The Love Chef

Nutrition

Prepare it!

Defrost meat, poultry and fish in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave. For faster thawing, place frozen food in a watertight plastic bag and run cold water. DO NOT thaw foods at room temperature, because bacteria can grow on the outer layers before the inside completely defrosts.

Use separate utensils to cut raw meats and dice fresh vegetables to prevent "cross-contamination".

Be sure to thoroughly rinse fresh fruits and vegetables with cold water, to remove surface pesticide residues and other harmful agents.

Because bacteria live and grow in warm, moist places, wash your dish cloths and kitchen towels frequently, and replace sponges every few weeks.  Sponges can be sanitized by placing them on the top level of the dishwasher or in the washing machine.

Cook it!

Health experts suggest that you thoroughly cook meat, poultry and fish, as well as dishes containing eggs to kill harmful bacteria. When cooked, meat appears brown or gray inside. Poultry juices run clear; fish flakes with a fork; and eggs are firm (yolk and white).

Serve it!

Use clean dishes and utensils when serving food, not those used during the preparation process.

Never leave perishable food unrefrigerated for over two hours, because bacteria grow quickly at warm temperatures and can cause food poisoning.

Store it!

Don't store ready-to-eat foods near uncovered raw meats and poultry because their juices often contain bacteria. To avoid this, wrap or cover all items in resealable plastic bags or seal-tight containers.

If food cools slowly, bacteria can multiply. To ensure safe and rapid cooling, store hot food in shallow containers and refrigerate immediately.

Freeze fresh meat, poultry and fish, if you can't use it within a few days. With cooked poultry or other stuffed meats, remove giblets and/or stuffing and refrigerate in separate containers.

Keep your refrigerator set at 40° F and the freezer at 0° F or below, to prevent bacteria growth and contamination.

Space Food

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO
THE PARMESAN MASTERPIECE

Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of the world's 3 or 4 incomparable cheeses.

This prized Italian cheese has been recognized for over seven centuries far beyond Italy's borders.

And now, since the new millennium Parmigiano-Reggiano is an official space food on the International Space Station because of its nutritional value -- (more about that in a minute).

This unique product is made from special ingredients found in only one place on earth  -- a region of Northern Italy, comprised largely of the counties of Reggio Emilia, Parma and Modena, Bologna (west of the Reno River), and Mantua (east of the River Po) -- the controlled Parmigiano Reggiano District. The soil, the climate, the geography ... all come together to produce flavorful, nutritious grasses, which in turn yield a quality of milk found nowhere else.

Dotting the hills and valleys of the Parmigiano-Reggiano district are nearly 10,000 dairies that supply the milk to the some 600 cheese houses where those wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano are handcrafted just as they were 700 years ago.

It takes 160 gallons of this special milk to make one 85 pound wheel of this concentrated powerhouse of nutrients. An excellent source of protein, calcium and phosphorous. Rich in vitamins A, B12, E, D, and K; pantothenic acid, biotin, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, sodium and cobalt. It also contains 18 of the body's 21 required amino acids.

Lower in fat and sodium -- one of the lowest of any aged natural cheeses. During the Parmigiano-Reggiano's long and careful aging, its milk protein breaks down into free amino acids -- this gives the cheese its distinctive crunch, and makes it remarkably easy to digest. Even people who are lactose intolerant can enjoy Parmigiano-Reggiano.

So back to Space Food.

How did scientists discover Parmigiano-Reggiano? It's an interesting story. Living in the gravity-free environment of space causes all kinds of problems for humans. Osteoporosis and muscular atrophy are perhaps the greatest concern. Studies done on board the Russian space station MIR showed a drop in bone mass at the rate of 1% per month. The milk protein in Parmigiano-Reggiano breaks down into free amino acids, which do not require processing by the body and are immediately available for the body to metabolize. This makes Parmigiano-Reggiano easier to digest than other protein sources. It is also a rich source of calcium and phosphorous. So with a daily ration of 3½ ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano space crews can get 100% of the recommended daily allowance of 1200 mg. of calcium from a natural food source.

And the clincher: Parmigiano-Reggiano tastes good! The astronauts and the cosmonauts like it!

Just think about female diets that turn to vitamin supplements to ward off osteoporosis. Here is a tasty major piece of news -- backed up by analytical prestigious studies.

So now when I break off a chunk of cheese and drizzle my whole wheat Italian bread with Colavita extra virgin olive oil and enjoy, I remember what Mom told me as a 'little guy' -- "eat, it's good for you!!" -- Mother knows best.

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO
CHEF'S TIPS

The rind of the cheese bears the pin dots that read Parmigiano-Reggiano
for authenticity

The rind of the cheese is edible, no waxes or coatings -- add to sauces and soups as a flavor enhancer

Keep wedges wrapped tightly in plastic wrap as air is the enemy of cheese

Grate Parmigiano-Reggiano as needed to ensure freshness

To experience the crunch sensation made by the crystallized free amino acid, break away chunks of cheese rather than cut with a cheese slicer

Keep in warmest part of refrigerator

Do not freeze

Editor's Note: Parmigiano-Reggiano Sources:

-- Although Parmigiano-Reggiano is sold throughout the country, local stores, supermarkets, etc. -- a definite supply (along with other Italian products) at reasonable prices is available on the Internet @ www.gourmetstore.net.

WHAT MAKES FLOUR DIFFERENT?

       Two things are responsible for making one flour different from another flour. 

             -- The type of wheat from which the flour is milled, including where it
                is grown and under what conditions.
             -- The process by which it is milled.


The Wheat


       Wheat is classified by three criteria:

        -- Growing season
                   There are two seasons for growing wheat;
                   -- Spring grown in colder, northern climates.  Planted in Spring.
                   -- Winter planted in Fall;  green vegetative (dormant) stage in Winter;
                      mature in June-July.  Grown in milder climates.

       -- Kernel hardness
                   The hardness of the outside kernel of the ripened grain:
                   Hard:  These wheats are suitable for breads and other yeast bakings.
                   Soft:  These wheats are suitable for cookies, cakes and pastries.

       -- Bran color
                   -- Red
                   -- White


Thus, wheat is classified as:
      
       -- Soft Red Winter -- used for cake flour.
       -- Hard Red Winter -- used primarily for breads and other yeast bakings.
       -- Hard Red Spring/Hard Red Winter -- used for bread flour.
           
There are three quality measures of flour:
       -- Moisture:  Simply the amount of moisture in the flour.  Fifteen percent
                   is the maximum allowed under the Federal Code.  In the mill, the
                   moisture is controlled by the tempering (adding water) of the wheat
                   to assist the milling process.  Millers will usually mill flour to
                   13% or 14% moisture while most flours purchased at the store will
                   range from 10% to 12% moisture due to moisture loss in storage.
                   Uniformity in flour moisture is important for consistent baking results.


       -- Protein:  This quality measure does the most to determine the suitability
                   of wheat and thus flour for baking.  Wheat contains many different
                   protein types, but two important ones are gliadin and glutenin which
                   are vital to forming the structure for yeast-related goods.  With the
                   addition of water to flour followed by aggressive mixing, these two
                   proteins "grab" water and each other to form strong elastic strands.
                   These bubble gum-like sheets are called gluten.  Gluten gives yeast
                   dough's elasticity and extensibility to retain the gases produced by
                   the yeast!  The amount of available gluten-forming proteins increase
                   as the protein levels of the flour increase.

                   In chemically leavened products, we do not want gluten formation.
                   That is why we use low-protein wheat to make cake flours.  So how
                   can a "weak" protein provide structure?  Soft wheat flour strength is
                   not measured through gluten quality or quantity, but structure and
                   strength is measured by moisture retention, an important soft wheat
                   flour characteristic:


                               Flour Type                         Protein Percent
                        
                               Whole Wheat                            13.5 to 15
                               Bread                                        11 to 13
                               All-purpose                                10 to 11
                               Cake                                          7 to 9


       -- Ash:  The amount of minerals (phosphorus, potassium, magnesium,
                   calcium, etc.) that remain after a small amount of flour is heated
                   in a special high-heat oven.  These minerals are concentrated in
                   the bran.  This test is used to measure the efficiency of the milling
                   process.  It shows the separation of the bran (the stuff you want to
                   get rid of in milling) from the endosperm (the "good" stuff that
                   makes the flour).  The lower the ash level, the more refined the flour.


The Milling

       The wheat kernel is composed of three main components, the endosperm (where the flour comes from), the bran and the germ.  The objective of milling is to remove the endosperm from the bran and germ components.  The endosperm is then further refined and ground into flour.  Flours can be milled to different grades of fineness for specific uses.

       One step in the milling process is bleaching.  Bleaching is the application of a chemical to flour to speed up the natural whitening process.  Bleaching affects flour in three ways:

             -- it whitens the appearance by turning the flour's yellow pigments to white;
             -- it further weakens the protein in flour;
             -- bleached (or chlorinated) flour absorbs liquids faster and holds fat
                   to its surface better.

What Does all this Mean for Cake Flour?

Cake flour is milled from soft, red winter wheat:
       -- Lower in protein, so does not develop gluten.  This makes a more tender
             cake because it holds more moisture.
       -- Weighs less per cup, so recipes calling for all-purpose flour need to be
             adjusted (add an additional 2 tablespoons of flour to each cup of
             all-purpose flour called for in a recipe).
       -- Cake flour is milled finer than all-purpose flour for a more tender cake.
       -- Cake flour is heavily chlorinated (bleached).
       -- Gives a white appearance which is desired in some cakes.
       -- Breaks down the protein even further for a more tender cake.
       -- Holds fat to the surface better for a more tender cake.

Brand name flours such as Softasilk® cake flour are monitored throughout the milling process to guarantee consistent baked goods.

Suggested Flour Usage

Soft cookies  Cake Flour 

A low-protein, bleached flour combined with a fat that does not melt fast such as shortening will limit cookie spread.

Pie crusts  Two parts all-purpose
and 1 part cake flour 

The addition of a low-protein cake purpose to all-purpose flour will form cake flour less gluten. This makes a more tender crust. Over-mixing the crust ingredients will also toughen a pie crust.

Muffins, quick breads  Cake flour or
two parts all-purpose
and 1 part cake flour 

Use a low-protein flour, less gluten results in a more tender crumb.

Cakes  Cake flour

Cake flour is milled with a smaller grind and has lower protein for tenderness. Heavy bleaching also breaks down the gluten and allows for better distribution of the fat and better moisture retention.

NOTE: These facts were supplied by General Mills. Softasilk® is a Registered Trademark of General Mills, Inc.
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Page last updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2002 08:24 PM ET