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Monthly Archives: February 2016

In today’s post I’ll let the actual food stand to the side and let a very important food tool take the starring role. If you’ve ever had a frozen dinner or my favorite, a five-minute mug cake, you’ll know exactly the tool I’m talking about.

The microwave!
It’s fitting that I’m writing this post now as my family just had to get rid of an old one. It seems like they short out every two years or so. I guess they don’t have a very long lifespan, but I digress. It may seem like a boring thing to write about, but I can assure you that this humble little box that sits on your kitchen counter is riddled with intrigue. There’s a good reason why it’s the favorite tool of college students and busy families alike, and kitchen cooking geniuses that can’t be bothered to turn on the stove. Could you imagine a microwave chef?

The kitchen appliance cooks food by exposing it to electromagnetic radiation. Through dielectric heating, the molecules in the food rotate and produce thermal (heat) energy. But temperatures in the microwave do not reach high enough heats to be able to brown or caramelize food, known as a Maillard reaction; because of this, they have a limited role in a professional chef’s kitchen.

It’s contested whether or not the microwave is a safe alternative to traditional cooking methods. The claim is made that when we cook food, especially with microwaves, we destroy the nutrients that remain inside.

It’s true that cooking has an impact on how many nutrients remain intact in food—heating often does break down the vitamins and other nutrients. However, the intensity of the heat, it’s duration, and the contact the food has with water can manipulate this. In an extensive study on 20 different cooking methods of antioxidants on food, it was demonstrated that boiling, in fact, leeches the most nutrients out of food, specifically the water-soluble ones (link).

Also, any mechanism that breaks down a food at least in some way can help the body break down the food. Digestion is crucial in the body’s quest to obtain nutrients from food. Cellulose in plants and proteins are broken down to make them easier to digest. Numerous studies have actually shown that cooking can actually increase the bioavailability of certain ingredients!

Some silly claims have even be made that microwaves can:

  • “short out” electrical circuits in the brain through depolarization or de-magnetization of brain tissue.
  • Can cause the formation of “radiolytic compounds,” chemicals created by the tearing apart of molecules.
  • Shuts down reproduction in males and females.

(link)

I don’t know about you, but the last one stands out to me especially. Have they done any controlled studies pertaining this—as if microwaves could be the outstanding cause? Both the first and last claims turn up no results in health science reference and abstract databases. Microwaves only utilize electromagnetic waves, and because of this are not “radiolytic” or radioactive—moreover, they’re not powerful enough to tear apart molecules. They simply agitate them. The agitation is what cooks the food; and cooking is what transforms the raw, frozen, or simply unprepared ingredients into a delicious meal!

Tell me – what are your favorite ways to use the microwave?

Do you prescribe to the belief that microwaves are mostly harmless, or are you more wary?

 

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Coconut flour is a staple in my pantry and takes a starring role in many of my baked goods! People generally use coconut flour because they are allergic to wheat or gluten, are sensitive to carbohydrates, or follow a grain-free or nut-free diet. As you might imagine, baking with it requires getting to understand it, because it is not a perfect replacement for traditional flours.

That’s why it’s all the more rewarding to become a master of the cocos nucifera flour. And once you do, you won’t be able to believe how much fun it is to bake with! It is precisely because of the qualities that make it difficult to use at first that make it intriguing, rewarding, and satisfying later.

Just as wheat flour comes from the milling and hulling of those amber waves of grain, coconut flour does not come to be without a process. Coconut flour is actually the byproduct of coconut milk. After the meat of the coconut has been scraped out and the liquid milk has been pressed and squeezed out, the coconut is baked at a low temperature to dry it out to a flour-y powder.

Did you know that coconut flour was developed to combat malnutrition? It makes sense. This “flour-y powder” is high in fiber (constituting more than half of its carbohydrate count), those precious fatty acids that are so, so good for us—think lauric acid and MCFAs. These nutrient qualities contribute to coconut flour’s ability to moderate normal levels of blood sugar, improve digestive health, and rev up the metabolism.  And though coconut flour lacks gluten, gliadin, and avenin, proteins that contribute to the excellent binding and baking properties in other flours (yet have been shown to be problematic in some people…), coconut flour is relatively high in other proteins. A total of 19% coconut flour calories come from protein.

Alright, so it’s a nutritional powerhouse… but how does it taste? Surely, it must taste like cardboard if it is THIS good for you? Well, I can say that if used incorrectly, you may be unhappy with the taste of a baked good. This is why it’s crucial to follow pre-made recipes while beginning to experiment with the flour, or introducing it in small amounts at a time, perhaps substituting a third of the original recipe’s flour with it (and adding more liquid).

Let’s start with its general properties. It can be used in sweet or savory baked goods. It imparts a natural, subtle sweetness and its flavor profile contains traces of a coconut flavor. Coconut flour is prone to clumping, which is why many recipes recommend that it is sifted before using, but you can just as easily take a fork and break up any problematic chunks. Like a sponge, coconut flour absorbs quite a bit of liquid. This is why most coconut flour recipes use more liquid than a traditional one. As a general rule of thumb, you might find the best results using an equal ratio of liquid to flour (1:1). And because coconut flour does not contain gluten, extra eggs are usually required to help the binding process.

So, what sorts of recipes can it be used in?

Savory Recipes…

Coconut Flour Flatbread (Low Carb/Paleo/Vegan/Low Calorie/Easy)

  • As a healthy breading for fish, chicken, or tofu!
    • I like to combine 2 tablespoons of coconut flour, 1 tablespoon of another flour (such as oat flour), and a tablespoon of crushed nuts or seeds (sesame, sunflower seed, almond, etc.) for a delicious and nutty ‘breading’. It’s also great as a bread crumb replacement in meat balls.
  • Coconut flour tortillas and wraps – https://www.ondietandhealth.com/coconut-flour-tortillas/

Coconut Flour Tortillas

In Sweet Recipes:

Healthy No Bake Applesauce Brownies with just THREE ingredients- So delicious, quick, low in fat and easy, it will be your go-to snack or treat recipe! {vegan, gluten-free, paleo}

And… to be fair, I found this goldmine of a post – which has many, many, MANY more coconut flour recipes for you to try! Click here.

So, has this post inspired you to get in the kitchen and try your hand at baking with this curious baking ingredient? If you do try out a recipe, let me know!

Baking can be a lesson in happiness. Aside from the dopamine boost that is proven to come along with doing the things that make you tick (which, for me, COOKING and BAKING are indeed these things!), the ingredients you choose to cook with can act like little agents of smiles and joy. In today’s post, I’m going to share with you a fool-proof recipe that may have the power to please.

If I haven’t piqued your interest yet… I will in a second.

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Brownies!

But these aren’t your run of the mill box mix brownies. Nope, they’re super-happy superfood packed brownies. How?

  1. Half of a cup of cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is packed with flavonoids and compounds such as phenethylamine which is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that boosts mood and works as a natural antidepressant. Cocoa may have the ability to boost endorphins, natural “happy” opiates that are responsible for the highs that are often felt after pleasurable experiences. Cocoa may also boost serotonin levels, a key neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants to boost overall levels of happiness (source).
  2. A quarter cup each of coconut and garbanzo-fava bean flour blends:
    1. Coconut is special because it is a unique source of lauric acid and medium-chain-triglycerides. Lauric acid is claimed to help detoxify the body and cleanse the liver. An overwhelmed liver leads to feelings of sluggishness, exhaustion, and poor mood, and the medium-chain-triglycerides are utilized as a quick source of energy your body can tap into, so you can continue chugging along with whatever you’re doing with pep in your step. Fats have long been implicated with the ability to boost mood, and the fiber found in coconut flour helps to steady digestion so your tummy is happy as well (source).
    2. Bean flours are rich in Vitamin B6 which helps combat low energy and anxiety. They are also a good source of protein, which helps to fuel the production of natural happy hormones, serotonin and dopamine. Garbanzos in specific are an abundant source of magnesium, which is a key mineral for a healthy nervous system (source).
  3. One whole avocado. Avocados are high in vitamin E, C, K and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The membranes which make up our cells and the brain itself are largely composed of fat, and not getting enough of it has been linked to stress, anxiety, and depression. Coupling this hearty “pear” with other foods, like I’ve done in this recipe, can help to increase the absorption of other nutrients – up to five times the amount! (source)
  4. Two thirds of a cup of kabocha squash. Kabocha Squash is a modest source of carbohydrates, the vehicle by which serotonin gets to the brain. Serotonin is a mood regulator that makes us feel emotionally stable, less anxious. It can boost our energy and help us become more energetic.
  5. A hearty crumble of walnuts! Walnuts have been claimed to be the perfect good-mood food, boasting the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, folate, and tryptophan. Deficiencies in these nutrients have been linked to depression and aggression! (source)

These aren’t all the ingredients that go into the recipe, so keep reading to learn how to transform them into a delicious dessert.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Mix together (thoroughly!) your wet ingredients into a bowl:
    • 1 ripe avocado
    • 2/3 cup kabocha squash
    • 2 eggs or 4 egg whites
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey or other liquid sweetener
    • vanilla extract (a splash)
  3. Sift together your dry ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup coconut flour
    • 1/4 cup garbanzo + fava flour blend
    • an extra 1/4 cup flour of choice OR a scoop of protein powder
    • 1/2 cup cocoa
    • 1/3 cup granulated sweetener (such as coconut sugar, stevia… pretty much whatever you like, or more/less to taste)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • optional: cinnamon (I didn’t use this, but I think it would round out the cocoa and walnut flavors nicely.)
  4. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well to combine.
  5. Pour into a 9×9 pan lined with parchment or sprayed with non-stick spray.
  6. Crumble on top a few handfuls of walnuts.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. They still should be fudgy and soft when you take them out of the oven!
  8. Enjoy! Perhaps with a scoop or two of ice cream, or crumbled on top of oatmeal or yogurt, or with a cup of hot cocoa? The options are endless!

There’s an adage that says that we “shouldn’t play with our food.” Yet some of us like to put a creative spin on prepare and plate what we eat every day. I think of chefs and foodies alike, putting their heart and soul into not only creating a food that tastes really nice but is also a visual masterpiece.

What visual masterpiece should go undocumented? Nowadays, social media platforms have made it easy for us and has increased our desire to share with others our food creations. This has created the unique yet bizarre phenomena of photographing our meals. This was really brought to my attention a few days ago during a French class crepe day, celebrating “Candlemas”. My teacher thought it was quite funny that her students were more concerned with snapping the best photo of their fluffy, flour-y pockets of fresh fruit, chocolate-hazelnut spread and powdered sugar than digging in!

It’s no surprise that “us kids these days” are really into what we’re eating. According to a recent finding, 50 percent of Generation Y considers themselves foodies (source). Millennials use food as a form of self-expression and entertainment, not merely just sustenance to fuel their daily activity. What does this say about our nutrition? Some of us do seem susceptible to indulging in… junkier fare. With decadent foods of all kinds made “hyper-palatable” at our fingertips, such as cinnamon roll sandwich cream cookies (I’m looking at you, Oreo!) and mish-mashed pizza flavored corn chips, it’s no wonder that worry is sometimes made about our health. However, it’s a misnomer that all of us are unaware and uninformed about healthy food habits. Actually, though we place emphasis on food as a fun past-time and a way to make a statement, we also are a generation that is more concerned with nutritious foods and where the ingredients within them are derived from than our parents or grandparents were at the same age (source).

One thing is for certain, and that is that most millennials want a piece of the pie, whether it be blogging about our food or posting pictures of it on social media, pouring through cookbooks or Instagram feeds, scrolling through Pinterest for our favorite recipes, or looking at Yelp for the best place around us to eat. We enjoy hanging around with friends with a sizzling sandwich in hand or a cup of Fro-yo nearby. And some of us are really inquisitive to know about the chemical and biological processes of it all (me)!

As I am a millennial, I do my fair share of taking many photos of the foods I eat. Though it may not be a “What I ate” Wednesday, here is a day in the life of my meals. On this particular day, it happened to be rather breakfast-y… with that in mind, bon apetit!

 

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Creamy banana steel cut oatmeal topped with more bananas, almonds, flaked coconut, and cacao… and chocolate avocado fudge. Like banana almond joy in a bowl!

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Lunch! Turkey mince with sweet potato, spinach, and brussels sprouts, with some peanut butter-coconut cream sauce for dipping. Coconut water drink (gasp, no picture?) too.

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On this particular day I was in the mood for some cheerios. 🙂

 

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And for dessert, cocoa and peanut butter mixed into some cottage cheese, a banana muffin…

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And some of this good stuff, too. 😀

Hope you enjoyed this post! It was delicious to eat and appealed to my inner millenial-foodie-ness. I look forward to doing more of these posts… perhaps WIAW’s can be in theoSISmine’s future.

It feels like it’s been a while. I have to apologize, but I haven’t forgotten about my virtual journal! Busy times on the other side of this computer screen. Still, I have been hard at work thinking about and building the ‘skeletons,’ if you will, of some future blog posts. Please keep your eyes peeled for them!

  • The science of:
    • Bread-making.
    • Yogurt and cheese. (I suppose these first two bullets are Part 2 of my Fermentation post?)
    • Ice cream.
    • Eggs.
    • Microwaves.
    • Protein.
    • Leafy Greens.
    • Chocolate (!)
    • Candy.
    • Bananas.
  • Gastronomy
  • Wagashi (Japanese art of sweets and dessert-making)
  • The biology of cravings

My goal is to publish informative and stimulating blog posts all about the science of food. More than just the things I am interested in, I’m curious as to what you want to learn more about! If you have any suggestions for future ‘articles,’ recipes, or even if you want to know more about the blogger behind the blog, leave a comment below with your feedback!

See you soon,

Kyra