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Happy-Gourmand

Busting myths and misinformation—the food edition

Interesting food facts

This week I wanted to give you some tidbits for your coffee break chats or random texting conversations—whatever it is people do in between activities nowadays.

You’ll learn the real answer about white chocolate, whether wasabi or chiles are more volatile and the answers to another burning question you might never have thought to ask.

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I am a dark chocolate fan and have been all along. I love the bitterness of the higher cocoa content, but I know others who prefer the creaminess of milk, or even white, chocolate. But is it truly chocolate if it’s white?

The catch is white chocolate contains cocoa butter, the fat component of the cocoa bean. Often commercial white chocolate is made with cocoa butter that has been “deodorized”, but in its natural state it does have a subtle chocolatey aroma. In fact, it was this delicate nature that may have made it the most coveted kind of chocolate when it first became a confection.

Chocolate bars are made by separating the cocoa butter from the solids and adding just some of it back when it is pressed into molds. The extra butter was a wonderful coating for many medications – smooth (making them easier to swallow), it melted in your mouth, and it tasted pleasant.

Artisanal white chocolate bars have the smooth taste and the natural aroma without any industrial additives, making them a delightful choice to change up your chocolate experience. They are indeed chocolate, and can be created with many variations and at many levels of quality like milk or dark chocolate.

•••

When we speak about the fiery nature of tastes like chiles, hot mustards and horseradish, the sinus system plays a large part again.

It is more about the connecting passageways that changes how we perceive these flavours, however.

Chiles have a component called capsaicin, which is what makes us feel the heat sensation. It bonds to a certain receptor that runs from our mouth and nose to our brain. It is not volatile unless you heat it. Have you ever cooked chiles on the stove and felt that choking, burning sensation? That’s the capsaicin becoming volatile from the cooking.

The component in mustard powder and horseradish is isothiocyanates and they bond to different receptors so they act differently in our bodies. The receptors they connect with are more prevalent in our noses, so that is why we often feel that rush of heat up our nose from a shot of wasabi or hot mustard. Being volatile however, the isothiocyanates dissipate faster than chiles.

Mustard and horseradish will hit you faster, but chiles last longer. One more useful fact – capsaicin is not water soluble, so that’s why drinking water doesn’t help if you eat too many hot peppers on a dare.

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I have one last bit of fun for you. It has been scientifically proven that it is nearly impossible to split your Oreo cookie and have filling on both wafers.

There was an MIT study done on this (link: https://pubs.aip.org/aip/pof/article/34/4/043107/2844774/On-Oreology-the-fracture-and-flow-of-milk-s ) where they created a machine to split cookies (called the Oreometer, of course). There is a 95% probability that you will end up with the filling on just one wafer.

•••

I hope knowing those answers won’t spoil any of the fun of eating these foods. Rather, I hope it inspires you to think more about the many facets of how we enjoy what we eat.

Bon appetit!

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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No joking around with April Fool’s Day food

Fun foolish fare

I hope everyone is happily ensconced somewhere with loved ones this long weekend, celebrating spring in whatever fashion suits you.

I will be with my grandkids for the long weekend, probably grateful I’ve been working out consistently, as I’ll likely be spending most of my time on the floor.

This week, I thought I’d offer you some spring recipes that are fun and festive, but easy to prepare. I don’t know about you, but I like to continue the good vibe at the table throughout spring with colourful and flavourful meals. We need to be practical with busy schedules however, and indulging doesn’t always have to mean eating rich foods that tip the bathroom scale.

My first treat for you is one of my favourites from my time in France years ago, and it’s especially well-suited for April Fool’s Day. In France, the best-known prank is what is known as an “April Fool’s fish”. You’ve been pranked when someone manages to stick a paper fish on your back without you noticing.

My French friends taught me how to make a deceptively good fish dinner and we called it April Fool’s Fish. If you’d like the recipe and the history behind the connection of fish to this silly day, click here.

Another inspiration that came from my recipe research while in France was for two recipes that became a combo – the second one was born out of leftovers from the first one.

I came up with Tart n’ Tangy Salmon as an appetizer for dinner at a weekend getaway. Because I had leftover ingredients and everyone was still around the next morning, I came up with Wake Up Salad. Maybe not necessity, but a desire not to be wasteful was the mother of invention that weekend.

I’ll post the last recipe right here, as it’s a simple one. This is a recipe I adapted while working on food trucks, feeding the cast and crew of a TV show called “Outer Limits.” I had a huge case of bananas that were getting very ripe, so I made Chocolate Banana Cake and served it with fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream.

I made a batch that was for 150 people, but the recipe I share here is just for one bundt cake. It freezes well and makes a nice treat at coffee time or in school lunches.

I hope you surround yourself with the good vibes from good company and good food, whatever inspires you in the kitchen and at your table, this spring.

CHOCOLATE BANANA CAKE

½ cup butter (or coconut oil if you prefer)

¾ cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 large/ 3 small ripe bananas, mashed

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour ( you can sub in ¾ cup whole wheat flour if you wish)

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp cocoa

½ tsp baking soda

¾ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract, and/or ½ tsp cinnamon add an extra layer of flavour

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a bundt pan and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar till fluffy. Add in bananas and blend, then add eggs one at a time and mix well after each. Add vanilla if using.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda together (cinnamon too, if using). Add alternatively with the sour cream to the egg mixture.

Spread into the greased pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean (internal temp. 195F).

Let stand on a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar if desired, or serve with fudge or caramel sauce and/or vanilla ice cream if you want to splurge.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



Does your coffee have a mainstream aftertaste?

Independent coffee shops

I stopped by a neighbourhood coffee shop and bakery the other day and was pleased to see it was busy with customers.

It sits across the street from Starbucks and so I worried it might not find a following. It seems we have the space, and the interest, for both places, and for that I am grateful.

That got me to thinking about the difference between hip underground discoveries and mainstream trends, and how sometimes those things can intersect. But does that mean every little cult following will grow up to become a mass marketed item that, most often, loses its cool factor?

Perhaps the poster child of this phenomenon are Starbucks coffee houses. First they were the Pacific Northwest star, creating an interest around coffee that rose to almost a cult level.

In the beginning, Starbucks had some unique qualities beyond the coffee – like the music they played. They developed their own label and produced CDs that had a unique feel. An underground trend was born that created another buzz besides the coffee.

As the popularity of Starbucks increased and their locations expanded to almost every corner, the music, like everything else, became more mainstream and less unique. Enter the concept of pleasing everyone all the time, or is it catering to the lowest common denominator?

I suppose you can take solace in knowing there are those big box concepts now in many industries and in a way, they allow little places to exist just by being so mundane.

As long as there are people like you and I who want some variety in life, who want to be excited and surprised at least once in a while, then there will be little corner coffee shops that still play unheard-of music and have local art on the walls.

Maybe the place we go to will be bought out by Starbucks, but in its place, around the corner, a new one will spring up. It’s just like the forces of nature that bring the swallows back to Capistrano, it is the way of the world.

As we get older, we tend to wax nostalgic and pine for things the way they were. Perhaps this kind of thing is a lesson to us—we shouldn’t look back but rather look forward. Don’t pine for the old coffee shop that “grew up,” look for the new one that has opened and support its efforts to be cool and unique.

If we can remember not to grow old but to keep some of the youthful magic that allows us to enjoy quirky things, then some of those little places wouldn’t have to grow up and be the same as all the others. Or am I being too idealistic?

Share those gems you find. Independent places rely on loyal customers helping them to promote their unique offerings. It’s one of the things I love about the Okanagan, is that word-of-mouth is still a powerful tool.

That cool coffee place on the Westside? It’s called Two Donkeys

Please let me know about your discoveries by sending an email or sharing on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page. I promise to try each one.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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Get in the spirit of the season with these foods

Spring fling foods

I don’t want to jinx the positive trend we seem to be experiencing, but it seems like we may have gotten through the worst of it.

Spring is just around the corner and if any of that luck of the Irish rubs off on Sunday (St. Patrick’s Day), then maybe we’ll see green. We could all be dancing with the fairies by the Equinox.

Spring is a tumultuous season. We can either feel giddy from a mild sunny day or depressed on a grey day with chilling winds and low clouds. To make sure you can stay on the upswing, I have a few suggestions along the line of a spring “fling” – a seasonal celebration of sorts.

In the spirit of the season being a time for lovers frolicking in the grass, let’s start with aphrodisiacs. I was inspired after seeing a featured aphrodisiac menu at a creative Italian restaurant. It had diners giggling about the “libido enhancement value” of oysters and how the heat from a sauce with garlic or mustard could translate to the bedroom experience.

I rather doubt anyone needs much encouragement to indulge in chocolate or whipped cream. You can use your imagination. But I don’t want to leave out anyone who isn’t in a romantic mood. So. how about more straight-forward energy boosters?

It’s a bit early for ice cream cones outside, but soon they will have the affogato at Amore Mio (link: https://amoremiogelato.com/ ), and the combination of espresso and ice cream is just the thing for spring. Or perhaps you want to sink your teeth into the featured pastry at Sandrine’s French Pastry? (link: http://www.sandrinepastry.com/) She changes up the fillings in her features to correspond with the season, and like Amore Mio, she has some outside seating for nice days.

For those committed to a goal, a healthy indulgence could be the way to celebrate. Enjoying the view on those sunny days is a nice inspiration. A hike up a mountain—or even to a rooftop—will also do the trick. You can walk along the lakeshore in many places in the Okanagan. Kelowna’s City Park is beautiful, as is the Peachland stroll and the Penticton lakeside.

If you want a meal to channel spring, look ahead to garden season with a salad for dinner and start planning your summer get-togethers to keep the mood going.

I did say spring was tumultuous. It’s hectic, full of change. Maybe the best thing is just to aim for a low-stress existence as the world swirls around us, waking up for another summer. If that’s how you feel, I have a simple celebration for you: Chocolate Wacky Cake.

This is a childhood lunchbox favourite of mine but it has style today too. It is dairy-free and can be made gluten-free with any cup-for-cup GF flour. It’s so easy the kids can make it for you over spring break.

Chocolate Wacky Cake

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Make sure your rack is in the middle of the oven.

In a nine-inch (22.5 cm) square baking pan, mix the following ingredients:

1-1/2 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

3 tbsp cocoa

Make three wells in the dry ingredients and pour each of the following into one:

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp vinegar

Mix together the following and pour over the pan ingredients: one egg, stirred to mix, plus enough water to make one cup

Mix the entire preparation until smooth and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. (Internal temperature 195 F or 90 C.)

Leave to cool on a wire rack for at least one hour.

Ice with chocolate frosting, dust with icing sugar or add your choice of topping (caramel sauce, ice cream – channel that spring fever and go crazy).

I’ve heard it’s even good straight out of the pan.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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