Lab Cat

22 Aug 2014

Postcard: Harvest Part 1

Filed under: Food, Garden, Photo — Tags: , , , — Cat @ 8:00 am
Farm Garden

Stony Ground Tomatoes

24 Mar 2011

9/52 Diptych

Filed under: Food, Garden, Photo — Tags: , , , , — Cat @ 6:08 pm

From seeds to seedlingsI was having a hard time deciding how to do my diptych for the week’s photographic challenge. Last year I went over the top and then I got discouraged about taking photos every week as it took so much time in Photoshop.  This year, I didn’t collaborate and  I did a very simple theme.  I used PowerPoint rather than Photoshop.

Copyright © 2011 cgadavies. All rights reserved.

 

17 May 2010

Tis the Season…

Filed under: Food, Garden — Tags: , , — Cat @ 2:35 pm

for asparagus:

Asparagus

I seem to just get enough from the garden to eat a few spears with every meal.

Delicious.

Best with butter and lemon but lovely in omelets too.

26 Jan 2010

Tasty Tuesday: With Less Salt

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , , , — Cat @ 9:31 am

Eat less salt

NEJM article on salt reduction

19 Jan 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Food Rules

Filed under: Food, Nutrition — Tags: , , — Cat @ 7:55 am

Michael Pollan has a new book which gives the rules (guidelines) towards health eating.  My copy is on its way from Amazon and I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve read it.  In the meantime here is an interview from the Daily Show,  links to an article in the YT, to an interview at SlashFood and to an excerpt of the book at ABCnews.

(Hat-tip: Thanks to colleagues RG and RR for the original link.)

BTW, Tropicana Trop50 is disgusting, unfortunately proving Michael Pollan’s point about food manufacturing.  Once my current carton is gone, I’m sticking to straight orange juice.  If I want less sugar, I’ll dilute it.

27 Mar 2009

Food Labeling

The March issue of Food Technology arrived and as always I turned to the last page, which is Perspectives*. This month Joe Regenstein has a very good comment about labeling and hiding information from the consumer is hurting the industry.  As he says:

The irony is that the activist community has had much more success in attacking the food industry for not labeling products than it really has had in convincing consumers that the technology is bad for them.

He goes on to protest about the misleading labeling, that really has no meaning:

And finally, what about all those terms we’re sticking on our labels (and in our advertising) that are sometimes justified but just as often plainly misleading?  For example: free range, natural, local. When these words are misused, we  not only cheapen the words,  but we cheapen the entire food industry.

So get with the act, food industry folks and tell what is really in our food.

*It is online too, but as a pdf file

26 Mar 2009

Why?

Filed under: Food — Cat @ 9:51 am

When I see products like this I despair of the food industry:

Grapples

Did I miss something? I know big brand apples can taste like crap, but wanting an apple to taste like a grape?

Hattip: BanachTarski On Ravelry

2 Dec 2008

Tasty Tuesday: Food Preservation Introduction – Reducing Moisture availability

Filed under: Food, Science — Tags: , , , — Cat @ 7:37 am

The biggest problem with food is that it is unstable. Even relatively stable food products change over time. There are two ways in which these changes occur.

  1. Internal changes to the chemical make up of food. A good example would be loss of vitamins
  2. Spoilage caused by microorganisms. Moldy bread is a good example.

Preserving food has been going on for centuries. Without it humans would have been unlikely to stop being nomadic. By preserving food it allowed them to have a food supply throughout the seasons and not move to where there was fresh food growing. Later on, preserving food allowed for travel long distances where there was no certainty that fresh food existed, including off the planet.

Preserving food is essential a way to extend the shelf life of that food. Shelf-life to food scientists has a particular meaning representing when the food quality has deteriorated either from a sensory perspective or from a chemical perspective. Obviously, sometimes these are the same thing.

There are two ways in which to consider food preservation, how does food go bad and how can we stop it. How food deteriorates depends a lot on the particular food item. For example high moisture foods are more likely to have bacterial damage than low moisture foods. Living foods under changes after harvest; this includes the fact that fruit and vegetables continue to respire even after being picked and the fact that muscle protein changes after the slaughter process. I could write about all of these changes but that would be several posts long, if not unending.

More interesting is what do we do to preserve food and what changes does that cause to the food item. The commonest way to preserve food is to reduce the available moisture content, which is also known as the water activity.  Drying can be done by drying, salting, and making jams or jellies.  In the latter process, the food is preserved with large amounts of sugar. This reduces the water availability because sugar is hygroscopic and holds on to that water for itself. The fruit, and it typically is fruit that is preserved in this way, is also cooked which destroys enzyme activity, unfortunately degrade thermal unstable vitamins and softens the cell walls. For fruits high in pectin, softening the cell walls releases the gum which, when the jam is cool, sets. This gives jams and jellies their firm structure. Pectin can be added to fruit low in pectin so that the preserve sets. Even though this is a way of preserving, fruit that would normally last a week or two can now be kept up for a year, changes to the fruit preserves will take place during storage. Light colored jams will darken. Unsurprisingly, reduced sugar preserves are not a long lasting as regular preserves.

Dried fruits are common and drying is also used a lot for meat preservation. Drying or dehydration is the removal of moisture, the dryer the better as far as shelf life is concerned. There are many ways to dry foods, from sun drying to freeze-drying and spray drying. The latter two being more likely commercial methods, whereas heat drying and sun drying could be carried out at home. The method of drying alters the food in different ways. For example, freeze drying results in the formation of food products that are very little changed from the original – just without any moisture. As the new Strawberry pieces in cereals show – adding moisture back results in almost original fruit piece. Well, sort of. Spray drying, which is commonly used for liquids such as milk or juices, results in a fine powder.

Salting, smoking, and curing are mostly used for meat and fish. The addition of salt or smoke causes dehydration of cells through osmosis – the water moves out of cells into the salty surroundings. This causes the cells to die or become temporarily inactivated. This includes bacterial cells as well as food cells. Thus, bacteria cannot grow. However, the food itself is very different from fresh. We have got used to this as bacon, lox, kippers and ham are all treated in this way.

As you can see removal of available water does not have to occur by dehydration, other techniques such as adding salt or sugar have the same effect.

References:

  1. Shephard, Sue Pickles, Potted and Canned
  2. Bennion, Marion and Scheule, Barabar, Introductory Foods

23 Oct 2008

Thirsty Thursday: Ingredients of Energy Drinks

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , , , — Cat @ 7:52 am

Since I cannot drink alcoholic beverages and unless it is really really cold, I do not really like hot beverages either*, I typically drink water, orange juice and the occasional can of fruit soda.  I am interested in finding out about new beverages available and have been very interested in the recent development and growth of energy drinks. For those of you unaware of energy drinks, like myself until I wrote this article, these are highly caffeinated, highly sugared sodas such as Red Bull, Monster or Rockstar**, which are advertised as improving performance and stamina. For example, Red Bull claims this:

Red Bull® Energy Drink is a functional beverage with a special formulation and combination of ingredients. It has been specially developed for times of increased mental and physical exertion. In addition, Red Bull vitalizes the body and mind.
Red Bull’s effects are appreciated throughout the world by top athletes, busy professionals, active students and drivers on long journeys.

Red Bull’s Ingredients include  taurine, glucoronlactone, caffeine, B vitamins, sugar (sucrose and glucose), water and acesulfame K or aspartame/sucrolose.

The biggest criticisms of energy drinks comes from their high caffeine levels.  Red Bull USA does not directly state the amount of caffeine in a can of Red Bull except to say:

The caffeine in one can of Red Bull equals that of one cup of filtered coffee.

According to CBC from an article published in 2005 this is 80 mg per 250 ml serving. In humans, caffeine is a diuretic and stimulant, and is probably the most highly consumed psychoactive substance.  Consuming caffeine can ward off drowsiness and general increase alertness.  There have been many studies into the benefits and harm of caffeine, but generally it is considered harmless is small doses.

Taurine is generally considered to be an amino acid, despite lacking a carboxylic acid group, and is produced during the metabolism of cysteine, a sulphur containing amino acid. It is present in Red Bull at 1000 mg/250 ml.  The effects of taurine on the body are varied and there is still on going research. Unlike other amino acids, taurine is not found in structural proteins but it typically present as a monomer.  It is found in high concentrations in the brain, where is it considered to act on the thalamus, a major regulartory area of the brain.  It may also act as an antioxidant and may aid with the detoxification pathway of some substance by binding with toxins to speed up their excretion. Interestingly in my studies with the reaction of amino acids and glucose, to measure browning, taurine was the second faster reacting amino acid after lysine.

Glucuronolactone is a carbohydrate that is produced during the metabolism of glucose.  It has a role in the detoxification process.

The final “health giving” ingredient in Red Bull is, according to their website, B-group vitamins.  I find this generalization annoying as B vitamins covers a wide range of metabolic functions. According to Wikipedia the UK version of Red Bull contains inositol, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.  If I want to find out what B vitamins are in US Red Bull, I obviously have to buy my own.

There have been some concerns (1, 2, 3, 4) that mixing energy drinks and alcohol could be a problem as the caffeine masks the effect of the alcohol.  The drinker thinks are less drunk than they actually are. However, Pintaday justifies his Red Bull habit despite reading the CBC article referred in #3 above.  There is also concern that energy drinks may affect heart rate and blood pressure.  This may just come down to another coffee situation, which one moment is the deadliest drink ever and the next minute coffee is redeemed and considered beneficial.  Consumers beware?

I was going to make a pun about needing an energy drink to keep me going, but I am too tired to care.

*My Britishness has been questioned as I do not like tea or beer.  I used to joke that the reason I came to the States was because I was expelled due to my unBritish drinking habits, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic.  However, since I like coffee even less than tea that leaves me even lower in terms of American drinking habits.

**A complete listing of energy drinks, Wikipedia-style, is here.



26 Sep 2008

Food Friday: Food Labeling Videos

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , , — Cat @ 10:05 am

A colleague sent me the link to these videos on Food Labeling. It is mostly for the consumer rather than industry but they make a nice addition to my series on food label regulation. Here is one about natural labeling (more…)

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