Surprise…Look What’s In Your Food…

Anyone who’s ever read a nutrition label knows that our food supply is full of hard-to-pronounce chemicals. Most are generally recognized as safe, as the Food and Drug Administration likes to say, but a few have given scientists cause for concern.  Azodicarbonamide, for instance. Check out this information I adapted from a CNN story.  subway eat fresh

 

Subway announced recently that it would be removing the controversial chemical from its bread. Generally used for strengthening dough, azodicarbonamide is also found in YOGA MATS and SHOE SOLES, according to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest. One of the breakdown products is a recognized carcinogen.

Though Subway is going to remove azodicarbonamide, there’s a long list of other chemicals used in its bread: calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, potassium iodate and ascorbic acid, according to the restaurant’s website.

And Subway certainly isn’t alone. What other chemical additives are commonly found in your food? Here are seven, picked at random as good practice for the upcoming CNN Spelling Bee.

1. Tartrazine and other food dyes

When Kraft announced last year that it would be removing Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) and No. 6 from certain varieties of its Macaroni & Cheese products, advocates rejoiced. Blue 1, Green 3, Red 40 and others have been loosely linked to everything from hyperactivity in children to cancer in lab animals. Generally found in CANDY, BEVERAGES and BAKED GOODS, color additives are also used in COSMETICS.

But you knew that, right? Did you also know about the ground-up insects in your drinks? Cochineal extract is an approved artificial dye derived from a small bug that lives on cactus plants in Mexico and South America. As long as you’re not allergic, you’re safe to drink up, according to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest. Mmmm …

2. Butylated HydroxyAnisole (BHA)

Well, that’s a mouthful. BHA is used to preserve some CEREALS, CHEWING GUM and POTATO CHIPS, according to the centers. It’s also used in RUBBER and PETROLEUM PRODUCTS.

Butylated hydroxyanisole is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” according to the National Institutes of Health, because of animal studies that have shown that the chemical can cause tumors in rats and hamsters forestomachs (something humans don’t have) and fish livers.

3. Propyl Gallate

Propyl gallate is often used in conjunction with BHA and a chemical called butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT. These antioxidant preservatives protect oily products from oxidation, which would otherwise cause them to go bad. Propyl gallate can be found in MAYONNAISE, DRIED MEATS, CHICKEN SOUP and GUM, as well as HAIR-GROOMING PRODUCTS AND ADHESIVES.

Some scientists believe that propyl gallate is an “endocrine disruptor“, meaning it can interfere with human hormones. Endocrine disruptors can lead to developmental, reproductive and/or neurological problems, according to the National Institutes of Health, including fertility issues and an increased risk of some cancers. But the link between propyl gallate and the endocrine system needs to be studied further.

4. Sodium nitrite

Sodium nitrite is most often used in the preservation and coloring of meats, such as BACON, HAM, HOT DOGS, LUNCH MEAT and SMOKED FISH. Without it, these products would look gray instead of red.  Sodium nitrite is also found naturally in many vegetables, including beets, celery, radishes and lettuce. But the nitrite found in vegetables comes with ascorbic acid, which prevents our bodies from turning nitrite into nitrosamines.  Nitrosamines are considered potentially carcinogenic to humans. So some companies are adding ascorbic acid to their meat products to inhibit nitrosamine formation, according to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest.  However, the American Meat Institute points out the National Toxicology Program conducted a multi-year review in which rats and mice were fed high levels of nitrate and nitrite in drinking water, and a panel reviewed the findings and concluded that nitrite is safe at the levels used and not a carcinogen.

5. TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone)

This chemical preservative is a form of butane that is used in CRACKERS, POTATO CHIPS and some FAST FOODS. It can also be found in VARNISH, LACQUER and RESIN. It helps prolong the shelf life of food and, if it’s consumed at low levels, is considered safe.  In higher doses TBHQ has been found to cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse,” according to “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives.” It may also cause restlessness and vision problems.

6. Silicon dioxide, silica and calcium silicate

Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is a naturally occurring material made up of shells of tiny single-celled algae. You might also recognize it as SAND, the kind that gets stuck in your suit at the beach.

Silicon dioxide is used in DRY COFFEE CREAMER, DRIED SOUPS and other POWDERY FOODS. It is also used as INSECT REPELLANT, removing the oily film that covers an insect’s body, causing them to dry out and die.  In rat studies, high-dose exposure has caused some lung problems. Another study of Chinese workers who were heavily exposed to the chemical showed a disproportionate number of deaths related to respiratory diseases, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Silicon dioxide has also been associated with the risk of developing autoimmune diseases — again only after heavy exposure.

7. Triacetin (glycerol triacetate)

Triacetin, also known as glyceryl triacetate, has been approved and generally recognized as safe by the FDA as a food additive.  In food, it is used as a plasticizer for CHEWING GUM and GUMMY CANDY.  It is also used in PERFUME, COSMETICS, and CIGARETTE FILTERS.

So I’ll say it again…….cooking from scratch has its rewards.stevefromscratchlogo

A Few Things About Kansas City…..

It’s Not All in Kansas – Alot Is In Missouri!1

Kansas City is actually two cities in one – KCMO is on the east side of the Missouri River, while KCK is on the west, just across State Line Road. Most of the “downtown” attractions are in Missouri, while the Kansas side has more suburban-type stuff. Plus a major-league soccer team called Sporting Kansas City, in case anyone is interested!

The Heart Of The United States!

2

Kansas City is the nation’s most centrally-located big city. It’s surrounded by farmland, which means plenty of fresh meat and produce, but the seafood is usually frozen.

KC Barbecue3

Texas, the Carolinas and Memphis may each claim that their barbecue is best, but Kansas City knows better. The distinctive KC barbecue style involves a molasses- spiked sweet tomato sauce, and there’s no finer place to experience it than at BB’s Lawnside BBQ in South KC.  Its famous customers have included Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, and well known Food Network Chow Hound Guy Fieri.

The Royals Play Baseball…4

The Royals used to be a good team, and yeah, disco used to be popular, too. They do actually have one World Series win, back in 1985, but things have been looking up lately.  On the bright side, you can usually score cheap tickets.

Football Is KingNFL: Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are also recently a pretty decent team. Ok, they haven’t won the Super Bowl since 1970, but they make it into the playoffs every couple of years. During football season fans wear so much red and white they look like walking candy canes.

Beer, Beer, Beer6

Boulevard is THE Kansas City beer of choice. Boulevard Pale Ale is the brewery’s flagship beer, Unfiltered Wheat is the regional best seller, and seasonal brews such as the Chocolate Ale released around Valentine’s Day are so popular they often sell out as soon as they hit the shelves of local liquor stores.

And We Have Wine7

Kansas City is no Napa Valley, but it does have a wine trail that runs for seventy miles and has nine wineries. Amigoni Urban Winery, Kansas City’s ONLY urban winery, offers daily tastings of wines made from grapes grown at its vineyard less than hour away in Centerview, Missouri.

The Epitome Of Chocolate8

Christopher Elbow Chocolates is quite possibly the best Chocolate in the WORLD!  You simply have to experience the world of chocolate that these guys create.

Round And Round9

The Kansas Speedway is a 1.5 mile tri-oval race track in Kansas City, Kansas.  The speedway was built in 2001 and currently hosts two annual NASCAR race weekends, and if that’s not enough of a thrill, the Richard Petty Driving Experience lets you get behind the wheel of a 600hp race car and cruise around the track at speeds of up to 155 miles per hour.

Chocoholic…..

So if you haven’t heard by now, I am a self-admitted chocoholic, and I need it in my diet in some way, shape, or form every day. One of my favorite ways to enjoy chocolate is in the form of a brownie. I also have a passion for coffee and if you saw my kitchen at home you would easily guess this. I have a Keurig coffee brewer, a standard Cuisinart Coffee brewer, 2 French Press coffee brewers, a Toddy Cold Coffee brewing system, a Cappuccino / Espresso machine, an old fashioned Percolator Coffee brewer, a Stovetop Espresso maker, and a mini desktop Personal Percolator. Some things I take to extremes.
That being said, I would like to introduce you to a treat I developed recently. This came to me by way of a recipe that a friend gave me, and I tweaked and adapted it to fit my taste buds. This is just another in my series of recipes that proves that cooking from scratch is so much more rewarding. So go ahead and take a trip to two of my favorite worlds, Coffee County and Chocolate City.
Start by melting butter and semi-sweet chocolate in heavy pan over medium heat, stirring until smooth.

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20140214-230314.jpgRemove from heat and stir in cocoa powder,

20140214-230840.jpgGranulated sugar,

20140214-230934.jpgSalt,
And Vanilla extract.

20140214-231030.jpgStir until smooth.

20140214-231137.jpgAdd lightly beaten eggs,

20140214-231234.jpga little bit at a time into the chocolate mixture until smooth.
Stir in All Purpose flour

20140214-231542.jpgStir in Kahlua

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20140214-231903.jpgScrape the mixture into buttered 9×13 pan,
(I used a 15 inch hexagon pan for this batch)
And smooth the top.

20140214-232000.jpgScrape the mixture into buttered 9×13 pan,
(I used a 15 inch hexagon pan for this batch)
And smooth the top.
Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Put on cooling rack for 1-2 hours or until completely cooled. Refrigerating them makes them cut easier.

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20140214-232336.jpgIf you want to go an extra lap around the track, make yourself a little caramel sauce to top these beauties with. It’s very easy and very quick.
Add sugar and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Do not stir!

20140214-232658.jpgBoil the syrup for 6-8 minutes or until a deep amber caramel forms.

20140214-233012.jpgRemove from heat and stir in cream.

20140214-233144.jpgAdd Rum and stir until combined.

20140214-233250.jpgPour the caramel sauce into a glass jar or mug and let it cool slightly.

20140214-233418.jpgPlace in the microwave for 30 seconds to slightly warm.
When ready to serve, drizzle on top of the brownies and then sprinkle coarse kosher or sea salt on top.

TIP: Dried herbs have a more potent flavor than fresh.
When substituting, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs = 1 Tablespoon of fresh herbs.

Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels aren’t exactly a new concept. After all, you see them at every mall, movie theater and theme park concession stand. But when was the last time you had a homemade, from scratch, soft pretzel?
The flavor of these chewy beauties will beat any street vendor or food truck like an old maid beats a dirty rug. These are just like the pretzels you get at the mall or the ball park, just better. Boiling the shaped pretzels before baking gives them a chewy interior, like a bagel. The baking soda in the water makes the baked pretzels shine. They’re surprisingly simple to make, and I bet that once you try the SteveFromScratch variety, you’ll never go back. This is comfort food at its best.

SteveFromScratch Soft Pretzels
1 1/3 cups + 2 T warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/3 cup light brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
Kosher salt or pretzel salt
2 quarts cold water
1/2 cup baking soda

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook mix 2 tablespoons of the warm water with the yeast and let sit until foamy.

20140206-212026.jpgAdd the remaining 1 1/3 cups of warm water and the sugar and stir lightly to dissolve the sugar.

20140206-212351.jpg Add the flour

20140206-212625.jpgand mix at medium-low speed until a firm dough forms.

20140206-212734.jpgTurn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 2 minutes. Roll the dough into a 2 foot log.

20140206-212947.jpgDivide the dough into 20 pieces.

20140206-213136.jpgCover with plastic and a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

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Roll each piece of dough into a 12-inch-long rope.

20140206-213400.jpgBecause the dough has a tendency to shrink back on itself, it helps to roll it out partway, let it rest for a few minutes, and then roll it the rest of the way.
Next, take either end of the rope in your finger tips and draw them together so the dough forms a loop.

20140206-213636.jpgTwist the ends of the rope together once or twice, depending on your preference.

20140206-213727.jpgThen bring the twisted end toward yourself and fold it down onto the bottom curve. Use a bit of water or milk to wet the ends and make them stick onto the dough.

20140206-213842.jpgLet the pretzels rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large stockpot, bring the water to a boil. Add the baking soda. Carefully slide 4 of the pretzels into the boiling water and boil for 30 seconds, turning once.

20140206-214129.jpgUsing a slotted spoon, transfer the pretzels to a cooling rack to drain, right-side up. Sprinkle lightly with the Kosher salt. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.

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Lightly oil 2 baking sheets. Arrange the pretzels on the baking sheets and bake on the upper and middle racks of the oven for about 10 minutes, or until browned all over; shift the pans if necessary, for even baking. Let the pretzels cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack.

20140206-214459.jpgServe warm or at room temperature,

20140206-214824.jpgwith mustard, or cheese, or bean dip, or salsa, or bbq sauce, or garlic oil, or wasabi dip, beer, buffalo style hot sauce, herbed butter, cinnamon and cream cheese. . . I could go on and on. . .
You can make ahead and keep pretzels frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw, then reheat in a 350° oven before serving.

10 Things You Should Never Do In A Restaurant (If You Don’t Want To Piss Off The Staff)

20140205-213602.jpgFor those of us in the service industry, a good day at work depends hugely on the customers. Depending on what types of customers walk in the door and how they behave, work can be a pleasurable, rewarding experience, or a horrifying, stressful nightmare that has you scrolling through Craigslist and Career Builder employment ads as soon as you get home.

Want to know what we bitch about over drinks after work? The pet peeves and no-no’s that we talk endless shit about? Here are 10 Things You Should Never Do in a Restaurant.

SMOKE AN E-CIGARETTE.
How about just never smoking an e-cigarette. Ever.

WALK INTO A RESTAURANT AT 11:45 WHEN THE KITCHEN CLOSES AT MIDNIGHT AND ORDER A THREE-COURSE MEAL.
…unless you want shitty service and a pissed-off kitchen crew.

NO SHOW, NO CALL ON A RESERVATION.
It’s just plain rude. Restaurants plan their service around the size and time of reservations. If you make one, we’ve planned accordingly and expect you to honor your half of the deal. If you need to cancel, even if it’s last minute, give us a call.

SPLIT A CHECK THAT IS LESS THAN $30.
Really? You can’t buy your friend breakfast? You’re not going to offer to spring for a round for your pal? Let’s show a little give and take. Or bring cash.

SIT DOWN AT UNCLEARED TABLES.
Even if you want that specific table or that spot at the bar really, really badly—don’t. Sitting down at a dirty table slows things for everyone by making it harder to clean that table, shows how impatient you are, and disrespects the bussers.

SAY YOU HAVE AN ALLERGY IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A DIAGNOSED ALLERGY.
Allergies are no joke. Not killing patrons through cross-contamination is kind of a priority in most restaurants, so if you are allergic to nuts, dairy, wheat, whatever, the kitchen will bend over backwards to accommodate you. But if you are trying to cut out gluten, it doesn’t mean you have celiac disease. If you don’t like onions, it does not mean you have an allium allergy. It means you don’t like onions. Ask nicely if the offensive ingredient can be removed from your dish. If you say you have a dairy allergy because you don’t want a cup of cream in your parsnip soup, but then dig in when dessert comes, you’re gonna get the stink eye.

TIP $1 ON A FANCY $15 DRINK.
Until tipping practices change, if you are throwing down $15 for a well-made cocktail, you can afford to tip the appropriate 20%, alright? Also, buying a round for a group of friends does not excuse you from tipping for each drink.

LIE TO THE HOST.
Lying about the number of people in your party to get a bigger table or so that you can sit immediately will not win you any friends at a restaurant. We’re not talking about the occasional add-on, or the unexpected no-show—we’re talking about blatant fibbing. We know you’re doing it.

ORDER FISH DISHES ON SUNDAYS/MONDAYS.
Seafood providers, like most food purveyors, do not deliver on Sundays. This is less of an issue for upscale places that buy the right amount of fish daily and store it properly. Most places will order fish on Friday to carry them through the weekend; nevertheless, depending on business, come Monday those striped bass fillets may have been luxuriating in the walk-in for a couple of days.

THREE WORDS…

Egg. White. Omelet.