Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Summer Squash Bread

I'm really lovin this Squash Bread.  The original recipe from Heidi is made from Zucchini, but I have an abundance of squash in my new garden and needed something to make with it besides pickles.  Yes, I have made 9 jars of squash pickles so far.  I've given away maybe 2 dozen fresh squash and yet they just keep coming!  That is really the joy of growing your own food.  Watching the little plants spring up practically overnight and becoming a tangled web of vines that you wonder if it is going to open your door and bind you up in the middle of the night.  Ok, I haven't actually had nightmares that my squash is going to eat me, but I am definitely enjoying eating it.

This recipe may border on weird for some of you but I promise the flavors and seasonings are stellar together in the bread.  Walnuts, poppy seeds, candied ginger, curry, and a touch of lemon fragrantly season this Thai spiced bread.  All of these ingredients are optional, but doing it "fully loaded" won't disappoint.  The squash bake right in and practically disappear.  I would have no idea that there is vegetables in it if I didn't make it myself.  

Heidi's Zucchini (or Squash) Bread

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cup poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup unsalted butter ( I used fragrant coconut oil)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon curry powder (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. Alternately, you can line the pans with a sheet of parchment. 

In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. 

In a separate large bowl or mixer, beat the butter (or coconut oil) until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.

Divide the batter equally between two 5x9 loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. Err on the side of under cooking this bread because you don't want it to dry out. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling so it will not become soggy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Not even in moderation: Soda

Soda!?  I'm sure about 99% of America drinks soda daily, whether in regular or diet form.  I believe that soda made the old fashioned way, while still terrible for you (hello 40 g of sugar!) is a lot more tolerable than the way soda is made today.  If you really want a soda, in moderation, you should go for an "all natural" variety - one without artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors.  But even that, after reading the following, may not sound like such a good idea.

In the words of the website Dr.Momma.org:

According to the Nutrition Research Center, this is what happens to your body within one hour of drinking a can of soda:

-10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system, which is 100 percent of your recommended daily intake. You'd normally vomit from such an intake, but the phosphoric acid cuts the flavor.

-20 minutes: Your blood sugar skyrockets. Your pancreas attempts to maximize insulin production in order to turn high levels of sugar into fat.

-40 minutes: As your body finishes absorbing the caffeine, your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, and your liver pumps more sugar into the bloodstream. Adenosine receptors in your brain are blocked preventing you from feeling how tired you may actually be.

-45 minutes: Your body increases dopamine production, causing you to feel pleasure and adding to the addictiveness of the beverage. This physical neuro response works the same way as it would if we were consuming heroin.

<60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, which boosts your metabolism a bit further. High doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners compound this effect, increasing the urinary excretion of calcium. The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (You have to GO!) Your body will eliminate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was otherwise heading to your bones. And you will also flush out the sodium, electrolytes and water. Your body has eliminated the water that was in the soda. And in the process it was infused with nutrients and minerals your body would have otherwise used to hydrate your system or build body cells, bones, teeth.

>60 minutes: The sugar crash begins. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You start feeling like crap. Time to grab another? 

That description makes me want to cringe from all the times I drank soda.  Can you imagine the people that drink almost nothing but soda all day?  How really horrible they must feel and not even know it?  Or they know it and are attributing it to being tired, not getting enough sleep, allergies, stress, thinking they are getting sick, etc.  And to see children drinking this stuff?  Lord, help us all.  

Some people may think that Diet Soda has to be better because it doesn't have the sugar.  Here's another excerpt from the same site on Diet Soda:

A study from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center reported that healthy women who drank diet cola excrete more calcium and phosphorous than non-cola drinkers.  The findings were presented by Dr. Noelle Larson in a presentation at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society and focused only on diet soda. She focused on diet cola mainly because of observations that young women tend to drink large amounts of diet cola.

In the study, 20 healthy women were randomized to drink 24 ounces of water or diet cola on two different days. Their urine was collected repeatedly up to three hours later. Those who drank diet cola excreted more calcium and phosphorous than the control group. The mean calcium excretion three hours after drinking cola was 6.85 milligrams higher than after drinking water. Mean phosphorous excretion was 41 milligrams higher in the cola group than the control group, according to the abstract.

Calcium and phosphorus are both important nutrients that work together to build strong bones and teeth. Previous studies have reported that cola drinkers (both diet and regular soda) have lower bone mineral density and increased fracture rate compared to non-cola drinkers.

“Our study suggests that diet cola ingestion may result in a negative calcium balance acutely in young, otherwise healthy women,” wrote Larson and her colleagues in the abstract. “This may help explain the clinically observed decrease in [bone mineral density] and increased fracture rate in women who consume these drinks regularly.”  

So there you have it.  Soda, even in moderation, just should not be consumed. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Not even in moderation: Trans Fat

Recently a friend was talking about how she wanted to feed her child healthier snacks.  Her typical snack includes Oreos and other boxed crackers and cookies.  She knows that these things are not healthy but she made the statement "there is nothing wrong with it in moderation."  Being the compassionate friend that I am *eh-hem*, I blurted out unceremoniously "YES THERE IS!"  You hear the term "everything in moderation" all the time.  Weight Watchers has made an empire and has helped millions lose weight (or not lose weight) with that very mantra.  However, I have to argue that there are some things that should never be consumed, not even in moderation.  That statement has prompted me to do a mini research project on things I believe are not ok, not even in moderation.  The first ingredient that should never be consumed is trans fat which most often comes in the form of partially hydrogenated oils.

Partially hydrogenated oils are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  In 1890 the chemistry of hydrogenation was born.  At first it was just done to vapors, but then in 1901 it was done to liquid oils. Hydrogenation adds hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats, eliminating double bonds and making them into complete or partial saturated fats.  Partial hydrogenation converts them into trans-unsaturated fats instead of hydrogenating them completely.  This turns liquid fats into solids and makes them stable, increasing shelf life and allowing them to be unrefrigerated.  In 1911, Proctor & Gamble started making the first hydrogenated shortening, Crisco.

Why was it invented?
Prior to 1910, dietary fats consisted of mostly butterfat, beef tallow, and lard.  When the U.S. started growing soybeans they had an abundance of soybean oil and looked for something to do with it.  Meanwhile there was a shortage of butter, so they started hydrogenating the soybean oil to make it solid and *poof* you have a cheap substitute for butter that they would call margarine.  People liked margarine because you could spread it on a piece of toast right out of the refrigerator, unlike butter.  Hydrogenated oils also worked better in baked goods than lard.  Production of hydrogenated oils increased steadily until the 1960's as it was cheaper than butter and then people began to argue that trans fats or margarine was healthier than saturated fats of butter.  Processed foods like packaged cookies and cakes often have partially hydrogenated oils so they have a long shelf life.  If they were made with real food ingredients like butter, they would have to be refrigerated and would go bad within a week.  This is the main reason trans fat bombard our grocery shelves.

The problem
As early as 1956 there was suggestion that trans fats were increasing coronary artery disease but it mostly went unstudied until the 1990's.  In 1994 it was estimated that trans fat alone caused 30,000 deaths in the U.S. each year from heart disease.  By 2006 it was estimated that around 206,000 deaths were caused by trans fat.  Trans fat increases LDL (bad cholesterol) while also decreasing HDL (good cholesterol).  In comparison, saturated fat increases LDL but it does not decrease HDL.  The health concerns are not just heart disease, but trans fat has been linked to Alzheimers, Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity (duh on that one), Liver Dysfunction, Infertility in women, and depression.

FDA has required labeling of trans fat on nutrition labels but the problem is that they only require it to be listed if it has .5 g or more.  So a product can contain .49 g per serving and it will show as 0 g trans fat and even be advertised as "Trans Fat Free".  This is why it is so important to read the ingredients.  Anything that has "partially hydrogenated oils" in the ingredient list means that it has trans fat and you should drop it like its hot.

With that long list of adverse health effects, this is why I say that trans fat is not ok to eat, even in moderation, yet most of America eats them daily.  If our food industry doesn't have a serious overhaul in the next few years, all of our children will be consuming these fats whether you want them to or not, probably daily.