropriate.

She also stole the show for a second year in a row, shedding last year’s raunchy image for a surprising show of humanity when a homeless youth accepted her award, bringing awareness to the cause.

 

 

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Lucy Hale mixed her leather halter top with a full black skirt for a look that was “a little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll.”

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Kendall Jenner added a sheer layer over her black bra and high rise trousers, creating a look that was youthful and tasteful. She and her sister Kim texting during the silent tribute to the residents of Ferguson, was not.

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The following night, Sarah Hyland took the trend to a more formal and demure place, with her white cropped top and orange princess style skirt.

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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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First Do No Harm

August 20, 2014

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The FDA often acknowledges the presence of harmful chemicals in our household products, but does not do anything about them. Case in point:

In 2010, the government agency agreed that triclosan, which is often found in hand soaps and toothpaste can disrupt hormone balance, cause endocrine disorders and could be a contributor to the increasing rates of drug-resistant bacterias. The state of Minnesota has announced a ban on triclosan, effective in 2017.

So why is triclosan one of the active ingredients in Colgate Total toothpaste, something we actually ingest?!

Surely, there are other less toxic and dangerous things that could be used to make toothpaste, than a drug known to cause extreme health issues.

Consumer groups are pressuring big retailers to remove Colgate Total, and other triclosan products from the shelves. More importantly, we should be pressuring the FDA to ban it completely.

Colgate has defended it’s product, stating that there have been more studies done on Total than any other toothpaste in the world and that it is safe to use. Personally, I am not taking any chances. My current tube of Colgate Total is going in the trash, and being replaced by Crest, which doesn’t contain triclosan, or something even purer, like Tom’s of Maine.

Plain old baking soda and water has also been touted as a natural toothpaste replacement, removing stains, tartar and leaving breath fresh. The fluoride in our water supply should be able to do the rest.

We can run marathons, pour buckets of ice water over our heads, and bike until our legs fall off, all in the name of curing diseases that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Banning harmful ingredients, and being transparent with consumers about what is actually in these products may some day make our efforts moot.

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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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Mini Treats

August 18, 2014

There is a little bit of kid in all of us, especially when it comes to treats. Over the weekend, I made a bunch of indulgent little desserts in kid friendly sizes. They were well received by all ages!

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Specially shaped chocolate chip cookies became the base for kid- friendly cookie pops!

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Nothing is better than handmade mini ice cream cones.

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Except for the ones filled with homemade salted caramel ice cream, that is. The creamiest smoothest ice cream I have ever eaten, if I must say so myself.

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In a word: YUM!

photos: indigo jones instagram

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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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Lefties

August 13, 2014

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August 13 is Left Handers Day, and being a southpaw myself, I thought it prudent to mark the occasion.

Lefties tend to be drawn to creative pursuits more often than their right handed counterparts. Look for lots of lefties in the arts, music, design, and sports.

From Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrant, to David Bowie and Paul McCartney, the list of creative lefties goes on and on.

Four of the last seven presidents of the United States have also been lefties. Presidents Obama, Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ford were all southpaws. Harry Truman and James Garfield also favored their left hands. It is rumored that Ronald Reagan was also a lefty, but was converted by his school teachers to use his right hand.

There are some major downfalls to being left handed:

Notebooks are bound on the left, making it difficult to start writing at the margin. We also tend to drag our hand through the text or drawings as we work on them, smearing the ink or graphite, and giving us a telltale smudge along the outside of our hand.

If we don’t sit on the outside of the table, we end up in an elbow war with the people next to us.

Those old fashioned one sided school desks? Always on the wrong side!

Often lacking the tools to perform day to day tasks due to things being engineered to accommodate righties, those who favor the left tend to be able to adapt to different scenarios with ease.

Try to open a can with a crank can opener, cut with scissors and use a mouse that are all designed to be used with your less dominent hand, and see how you fare. Us lefties have been doing it for years.

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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