Bush’s Baked Beans: The Vegetable Kids Love!??!

Beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes. Is it really any surprise that Americans' diets are so wildly off base and obesity and diabetes are on the rise?

This afternoon on the Food Network, I saw this surprising and shocking commercial:

I was so surprised that I actually had to rewind and rewatch it to make sure I’d actually heard it correctly.

Given the casting and the bright cinematography reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live skit (particularly with the talented and heavily underrated Evan Arnold), I was hoping to have a nice little laugh, but I was stunned by the tag line at the end. And no, I’m not talking about the advertising agency’s designated tagline “Booyah!”, which cleverly buries the lede; I’m talking about the tagline they designed to be remembered and the one which threw me: “Bush’s Baked Beans: The Vegetable Kids Love.”

While technically correct in so many of the wrong ways based on the USDA’s definition of vegetables, this commercial and its definition of vegetable belies the spirit in which the vast majority of American viewers are going to view and understand it. (And I’ll freely admit that at any given time, I’ve got up to two quarts of cooked beans in my refrigerator and a massive 25 pound bag of dried beans in the larder.)

I’ll at least give them credit that the dish served in the commercial did feature chicken as the protein, which by the USDA guidelines then pushes the beans into the “vegetable” column rather than the protein column in this meal. And I’ll further credit them that the serving sizes are almost reasonable for children of this age, though I suspect that from a commercial production standpoint, the small servings were more a function of trying to better feature the beans on the plate. However, if this is a balanced dinner, I’m guessing that the children aren’t getting their USDA RDA for “true” vegetables and fruit and are drastically overdosing on protein.

Fortunately, this commercial isn’t as egregious as Cheetos suggesting that they’re part of the vegetable food group because they’re made out of corn byproduct (incidentally, they have a pitiful Overall Nutritional Quality Index of 4!), but it does leave us on the terribly slippery slope that probably isn’t helping the overall American diet.

Beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes. They include kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils. They are available in dry, canned, and frozen forms. These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc. They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients. Therefore, they are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. Many people consider beans and peas as vegetarian alternatives for meat. However, they are also considered part of the Vegetable Group because they are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium. These nutrients, which are often low in the diet of many Americans, are also found in other vegetables.

 

Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone, including people who also eat meat, poultry, and fish regularly. The USDA Food Patterns classify beans and peas as a subgroup of the Vegetable Group. The USDA Food Patterns also indicate that beans and peas may be counted as part of the Protein Foods Group. Individuals can count beans and peas as either a vegetable or a protein food.

–Source Beans and peas are unique foods | USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov

For more information on beans, I’ll recommend the following more reliable resources:

Little Red Wagon Cocktails

You know there's a lot of wine for cocktails tonight when it needs its own transportation. #littleredwagon

#littleredwagon" srcset="http://i0.wp.com/boffosocko.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1447451671.jpg?w=1080 1080w, http://i0.wp.com/boffosocko.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1447451671.jpg?resize=150%2C150 150w, http://i0.wp.com/boffosocko.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1447451671.jpg?resize=300%2C300 300w, http://i0.wp.com/boffosocko.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1447451671.jpg?resize=768%2C768 768w, http://i0.wp.com/boffosocko.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1447451671.jpg?resize=1024%2C1024 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 709px) 85vw, (max-width: 909px) 67vw, (max-width: 1362px) 62vw, 840px" />

Instagram filter used: Normal

Eugenia Cheng, author of How to Bake Pi, on Colbert Tonight

The author of one of the best math (and cooking) books of the year is on Stephen Colbert's show tonight.

Earlier this year, I read Eugenia Cheng’s brilliant book How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics. Tonight she’s appearing (along with Daniel Craig apparently) on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I encourage everyone to watch it and read her book when they get the chance.

How-to-bake-pi

You can also read more about her appearance from Category Theorist John Carlos Baez here: Cakes, Custard, Categories and Colbert | The n-Category Café

My brief review of her book on GoodReads.com:

How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of MathematicsHow to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While most of the book is material I’ve known for a long time, it’s very well structured and presented in a clean and clear manner. Though a small portion is about category theory and gives some of the “flavor” of the subject, the majority is about how abstract mathematics works in general.

I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to have a clear picture of what mathematics really is or how it should be properly thought about and practiced (hint: it’s not the pablum you memorized in high school or even in calculus or linear algebra). Many books talk about the beauty of math, while this one actually makes steps towards actually showing the reader how to appreciate that beauty.

Like many popular books about math, this one actually has very little that goes beyond the 5th grade level, but in examples that are very helpfully illuminating given their elementary nature. The extended food metaphors and recipes throughout the book fit in wonderfully with the abstract nature of math – perhaps this is why I love cooking so much myself.

I wish I’d read this book in high school to have a better picture of the forest of mathematics.

More thoughts to come…

Identifying Food Fraud | University of East Anglia

Concerned with where your food is coming from? The University of East Anglia in association with the Institute of Food Research is offering a free course on Identifying Food Fraud.

Two of my favorite topics: Food and Science!

The University of East Anglia in the UK in association with the Institute of Food Research is offering a free four week course Identifying Food Fraud.  It’s an introduction to modern analytical science techniques and how they can be used to uncover food fraud.

Identifying Food Fraud

I know many people who could identify a fake Louis Vuitton (LVMH) purse, a knock off Christian Louboutin, or a sham Rolex, but who simultaneously are overly religious about their food brands and topics like organic food and couldn’t similarly identify the fakes they’re eating because of fraud in food labeling and misdirection and legerdemain within the food supply chain.  Finally there’s a course to help everyone become smarter consumers.

The food industry is one of the most important commercial sectors in the world. Everyone uses it, but how many people abuse it? As we witness the increasing globalisation of the supply chain, a growing challenge is verifying the questionable identity of raw materials in the food we eat.

In this course we will look at topical issues concerning ‘food fraud’ and explore ways in which analytical chemistry can help in its identification and prevention. We’ll share fascinating examples, such as the history of white bread and a surprising ingredient once found in bitter beer.

The University of East Anglia has joined forces with the world-renowned Institute of Food Research (IFR) to bring you this unique course. You’ll be led by Kate Kemsley, a specialist in the use of advanced instrumentation for measuring the chemical composition of food materials. Course content is linked with UEA’s MChem postgraduate programme, which supports final-year students’ practical research projects in this area of science.

Source: Identifying Food Fraud – UEA (University of East Anglia)

For those interested the course starts on October 26, 2015.

Is Flaxseed Oil The Ultimate Way to Season Cast Iron?

Quick literature review for seasoning cast iron for some pending research.

There are thousands of websites out there with details and instructions on how to properly season your cast iron cooking implements. Sadly, very few, if any, actually discuss the science behind what is going on or why one method is better than another. All of them typically reference dozens of oils and fats that should or shouldn’t be used with little or no justification for their choices other than the culinary equivalent of old wives tales.

Flaxseed Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron

About two seasonings ago, I had come across an interesting concept surrounding flaxseed oil and have always meant to try it, but wanted to do some tests and comparisons of my own.  After some research, I’ve found Sheryl Canter’s original article which now seems to be referenced by most serious food blogs and sites. I’ll try some tests with in the coming weeks and hopefully get around to reporting some of the results. Time to get the trusty microscope out for some photomicrography!

In the meanwhile, here are some links to what appear to be the forefront of material out there on the subject.

Supporting Ideas and Criticism:

Harold McGee on Cast Iron

The inimitable McGee has relatively little to say on the subject, so I’ll quote it briefly below:

IRON AND STEEL

Iron was a relatively late discovery because it exists in the earth’s crust primarily in the form of oxides, and had to be encountered in it’s pure form by accident, perhaps when a fire was built on an outcropping of ore. Iron artifacts have been found that date from 3000 BCE, though the Iron Age, when the metal came into regular use without replacing copper and bronze (a copper-tin alloy) in preeminence, is said to begin around 1200 BCE. Cast iron is alloyed with about 3% carbon to harden the metal, and also contains some silicon; carbon steel contains less carbon, and is heat-treated to obtain a less brittle, tougher alloy that can be formed into thinner pans.  The chief attractions of cast iron and carbon steel in kitchen work are their cheapness and safety.  Excess iron is readily eliminated from the body, and most people can actually benefit from additional dietary iron.  Their greatest disadvantage is a tendency to corrode, though this can be avoided by regular seasoning (below) and gentle cleaning. Like aluminum, iron and carbon steel can discolor foods. And iron turns out to be a poorer conductor of heat than copper or aluminum. But exactly for this reason, and because it’s denser than aluminum, a cast iron pan will absorb more heat and hold it longer than a similar aluminum pan. Thick cast iron pans provide steady, even heat.

“Seasoning” Cast Iron and Carbon Steel Cooks who appreciate cast iron and carbon steel pans improve their easily corroded surface by building up an artificial protective layer.  They “season” them by coating them with cooking oil and heating them for several hours. The oil penetrates into the pores and fissures of the metal, sealing it from the attack of air and water. And the combination of heat, metal, and air oxidizes the fatty acid chains and enourages them to bond to each other (“polymerize”) to form a dense, hard, dry layer (just as linseed and other “drying oils” do on wood and on painintgs).  Highly unsaturated oils — soy oil, corn oil — are expecially prone to oxidation and polymerizing. To avoid removing the protective oil layer, cooks carefully clean seasoned cast iron pans with mild soaps and dissolving abrassive like salt, rather than with detergents and scouring pads.

Harold McGee (1951- ), food science writer
in On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (Scribner, revised edition 2004)

It’s almost immediately apparent that Canter was inspired to use flaxseed oil by the standard go-to reference which mentions “linseed and other ‘drying oils'”.  Since it’s somewhat illustrative of cast iron pans in general, though it doesn’t reference seasoning, I’ll also direct the reader to McGee’s article What’s Hot, What’s Not, in Pots and Pans (New York Times, October 7, 2008) as well as Dave Arnold’s article Heavy Metal: the Science of Cast Iron Cooking.

I’ll note that the Culinary Institute of America’s The Professional Chef (Wiley, 7th edition, 2001) only mentions cast iron in passing on page 91 and doesn’t even use the word seasoning. (There is a more recent 9th edition, which I don’t own, but I doubt it has additional information given the scant nature found in the 7th edition.) Similarly “Iron Chef” Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011) has some generally fine directions for the beginning chef interested in science, but it doesn’t go past either McGee or the bulk of the online blogs with the common wisdom for cast iron.

cast iorn pan
A well-seasoned (manteca) cast iron pan cooking hashbrowns

In the coming research, I’ll delve into some of the journal literature to see what else I come up with, though I expect that it will be scant at best and not much more than the often cited July 1986 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association which discusses iron leaching out of pans into food substances.

Anyone with serious thoughts and ideas in this area is encouraged to share them in the comments.

 

I’m a sucker for references to math and pastry

Math is about understanding processes and not just eating end results.

W

hat can I say? I’m a sucker for references to math and pastry.

 

“One of the wonderful features of math is that, like with pastry, it can use quite simple ingredients to make very complicated situations. This can also make it rather offputting, like making puff pastry. Actually, I don’t think puff pastry is that difficult if you follow the instructions carefully. But even if you don’t want to try doing it yourself, perhaps you can still enjoy the fact that such simple ingredients can turn into delicious puff pastry. Math is about understanding processes and not just eating end results.”

Eugenia Cheng, mathematician, amateur chef
in How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics (Basic Books, 2015)
 
How to Bake Pi
How to Bake Pi

Cream Scones Recipe

5 parts flour : 1 part sugar : 1.5 parts butter : 1 parts egg : 2 parts cream : 1.5 parts fruit

Cream Scones

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Light, flaky classic scones with full flavor

Ingredients

  • flour (all purpose generally yields better results than cake)
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • unsalted butter (cold)
  • fruit: usually dried currants, raisins, chocolate chips, or other fruit
  • egg
  • heavy cream
  • fruit zest (orange, lemon, grapefruit, other)
  • cinnamon
  •   Mise on place for scone ingredients

Other fats could be substituted for the butter, but butter generally tastes best here.  For the small handful of health conscious non-professional home cooks, absolutely do not substitute milk for the cream, otherwise the fat ratio for the recipe will be thrown completely off and your results will be horrifying.

Ratio

5 parts flour : 1 part sugar : 1.5 parts butter  : 1 parts egg : 2 parts cream : 1.5 parts fruit

Other ingredients (approximately per part)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt per part
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 oz zest

Professional kitchens scaling the recipe beyond 75 oz of flour, may wish to use 1.25 parts of sugar for more even results.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until mixed thoroughly.
  3. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until the lumps of butter are just larger than the size of a pea. Any smaller and the scones will be tougher and less flaky.
  4. Mix together the cream, egg, (optional currants, raisins, fruit), and the zest, then mix into the flour/butter just until the dough comes together.
  5. Do not overwork the scone dough or the resultant scones will not be light and flaky. You should preferably be able to still see small chunks of butter in the dough.
  6. Roll the dough out into a disk about 1.5″ thick.
  7. Brush a light layer of cream (or milk) onto the top of the disk and sprinkle on a nice layer of cinnamon and sugar.
  8. Using a dough scraper cut the dough into eight equal wedges and place onto cooking sheet.
  9. Put the sheet of scone dough into the oven at 450 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool for a few minutes and then enjoy fresh with clotted cream and fresh fruit.

Step-by-step photos

Follow the instructions in the captions below:

Ingredients for making scones
Ingredients for making scones

Mise on place for scone ingredients
Mise on place for scone ingredients
Close up of scone ingredients
Close up of scone ingredients
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt
Put the cold butter into the flour mixture.
Put the cold butter into the flour mixture.
Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the lumps of butter are just larger than the size of a pea.
Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the lumps of butter are just larger than the size of a pea. Any smaller and the scones will be tougher and less flaky.
Mix together the cream, egg, and the zest, then mix into the flour/butter JUST until the dough comes together.
Mix together the cream, egg, (optional currants, raisins, fruit), and the zest, then mix into the flour/butter JUST until the dough comes together.
Do not overwork the scone dough.
Do not overwork the scone dough or the resultant scones will not be light and flaky.
Roll the dough out into a disk about 1.5" thick.
Roll the dough out into a disk about 1.5″ thick.
Brush a light layer of cream (or milk) onto the top of the disk.
Brush a light layer of cream (or milk) onto the top of the disk.
Close up of the dough disk with cream. You should preferably be able to still see small chunks of butter in the dough.
Close up of the dough disk with cream. You should preferably be able to still see small chunks of butter in the dough.
Sprinkle on a nice layer of cinnamon and sugar.
Sprinkle on a nice layer of cinnamon and sugar.
Close up of the texture of the dough.
Close up of the texture of the dough.

Using a dough scraper cut the dough into eight equal wedges and place onto cooking sheet.
Using a dough scraper cut the dough into eight equal wedges and place onto cooking sheet.
Put the sheet of scone dough into the oven at 450 for 12-15 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Put the sheet of scone dough into the oven at 450 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for a few minutes and then enjoy fresh with clotted cream and fresh fruit.
Cool for a few minutes and then enjoy fresh with clotted cream and fresh fruit.

Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science | edX

Bookmarked Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (edX)
Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering, and vice versa.

 

 

 

Proofing Bread

Leave it to a mathematician to get a proof out of everything - including bread!
Leave it to a mathematician to get a proof out of everything - including bread!
Leave it to a mathematician to get a proof out of everything – including bread!

Instagram filter used: X-Pro II