Saturday, April 30, 2005

Salt of the Earth

Salt Assortment
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Salt is like no other substance we eat. It has the most amazing qualities. It has been used to flavor, preserve and cook foods for centuries. It is quite unique. Salt is an inorganic material that only comes from the oceans of the earth.
Actually it comes from the rocks that erode into the seas located around the globe. From Utah, to the Pacific ocean, to France and the Himalayans salt is harvested world wide. In its pure form salt in known as sodium chloride. It has been harvested by every known community. And up until the 19-20th centuries it was used primarily as a preservative to keep meats and other foods from spoiling and as a flavor enhancer.

Interestingly enough with the onset of the industrial revolution salt came along for the ride. It is used in something as simple as salting a road or a sidewalk to prevent water from freezing into ice. It is used in water treatment facilities to soften water. Salt is now "manufactured" worldwide, depending on its location it can be highly processed or simply air dried to ensure purity and quality.

Because salt is a naturally occurring product it carries with it minerals and trace elements that can add undesirable flavors. These minerals can be "washed out" of the salt by a brining method to remove the offending "bitter" elements. A couple of the biggest offenders are magnesium and calcium. Large salt manufacturers remove these to give table salt the recognizable nice white clean look and taste is has today. Interestingly enough though I notice that they add in calcium silicate and magnesium oxide to prevent clumping. ??? Odd they remove these minerals as undesirable flavor elements and add small amount of derivative elements back in to make them easier to deal with in mass production quantities. When the anti-clumping additives are added they are usually in small amounts of less than 2% of the whole batch.

The picture shows an assortment of salts in my cupboard. Let's discuss them individually.

iodized salt 1. This is good old iodized table salt. Morton's to be exact. It is probably on just about every table in America. In the 1920's manufacturers began adding potassium iodide to salt to prevent iodide deficiencies in humans. One note - if you live in area where they chlorinate your water - dissolve some in water. Let it sit for a bit. What do you smell? Some people can smell seaweed. If you don't know what seaweed smells like, you'd never figure it out. The smell is created when the chlorine in the water mixes with the iodide. Weird? Not really. Quite salty, and it has a underlying aftertaste. Maybe the iodides.

Hain Sea Salt Non Iodized 2. Hain's non-iodized pure sea salt. This is Hain's version of kiln dried and processed sea salt. It is purified to remove bitter minerals, then they add Calcium Silicate to prevent clumping. Taste? Pretty much the same as Morton's, not a noticeable aftertaste.

kosher 3. Kosher Salt. Kosher salt is never iodized. It comes in large crystals and flakes. It is lighter in flavor and is a favorite of cooks countrywide. When you look at the picture, closely, in the foreground are a couple of triangular shaped pieces. This is natural phenomenon of salt crystals when the evaporation process is done slowly, thus allowing the crystals to form larger and triangular in shape. Kosher salt must be used when preparing meats according to Jewish dietary laws. It is salty, you can use less because of the larger crystals. I use it in meat preparation and with sauces

fleur de sel1 4. Fleur de Sel (fine). This is the La Baleine brand from the coast of the Mediterranean. I was surprised to find this wonderfully flavored salt quite inexpensive. Yes it was still triple the cost of regular Morton's however it was not cost prohibitive. This salt is harvested directly from the coast line and then rinsed in the "clear blue waters of the Mediterranean". This is my favorite salt. I use it in all of my cooking. The flavor is salty, and i can't describe it in words other than to say it has a "clean" - possibly pure flavor.

Himalayan 5. Himalayan. This example of salt without minerals and elements removed. It is harvested at the foot of the Himalyan mountains. Himalayan salt has a definite pink hue. The hue comes from minerals such as calcium, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. Most of these are only present in trace amounts, yet enough to alter coloration. Producers note that this is how salt was meant be savored. Most refer to it as unrefined salt, meaning "processed without removal of any minerals. However, these minerals add thier own disctinct flavors. Some people find them bitter. It does have a bit of an aftertaste. Used correctly, it should still give good results in certain preparations.

Real Salt 6. Real Salt. Redmond Utah. This is much like the Himalayan salt. It is quite fine and has less of an aftertaste than the Himalayan. It does share its pretty pink hue though. looking closely you can see the bits and pieces of other elements. Real Salt was awarded the 2004 Best taste award from the American Culinary Society. It is a nice table salt and used sparingly should be enjoyed by all.

Solar Sea Salt 7. Solar Sea Salt. This is harvested off the coast of the pacific ocean. Solar sea salt is allowed to dry a bit then is rinsed clear in sea water then placed ina kiln to finish the drying process. The size of the crystal indicate it is slow evaporated prior to final kiln drying method. I use this salt when preserving herbs, citrus or the occasional salmon filet.

There are other salts available. Colored and flavored varieties such as celery salt and garlic salt. There are also smoked salts available in Wales, Denmark and India. The black salt of India is much like the Real Salt of Utah, it has minerals which give it color and flavor. There is also a famous "sel gris" - grey salt. Sel gris is an unrefined form of salt still containing magnesium and other elements which gives it a distinctive coloration. On the horizon: Pastry chefs have begun developing "sweet" salts for use with pastries and confections. In my latest Pastry Art & Design (March 2005) magazine an article shows us how to make a fruit salts. Chef Cory Colton is using fruit infused salts to add taste and texture.

The sky's the limit! Try something new with salt in your kitchen - you may surprise yourself how this simple seasoning can become a star in your preparation.

Please don't use my taste example as yours. Taste is in the tongue. We all have different receptors in our tongue making the taste of something very personal. Try a few of these salts, choose one that meets your needs (and the needs of the recipe) and likes. Don't use something because everyone else is using it.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Martha and me

Well, I was watching an old episode of MS Living on TV. She was doing a preparation for Thanksgiving show. She took a field trip out to Decas Cranberries. Decas, as you may or may not know, is one of the largest cranberry growers in the US. While at the farm she talked to several people in the harvest and processing process. The last part of the segment showed a gentleman giving her a tour of the processing facility. This man's name is John Decas. Mr. Decas sells a fine product. When you're buying dried cranberries - remember that the cranberries from Decas is a superior product. It's all berry - not a syrup and flavor infused dried berry like other companies purvey.

You've all played the 6 degress of Kevin Bacon game? Well, seeing Mr. Decas and Martha Stewart together made me think. I have met with John Decas. I am 2 degrees from Martha Stewart. The fact that we both worked for the same brokerage firm once upon a time brings us even a bit closer. However, I don't think I'll sew it all up with a trip to camp cupcake!

File this under trivial stuff about the chronicler.

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Gimme some Shugr!

I posted a while back about a new sugar free sweetener called Shugr. Well, just minutes ago they announced that Shugr is now available in 5X and 10X styles. This will really aid in baking operations. To quote from their news release " Shugr 5X and Shugr 10X are the next important steps in our drive to bring the extraordinary benefits of Shugr to commercial manufacturers so they can offer natural, safe, and more healthful products to consumers," said Fred E. Tannous, co-chairman and CEO of Health Sciences Group, Inc. "Many such manufacturers have long sought a natural, zero-calorie replacement for cane sugar or other sweeteners in their products. Because of its great taste, natural profile, low glycemic index and excellent cooking and baking qualities, Shugr is expected to become their sweetener of choice."

Go over and take a look at their site. Maybe there's something about this sweetener.

Some may ask, why I have become an unofficial spokesperson for Shugr. Well, I have friends and family members affected by diabetes. Anything that will make their lives, and the lives of thousands of other people, better should be worth a second look.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pie Chart

Meggiecat is one of my very favorite craftibolggers. She has the most amazing blog for illustrators and those interested in the graphic arts. She has been an inspiration for me to try some new things in the crafting/design arena.

Meggiecat recently linked to the pie chart in Martha Stewart's May issue. It is a very simple little pie chart that you can print out and use for a reference tool when attempting a pie. This, of course, is a helper for those of you who are new at pie baking. It isn't as hard as it looks and you can usually get pretty good results if you keep it simple.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Tangerine Sorbet - IMBB 14

Tangerine Sorbet
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
This month's installment of Is My Blog Burning is being hosted by Foodgoat. If you are unfamiliar with IMBB, the creation of Albert of Il Forno, and read more about this cooking/blogging phenomenon! Ladygoat chose a very interesting theme this month. If fact I have had so many different choices it was hard to choose just how to approach "Orange you hungry?". Cold carrot soup? Jamaican Carrot soup? Cantaloupe Soup with berries? Sweet Potato Pie? It wasn't until yesterday morning that I chose to do Blueberry Soup with Tangerine Sorbet. One of my very favorite fruits is a tangerine. I am pretty much alone in that love here at home, yet I thought I might be able to convince everyone of its goodness by choosing this recipe. I did tweak it a bit to meet my own likes vs the recipe writer, as they recommended Orange Sorbet.
Tangerine Sorbet
Juice of 5 large tangerine
2Tbs honey Juice of 1 lemon 1 Tbs Tangerine zest, minced 2 tsp Lemon zest, minced 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the tangerine juice and honey. Let simmer for 4-5 minutes until honey is melted. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients, stir together and place in the refrigerator to chill. Once chilled, place mixture in your favorite ice cream maker and process. Return to freezer until ready to serve.
Blueberry Soup
6 cups fresh blueberries (you can use frozen, if fresh are not available)
1/4 cup water 1/4 sugar 2 cups of seltzer water, chilled Place water and sugar in small sauce pan. Heat to melted sugar, bring to a boil and let simmer for 2 minutes. While sugar is cooking, put 5 cups of blueberries in your food processor. Puree to a fine sauce. (the recipe recommends putting the puree through a sieve at this point to remove pulp) If you wish to sieve blueberries do that now. Add sugar syrup and blend well. Chill. Just before serving, add seltzer water to blueberry puree and blend well. Pour into bowls. Add three small scoops of tangerine sorbet. Garnish with remaining berries and mint leaves. Serve immediately.
I must say, everyone who had a chance to have a small bowl of this wonderful summer soup, loved it! The combination of the tangerines and blueberries was a tasty combo! I hope you give this one a try as it will become a summer staple in our home.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Parting is such Sweet Sorrow

Scharffenberger Cache
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Well, my final days with my current employer are coming to a quick end. I expect that by Tuesday afternoon, I will be without employ. I should be in a panic, however, I guess I will find a way to make money and get my own business thriving soon.

On an afternoon last week, we were doing a final inventory review. We meaning my boss, the company president, and myself. No one else was with us and he was checking this and that. We came across our supply of dipping chocolate. I inquired if we would be keeping the chocolate for another location or if we would be sourcing it to another firm. That was left up in the air. All of the chocolate was in full cases except one. I told him we probably couldn't sell a partial case and if it was okay I'd like to have it. He said sure! Take it with you today. Yay! Yay! I picked it up and carted it off before he could change his mind.

A couple of years ago, we joined with other agriculture firms and restaurants, in support of the "california Grown" campaign. In light of the campaign we did a dessert for the California Restaurant Association yearly awards dinner. In our part we decided that a signature offering of ours would debut as an all California product. From there forward we would be using a California made chocolate in our dipping operation. The chocolate company we chose is manufactures some of the finest chocolate around. If you look carefully at the picture you can see their famous logo. Scharffenberger Logo

Scharffenberger is one of my very favorite chocolates and now I have a personal stash! 14 pounds of the best stuff on the planet!

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Friday, April 22, 2005

For the Beauty of the Earth

Bird from paradise
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Hi guys! Today is one of my favorite days. When I was graduating high school all those many years ago... We celebrated our very first Earth Days. We went all over the school and picked up all the trash laying about. We then listened to a couple of speeches about ecology and its importance in our lives. Something changed for me that day. Each and every Earth Day after that I have taken some time out of the day and planted something.

This world is ours. It is such a wonderful gift. It presents us with an enormous array of foods to eat. The natural resources we enjoy are remarkable. Please give something back today. Go find something living and gife it a good home. Enhance the world around you today. Do it. You'll be glad you did.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Con Pane - A Rustic Bakery

Con Pane
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
We reside in one city. We live in Southern California. It is not unusual for us to drive 80 miles south to have lunch or dinner on a given day. My favorite place for a good sandwich is also my favorite bakery.

Catherine Perez moved from Illinois a few years ago to go to San Diego State and study to be a financial analyst. I am not sure why her journey took a turn but I'm glad it did. In 1999 she opened Con Pane - A Rustic Bakery. It has slowly grown to a thriving business in Point Loma, California.

The bread assortment is more than ample. Con Pane has provided the bread for both our daughters' weddings. (The third daughter's wedding is coming up in July and I am sure it'll be there too.) They are famous for their Pt. Loma Sourdough. There is an assortment of daily breads such as traditional french baguettes, Seeded Baguettes, a Rosemary Olive Oil Boule, an artisan multi-grain and others. Catherine also has developed an exciting array of daily breads. Each recipe is her own and there are some real favorites available. Among them are a Pesto and Feta Foccacia, Challah bread (only on Friday), Gruyere and Chive, and Kalamata Olive loaf. Each time I've been in there is a line out the door and seating is limited. It is a great place to pick up a loaf for home or sit down and enjoy a Sweet or Savory Baker's Plate. The cinnamon rolls are delicious along with the assortment of other breakfast pastries. You can even go in and have a good old fashioned PB&J if you have a hankering for one.

Kalamata Bread This is a photo of my favorite of the group. I order a Roast Beef on Kalamata Bread with tomatoes, goat cheese and red onion. It is the perfect lunch.

Con Pane is located in Point Loma, as earlier stated. It is on the corner of Rosecrans and Canon (Thanks to Kaz for the update!). It is across the street from the town's pharmacy and near the waterfront. Take a drive, drop in, say hello, buy a sandwich. Get it to go. Then get in the car and drive down to the Cabrillo Monument. Just before you get to the monument, make a right turn. Follow the road down to the Lighthouse. Park where you can, roll down the windows, smell the clean salt air and enjoy a wonderful lunch courtesy of Catherine Perez and her staff.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Seriously, though

new food pyramid
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
The USDA has a new and improved Food Pyramid. It actually takes into account your age, activity levels and gender. However, it is interactive. You must have access to a computer to take full advantage of the new program. There are some PDF files that can be downloaded. Go take a look!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Big News!!!!!!

I had to post this! It is such good news. In fact, I think I'm going to have another marshmallow now.

The CDC is now announcing that being obese is not the number two killer in the U.S. Yay! It has now been determined that the number two rating was overstated. (Am I the only one who finds it funny that a statistic about being overweight was overstated?) Heh Heh. It is actually the number seven reason for death of Americans. Well, that's a pretty good drop.

Go to here and read the whole story as reported by Yahoo from an AP feed.

I actually believe there is a lot more to genetic dispositions than anything with regard to death rates. However, I am not a physician, nor do I play one on TV. Eat well, get some exercise, laugh a lot, and enjoy the time you have. I do know very well that sometimes, no matter how well you eat, there wasn't a long time slot slated for some.

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Spring has sprung!

Spring! What a wonderful time of year! The weather here in SoCal has been just wonderful lately. It is encouraging us to get outside! On the weekend I noticed everyone seemed to be outside enjoying the sun and warmth! There were car washers, bicyclers, boaters, and gardeners.

Now is the best time to begin a garden! Get outside, pick out a small spot, or maybe a large spot, to plant something and watch it grow. What a wonderful place we live, what wonderful blessings we enjoy. We can pick out seeds, plant them in the ground around our homes and give them a little water occasionally - the end result? Food! The best tomatoes you've ever eaten. Cantaloupe, watermelon, all kinds of squash, cucumbers, peppers, and almost anything else you can think to grow.

I've named the essentials needed for a garden. A small plot of soil, seeds, and water. Nature takes care of the rest. However, seeds are very important. We have jars of seeds in the garage that have been harvested by my father-in-law for years. He was a farmer and for more years than he could remember, a portion of his crop would go to seed. They would be saved and then used the following year. He grew the best tomatoes! My daughters would get off the school bus by grandpa's house every afternoon. They would walk from the bus to the house meandering through the field. It wasn't easy to hide the fact that you had spent a bit of time in the field prior to coming in to check in with grandma. She could always spot a seed that dribbled down to a shirt, or a tell tale "tomato rash" from eating too many ripe cherry tomatoes at one time. Nothing replaces the memory of spending time in grandpa's garden.

So where does one purchase seeds? A favorite of mine is at the Shaker Museum Store. The grow and gather seeds just the way they did back in the 1800s. Another is Burpee Seeds. Either will get you seeds to grow a garden you can take pride in and share your bounty with everyone you know.

So get out there and grow something to eat!

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

I'm Back!

This past week has been one of many exercises.


Having to go without my laptop, I was able to excercise patience and longing. I hadn't realized that this simple little box of circuit boards and buttons, had become such an integral part of me. I use it for work, play, creativity, and correspondence. Not having access to it for a week, was quite a challenge. I would take 5 minute opportunities on other computers to check email or a favorite web page or two. This simple little 7 lb box of magic. I have thoroughly integrated it into my world. I don't know what I would do without this wonderful technological marvel. When you factor in the fact that I used a Telex machine at the buying company I worked at, technology and I have come a long way. I can even remember using our first fax there too - the Rapicom machine! I love where we are now!

However, work was a challenge. I could no longer quickly enter information into a spreadsheet, hit the printer button, and have my reports looking neat, tidy and complete. I suddenly developed a good case of writers' cramp. You see, this is a fully automated office, gone are the typewriters of old. However, that automation came through the use of my personal computer - work didn't provide one - they loved the fact that I already had one.


We knew that this plant was winding down. That plant operations would cease as of the 15th of April. We knew that after April 15th, fruits, nuts and various candies would no longer be put in containers and processed through our machines or tables. What wasn't anticipated was the fact that the existing product would have to be put in unfamiliar cartons for shipping to customers prior to Friday's close of business. Wednesday, we were instructed that all product would be boxed, inventoried and shipped to a different location on Friday. This would be a feat, as there were only 11 to do the job of twenty. 1500 cases of product to remove from their original container and placed in a cardboard box, sealed and labeled, palletized and then inventoried for shipment. Usually I don't actually get into the packing process, but there was just too much to do, I dove in with both feet. My muscles can attest the fact that I packed 4 pallets of product on my own. It was physically challenging, yet it helped us stayed focused and not think too much about Friday being the last day we would ever work together as a team. We even worked overtime on our last day, to get the job done, so as not to let down those above us who had placed their faith in us.

Emotional Restraint.

Some of them came as long as 18 years ago. Most of them have families. Some of them were related. We had a brother and sister team. A husband and wife. Others were cousins. A few spoke no words of english. Most had children in school, learning english, living and learning about the American dream. One has a son serving in the Air Force, a proud mom with pictures to show to anyone who asks about him. Some came only during peak seasons, working to provide the much needed boost to a budget during the holidays. All came to work, dedicated to getting the job done. Dedicated to doing whatever was asked of them. Learn to arrange fruit in an artistic manner, learn to work on an automated machine line, learn to pack fruit by hand making sure to only pack the best available to enusre customer satisfaction. All those hands worn by years of hard physical labor. All those budgets, continually interrupted by the whim of management to save a few dollars and have a week long lay-off. Complain? Hardly ever. Certainly we had our share of gossip and squabbling. But when we needed them to get them job done - they answered the task, working overtime, being laid off, working an unusual Saturday to get the job done. Why because they had a level of integrity that had been instilled over the years. They had been taught the work ethic. For what? To be laid off after all this time. They endured 4 changes in ownership. They stayed each time. Each time new changes came, new rules to follow. But they endured. Not this time though. This last group couldn't make it work either. They relied on old business standards that clouded their "vision" and failed. Failed to keep these dedicated workers working. Failed to keep a good name above water. Failed to work as hard as their workers to keep the company going.

All I can say is this was the biggest excercise of all. Exercise great restraint not ot lash out at those over me and tell them how I really feel. To see the freight train coming at us, and not be able to convince anyone to move. It just steam-rolled over us, leaving a wake of unemployed in the aftermath. This season will come and go, with shuttered windows and a locked door. The seasons boost will have to come elsewhere. My heart goes out to them, the dedicated staff of my plant. I thank you, your efforts did not go unnoticed. I am sorry for your loss. I wish you well and I know, you'll be okay, because of who you are.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Big News!

Ethos Water sent an email update this evening: They have been acquired by Starbucks! Great move on Starbucks part. Congratulations John and Peter!

Hopefully their mission to provide water in small rural areas in parts of the world that currently are suffering won't get bogged down in corporate boardroom prattle. I doubt that John and Peter would have made this move if that were going to be the result however. I certainly hope to see Ethos Water in all Starbucks soon!

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Good news!

The iBook will be repaired! It will take until probably Friday of next week. It's a logic board. Good thing is that the only extended warraty I've ever purchased was called AppleCare. I thought it just meant I got to call them for free for technical advice - never knew it covered the repairs! So I'll save myself a whopping $400 + the $1900 for the new powerbook, I won't be buying to replace it.

I am going out to interview someone on Monday. They were featured in this month's Saveur. He was so excited I would come talk to him! I can hardly wait. One more full week of work and this will be squeezed in between that! Ohhh! What fun we have.

I have to thank the big guy. He's letting me borrow his powerbook to my blogging in the evenings.

Update: The interview went great! When I get my iBook back I'll post the whole thing!

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Thursday, April 07, 2005


Well, my wonderful iBook did something this morning I never expected. It didn't even make a sound! But it did crash. It will go to the local Mac dude to see if he can salvage it (hopefully). I am not in the market for a new laptop, but while I was at the apple store I did fall in heavy like with a new 15 inch powerbook. Sigh.

I'll be blogging, but it will be sporadic, at best. Mostly in the evenings. So go over to food porn watch and take a walk through the neighborhood for now. See ya soon.

P.S. I did score an interview with a food celebrity from around these parts! I'm interviewing him on Monday. It may actually turn into my first podcast! I'm so excited!

See ya soon!

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Good Ice Cream

dreyers carb benefit
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Dreyers Ice Cream has introduced a new style ice cream. For those of you who are having to deal with a sugar free existence, this is a nice treat choice. It is made with Splenda sweetener and has net carbs of 3 g per serving. It is the creamiest sugar free offering I have tried. It is also priced very reasonbly. It is currently available in five flavors: Butter Pecan, Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip and Vanilla Bean.

I do not wish to argue the sugar/splenda issues out there. However, I do know several people that are dealing with monitoring their carb/sugars intake. Dreyer's Carb Benefits is a good alternative when trying to do the right thing and stay healthy or giving in to a sugar craving. Let's face it, sometimes a good creamy scoop of ice cream hits the spot on a warm and breezy afternoon.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005


I just got en email from my very favorite "organization". eGullet has sent an email to all members letting us know that the Daily Gullet and the Recipe Gullet are back! They were sent on hiatus last year with promises of new and better things. Yay!

Why I like eGullet. I am not a professional chef. I am a professional food processor. There are yards of difference. When I go to eGullet I can read discussions of professional chefs and get simple questions answered. I read the challenges of others attempting to do some of the same things I am attempting to do. There are discussions on topics I've never had with others regarding food. One day I stumbled upon a great discussion on sugar substitutes. It was very informative and I learned quite a bit. I had heard of several of the named subsitutes, yet not had a chance to try them. Now I know where to source many of them and what they should be combined with to obtain certain results. These aren't everyday discussions you have with home-cooks. These are mass production types of discussions that in some small way will make you a better chef. Just gaining an understanding of some of the principles discussed, will make you more aware when purchasing ingredients for baking.

I must admit I am becoming a "food snob". Not that I look down my nose at anyone's attempt at baking or cooking. Not that at all. It's just when I see someone go to the effort of taking ten hours to bake and decorate a wedding cake, it is disappointing to know they chose to use artificial vanilla in the process. That's why I like eGullet. These discussions give you a reason to do better, to cook with better ingredients, and to give it your all when it comes to cooking.

They also have discussions on equipment, packaging, safety and all types of great cooking subjects. So go take a look for yourself and maybe join the discussion too.

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Potato Love

Potato Love
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Well they say love comes in all shapes and sizes, and is available to all.

Mine came in a 5 pound bag of potatoes!

Some say I should ebay it.
Some say I should throw it in the pot with the others.
I don't know. It would seem, that a potato this special,
would deserve an even greater dish than an everyday mash.

I'll be thinking and pondering. Maybe we'll scallop him!

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

New Food Blogger

Recently I went through the neighborhood clicking on a familiar link, then seeing where their links would send me. It's a favorite pastime of mine and probably contributes to my less than stellar always on time posts. a blog I recently stumbled on in the neighborhood was touted by someone else, unfortunately I cannot, for the life of me, remember where this new blog came from. I do know it was a guys food blog. But, I digress.

Eggbeater is a different kind of food blogger. From her biography:
"Shuna Fish Lydon is a pastry chef who is quite new to computers. Fish Lydon can be spotted at any bay area farmer's market buying seasonal fruit, grean leafies, cheese and jam. Having once had an extensive collection of eggbeaters, is down to a few choice favorites, and has sometimes identified strongly with the Luddites. Is considered to be part of the old school or the old guard of cooks; tough, thorough, methodical and efficient in the kitchen and still feels very young with an attitude of excitement and wonderment of what many take for granted."

She's just begun to blog about her experiences in the food world. Rumor has it that she's worked at Gramercy Tavern and The French Laundry. I look forward to reading her blog, and learning vicariously through her. Welcome Shuna!

The best part about Eggbeater is if you live in the Bay area she'll come to you and teach you a few tricks of the trade and how to make your experiences in the kitchen better. If I lived there, I'd schedule a class!

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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Label, Labels, Labels!

This past week a new rule went into effect from the USDA. You will notice it at your grocery store, at your favorite restaurant and on fresh products sold. It is the rule that states that all fish sold in the US will now have to have a product origin listing. The FDA wants us to know where the fish we're consuming is raised. Whether it is fished from streams, lakes, or oceans, or if it is farmed. I was at a restaurant last Thursday and I did notice the menu read a bit different - farm raised British Poached Salmon, farm raised Mexican Talapia, among others. Hmm... New regulations already being followed prior to the rule being in effect!

Edit: A commentor has correctly pointed out that I refer to the FDA with regard to the country of origin labeling (COOL) rule. It is actually the USDA in charge of this program. It has gone into effect today April 4, 2005. It currently only requires COOL labeling on fish and shellfish sold through retail outlets.

So how did all this labeling stuff get started? The FDA has been monitoring food labels for over 70 years. Until 1974 the only thing that had to appear on a label was an ingredient panel. In 1974 the FDA began a program requiring a nutrition label to also appear. The nutrition label must appear on all packaged food, except - if the package is too small to carry the nutri info, then the packer is required to include a phone number for requests for information. Another reason a packaged food may not have a nutri label is volume: Small food companies are also exempt. By small the FDA means a company with less than 500 employees, and has sales of $500,000 or less a year. There is also no requirement for fresh foods and foods sold in bulk to entities labeled - not for resale.

So now we have a good idea of who has to have a nutri label. Let's see what needs to be on it.

Ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of weight: heaviest to lightest. This helps you determine just how much of the actual food or juice is in the container. It is like that you will be surprised by how much water there is in most products. Spices are not usually required to be listed separately, they usually are listed as spices - natural or artificial. Flavorings must be listed as natural or artificial, as are color additives.

Nutrition facts. There is an amazing amount of information required on the nutri panel of a label. Let's start at the top:
Serving Size: This is the actual FDA recommended serving size. It will stun you when you find out the serving size of most foods.
Servings per container: This is what you can expect to find inside the package - how many servings should be contained inside.

These two are the easiest to determine, however, the most shocking to most consumers. Did you know that a serving size of a Vlasic pickle spear is 3/4 of a spear? Yes, I only eat the 3/4 and put the rest back for another meal.

The next section of the label is where you find the meat of the important information.

Calorie content of serving size. Most people think this refers to the whole package. No, it's just per serving, just like the rest of the information. This section also gives you the calories from fat. Hopefully it is significantly less than the calorie total!

Total Fat. This tells you what amount of fat is contained in the product. It also currently tells you the percentage of saturated fats in the fat total. So if the fat total is 3%, the manufacturer is required to tell you what percentage of that 3% is saturated. Next year food manufacturers will have to tell you what percentage is trans-fats also. You remember the guy who was going to sue Nabisco for Oreos? He's a key person in getting transfats listed on labels.

Cholesterol. This is the percentage of the serving (in miligrams) of cholesterol. If you're taking cholesterol reduction drugs, it would be a good idea if this figure is a zero.

Sodium. Sodium is in everything! It occurs naturally and also gets added at the time of manufacturing. If you're watching your sodium intake this info is very helpful.

Carbohydrates. This number is more important than people think. Especially if you have been diagnosed with Type I or II diabetes. Why? Because carbohydrates are sugars. This is how your body treats them. So you need to consider your intake of carbs all the time. If you're carbing up for a race or other heavy exercise or work it's also a good thing to know. Check with your favorite dietician for more info on managing carbs. Included in this percentage is also the sugars in this product.

Remember: When you're eating something that is natural - no sugar added - it can still have sugar in it. Sugars are naturally occurring in certain organic foods.

Pretty self explanatory. Like carbs and sugars, this number give you the amount of protein in a serving.

We now move to the "Vitamin" section of the label. This can be as little or as much as the manufacturer wants to use. However, the amounts of vitamins A, C, Calcium and Iron must be listed. Most of the time if a food manufacturer is trying to convince you of a food "healthful" benefits, this list may include other vitamins and be quite long. There is also the RDA statement telling you what level of calorie intake this information is based upon, such as, 2000 calories as day.

Reviewing the information on a food label can be very enlightening. You may find you are ingesting some pretty strange things. Snack foods are notorius for having lots of wierd little additives, most people don't even recognize most of the items listed. However, a careful review of the ingredient panel will give you information you need to make correct food choices for you and your families.

That's more than enough info for now. I'll talk about the other side of the labels another time - you know the other side - those wonderful claims they make!

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