The Slippery Slope of Cooking Oil’s

The Slippery Slope of Cooking Oil’s

With all the heart healthy press out there today, cooking oils have been a major topic of discussion. You may not have noticed but, cooking oils play a major role in our overall health. If you think cooking oils are not a big thing, understand that Americans digest five hundred and seventy six ounces of cooking oil a year! If you’re counting those calories, that amounts to more than four hundred calories each day!

With that in mind and knowing that we would be using a lot of oils in our dishes, I set about to find the right oils for our use.  Fortunately, although there are many oils available on the market today, there is also a multitude of articles on the properties of each. My first stop, as always, was a visit to my nutritionist. She has been invaluable in assisting me on keeping all our cakes sold around the world and dishes offered at our international bistro  as healthy as possible. And she jumped right in to our healthy versus unhealthy oil discussion.  

Before we got into the discussion of the types of oil, she explained that I  needed to know about fatty profiles. Every oil has one and that is the basis of how you determine how healthy each oil is. An oil’s fatty profile includes; unsaturated fats, mono-unsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats as well as medium chain triglycerides. All should play a part in the oil you choose.

We discussed every oil that is commonly used and the benefits and negatives to each. Armed with this knowledge, I set about to make sure all our offerings were matched to the proper oil and only healthy, environmentally friendly oils were used.

To use my own variation on a Thornton Wilder quote “Knowledge is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around shared, encouraging all minds to grow.” And so, let’s take a trip down the slippery slope of oil to look at each of the most popular oils consumed by Americans today and find out what’s in their health profile. 

I’ll start with the most popular oils and work my way down the list.

Vegetable Oil – Don’t be fooled by this term.The term “vegetable oil” can be used as a generic term for all plant-based oils and that includes oils with trans fats, which unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty years, you are well aware is absolutely unhealthy for you. The moral here, just because it says “vegetable oil”, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Stay away from vegetable oils and focus in on specific oil names.

Canola Oil – Because Canola oil is high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants it’s a good anti-inflammatory oil. Canola oil is also a great oil to use when you’re cooking especially when using high-temperatures (for the purposes of oils, high temperatures starts at 410° and is referred to as the “smoke point”. Above that temperature, many oils begin to smoke and burn). So now you feel great because you always use canola oil, right. Well, read on because there are some REALLY good alternatives that may change your mind.

Olive Oil – Like Canola oil, “un-refined extra virgin” olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants which makes it a good anti-inflammatory oil. In addition, olive oil is also high in oleic acid which has been shown to reduce heart disease,  diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. This makes “un-refined extra virgin” olive oil one of the best oils you can consume. When I’m talking olive oil, please note that I’m referring to “un-refined extra virgin” olive oil?  Refined olive oils lack the important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that make extra-virgin un-refined olive oil so special. Olive oil is not a good oil for high temperature cooking, as it has a low smoke point but, olive oil has one of the best taste profiles. of all the oils. Because of this, use your “un-refined extra virgin” olive oil on salads, dressings and for dipping that great Italian bread.

Peanut Oil – Peanut oil is also high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, and as such, is a good anti-inflammatory. As with canola oil, peanut oil is excellent for high-temperature cooking. Peanut oil can be purchased with a mild, almost neutral taste, as well as with a strong peanut flavor. Neutral tasting peanut oil is a favorite cooking oil for many chef’s.

Corn Oil, Grape Seed Oil & Sunflower Oil: Corn, sunflower and grape seed oil’s contain high levels of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and decent amounts of monounsaturated fats. Omega 6 has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and support the skin.  Corn oil and grape seed oil are both good for cooking because of their high smoke point, however, sunflower oil has a relatively low smoke point and should be used instead for low heat cooking or dressings..

Sesame Oil, Walnut Oil & Pistachio Oil – These oils are some of the best sources of monounsaturated fat, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. Recent tests have also  shown that monounsaturated fats help reduce cholesterol.” Great oils to consume but, all of these oils have a low smoke point, so keep them away from higher temperatures.

Palm Oil:  Being a fan of sustainable farming and environmentally sound issues, I can’t in good conscience recommend palm oil. Palm oil is one of the worst offenders of the environment. Palm tree farms, created for the sole purpose of producing palm oil, are springing up throughout Indonesia and the Amazon, These neat rows of thousands of palm trees displace the natural habitats and kill off the animals living in those habitats. In addition, the forest areas they replace are one of the key protectors of climate change. Unfortunately,  because it is so cheap to produce, palm oil is found in many products. If, heaven forbid, you don’t care about the environment, you need to know, for a healthy body, palm oils health status is atrocious. Palm oil is extremely high in saturated fat which, should be reason enough to cross it off your list of potential oils.

Coconut Oil – Coconut Oil has a high amount of medium chain triglycerides which, are good for you, if you have an issue with absorbing fats. It has been the favorite child of health advocates for the last several years BUT, its high saturated fat content is subject to scrutiny because high levels of saturated fat have been linked to an increase in total cholesterol. Because of this, and the fact that there are so many alternative oils that don’t pose this risk, I personally stay away from the use of coconut oil.

Flaxseed Oil, Hemp Seed Oil & Pumpkin Seed Oil  – I’ve lumped these three oils together because they are so similar in composition. Each of these oils contain healthy amounts of monounsaturated fats but also, relatively high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids derived from plant-sources. For those of you who are not aware of the benefits of  omega-3 fatty acids, they have been shown to decrease inflammation (a major source of a multitude of human ailments) and control blood pressure levels. Because of this, these three oils are some of the healthiest oils you can consume. Since all three of these oils have low smoke points, they all make a poor choice for cooking on your range or oven.

Avocado Oil –  I’ve saved the best for last. Like “un-refined extra virgin” Olive oil, avocado oil is extremely high in oleic acid which protects you against heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.  Although olive oil has the best flavor profile of all the oils, because avocado oil offers the same oleic acid benefits, robust anti-inflammatory qualities AND has a relatively high smoke point, it should be your every day oil of choice.

So now you have it. Sixteen of the most popular oils, laid out for you, showing what each has to offer. Pick the ones that work best for you and dump the ones that are unhealthy. 

My pick…. “save your “un-refined extra virgin” olive oil for your dressings, dips, spreads and marinades and choose your avocado oil for all your cooking”.

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Is It Sparkling Water…. Maybe

Is It Sparkling Water…. Maybe

As you should know by now from my previous posts, my dad was Austrian (that’s where our family crumb cake comes from), my mom was Italian. As we all know, you are ALWAYS raised like your mom’s family. Accordingly, we were all raised as Italians. Growing up in an Italian household, we always had two drinks on our table, homemade wine and sparkling water.

Unlike most families, in Italian households, wine was like soda, everyone (including kids) drank it. We didn’t drink it to get a buzz, it was truly like soda. You drank it when thirsty and stopped when your thirst was quenched. Along with our wine was always sparkling water. Sparkling water was for those few of us who didn’t like wine (God forbid), and in most cases it was usually Pellegrino.

I was was one of the few outcasts that did not like wine. No matter how often my Uncle Pete (who was our star homemade wine-maker) tried to get me to enjoy his always changing monthly flavors of wine, it wasn’t until years after I had grown into adulthood that I began to appreciate wine (I’m sure Uncle Pete smiles upon me from his heavenly home every time I enjoy a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red, my favorite wine, with my meal). 

Although, as I mentioned, we usually drank Pellegrino, my dad would always have a ready supply of club soda or tonic water for his mixed drinks. If we ever ran out of Pellegrino, he would suggest I drink one of these, stating that “it’s the same stuff”.  Before I go any further, I need to explain my dad’s unusual drinking habits. My dad had an unusual set of taste buds. He would get half way through whatever he was drinking and ask for a refill of whatever we had on the table. It didn’t matter if it was the same drink, as long as it was wet. Unbelievably, we could fill his half full wine glass with orange soda and that would be fine with him. As kids, we would come up with really unusual mix ideas, say milk and cola, and that would always be just fine with him. Understanding this, you can now understand why he felt club soda and tonic water all tasted the same as Pellegrino, they were all WET!

Need I say that I clearly could taste the difference. To me club soda was too salty and the bubbles were too big, tonic water was just vile! At that time in my young life, to me they were just completely different drinks, kind of like what wine would be to milk. As I grew older and my tastes grew more refined, I found that I preferred Perrier to all other “sparkling waters” (My Italian family still remains in shock that I prefer French Perrier over Italian Pellegrino).

Years later, when I started to craft dishes, I found that each of these “sparkling waters” had different effects on the dishes that I made and it got me wondering just what the difference was. (Yes, I do use sparkling waters in some recipes. Try adding a natural lime flavored sparkling water to your pancakes like I do. It will add a light fresh flavor and assist in rising your pancakes to new heights).

Once I dug into “sparkling waters”, I realized there were some major and some subtle differences in just what we think “water with bubbles” is.  These affect not only taste but also mouth feel. So, lets start with the simplest of our “water with bubbles”, seltzer water

Seltzer Water – 

Seltzer water is made by carbonating plain old water with carbon dioxide (CO2). Nowadays, you’ll find many flavored seltzer waters such as La Croix. The Sodastream system is an excellent example of “infusing CO2 in plain water. Seltzer waters are usually flavored with natural fruit essences and oils.

Club Soda – 

Club soda is seltzer water, with minerals. Usually this includes; sodium bicarbonate, disodium phosphate and sodium citrate. On occasion sodium chloride will also be added to the mix. As I mentioned above, club soda is usually used for mixed drinks, although you could use seltzer water as a substitute for these drinks as well.

Tonic Water – 

Tonic water’s predecessor is quinine (you know the brutally bitter stuff taken to prevent malaria) It was so unpalatable to British officers based in India during the British occupation, that they began mixing it with soda and sugar to soften the taste. However, army personal are not known for drinking water when thirsty and before long they started mixing their “tonic” with their favorite drink which,  at that time was gin. And that is where your famous gin & tonic comes from. 

Sparkling Mineral Water – 

Although sparkling mineral water has many of the same dissolved solids including, potassium, sodium, and magnesium, that club soda has, unlike club soda, these minerals occur naturally and are picked up as the water filters through the many layers of underground rock and sediment. Although the water’s bubbles are usually naturally occurring, some sparkling water bubbles are artificially added.

Each brand of sparkling mineral water contains the distinct flavor-giving minerals from their place of origin. Accordingly, that is why Perrier tastes different than Pellegrino. Although the different tastes make them inconsistent in mixed drinks, they do work quite well in wine.

Health – 

So, is sparkling water better for you than plain water? A 2002 study published in the “European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology,” states that “sparkling water has been found to aid in digestion”. Have indigestion after that big meal? Try drinking a glass of sparkling water to ease your discomfort.

Sparkling water not only works on input but also on output.  The same study also attributed the sparkling water to an improvement in constipation since it helps with the uptake of the fiber needed in the formation of stools. In addition, since they help food stay in the first part of the stomach for longer, which triggers the feeling of fullness, any of the carbonated waters mentioned above will also help you feel full longer. 

Hydration –

If we’re talking hydration, all carbonated waters have been found to hydrate you just as well as plain water, and because they are often more flavorful than plain water, you’ll be more likely to drink them, thus assuring you get the intake you need.

Since each has distinct bubble size and activity as well as natural and added natural flavors, choose the one that you like best and drink away.

Aah Fruit…. it’s no longer what it was

Aah Fruit…. it’s no longer what it was

I grew up with a yard bursting with fresh fruit. Although our property was not any larger than a normal home lot, the previous owner was obviously a fan of fruit and we inherited a virtual paradise of different fruit choices to gorge on every spring and summer.  With two different pear trees, yellow apple and delicious apple trees, a cherry tree, a fence covered with concord grapes and blueberry and raspberry bushes, we had our choice of fruit to enjoy. Because of this, I have always been a fruit lover in all things that contain these wonders of nature.

But, fruit has changed. Because we now “enjoy” seasonal fruits year-round, our fruits no longer come from the local farm. Most people think the majority of our fruit comes from California and during it’s growing season, a good portion does. But, out of season, over 90% of imported fruits and vegetables come from Mexico, Central America, and South America.

During the season, there was never a problem getting fresh fruit from your local farmer. Stop by the local farmers market or visit the farm itself and you were set. Even your local grocer carried local produce. However, consumers wanted those juicy plums and tart lemons year round and producers have learned how to “preserve” a “fresh” fruit for shipment from all corners of the world. Unfortunately, although it may look just like the plum you remember (or even better) it no longer tastes like that juicy plum.

For years, providers have been focused on the “look” of your fruit and not necessarily the flavor or texture. Most people know about the waxing of apples by your grocer to add a shiny surface but, few know about the transparent coatings that are sprayed on fruit to extend their shelf life. Even fewer have ever heard of Postharvest Ripening and Maturation. Not to get too technical here but, you need to understand that fruits are classified in terms of two categories, climacteric (harvested when mature) and nonclimacteric (harvested while immature). This refers to how a fruit ripens. The faster a fruit ripens the more perishable the fruit. To prevent this, many fruits are exposed to ethylene gas to create a more uniform ripening  or to enhance the fruit’s color.

How a fruit is stored is also important because, the higher the temperature, the more rapidly most fruits deteriorate which, reduces their shelf life. Because of this, upon harvest, most fruits are cooled to their optimum storage temperature as quickly as possible.

All of these methods enhance how your “fresh” fruit looks but is also the reason your peach is now tasteless and mealy.

That’s why we offer our seasonal crumb cakes only when the fruit is fresh from local farmers. You may love our Peaches & Cream crumb cakes BUT, you’ll only be able to get them in July because that’s when our local peach orchards produce their finest peaches. Like our cake schedule, you should set your fruit schedule to the time of year fruits come to harvest in your area. As an alternative, buy large quantities and freeze or preserve your fruits for down times.

To assure you’re eating “fresh” fruit that has not been manipulated by man, buy your fruit from local farmers and only during their local season. Yes, you’ll miss that juicy strawberry in the winter but, when you DO get your strawberries next spring, they’ll taste just like a strawberry should taste, juicy and sweet.

J Stephen Sadler

 

Q & A with Chef J Stephen … Why does restaurant food taste better?

 

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Q&A

Not sure where you eat but no one was a better cook than my mom. Her pasta dishes were second to none. Yet, dining out was always special to me. Even though home cooks can often be better cooks than famous chefs, there are several reasons beyond the actual meal that may make a meal eaten out seem better.

  1. Uniqueness – First of all food offered in restaurants is usually different from what you get at home. Due to the pressures of coming home and cooking after a long day on the job, home cooks often tend to cook what they know. Familiarity of the dining experience, no matter how good the dish is, breeds boredom with the offering.
  2. Ambiance – Most restaurants provide an atmosphere that is conducive to your enjoyment. Focused on making your meal special, experienced restaurantaurs do everything they can to make your visit special. Presentation, music and decor, are all designed to add to your dining experience.
  3. Social – whether you are an introvert or extrovert, we are social animals by nature. Joining others as you enjoy your meal, whether they be at your table or simply in the dining establishment, adds to our need to share our experiences with others.
  4. Cost – Believe it or not, paying for your meal actually adds to its specialness. The old saying “ The value of nothing is nothing” holds true to dining out. Often, the more you pay, the more special you’ll feel about your dining experience.

Q & A with Chef J Stephen … What’s your best advise for a first-time waiter job (I’m a little shy)?

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What’s your best advise for a first-time waiter job (I’m a little shy)?

Q&A

You don’t need to be funny, outgoing or especially talented to be a successful server. In reality the answer to your question is quite simple, make your guests experience special.

How you accomplish that can be achieved in many ways. Drinks always full, attention to detail, discussing each dish with enthusiasm, smiling, are all things that help. The best thing you can do is view your guests as guests that just came to visit you in your home. How would you treat THEM?

If your guests leave feeling you made their meal a memorable experience, you will do well.

Q & A with Chef J Stephen… Let’s say I gave a restaurant my card info while booking a reservation over the phone. If I were to cancel the reservation, would I be charged? Would I only be charged if I didn’t show?

 

 

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Unless stated at the time of your reservation, most restaurants don’t charge for a
Q&Acancelled reservation.

However, if you can’t make it at your reserved time, you should ALWAYS cancel your reservation.

Simply not showing up not only complicates a restaurant’s guest schedules and denys the restaurant an opportunity to schedule another guest, but it also results in a charge that negatively affects the restaurants bottom line.

Most diners don’t realise that, because most restaurants use reservation services to handle their reservations, there is a cost associated with every reservation made and completed.

Because reservation services (e.g. Open Table, Seat Me, to name a couple) charge restaurants this fee for every reservation made and COMPLETED through their service, and those services consider a reservation completed if not cancelled, you should ALWAYS make sure you cancel your reservation through the same system you used to make your reservation.

Q & A with Chef J Stephen… What are the most common problems at restaurants?

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What are the most common problems at restaurants?

Q&AEmployee scheduling and food cost management are the biggest challenges for a restaurant.

Making sure you’re fully staffed for your projected traffic each shift is always an ongoing nightmare.

Food prices vary with every delivery. Since it is unrealistic to vary your dish prices on a daily basis, assuring your food costs are in line with your targeted profit margins is always a challenge.

One Drop of Water

1-drop of waterMED.jpgDid you know that one drop of water holds all the freshwater in the world?

As Florencia Ramirez’s book Eat Less Water states, “If we poured all the water on our planet, both salt and fresh water, into a gallon bucket, the proportion of water available to shower, water lawns, drink and grow food, is one single drop.

We live on a water planet. The earth is two thirds water, 97.5 percent of that is saltwater. Only 2.5 percent fresh water, 69.5 percent of that is frozen. Another 30.1 percent hides in deep aquifers. The remaining 0.4 percent – a drop in a bucket – sustains all life on this planet.”

So what can we do to save water? Sure, we can drink less water. But that’s not only impractical but also unhealthy. We can use less water by wiping the car down when it rains, instead of running to the car wash. We could install drip water systems for our landscaping, take fewer and shorter showers, which would help a bit … or…. we could eat less water. Yes I said “eat” not “drink”.

The majority of water used by humans (seven out of ten gallons) is used to produce the food we eat and there are both efficient and inefficient methods to produce that food.

When humans migrated from hunting to farming, early farmers grew their crops naturally, in effect, their crops matched the local climate. Because they grew more efficiently, heavy water reliant plants naturally grew in wet climates and drought resistant plants grew in drier climates. But as the world population grew, methods were developed to enable farmers to expand their crops into areas less acclimated to one particular crop. And that’s when we became inefficient users of our planets limited supplies of water. Water hungry almond groves in the deserts of southern California, herds of thirsty cattle in the midwest are all signs of the ever-expanding “growing zone”.

All the ingredients we use at Crumbzz are produced organically. Most people would think that’s because we know chemical free food is healthier and that’s true. But, did you know that growing food organically, without chemicals, also saves more fresh water than any other water-saving strategy.

In addition, although some plants require more water to grow than others, that doesn’t mean they are inefficient water abusers. It’s not only about how much water is used but where it comes from. Water from rain is efficient, water from aquifers is limited and  inefficient. So, watering the same head of lettuce naturally from rain is far more efficient than from the local aquifer. If you look at the amount of water used to make a chocolate bar (449 gallons) you would feel pretty guilty every time you took one bite of that sweet treat. But, if you realized that most of the water used to grow cacao comes from rain, you would feel a whole lot better. Conversely, that steak you so enjoyed at your favorite restaurant last Saturday cost you 1,851 gallons of water and most of that water came from aquifers. Ah, but it goes deeper.

We use lots of eggs for our cakes and bistro offerings. At your typical grocery store, one dozen chicken house grown eggs uses 276 gallons of water to produce. That’s 25 gallons per egg! How is that possible? Believe me, it’s not because chickens are thirsty critters. It comes down to all that grain they eat and the water needed to grow that grain. Now, if you buy free range eggs, produced by chickens that eat in fields grown with rain and moisture trapped in the soil, like we do, you just cut your water usage by 97%, and that’s just on one food item!

So how can you become a good Shepard of your planet? Understand that organic, naturally grown foods are not only better for you but also better for your planet. But not all organic is watered efficiently. So make sure you buy your food from local growers. Confirm that your produce is rain watered or at worst, drip watered. Make sure your chickens, eggs and meat are produced free range.

Do this and you can wash that car without the guilt we just smacked down on you!

J Stephen Sadler

 

Q & A with Chef J Stephen… If monopolies are price makers, why don’t they charge an infinite price?

 

 

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Q&A

If the price (profit) of an item gets too high, a flood of (usually more innovative and fast moving) competitors will rush into the market.

The goal of a monopoly is to keep their prices just below that benchmark.

A great example of this is the current vanilla market. Controlled by a few monopolies in Madagascar, Tahiti and México, because of cyclones and terrorisim in Madagascar, prices have risen from $26 per gallon in 2015 to $426 per gallon (US) in 2017.

Because of this rapid rise in price, hundreds of more innovative companies are rushing into the market to cash in on the bonanza. This will eventually flood the market with product and bring prices back to a more normal equilibrium.

In short, unless there are extensive gateing factors preventing entry into the market (e.g. excessive capital requirements, extreme technical challenges, etc.) short term excessive profits always results in increased competition

Q & A… with Chef J Stephen … Is there a problem in the food industry that technology could solve?

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There are several challenges that technology can solve:

  1. labor challenges – the restaurant industry has one of the largest and most unstable labor forces of any industry. Technology that will assist and supplant labor demands is of primary interest to restaurateurs
  2. Waste – food waste approaches 40% a fact that is clearly in need of a solution.
  3. Farm to market challenges – today’s consumer demands fresh, locally grown food. Systems that assist in linking local food producers with restaurants and matching food production to market demands is long overdue