Natural vs Dutch-process Cocoa

We recently had a caller wanting to make a Chocolate Banana Bread recipe calling for Dutch-process cocoa. She did not have any on hand and was wondering what the difference was between it and Natural Cocoa.

There are two basic types of cocoa – Natural and Dutch-process. Natural cocoa is solid unsweetened chocolate that has had most of its fat removed before being ground into powder. Dutch-process cocoa is Natural cocoa that has been treated with an alkalizing agent to lower its acidity allowing for more chocolate flavor. That difference in acidity though means you cannot always substitute one type of cocoa for another in recipes due to the type and amount of leavener also used in the recipe.

If your recipe calls for baking powder – or baking powder predominantly along with some baking soda- choose either type of cocoa. The baking powder has already balanced the acidity in the recipe so the cocoa is used more for flavoring than leavening.

If your recipe calls for predominantly baking soda and there are no other acidic ingredients (yogurt, vinegar, buttermilk, sour cream, etc), you will want to use the Natural cocoa. The Natural cocoa’s acidity will neutralize baking soda’s potentially strong flavor.

If you do not have both types of cocoa on hand you may substitute with some changes. If your recipe calls for a combination of natural cocoa and baking soda, and you want to use Dutch-process: substitute an equal amount of Dutch-process but replace the baking soda with twice the amount of baking powder, leaving the remaining ingredients the same. If your recipe calls for Dutch-process cocoa plus baking powder and you want to use Natural cocoa: substitute equal amounts of cocoa but replace the baking powder with half the amount of baking soda and again leave the other ingredients the same.

Many people prefer to use a combination cocoa that will work in most all recipes. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa is a combination of both Natural and Dutch-process cocoas.

If you are making a recipe that calls for cocoa but no leavening, such as hot fudge sauce or hot chocolate, it is fine to use either cocoa as you are using it for flavor.

 

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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The Power of Blue . . . berries!

If you haven’t heard it before, red, blue, and purple fruits are packed with good stuff that help your body flight disease!  These fruits contain anti-oxidant compounds like anthocyanins and polyphenolic flavonoids.  These powerful compounds help to protect the body from stress and diseases while boosting the immune system.

Blueberries are believed to be the KING of the blues as they contain the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.  They are also among the most nutrient dense berries.  One cup of blueberries has only 84 calories with no fat; of the 15 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams are dietary fiber.  That one cup of berries also provides 24 percent of your daily-recommended (RDA) serving of Vitamin A, 36% of Vitamin K, and 25% of manganese.  Study after study has shown that blueberries are incredibly good for our health.

I was in North Carolina recently to visit family.  While there, we went to one of the regional NC Farmer’s Markets and I was reminded of North Carolina’s prominence in the US blueberry industry; blueberries were freshly picked, plentiful, and delicious!

With blueberries now in season, this is a good time to stock up.  Studies have shown that blueberries’ good qualities survive freezing.  Antioxidants found in fresh foods are typically very delicate, but research finds that 3 to 6 months of freezing has little to no effect on the antioxidant qualities of blueberries.  These findings are great news for anyone who grows, buys, or picks fresh berries in season and wants to enjoy them year round.  This is also great news for anyone who has restricted access to fresh blueberries but can find them in the freezer section at the market.

Blueberries can be enjoyed in numerous ways.  If you need ideas, check out the assortment of recipes at the US Blueberry Council website.  My preschool grandchildren enjoyed making their own snack; we dipped them in yogurt and froze them for an hour on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  The fact that blueberries are sweet, colorful, and can be enjoyed fresh and frozen is a tasty bonus.  So whether you are popping a handful into your mouth for a snack, topping off a favorite dish or a green salad, or trying them in a recipe, blueberries are a simple and healthful ingredient that brightens just about any dish.  I hope you will enjoy getting to know blueberries by exploring all the fun and simple ways to use them.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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How to pack your cooler

Summertime often means picnic, beach, and car trip time for us! We often take a cooler with us in the car for snacks and beverages. It is important to keep foods cold and that is best achieved with a full cooler. If your cooler is not full you may want to consider adding extra ice cubes to fill it up. If your cooler doesn’t have a thick well-insulated lid you may also want to consider packing a thick towel on top of everything under the lid. If you can chill your cooler ahead of time that will help keep cold foods cold longer. If you do not have time to chill it, room temperature is more helpful than packing a warm cooler you have just retrieved from your garage or attic.
Place your food and drinks, which should be in leak-proof resealable containers or plastic bags in the bottom of the cooler first then put the ice on top. You should plan on about 1/2 pound of ice for every quart your cooler holds. Foods and drinks should be packed pre-chilled.
As the ice melts you may be tempted to drain the water out of the cooler but there is no need to do that as the cold water will also help keep the contents of the cooler chilled.
Summer is my favorite season and I am looking forward to packing up a cooler and heading out many days!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Shopping Like a Food Safety Expert

For whatever reason, people tend to call about food safety issues more in the summer. While the questions run the gamut, many are regarding getting food home safely from the grocery store. That’s a great summertime concern, but safe grocery shopping is a year-round challenge. Protecting our family from food poisoning begins at the grocery store and to that end, we need to shop like a food safety expert. So here’s some quick tips to insure grocery shopping safety year round.

Make Cleanliness a Priority.

  • Clean your cart. If your store doesn’t provide wipes, bring your own. The Journal of Food Protection Trends found E. coli on 50 percent of shopping cart handles tested.
  • Clean your hands before sampling foods. Since stores rarely provide wipes in the sampling areas, you might want to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you.
  • Wash your reusable grocery bags often. The Department of Agriculture’s Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education recommends laundering bags with hot, soapy water at least once a month and storing them in a clean area of your car. If the bags are soiled, wash them immediately.
  • Wash coolers and ice packs after each use.

Inspect Your Food Choices.

  • Check your eggs. Open the carton and make sure that none of the eggs are cracked. Should an egg crack on the way home, remove it from the carton and place in a separate container; use within 24 hours.
  • Check food temperatures. Frozen foods should be solid with no signs of thawing. Refrigerated foods should feel cold.
  • Check packaging. Avoid open boxes, tears or holes in bags. Avoid dented, bulging, or rusted cans. Cans with these symptoms may be a warning of internal issues or may have put undue stress on the seam of the can allowing bacteria to enter. Avoid containers or jars with a loose lid. If the lid is loose, the vacuum has been lost and the contents may be contaminated.
  • Pay attention to package dates on perishable foods. If the “sell by” date has passed, don’t buy the product; also, make sure that you will be able to use the product by the “use by” date.

Organize Your Cart.

  • Keep meat and produce separate. Put raw meat, poultry, and seafood into plastic bags before placing them in your cart. Bagging keeps meat juices from dripping and contaminating other foods. Further, when checking out, place meat, poultry, and seafood in bags separate from other foods—you may have to instruct the person packing your groceries to do this!
  • Keep frozen and cold foods together in your cart. This helps to keep the cold foods cool longer.

Plan Your Trip.

  • Last stop. Make the grocery store your last stop if you have a number of errands to run.
  • Shop for perishable foods, frozen foods, meat, poultry, and seafood last.
  • Pack a cooler. If the trip home will be longer than 30 minutes, place perishable foods into a cooler with an ice pack. Perishable foods must be refrigerated within two hours if it is over 90F outside.
  • Avoid placing groceries in the trunk of the car. Place groceries inside the vehicle where air conditioning can be used in hot weather to help keep perishables cooler and heat in cold weather to prevent produce from freezing.

So with these tips in mind, I use an insulated bag that works well as a cooler and it also serves as a clean place to store my reusable grocery bags in the car. In the winter, the bag provides some insulation for fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, and other groceries that should not freeze. The bag has a couple of zipper pockets on it which is a good place to keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer, extra plastic bags, and wipes. In the summer, I simply have to remember to grab a couple of ice packs from the freezer to pop into the bag, and off I go—errands first, of course!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Avoiding Wasp Stings

Last year we were at a professional golf tournament and I felt something land in my hair. As I was trying to brush it away I got stung on my hand. I quickly removed my ring and watch as my hand started to swell! Fortunately it was not in a spot where it could be life threatening like in the mouth or throat. My natural instinct is to wave my arms and run away but I know that is not what I should do!

Here were some very helpful tips from Iowa State University Integrated Pest Management on how to avoid getting stung:

  • Avoid moving quickly when a bee/wasp comes near you since they are more likely to sting when you surprise them.
  • If a yellowjacket lands on you try and wait for it to fly off. (I wish I thought about this before I got stung)
  • Smashing yellowjackets releases an alarm pheromone that sends a signal to other yellowjackets in the area to attack.
  • Be sure and look in cups or cans of pop containing sugary drinks. They like sweet liquids and can sometimes sneak into pop cans or cups. Drinking through a straw would keep you from getting stung if a bee would like to share your drink.

If you happen to get stung near the throat or mouth call 911 and get some ice to help reduce swelling. This can be life threatening if it causes your throat to swell shut. Anyone who is hypersensitive to stings needs special attention. Watch for signs like dizziness, difficulty breathing or skin color changes and go to the emergency room right away.

Nonallergic reactions to stings include pain, itching, redness and swelling. This can last for up to a day or two after the sting. After getting stung wash the area as quickly as possible around the sting to try and remove some of the venom. Using ice will help to reduce some of the swelling. An antihistamine can help with the swelling and discomfort that comes from a sting. If you are at home, try applying a paste of meat tenderizer and water to the sting spot to help break down the venom which also helps with the swelling and pain.

I hope that you can enjoy the time spent outside and stay free of stings! But if you do get stung you will know the best course of action.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Tips for Summer Grilling

We were lucky enough to be gifted a new gas grill last Summer. We are thoroughly enjoying it and with all the warm weather we have been having lately it is especially nice to use it and not have to heat up the kitchen. With several months of grilling ahead of all of us, I thought it was a good time to re-visit some grilling tips for safety.

First of all, do not wash your meat as that can cause bacteria to spread in your sink, but do wash your hands. As you are handling raw meat you will want to wash your hands frequently. You will also want to use different cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat/vegetables. Never place cooked meat/vegetables back on a cutting board or plate that has had raw meat on it.

Start with a clean grill and if you are using a brush to clean it make sure the bristles are firmly attached to the brush and not coming off onto your grill for you to somehow ingest. Preheat the grill and avoid putting cold food directly on the grill. Let the food come closer to room temperature by setting it out on the counter for about 30 minutes before putting it on the grill.

If you are thawing meat prior to grilling it, make sure you thaw it in the refrigerator. If your plans change, you can refreeze meat thawed in the refrigerator but meat thawed in the microwave or in cold water must be cooked immediately. If you are marinating, do that in the refrigerator as well. Pat whole cuts of meat dry before adding seasoning.  This will help the seasoning adhere to the meat. If you are grilling burgers, make an indentation into the center of the burger to prevent puffing during cooking.

Once you have put your meat on the grill, move it as little as possible. The meat will not stick to the grill if it is ready to be turned. Add any sauces or glazes the last few minutes of grilling, this keeps the glaze or sauce from burning due to the sugar content in the sauce or glaze, and allow for rest time appropriate to the cut of meat you are grilling. Rest time allows for juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

When purchasing meat for grilling, buy and use ground meats within one to two days. Larger cuts like steaks or chops should be cooked within four days of purchase.

It is best to use a meat thermometer to test for doneness when grilling meat. Ground beef, pork, veal and lamb should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Ground turkey and chicken need an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Ground meats do not require a rest time. Larger cuts of meat like beef, veal or lamb steaks, roasts, or chops should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. They also need at least a three minute rest time depending on the size of the cut. Poultry requires an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Cook fresh pork or ham to 145 degrees then allow at least a three minute rest. Precooked ham should be heated to an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

Happy Summer and Happy Grilling!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Tips for a safe picnic

I’m just back from a camping trip and at the State Park we stayed at there were several large picnic areas. I was wondering just how full those picnic areas would be over the Fourth of July. That got me to thinking about picnics and food safety. This is a perfect time to think about planning a safe holiday picnic.

Here are my tips for a fun, safe picnic:

Start with clean hands, cutting boards, and utensils. Soap and water are still the best way to clean your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Remember that washing your hands with soap and water, rubbing between fingers, and washing up the arm a bit will ensure clean hands. Sing the Happy Birthday song twice or recite the alphabet so that you know you have washed them long enough. If you find yourself at an area without running water be sure to pack antibacterial wipes for hand cleaning. Hand sanitizer is not a good option, especially if your hands are soiled.

Always wash your hands after using the restroom, changing a diaper, handling garbage, touching raw meat, blowing your nose, or playing fetch with your pet.

Keep everything that touches food clean. Keep all utensils, bowls, and cutting boards clean. Use separate boards for raw meat and raw vegetables. Always use a clean plate for cooked meat; never use the same plate you used to put the raw meat on the grill to serve the cooked meat. Before you leave home, be sure to scrub all items that will touch or contain food. Wash in hot water and use an abrasive cloth (think terry cloth) or brush. Rinse well with hot water. You can sanitize with a solution made of 2 teaspoons of fresh chlorine bleach in a quart of cool water. You can put this in a spray bottle and spray the sanitizer on the items. Let the sanitizer solution sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing it off. Then let the items air dry.

Stay out of the danger zone. The danger zone is between 40°F and 140°F. In that temperature range, bacteria can grow exponentially. Thaw your picnic foods safely by using the refrigerator for thawing. Keep foods cold by putting dishes of salads or other foods that are temperature sensitive into a larger bowl containing ice. Keeping foods in an ice chest until you are ready to eat will also help keep food safe. Remember to get those leftovers back into the ice chest within an hour or so, depending on how hot it is the day of the picnic. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Use an instant read thermometer to know when grilled meat is safe to eat.

Follow these tips for a safer picnic this summer.

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Pizza on the Grill

Summertime brings the grill out at our house and with it comes one of our favorite foods made on the grill—PIZZA!  Making pizza on the grill may seem like making a soufflé in a rice cooker, but it actually makes a lot of sense and works very well.  The key to pizza is high heat and that is something a grill specializes in. In addition, the kitchen stays cool. It’s a great party food or a fun way to feed family that just happen to stop in on Sunday night. But most importantly, it is the delicious, slightly smoky and not-too-charred-just-enough-for-taste crust that makes it the best grilled food.  All you need is a robust pile of charcoal or a gas grill and an optional pizza stone.

Here’s some tips to help you get started with pizza on the grill:

Get everything ready to go—all the toppings, the sauce, the cheese, whatever you wish.  This is key because you have to move fast once you start. Use grated melting cheeses like Mozzarella, Fontina, or Jack.  Toppings (meats and veggies) must be pre-cooked or pre-grilled as there is not enough grilling time to cook them as in an oven.   I like to have everything in individual containers on a table right next to the grill.

Make the pizza dough or use prepared pizza dough.  I like to make my own.  My recipe is at the end of the blog.

While the pizza dough is rising, prepare the grill.  Give the grill plenty of time to get hot. Once the grill is hot, season the grates or put your pizza stone onto the grates.  To season the grates, dip a tightly folded paper towel (or silicon brush) in olive oil (seasoned if you like with garlic, chilies, or herbs) and use a tongs to wipe the grill grates.  If you are uncomfortable with putting your pizza directly on the grates, disposable wire mesh grill toppers work well.

Shape the pizza dough on a slightly floured surface.  I like to use my hands.  My recipe will make one 12-inch round or 4-6 individual rounds.  We like to do the individual rounds so everyone can personalize their pizza.  Do not put a raised rim on the rounds as it will be too thick to grill properly.  The rounds should be rather thin.  Place your round(s) on a floured or parchment lined rimless cookie sheet and let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then poke around on the dough with a fork. (This will keep the round from puffing.) If you are preparing for a party or larger number of guests, you can make the individual rounds ahead, stack them separated between parchment paper, and keep in the refrigerator for up to two hours before grilling.

With everything ready to go, brush the top side of the round with olive oil (or seasoned olive oil).  Lay the oiled-side of the round onto the hot grill grates (omit if using a pizza stone).  Close the lid of the grill and grill for approximately two minutes.  After two minutes, open the grill and check the bottom side of the round to see if it is getting brown.  If nothing is happening, use a tongs to move or rotate the round.  Grill for an additional minute if needed.  By this time, the top of the pizza should be bubbling, too.

Once the round has browned or slightly charred on the bottom, remove the round and flip it over.  Close the grill to retain the heat.  Brush the grilled surface with a little olive oil and then spread on a little sauce.  Less is better with grilled pizza.  A thin spread of a thicker sauce is better than a thinner sauce so you don’t end up with a soggy pizza.  Sprinkle on the toppings, cheese, and then meat (meat should be fully cooked).  Again, keep it light as grilled pizza is not panned pizza.

Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill, close the lid and grill for 2-3 minutes more or until the bottom begins to brown or char slightly and the cheese is melted.  Remove the pizza from the grill and finish with a light sprinkle of sea salt, if desired.

Pizza combinations are endless.  Keep it simple.  The best grilled pizzas have two or three toppings max.  Consider texture, flavor, and color when picking toppings that go together. (Photo pizza is a combination of leeks, asparagus, and smoked pork without any sauce.)  Try it, and I think you’ll be convinced that the grill is an excellent pizza maker! 

Pizza dough recipe:  1 cup light beer or water, 1 tablespoon or package active dry yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 ¾ cup bread flour.  Heat beer or water to 120-130F.  Combine the beer or water, yeast and sugar in a mixer bowl.  Stir to combine.  Let stand until the mixture foams, about 5 minutes.  Stir in olive oil, salt, and flour.  Mix until dough comes together.  Knead on a floured surface, adding additional flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes.  Allow to rest 20 minutes.  Punch dough down and let rest a few minutes before forming round or divide dough for individual pizzas and then let rest for a few minutes before forming rounds.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Popcorn

A favorite snack or Sunday night dinner at our house is popcorn. There are so many options on the market right now it is hard to know which ones to select for any health benefits. If you can pop your own in an air popper or on top of the stove you are going to reap the most health benefits. We use a microwave popper that you may or may not add any oil to before popping.

Popcorn is a whole grain and naturally has lots of fiber while being low in fat and low in calories. It is high in complex carbohydrates and gluten free. Popcorn is also a low glycemic food.

Popcorn offers many polyphenols found in plant foods which help rid the body of free radicals which damage cells and promote aging. Of all plant foods, popcorn has one of the highest concentrations of polyphenols, containing more polyphenols and antioxidents than most fruit.

If you are going to buy any of the pre-packaged popcorns available on the market, make sure to read the label carefully, pay attention to the serving size, and choose the most natural product you can without a lot of added ingredients and flavor additions. Consumer Reports recently did an article on the huge increase in demand for bagged popcorn if you are interested in seeing how these products lived up to their health claims.

Happy snacking!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Alternative pastas

I was recently visiting my daughter and she took me to a big new Whole Foods near her. I knew Whole Foods named “alternative pasta” as one of the Top 10 Food Trends for 2017 so I was interested in what they had as I am interested in cutting back on carbs and boosting my plant protein intake. Most people are familiar with eggplant lasagna using slices of eggplant in place of regular wheat lasagna noodles but now there are so many more options available. I found many spiralized veggies at Whole Foods that I could substitute for spaghetti – beets, broccoli, butternut squash, sweet potato, parsnips, etc. Spiralized cucumbers were available for salads. I think many of those are worth experimenting with for an added low carb, low calorie nutrition boost.

I also found pastas made from legumes such as chick peas and lentils. These were even more interesting to me. While a typical 2-oz serving of traditional pasta and lentil pasta both contain similar amounts of carbs and calories, legume pastas are packed with plant protein. For example, black bean rotini, which is made by drying beans and grinding them into a flour-like consistency then combining with water and forming into pasta shapes, has 14 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber.

Pastas made from quinoa and kelp were also available. I am excited to try some of these alternative pastas in the next few weeks! I will still enjoy the regular pastas just like I have for many years but this will hopefully add a few more options into meal preparation that might not seem so heavy for Summer.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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