Truffles: P.S. I Love You

It is nearly two weeks after Valentines, but in our apartment we continue to celebrate with the sheer bliss of velvety chocolate rolled in sweet coconut and walnuts.  In other words, my roommate Nikita made these simple but elegant truffles.  Stunning.
"P.S. I Love You" Truffles
taken from The Joy of Baking
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp alcohol (cognac, brandy, rum, bourbon, Kahlua)
Note: Truffle taste directly correlated to quality of the chocolate you use
Coatings for Truffles
Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder
Confectioners sugar
Chopped nuts
Toasted Coconut
Shaved Chocolate
  1. Place chopped chocolate in a bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Heat cream and butter in small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil.  Immediately pour over the chocolate and stand for a minute or two.  Stir until smooth.
  3. If desired, add liqueur.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until truffle mixture is firm (several hours or overnight).
  5. Place coatings for truffles on a plate.  Use your hands, small ice cream scooper, or small spoon to scoop truffle mixture into small round balls.
  6. Roll ball in coatings and place on parchment lined baking sheet or tray.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
  8. Can be refrigerated for a couple weeks, or frozen for a couple months.
  9. Serve at room temperature.  Makes 30 small truffles.
Nikita, I dedicate this post to you.  Cheers to our living room dance parties, Glee sing-offs, wardrobe consultations, and late night chats.  You are a faithful friend and roommate, and I love cooking shoulder to shoulder in our cozy kitchen. 
P.S. I love you,

Winter Wonderland and Cookware Preview

I'm excited to announce another partnership with CSN Stores, an online shopping site that features furniture and home decor.  They offer a variety of useful and luxery items, including anything from swing sets to tea sets, fixtures to jewelry.  The winter has been harsh on my kitchen crew, and several vital members pooped out in the chill (ahem, Mr. Blender).  Stay tuned for a cookware product review!  In the meantime, Boston's winter wonderland is slowly thawing.  It's oh so slow.
 One of the many January storms. Trudging to work; no snow day at the hospital!
October 2010
How is your kitchen crew doing?  
What's #1 on your kitchen wish list?

The Politics of Eating

Last week I enjoyed reading an opinion piece in The Huffington Post that eloquently debates some hot issues in food politics.  The article was titled, Who will fix food? Obama? Walmart? You?  I felt called to share some of its rhetoric.   
  • "We've got to choose food that reflects our values. [...]  We've got to stand together to push for federal policy that serves eaters and farmers before it serves corporations." --Josh Viertel, Slow Food USA President via The Atlantic 
  • "Eaters must become more political.  We can't just vote with our forks."  -Wenonah Hauter from Food & Water Watch, spurns USDA regulations such as genetically modified salmon and alfalfa.
  • The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is addressing problems with the current food system in their new Charter for a Healthy Farm Bill .  "As fewer and fewer of us are tied to the land, average citizens don't always see a connection between themselves and policies ostensibly geared toward those who still do raise crops and animals. But we all eat, so the Farm Bill affects all of us. And those of us who still have jobs pay taxes, so we should care about how our tax dollars influence our food systems, too."
Farmers' Market, Union Square, NYC
The fact that I'm even blogging about food politics indicates a change in my own thinking.  In June 2009, I arrived at the dietetic internship and graduate program with a basic toolkit of clinical nutrition.  Yes, I knew the connection between food biochemistry, human health, and disease.  But no, I was clueless to the larger connections between nutrition, food, agriculture, economics, and public policy.

I am thankful for my classmates who expand my mind with their animated opinions and interests.  I am learning that food politics is a turnpike of merging and diverging paths, each topic associated with many implications.  The conversation could start with aquaculture and sustainable fishing, but end up in urban farming, food desserts, economics of fair trade, genetically modified ____ (fill in the blank), the "head to tail" culinary movement, front of package food labeling, international food security, or who knows where else.
Farmers' Market, Point Reyes, CA
I'm a slow learner, but one thing is certain.  If nutrition and food is a business, it sure is political.
What about you? Does this stir up any noble thoughts about ethics, food policy, nutrition, farming, or eating?
As always, thanks for reading.
Happy Presidents' Day!

The Transparency Trend-Empowering the American Grocery Shopper

Photo credit: Whole Foods
Two weeks ago Whole Foods announced the new 5-Step Animal Rating System, a labeling system that will be popping up in meat departments nation-wide come May 2011.  The rating system is a part of the Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit organization that audits farms and rates their animal welfare practices.  Whole Foods will be offering color-coded labels to guide consumers through the 5-Step certified beef, pork, and chicken products.  Certification indicates that the animals are raised on a vegetarian diet with no antibiotics or added growth hormones (also required by federal regulations).
5-Step Animal Welfare Rating System
Image credit: Whole Foods
A.C. Gallo, the president and COO of Whole Foods Markets comments, "We are proud to adopt this new rating system that helps shoppers make even more informed buying decisions while offering them peace of mind that the animals from our producers are raised with care."

The Transparency Trend
Food labeling is all the rage.  You might recall the hubbub about Smart Choices labels and Fruit Loops last year, and more recently the American Beverage Association announced their new "Clear on Calories" program.  The labeling initiative will display total calories on individual beverages and vending machines.

To address the labeling trend, the Institute of Medicine released Phase 1 of their front-of-pack nutrition labeling report in October 2010, concluding that labeling should focus on calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and easily understood serving sizes.  Phase 2 of the report is currently under discussion.
photo credit: Eat Drink Better
As companies slap more food labels onto packages and store shelves, I am tempted to applaud the push for "nutrition transparency" and "informed consumer purchase."  However I also wonder at what point too much information burdens rather than enlightens the consumer.  It will take more than color-coded labels to change consumer purchasing behavior and dietary patterns.  I believe proper guidance is needed to accompany these labels.

The transparency trend is exciting, but let's keep our eyes out for emerging research on food labeling and its affect on consumer purchasing.

Do you like the Whole Foods 5-Step initiative?
Your thoughts on food labeling?
Have a sweet Valentine's Day!


Orange Raisin Scones

A baking fetish has overtaken my apartment, with sweet scents wafting through the kitchen.  This recipe was a lucky find, easily missed in tiny 8-size font on the back of a raisin container.  But after eating nearly the entire batch straight off the pan, my roommate and I agreed it was a keeper.
Orange Raisin Scones
Recipe from "ShurFine Natural Raisins" box.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 Tbsp. orange zest (or more!)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted Butter, chilled
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup sour cream
1 egg

Whisk flour, half of sugar, orange zest, baking powder, and salt in large bowl.
Add butter and cut into flour mixture with pastry blender, or blend in food processor for 10 second pulses; mixture should resemble corn meal.  Add raisins.

Whisk sour cream and egg in small bowl.  Add to flour mixture and toss until moist clumps form.
Pour flour mixture onto lightly floured surface and gently knead until dough comes together.  Divide dough into small circles or triangles.  Sprinkle with remaining sugar and cinnamon; press into dough so that it sticks.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  Makes 12-16.
How was your weekend?

Salty Recs from the New Dietary Guidelines

Monday ushered in the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's evidence-based recommendations to promote health and reduce risk of chronic disease through nutrition and physical activity.  Recommendations for fat, cholesterol, potassium, and fiber are largely unchanged since the 2005 edition, and there was more focus on decreasing added sugars.  Click here for the full report.

Of note, there was little change for sodium recommendations (still 2300mg/day for the general public)—a point of debate for many.  Here is the Dietary Guideline's official stance on salt:
"Reduce daily sodium intake to less than  2,300 mg and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among persons who are 51 and older, and those of any age who are African American or who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.  The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children and the majority of adults."
This is in contrast to the recommendations from the American Heart Association, which read "Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Aim to eat less than 1500 mg of sodium per day."

So which is best... 2,300 mg or 1,500mg per day?  I'm not quite sure myself.  Despite the numbers, I think it's clear that sodium is worth our notice.  We know that high-salt diets are linked to high blood pressure and increased risk for heart disease, and that about 75% of American sodium intake comes from processed foods.  A reduction in sodium will require both a conscious effort from the consumer, and system wide change in the American food supply.

Fortunately, recall that the Institute of Medicine already issued a seminal report in April 2010 calling for food companies to cut back on added salt.  In addition, the IOM asked for regulatory standards for sodium levels in processed foods.  I blogged about the IOM report back in April, so feel free to take a look.

Alright folks, that's my thoughts on salt and the new guidelines.
Do you agree with the Dietary Guidelines or the AHA?      
Happy Thursday,

photo credit from American Enterprise Institute
Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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