Knife Skills Every Culinary Artist Should Have

Thursday, Dec. 19th 2013

Beginning cooks might not know how versatile a knife can become in the hands of a professional chef. Anyone who doesn’t know the differences between knife skills such as mincing, dicing, and chopping has quite a bit to learn. Luckily, it doesn’t take long to start learning these skills. Just because you’ve minced a few onions, however, doesn’t mean that you know how to do it properly. These are skills that chefs spend years perfecting.

Mincing

Minced Garlic.

Mincing gives chefs finely cut chunks of an ingredient such as onions, garlic, or squash. The proper mincing technique varies slightly depending on the ingredient, but cooks can adjust their techniques easily when encountering new foods.

To mince garlic, use a knife with a thin, sharp blade. Cut the garlic into strips, running from the head to the root. Turn the strips at a 90 degree angle and cut them into small pieces.

Chopping

Dicing. Chopping is a versatile technique that works well with a chef knife or a cleaver. Hold the cleaver’s handle securely and place your other hand on the top, dull side of the blade. This lets you control the cleaver easily so that you can create large or medium chop sizes.

Dicing

Dicing is a subcategory of the chopping technique. The major difference is that dicing creates small chunks. Chefs can use smaller knives for this technique, although experts could still dice with cleavers. Regardless of the knife, having a Granton edge helps create smaller, even cuts.

If you need to hold the ingredient while dicing it, be sure to use the “claw hand” technique. This reduces the risk of injury by removing your fingers from the dicing area.

Julienning

Julienning creates long, thin strips. This technique is most commonly associated with cutting vegetables, but chefs can translate the skill into techniques used when preparing ingredients such as fish, meat, and cheese.

Julienned Vegetables

To julienne properly, use your middle, ring, and pinkie fingers to grasp the top of a chef knife’s handle. Your forefinger should rest on one side of the blade while your thumb provides support from the other side. Use the knife to cut off four sides of the ingredient. This will create a block that is easy to work with.

Now, cut the ingredient into uniform, lengthwise sections. Do not “chop” straight down. Instead use a rocking motion that allows the knife’s blade to move easily through the vegetable or other ingredient.

Stack the sections on top of each other and use the same technique to cut them again. This should produce long, slender cuts of the ingredient.

Chiffonade

Chiffonade” is a French word that means “made of rags.” Chefs primarily use the style when cutting herbs such as basil or mint. To chiffonade basil leaves, stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them into a tube. It should look like a green cigar.

Chiffonade.

Use an extremely sharp knife to cut the leaves using the same rocking motion from the julienne section. This will create short shreds of the herb, making it perfect for adding flavor to dishes.

These basic knife skills can make cooking easier and safer. Learning how to use them properly is an essential step for every chef.

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Starting a Career in Culinary Arts

Monday, Dec. 2nd 2013

Cooking may seem like a monotonous chore involving a small amount of skill to get through with daily living. In today’s society, most people look for the fastest way to prepare ordinary dishes. A simple cookbook or family recipe introduces a little variety, but it rarely gets beyond cooking basics. When people specialize in food preparation, it becomes a work of art that aims for salivary satisfaction. Many people refer to this type of cooking as the culinary arts.

The culinary arts encompass a wide array of fields that have to do with food preparation and other duties related to cooking. Chefs and cooks specialize in the culinary arts, with many who can do more than create the occasional good meal. In fact, most have learned how to plan meals, menus, and manage kitchens. Chefs and cooks receive their training either in restaurants or culinary schools. Chefs can eventually take on greater responsibilities with enough experience, such as ordering inventory, staffing cooking stations, and fulfilling orders.

The History of the Culinary Arts

The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Before the creation of culinary schools, professional cooks acted as the teachers for apprentices who wanted to learn the tricks of the trade. The Boston Cooking School became the first culinary arts school to teach formal instruction in a classroom setting. Fannie Farmer, an American culinary expert, attended the school as a student before becoming the instructor and principal of the school in 1877. In 1896, Farmer published the Boston Cooking School Cookbook, a textbook that introduced the importance of using exact measurements while cooking. Her published material laid the groundwork for culinary instructional material.

In 1929, the American Culinary Federation formed as an intermediary for students seeking education and training in the culinary arts. The founding of the federation also led to the assemblage of the United States Chef Club. The American Culinary Federation continues to assist students in leading their educational path through apprenticeships and certifications. A surge of students became interested in the culinary arts after the post-war era due to a booming economy. This led to the widespread availability of culinary arts instruction to massive audiences.

In 1946, James Beard shifted his focus to the television screen to reach his audience. A handful of brick-and-mortar schools emerged from this point onward. For instance, Yale University opened the New Haven Restaurant Institute, also known as the Culinary Institute of America, in 1946. The school relocated to Hyde Park, New York and opened an additional campus in California. In 1973, Johnson and Wales University opened its College of Culinary Arts. In 1976, the American Culinary Federation Educational Institute coordinated apprenticeships with the aid of a government grant. It continues to assist culinary students with the opportunity to learn the trade with paid on-the-job training. Today, a host of educational opportunities exist for students looking to gain the necessary experience to work competently in the field.

Culinary Education and Training

The majority of chefs and cooks learn their skills while on the job. Others have chosen a formal path of education and training at a culinary arts school, community college, technical school, or four-year university. A few have learned through apprenticeship programs or the armed forces. Culinary programs at any of these educational institutions allow students to practice their cooking skills under supervised instruction. Culinary programs cover all aspects of working in the kitchen, including menu planning, food sanitation, purchasing inventory, and staffing cooking stations. Most culinary programs require students to gain experience through an internship or apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship programs offered by professional culinary institutes, trade unions and industry associations provide paid on-the-job training for students looking to hone their skills. The majority of apprenticeship programs last about two years. Students enrolled in an apprenticeship program learn in a classroom setting and work environment. The American Culinary Federation accredits more than two hundred training programs and sponsors apprenticeships across the nation. Some students have chosen mentorship programs that work similar to apprenticeships, except they work under the direct supervision of experienced chefs. In addition, members of the armed forces who served as chefs or cooks often receive formal training while enrolled. Students who learn in restaurant settings without formal training can obtain certifications to prove their competency in the field.

Prospective students need to possess certain qualities before pursuing the culinary arts. While formal training instills and reinforces these qualities, students must possess the tenacity to continue with it in the workforce. The culinary arts involve more than having good cooking skills. It requires having good business skills, time management skills, leadership skills, manual dexterity, and creativity. A keen sense of smell also ranks high as a necessary skill to becoming a competent chef or cook. Chefs and cooks who show a high level of competency in their field may have plenty of opportunities presented to them for advancement in the field.

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Cooking and Grill Safety Tips

Monday, Oct. 7th 2013

Grill Safety Tips

Every year as we fire up the barbeque in the summer, we might not be aware of the thousands of injuries, fatalities, and fires that are caused due to outdoor grills. In order to enjoy a safe, incident-free outdoor meal experience, it is important to educate ourselves on the crucial points of grilling safety. Apart from this we also need to know how to equip ourselves with the right tools for preventing and handling any potential hazards. In this article we’ll have a look at the basics of safe grilling habits and techniques.

Read the Owner’s Manual

While it may be a bore to flip through the entire manual, this one simple step can go a long way in preventing mistakes. Beyond the assembly instructions, pay special attention to usage advice and safety tips. If there seems to be something wrong with the grill alert the manufacturer instead of attempting to use the grill . Their information is usually available in the manual or on their website.

Only for Outside Use

No matter how small a grill might be it should always be used outdoors. The key is to use it in an area where smoke and emissions can freely escape. This means that it isn’t even safe to use it in an outdoor tent or similar enclosure. The reason for this is because grills create carbon monoxide. The gas is virtually undetectable but fatal for humans and pets. Another important reason to use grills in a well-ventilated spot is to avoid sparks and cinders from setting materials or plants on fire.

Keep Grill Stable

Grills have the potential to cause much danger. They contain hot coals, searing metal racks, heavy parts, and might be connected to a propane tank. To avoid any of these items falling over and potentially causing an emergency situation, owners should take every effort to secure the grill. Keep it on a flat, stable ground area. It is a good idea to place a few heavy rocks around the legs especially if there are wheels to prevent the grill from accidentally being tipped or pushed.

Follow Electric Codes

Take the time to research your area’s regulations and codes about outdoor electric appliances. This is not only to avoid trouble with authorities, but more importantly it helps to avoid dangerous situations. When electric cords are required, wire them in a way where they are protected from water. It is best to place them in areas that do not receive heavy traffic.

Use Long-Handled Utensils

Food cooking on a grill tends to splatter and sizzle. By using utensils with long heat-safe handles, grill owners can prevent getting burned. Never reach for food on the grill with bare hands or with standard table utensils. Long tongs with serrated edges are extremely helpful since they can catch and hold on to the food better, to avoid accidental dropping.

Wear Safe Clothing

Long, flowing clothes can easily catch on fire if a person reaches over a grill. While it is important to be fully clothed while grilling, it is equally crucial to wear the right clothes. Roll up shirt sleeves above the wrist and make sure they do not hang down. An apron is handy for protecting skin and clothes, however do keep the strings properly tied and well secured. People with long hair should tie it back so that it does not hang above the flames. Appropriate oven mitts are also advisable to avoid burning the hands.

Keep Fire Under Control

A grill’s fire can very quickly increase in temperature and become out of control if the grill owner does not know how to handle it. In the event of flare-ups, one effective way to cope with it is by placing the grid at a higher level. Alternatively use a long-handled tool to disperse the coals so that the heat is not focused on one central area. Another method is to simply use the grill controls to maintain a lower temperature. For larger flames quickly but carefully move the food off the grill, and then sprinkle a little water over the coals.

Be Ready to Extinguish Flames

Even advanced grillers should be properly equipped in case a fire gets out of control. To this end, a fire extinguisher is vital to have next to the grill. Adults in the family should be familiar with using a fire extinguisher and know how to deploy it at a moment’s notice if necessary. In lieu of a fire extinguisher, a garden hose can work just as well if it is easily within reach. Another simple but effective remedy is a box of baking soda for extinguishing grease fires caused by food. Keep a waterproof, sealed container of sand nearby as well to smother the flames in an instant.

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A Culinary Guide to Gluten Free Cooking

Tuesday, Oct. 1st 2013

Gluten-free is a term that can be found with increasing frequency in grocery stores on food products, and mentioned in discussions about health. To understand what it means, it is necessary to first define the word “gluten.” Wheat, the wheat/rye hybrid triticale, barley, and rye, all contain a naturally occurring protein that is called gluten. Gluten serves several purposes. When baking, gluten traps gas so that baked goods such as bread will rise and become light and airy. It makes the dough created using wheat-based flour more elastic, and helps make the final baked product more chewy. It is also used as a thickener in some products and may be used to enhance the flavor in some foods. When a person is on a gluten-free diet, he or she only eats foods that do not contain this protein. Because gluten is often found in unexpected items, starting a gluten-free diet is not as easy as it sounds.

A gluten-free diet is not necessary, or helpful, for everyone. Celiac disease is one of the main reasons why people turn to a gluten-free diet. With celiac disease, gluten triggers an autoimmune response in the small intestine. As a result, nutrients are not properly absorbed, the person suffers from gastric problems, may have headaches and suffer from fatigue. A gluten-free diet is critical in the treatment of this disease. People with celiac disease, however, are not the only ones who are gluten intolerant. Some people may have a gluten sensitivity that is not related to celiac disease, and may need to reduce their gluten intake or follow a gluten-free diet. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause people to suffer from stomach pains after eating wheat or other associated grains. They may also experience bouts of headaches, fatigue and grogginess.

In addition to avoiding foods that contain barley, wheat, rye and triticale, people on gluten-free diets should also be aware of other items that contain wheat and/or gluten. Graham flour, bulgur, farina, spelt and seminola all contain gluten and should be avoided when adhering to a gluten-free diet. Unless marked as gluten-free, tortillas, bread, pastries, and cereals will all traditionally have gluten in them. Beer, sauces, oats, gravy, soy sauce, imitation fish, lunch meats, salad dressings, and some candies can also contain gluten. For this reason, people will want to carefully check the labels of foods that they buy and look for items that are clearly labeled gluten-free. Items that can safely be consumed are foods that are made using soy, rice, potato, bean, and corn flours. According to the Mayo Clinic, buckwheat, hominy, millet, rice and flax may all be used as substitutes for wheat.

When first switching to this type of diet, people may find it challenging when it comes to baking or cooking. This challenge is two-fold. In one aspect, depending on where one lives and the presence of health food stores, it can be difficult to locate certain pre-made gluten-free items. This is especially true for gourmet or specialty items. Baking is another area that proves challenging for people who are new to gluten-free products. This is because of the way that gluten affects the final results of baked goods. For this reason, people who enjoy baking will need to experiment with gluten-free alternatives to discover the best ways to make the foods that they enjoy. Fortunately, there are numerous recipes available for not only baked goods, but also healthy, gluten-free meals as well.

Breakfast

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Dinner

Desserts

Snacks

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A Culinary 101 on Being Kosher

Sunday, Mar. 24th 2013

Latkes. The Jewish religion requires its followers to adhere to a very specific set of rules regarding food consumption. Acceptable foods and preparation practices are known as kosher. The book of Leviticus provides information as to the types of foods that can freely be eaten and how they should be prepared and cooked. The rules and laws are specific enough that Jews have to be especially careful to buy foods labeled as kosher. How an observant Jew cooks and eats is similarly regulated. Read on to learn about why people keep kosher and how to do so.

History of Kosher

People have been keeping kosher for as far back as Biblical times, or around 3,500 to 4,000 years ago. The practice increased significantly in the West when large numbers of Jews migrated to the United States. The first known instance of kosher food in the U.S. dates back to the mid-1600s. The most basic reason for keeping kosher is simply because the Torah outlines that it should be followed. However, many rabbis also further encourage it by suggesting that this type of diet helps to increase one’s spirituality and discipline, as well as furthering Jewish customs. Many also cite the practice’s stringent sanitary laws as a reason to eat foods that are prepared in a very hygienic manner.

General Rules of Being Kosher

The main rules of keeping kosher outline a number of foods that may or may not be consumed. Kosher laws also specify that animals and birds that are slaughtered for food must be killed according to ritual. Before cooking, all of the creature’s blood needs to be drained, and only some parts can be consumed. Mixing categories of foods is also regulated. Dairy products cannot be mixed with meats, while pareve (non-meat or dairy products) cannot be eaten with meats or dairy. For example, vegetables or fruit cannot be eaten with meat or dairy. These practices extend to food preparation and cooking as well, so that separate containers and utensils have to be used for each category of food. Some families color-code their kitchen tools according to food categories to prevent accidentally using them wrongly.

Specifics of a Kosher Diet

In the meat category, Jews are allowed to eat common domestic farm animals that include cows, goats, and sheep, as well as more exotic creatures such as giraffe, ibex, and gazelle. Similarly, common farm-bred poultry such as ducks, geese, and chickens are acceptable. Technically turkey is a kosher meat, but because it was never specifically referred to in the Torah, some sects do not permit it. Standard fish such as tuna or salmon are safe for kosher diets. Jews are only allowed to consume the meat of creatures when a shochet (a Jew who is specially trained and licensed to butcher animals for food) kills the beast with a single slash to the throat. The knife that is used must be very sharp, and as the process very quick and painless, it is recognized as the cleanest and is the most humane way to slaughter the animal. Fruit and vegetables can be freely consumed as long as they are first checked for insects. Eggs from kosher animals are also acceptable, and this even includes caviar if it is obtained from kosher fish. Dairy foods include anything that contains milk. Dairy products are only allowed if they are derived from kosher animals and do not include any type of meat by-products or substances. Other items such as bread and cereal (which are considered as pareve) can be eaten if it does not contain dairy.

Foods Forbidden in a Kosher Diet

Foods that are not allowed within the kosher guidelines are known as treif. When it comes to meat, Jews are not allowed to eat meat from animals that bear cloven hoofs or those that do not chew cud. Furthermore, while they can eat fish, they cannot consume water creatures that lack fins or scales, which eliminates shellfish and squid. Insects, scavenging creatures, reptiles, and amphibians are all excluded from a kosher diet. Since consumption of blood is prohibited, the shochet needs to ensure that recently killed animals are fully drained of their blood before the meat is available for consumption. Since eggs may sometimes contain bloodspots, they need to be carefully checked before eating and discarded if any blood is found.

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A Culinary Guide to Eating Right Every Day

Sunday, Mar. 10th 2013

Fresh Vegetables. Everyone knows that eating healthy is the best option available for making a positive impact on your health. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, stay fit and just feel better overall. Knowing that you need to make good food choices is different from actually making those choices. When you are ready to change your eating habits, you need to take the time to evaluate all of your habits and to take the necessary steps so that you can embrace a healthy lifestyle. You need to think about the food that you are eating, where it comes from and how it helps you. Once you begin to make conscious choices about your eating habits, it will be easier to make the changes you need to succeed.

The government and various other nutrition agencies have outlined the basic guidelines for healthy eating. As a child, you may have learned about the Food Pyramid or heard about the My Plate initiative. The basic guidelines instruct an adult to eat about two cups of fruit a day. You should strive to eat between two and a half to three cups of vegetables each day. You should limit your grains to between six to eight ounces each day. Protein is an important part of any diet, and you should aim for between five to eight ounces each day. If you do not want to eat meat, there are plenty of healthy plant based proteins options available. Dairy is another important food group, and you should make sure you are getting about three cups each day. You also need to make sure you are choosing healthy fats and oils such as the oils found in nuts or certain vegetables. You need between five to seven teaspoons of oils each day.

Once you understand what you should be eating to stay healthy, you need to start thinking about how to eat each of the food groups. The fresher the fruits and vegetables you eat, the more nutrients you will receive from them. If possible, you should eat at least a portion of your daily vegetable intake raw. This will give you the most nutrients possible. When you are eating your grains, look for whole grains instead of items that have been overly processed. Choosing to bake or grill your meat will be healthier than frying it. You can choose organic fruits and vegetables to avoid the pesticides that are on other fruit.

Changing your eating habits may come a little bit at a time. You need to make it easy to consume the healthy foods you want to eat. Take the time each week to slice up the vegetables you are planning on snacking on. Take the time get rid of the processed junk food in your house, and at your office. If you put healthy options in their place, it will be easier to make the changes. The more processed food you can remove from your diet, the better off you will be. Cooking from scratch and cutting out fast food will give you more control over the food you eat.

Changing eating habits can be difficult. Food addiction is a real affliction. You may not realize that you are addicted to many of the processed foods that you eat. Some people find that completing a detox diet of eating only fruits and vegetables and lean meats for a few days can help break some of the worst eating habits. If you do this, you will slowly add in whole grains after one or two days. One of the goals is to completely eliminate processed sugar from your diet. Another approach is to only eat sugar on specific days each week. You may slide as you begin to change your eating habits. The key is to not give up when you make a mistake. Resolve to begin eating better again, and then stick to it. Your body will adjust to the healthy foods that you are eating, and soon you will crave fruits and vegetables instead of sugary snacks and potato chips. If you are still having a difficult time, you should consult with a professional nutritionist. Check with your health insurance company to see if they will cover the cost for one or two appointments, especially if you are overweight.

Here is additional information on making healthy food choices.

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Culinary Schools in America

Tuesday, Mar. 5th 2013

Culinary Lessons. One of the most rewarding ways to work is by turning something you already enjoy into a career. For many people, cooking translates to a career path in the culinary arts. This field involves cooking or working with food in many different ways. While people may initially start out by studying a broad-based course, they can later focus on a more specialized field. Culinary school graduates typically find themselves working in a wide variety of jobs, including restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and even the military. Read on to discover more about this extremely practical and hands-on career path.

Culinary Schools

There are many culinary schools around the globe, but only a few have gained a prestigious status, akin to the Harvards and Princetons in our world. Some of the most famous ones include Paris’ renowned Le Cordon Bleu, and the Culinary Institute of America. At a culinary school, students can expect to study theoretical courses as well as practical classes in a real kitchen environment. When considering culinary schools in the United States a key factor is ACF accreditation. This accreditation is granted by the American Culinary Federation, a professional group that oversees culinary education all across North America. It is not necessarily true that students have to pay skyhigh fees to obtain a culinary degree. There are several ACF accredited community colleges with lower fee rates that are also able to offer a strong education. Apart from the main tuition, students should also consider the additional costs of uniforms, books, cooking supplies, and their room and board. It is a wise idea for potential students to tour the school and its facilities before accepting any offers. In particular, take note of the facilities and the ratio of students to professors. Students who already have an idea of the culinary field that they wish to specialize in should find out whether the school offers related courses or a degree. Some schools may also have the option of work-study programs, thus allowing students to gain real world experience and potential employer contacts while still in school.

  • Culinary Degrees – Learn all about deciding whether to attend a culinary school, finding an appropriate one, and applying to it.
  • Culinary Schools – Use an interactive map to locate culinary schools and programs in every state in the country.

Culinary Careers

Many students enter culinary schools with hopes of simply becoming a chef, however there is a wide range of other related careers that they can also pursue as an alternative since it can be somewhat difficult to obtain a well-paying job as a chef. In 2008, chef and cook positions numbered approximately a million in the United States. Keep in mind that popular television cooking shows can be rather misleading. Many culinary students feel discouraged when they view small, cramped kitchen conditions that many restaurants tend to have. Several chefs who do create a highly successful career for themselves do so by opening their own restaurants, which allows them to create their own vision in terms of cooking, as opposed to adhering to another person’s menu. Some other examples of the paths that culinary graduates follow include food science technicians, dieticians, hotel line cooks, nutrition consultants, sous chefs, bakers, demonstration chefs, culinary educators, food researchers, restaurant managers, test kitchen chefs, and much more. Apart from cooking, a typical day for a chef usually also involves creating recipes and menus, food preparation, delegating work to sous chefs and assistants, training staff, and ordering supplies.

A common experience for graduates is to work in a certain job and gain further skills and knowledge through on-the-job experience. Many culinary careers do require a degree or equivalent certification in culinary arts, as well as a certain amount of job experience. For example, an executive chef for an upscale establishment would normally be required to have several years of work experience as well as a formal education. Some careers, such as pastry chefs and culinary educators may also require the candidate to have ACF certification. Younger students need not feel overwhelmed by the breadth of experience that many older chefs seem to have. In fact, around twenty percent of kitchen staff in the United States are in their late teens.

  • Chefs and Head Cooks – View a detailed job outlook for chefs and head cooks, including average salaries, education requirements, work experience, and job availability.
  • Culinary Related Careers – Read more about working as a cook, a pastry chef, or in restaurants, along with some helpful tips about the types of skills and experience that are needed.
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Culinary Facts on Fats

Monday, Jan. 21st 2013

Good Oils. Many people would be surprised to discover that some types of fats are actually a nutrient and are good for the body. Referred to as lipids, fats can be either solid or liquid depending on the type. They are compounds that are made up of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, and are found in animal tissue and plants. On their own, fats are not bad for the body, in fact they are necessary. There are, however, problems with certain kinds of fat. When a person eats too much of the wrong types of fat they can develop health problems such as increased cholesterol, type II diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Understanding fat will help people understand how it can be both beneficial and problematic. As a result, it will also help people to make healthier choices in their food choices.

Fats are a necessary nutrient that the body needs. It is crucial in helping the body function as it should. One of the reasons why fats are important is that they are an efficient source of energy for body. It also helps the body absorb important vitamins, such as Vitamins A, D, and E. Fats are important for brain function and healthy cells. Organs in the body are protected by fat, which acts as a protective cushion. Skin also benefits from fat which gives it a healthier appearance and helps it to better insulate the body.

When discussing fats, there are different types to be aware of. This includes the fat that the human body makes as a result of consuming too many calories and dietary fats. Dietary fats may be broken down into two groups – fats that are harmful and fats that are healthy. There are two types of harmful fats, which are saturated fats and trans fats. Both come from animal-based foods and are often solids. With saturated fats, there is the increased risk of elevated blood and LDL cholesterol levels. While it raises what is called your bad cholesterol levels, it lowers your “good” cholesterol levels. Consumption of saturated fats may lead to type II diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Unlike saturated fats, a majority of trans fats are created. This is done during a process that makes liquid oils more solid by adding hydrogen. This type of fat may elevate a person’s risk of heart disease. Trans fats are often labeled as partially hydrogenated oils. Fried foods are an example of trans fats and also saturated fats. Butter, fatty beef, whole milk, and pork also contain saturated fats.

The second group is healthy fats, which includes monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Foods containing monounsaturated fats have a number of potential health benefits, such as helping to control blood sugar, improving blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. Avocados, peanut butter, and oils, such as olive oil and sunflower oil, contain this type of fat. Plant-based foods are the primary source of polyunsaturated fats. Eating foods that contain this type of fat may improve one’s blood cholesterol, reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, and lower blood pressure. Vegetable oils are a source of polyunsaturated fats as are fish that are high in fats, such as mackerel, trout, or salmon. Omega – 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. Healthy fats are often liquid when at room temperature, but solidify at cooler temperatures.

Fats are relatively high in calories and should be used in moderation. This includes the healthy fats. Despite their benefits, they contain the same amount of calories as unhealthy fats. Across the board, every fat gram has nine calories. The overconsumption of calories leads to a build-up of body fat, which may lead to obesity, type II diabetes, or other health problems.

Healthy fats should be included as a part of a healthy diet; however, due to the number of calories per gram, people should be aware of exactly how much is in their daily diet. Less than 30 percent of one’s daily calories should come from fat, with less than ten percent from saturated fats, ten percent or less from polyunsaturated fats, and between ten and fifteen percent from monounsaturated fats. Diets should consist of fish, lean meats and poultry, as well as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Dairy products should be fat-free or low-fat. When reading labels in grocery store, caution should be used when labels read “0 Trans Fats” or if there is a claim that the food is “Trans fat-free.” Often these food items will be high in saturated fats and are not as healthy as the label implies.

Fats are a necessary nutrient that provides numerous benefits to the human body. The key to healthfully including fats in one’s diet is to understand what is both good and bad about them. This includes knowing which fats to avoid and which fats are actually healthy. Even healthy fats, however, should be included with care in one’s diet.

For low-fat recipes, please see the following links.

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Culinary Cautions: Obesity Epidemic

Monday, May. 14th 2012

“It is better to build healthy children than repair unhealthy adults.” ~ Anonymous Fresh Salad.

In the United States there are approximately sixteen to thirty-three percent of teenagers and children who are considered to be obese. Obesity is easy to diagnose but it can be very difficult to treat. Lack of exercise and poor diet cause more than 300,000 fatalities every year. Unless children and teenagers are made aware of living an unhealthy lifestyle, they will grow to become overweight, unhealthy adults. With proper education and support from parents, today’s kids can live long, healthy, happy lives.

Statistics

In order to be considered obese the child’s weight is 10 percent more than the body type and height recommended by a doctor. Obesity typically occurs between five and six years-old. Those in their pre-teen years who are considered obese have a high chance of being obese adults. Hospital costs associated with obese children were an estimated $127 million from 1997 to 1999.

  • Statistics of 2007/08 Obese Children – This website uses charts to show the obesity rate of children in the United States.
  • Obesity Rates Climbing – This is a great article discussing the future of obesity in the United States.
  • Understanding Obesity – This PDF article provides an explanation of how obesity statistics are measured.
  • American Women – This article discusses how race plays a role in obesity in women in America.
  • Obesity – This article discusses obesity and the impact it has on children.

Obesity from Disease

Cultural, biological, genetic, and behavioral factors all play a role in childhood obesity. If one parent is obese there is 50 percent higher chance that the child will be as well. If both parents are obese the child has an 80 percent higher chance. Side effects of some psychiatric medications or steroids, as well as certain diseases may also lead to obesity. These diseases include hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome.

  • Etiologies of Obesity – This is a great article discussing the many different factors that can play a role in obesity.
  • Causes of Obesity – This PDF article discusses the causes and effects of obesity.
  • Obesity Causing Diseases – This article provides a brief description of obesity causing diseases such as hypoglycemia, Cushing’s disease, and hypothyroidism.
  • Stress Induced Obesity – This article discusses cortisol and the harmful effects of stress-induced obesity.
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome – This PDF pamphlet discusses how Prader-Willi Syndrome can lead to childhood obesity.

Obesity Causing Disease

Being overweight can lead to many complications and risks. There is a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and respiratory problems. Weight issues in teenagers and children can also lead to emotional problems. They tend to be unpopular with other classmates and have low self-esteem. Obesity can lead to disorders such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression.

  • Liver Disease – This article discusses how obesity can lead to liver disease.
  • Obesity and Diabetes – This article discusses the relationship between diabetes and obesity.
  • Cardiovascular Disease – This link provides more information as to how being overweight can lead to heart-related issues.
  • Depression – This link provides more information as to how obesity can lead to depression.

Get Active

Obesity is something that needs to be addressed for health and safety. A pediatrician or physician will need to do a medical evaluation in order to determine the physical causes. They may also recommend the child to see a nutritionist to learn healthier eating habits. A key factor to losing weight is through proper eating and being physically active. It is important to get outside and move for at least one hour a day. Participating in sports, riding bikes, or going for a long walk with friends and family is a great way to get moving while having fun.

  • Recreational Activities – This article offers ideas for recreational activities to help get active.
  • How to Be Active – Here you can find tips and advice on how to be more active.
  • The Teen Years – This PDF document provides more information on exercise and nutrition through the teen years.
  • Maximize Your Potential – This PDF document provides exercise tips to help people reach their maximum potential.
  • Exercise Tips – This document provides general exercise tips.

Nutrition

Proper nutrition will not only help with weight loss, but it’s better for you in every aspect of being healthy. Try to avoid fast food, junk food, and keep snacking at a minimum. Keeping portion sizes smaller will help you eat fewer calories. Do not eat while watching television or playing on the computer and instead, eat with family at the dinner table. When you see results from all of the hard work, reward yourself with a new outfit instead of with an unhealthy treat. For some, battling weight can be a struggle but by starting when you’re young and sticking to it, children can learn to be and stay healthy for life.

  • Food and Nutrition Information Center – The Food and Nutrition Information Center provides everything you need to know about food and nutrition.
  • Fruits and Vegetables – Here you can find the amount of servings of fruits and vegetables needed each day, tips, and recipes.
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website offers many various articles on health and nutrition.
  • Nutrition.gov – This website has a lot of valuable tools and information to help everyone live a healthier lifestyle.
  • Labeling and Nutrition – This website provides information on everything regarding the nutritional labels on food packaging.

For Parents

A lot of times children learn the behaviors of their parents. If the parent is living an unhealthy lifestyle, the child will likely follow. Parents can help by changing the way they eat, getting outside more, and encourage their children to do the same. Offer to go on bike rides, long walks, play a game of tennis, throw around the football, or anything that you and the child can do together as a way to get moving. Encouragement and reward go a long way and by teaching children a healthier way of living, you’re giving yourself and them the keys to a long, happy life.

  • Being an Advocate – This pamphlet helps parents and grandparents learn how to advocate a healthier lifestyle for their children and grandchildren.
  • Eating Healthy and Exercising – This article goes more in-depth on the topic of childhood obesity as well as providing some general prevention tips.
  • Guide to Healthy Kids – This pamphlet educates adults in recognizing when their child is overweight and provides tips to make lifestyle improvements.
  • Making Food Healthy and Safe for Children – Here parents can learn about safe foods to eat, how to keep foods safe, and how to meet nutritional needs for children.
  • KidsHealth.org – This is a great website for parents to learn more about nutrition for their kids. There is a BMI calculator tool, a question and answer section, as well as great recipes.
Posted by Brad | in culinary careers | 1 Comment »

Sustainable Culinary Practices: Organic Food

Thursday, Apr. 26th 2012

The Meaning of Organic Food Fresh Local Produce.

In general terms, organic food is food that is grown in an environmentally friendly environment and that is free of synthetic pesticides or petroleum-based fertilizers. They are environmentally friendly because they are grown using water and soil conservation techniques as well as reusable resources. In addition, organic foods are not irradiated and do not have genetically modified organisms (GMO) or any form of chemical additives. For a more precise definition, the United States Food and Drug Administration has a National Organic Program that exactly defines organic food. In addition to giving an exact definition, it also explains the regulations that are associated with growing or raising of organic food.

When it comes to products that come from livestock, such as cows or chickens, the term organic has more to do with the way that the animal was cared for and raised. In this sense, organic implies that the animal was treated humanely and given feed that was organically grown. Organic meat and dairy means that the animals were also never given any form of growth hormones or antibiotics.

Deciphering Organic Food Labeling

When buying organic, it is important to understand that not all organic foods are the same. The labeling on organic food will explain exactly what the consumer is getting when the organic product is purchased. There are four levels, or types, of labels when it comes to organic food. These labels are: 100 percent organic, organic, made with organic ingredients and less than 70 percent organic ingredients. They are defined as:

  • 100 Percent Organic: This label is self-explanatory in that it is 100 percent organic. Food items found with this label will exactly meet the definition of organic foods in that they do not have synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics or hormones.
  • Organic: When a consumer purchases organic food, he or she is getting a food product that is 95 percent organic with 5 percent of ingredients being non-organic.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: Consumers who purchase this type of organic food will get a product that is no less than 70 percent organic ingredients and 30 percent non-organic ingredients.
  • Less Than 70 Percent Organic: With this label food will only name organic ingredients in their ingredient list.

Comparing Organic and Natural Foods

The difference in food items that are called natural and food called organic may seem confusing to some. On the surface, the two terms may seem to be the same, however there are some differences between them that consumers should be aware of before choosing between the two. The primary and most important difference lies in regulations. When it comes to organic food, the FDA has regulations in place and clearly defines the meaning of the word organic. This is not true for foods that are labeled as being natural. Natural foods are neither regulated or defined by any food organizations or federal bodies. This means that manufacturers can label anything as being natural without first meeting any specific standards.

Why Choose Organic?

There are several reasons why consumers should choose organic food. These reasons range from benefiting a person’s health to the environment. Five of the more common reasons selecting organic foods include:

  • They’re Good for the Environment: Traditional farming methods can be dangerous to the soil and nearby streams. Organic farming methods do not use any synthetic or potentially toxic materials that will contaminate these areas.
  • It’s USDA Regulated: As previously discussed, organic foods are governed by the USDA, This ensures that the food is safe for consumption and that the food is being handled properly.
  • Help Increase Organic Farming: As the demand for organic food grows the number of farms that supply it will also increase. Currently in the United States there are roughly 13,000 organic farms that are certified. While this may seem like a significant number, it seems much smaller on a global level where only .7 percent of farmland is organic.
  • For Good Health: When eating organic foods, people reap the benefits of consuming more vitamins and minerals than they get with non-organic foods. As a result, these greater levels of nutrients may help to fight certain diseases. On the other hand, chemicals found in traditionally farmed foods may actually increase the risk of diseases, such as cancer. Chemicals found in conventional foods include synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
  • For the Taste! Taste is one of the most simple reasons for choosing organic foods. Most often, organic foods are more flavorful than conventionally farmed foods. One of the reasons for this is the methods that are used during the farming process.

Helpful Resources on Organic Food

  • Get the Facts About Organic Foods: A page on the North Carolina Cooperative Extension website that reviews facts regarding organic foods. It covers the health benefits of organic food, what the organic food label promises, and defines organic food.
  • Organic? What’s the Big Deal?: A Princeton University page on organic food. It reviews the health and environmental benefits of organic food as well as it’s taste and how it impacts animal welfare.
  • Organic Foods – The Facts: A PDF from the University of Georgia that covers organic food facts. It covers farming facts and health benefits.
  • Organic Foods: A scientific status summary in PDF form that compares organic food and conventional food.
  • Organic Farming: A page on the Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research website. This web page explains what is meant by organic and why organic food should be grown.
  • Organic Foods – Are They Safer? More Nutritious?: A page on the Mayo Clinic website that discusses the safety of eating organic food and its nutritional benefits when compared to conventional foods.
  • Benefits of Organic Foods: An article on the National Resource Defense Council website. Defines organic food, the reasons to choose organic and additional choice other than organic.
  • Just the Facts: Organic Fruits and Vegetables: An article found on the Organic Trade Association website. This page discusses organic farming of fruits and vegetables. It also covers the benefit to children who eat organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Organic Food Behind the Hype: A Forbes slide show that covers seven things that people should know about organic food. This ranges from cost of the food to certification.
  • Organic Labeling and Marketing: A PDF from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides information on the labeling and marketing of organic food items.
  • Environment – Organic Products: A page on the California State website that discusses organic products. This page reviews regulations for organic products, types of products and reasons for the higher cost of organic products.
  • Organic Production and Handling Standards: The Environmental Protection Agency standards on regulations for organic farming.
  • Organic Standards and Labels: The Facts: The University of Wisconsin Food Safety and Health. This page reviews facts on organic food.
  • Nutrition Fact Sheet – Organic Food: A PDF page from the University of Michigan regarding organic food. Explains the differences between natural and organic food and reviews whether organic food is more nutritious.
  • About Organic Produce: An article that discusses and explains organic food. A primary focus of the article is the use of pesticide on organic produce.
  • The Hidden Dangers in Organic Food: An article that reveals the increased bacterial risks associated with eating organic food.
  • Is Organic Food Worth All Your Hard Earned Green?: A Stanford magazine article that discusses the cost associated with organic farming.
  • Your Guide to Organic Food: A University of Rochester article that discusses organic food in terms of what it is, the benefits associated with it, and how to shop for it.
Posted by Brad | in food | No Comments »