Cheese is made of wood?

Lydia Mulvany for Bloomberg – The Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle on Your Penne Could Be Wood:

According to the FDA’s report on Castle, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, “no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” the Market Pantry brand 100% grated Parmesan Cheese, sold at Target Corp. stores, and Always Save Grated Parmesan Cheese and Best Choice 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, sold by Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc., which along with its subsidiaries supplies 3,400 retail stores in 30 states. Instead, there was a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose, according to the FDA.

NO PARMESAN CHEESE was in their product labelled 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese!

“Wood” or cellulose is a safe additive, used to keep the shredded/grated cheese from sticking to itself and clumping up.

Cellulose is a safe additive, and an acceptable level is 2 percent to 4 percent, according to Dean Sommer, a cheese technologist at the Center for Dairy Research in Madison, Wisconsin.

Mislabeling of food products is a huge issue for those who have food allergies.

The FDA warning letter to Castle Cheese also discusses other previous violations

We acknowledge that on November 14, 2012, as stated in your December 21, 2012 response letter, your firm ceased production in the areas of the plant where Listeria had previously been detected, instituted measures to seal the room, and established a protocol for entry, exit, and working in the production room. Additionally, we acknowledge that (b)(4) environmental swabs were collected from the floor surface in the cook room on November 14, 2012, and sent to (b)(4) for microbiological analysis of Listeria species, and that those results were negative. Your response also states that on December 14, 2012, the food contact surfaces for (b)(4) were swabbed and found negative for Coliform, E.coli, Staph, Listeria, as well as yeast and mold. However, your response fails to identify what type of testing was used to determine these negative analytical results.

The FDA and Castle have resolved the violations, as confirmed in a close out letter dated April 18, 2014.

Sports drinks

CBC Marketplace – Sports drinks unnecessary, counterproductive for most people:

Sports drinks promise to rehydrate, provide energy to muscles in the form of sugar and replenish electrolytes lost during exercise. Canadians guzzle more than $450 million in sports drinks every year.

To test how many electrolytes are actually lost during exercise, Marketplace recruited a team of recreational runners and tested their blood before and after a 45-minute run. None of the runners depleted either their glucose or electrolyte levels enough to require a sports drink to replenish them. In many cases, electrolyte and glucose levels increased in the blood. The test revealed that they could have benefited from water alone.

Protein bars are also largely unnecessary.

Watch the video: Farther, Faster, Fitter?


Obesity interventions – financial incentives don’t seem to work

Aaron Carroll – Obesity intervention failures abound:

About 200 obese employees took part in a workplace wellness program to lose weight. Some were randomized with a financial incentive ($550) if they met their 5% weight loss reduction goal. After a year, the incentive was shown not to make a difference.

Perhaps a cultural shift is required, along with education.

Food Recalls

In light of yesterday’s post, here are screenshots of the current food recalls taken from the respective Canadian and US agencies:

CFIA Food Recalls - 2016 02 10
CFIA Food Recalls – 2016 02 10
FDA Food Recalls - 2016 02 10
FDA Food Recalls – 2016 02 10

Undeclared egg, mustard, wheat, sesame, fish, milk, peanuts, sulfites, almonds and pistachios. All in the past month. Not to mention the salmonella, listeria, and E. coli occurrences.


Canadian Food Inspection Agency
US Food and Drug Administration


Food safety/contamination and Chipotle Mexican Grill

Rachel Becker for National Geographic’s The Plate – Is Chipotle Getting More Scrutiny Than Other Restaurants for Food Safety Problems?:

In early December, Chipotle declared that it would revamp its food handling practices to become an industry leader in food safety. It even took the unprecedented step of announcing it would close more than 2,000 locations for four hours on February 8 so employees could attend a company-wide meeting broadcast from Denver to discuss the company’s new food safety procedures.

It’s moved tomato, lettuce, and cheese preparation to a central kitchen, implemented more testing for dangerous microbes, added a blanching step for some of the produce, changed marinating procedures, and added financial incentives for restaurant managers that are contingent on high food safety audit scores.

The massive scale of the food processing chain of many food companies (including fast food) is often underestimated. The large amount of food going through these plants is so huge that one sick person is able to contaminate food that will be going to many hundreds or thousands of people.

If Chipotle is able to spread illness to so many people, just think of how much larger the systems must be for the larger food chains. (And this also goes to show how good some of those systems are – in terms of food safety.)

A scientific approach to flavour analysis

Kristen Rasmussen for The Nordic Food Lab – Calibrating Flavour:

The study included 29 different aromatic blends at the same time (imagine tasting 29 different wines at a wine tasting, without the alcohol of course), which, as we mentioned, is quite a large number of samples. Through a statistical tool called Principal Component Analysis, we were able to determine the variances between sample placements on the grid within the group as a whole. This method showed us that our subjects largely placed samples containing similar ingredients near each other, such as a pickling blend near juniper ant paste and BBQ chipotle near mole negro.

I wish I had the time available to do something like this. I’ve always wanted to set up and do taste testings at home when we have friends or family over. I never get around to it, due to the amount of pre-planning required. I need to step up my game.

Cantonese poached chicken with ginger scallion oil dip

1 whole chicken*
1/2 cup salt (approx.)**

  1. Coat the whole chicken, inside and out, in a heavy layer of salt – whatever will stick. Place the chicken in a pot/bowl in the refrigerator, and leave overnight, or up to 24 hours.
  2. Rinse off the excess salt, and place the chicken in a pot. Fill up the pot with water, to cover the chicken.
  3. Bring the pot of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. After 10 minutes, turn the heat off and leave the chicken in the pot on the stove for another 30 minutes, or up to an hour.
  4. Prepare a second pot large enough to hold the chicken with ice water, about half-way full. Place the hot chicken into the ice water, and fill with cold water to cover the chicken. Cover and place the pot in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour; several hours is better.
  5. When ready to serve, take the chicken out of the water, and debone or divide the meat up as you wish.

* You can rinse the chicken off before you salt it if you wish, just make sure it’s drained well; you won’t need to dry it off completely. Also, if the neck is still attached, you can leave it on or cut it off, as you wish.
** I use kosher salt, but sea salt or table salt will work just fine.

  • I use two chopsticks stuck into the cavity of the chicken to lift it out of the hot water and into the cold. I try not to tear of the skin during this procedure.
  • Save the hot water as well as the cold, to make into stock/soup, to serve with the chicken. Mix both together, add in the bones from the cut up chicken, and boil for several hours. The stock will be salty (perhaps not salty enough, so feel free to add salt), and you can add any herbs to it as you wish for flavour.
  • You can also cook rice using the stock, along with the fat skimmed from the stock. This makes for a very chicken-y flavoured rice which goes really well with the chicken, as well as any other dish.
Ginger Scallion Oil

1/2 cup canola oil (or other neutral flavoured oil)
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 stalks green onion
1 tsp salt

  1. Heat the oil up in a pot/pan until it is shimmering, about 300°F.
  2. Mix together the grated ginger, green onion and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Carefully pour the hot oil over the mixture. The mixture will be boiled by the oil and some oil may spray out.


  • This oil mixture can be drizzled on top of plain rice, for a quick snack.

2016 02 05 Cantonese Poached Chicken2

Cast Iron Seasoning

Greg Blonder – Cast Iron Seasoning:

Cast iron pots are heavy. They can rust. The dark black seasoning will not stand up to hours of simmering if the liquid is acidic, like tomato sauce or sauerkraut. And once the seasoning layer is broached, excess iron can leak out of the pot into your food, risking iron overload disease. Thermal conductivity is eight times lower than copper, which is why cast iron fry pans are notorious for hot spots. The surface is mildly non-stick, but requires a bit of oil or fat to reach its full potential. Cast iron can be cleaned, but not aggressively. And I never use my cast iron pots to cook caramel or make crepes or to scrape off a tasty “fond”.

Thus starts an in-depth analysis and recommended method of cast iron seasoning.

As for myself, I don’t bother with fancy oils and use plain old canola/rapeseed oil. It has worked well for the past several years.

A few months ago, I reseasoned my Lodge 10.25″ cast iron pan for the first time (and seasoned a new 12″ seasoned steel pan) in order to remove any potential allergens from our pre-allergen-free cooking days. We had gone on for over a year without using these pans due to our concern with lingering allergens in the pan, which was pretty painful. I didn’t do the piranha etching, but built a large fire in our Weber grill and placed the pan directly on top of the fire for about an hour. The vents were wide open on the grill, and the high heat burned off all of the old seasoning. After three sessions of wiping on a thin layer of canola oil and putting the pans in a 450°F oven for an hour, a suitable seasoning was achieved.

While over time the seasonings have taken a beating, I’m not going to bother with reseasoning since it is still reasonably non-stick, and anything that does stick will scrape off easily after burning it off and scraping with a spatula.

Lodge cast iron skillet
Lodge cast iron skillet
Lodge seasoned steel pan
Lodge seasoned steel pan


On picky eaters

Dilla Narduzzi for Macleans back in December 2015: A Naturally Picky Eater? There’s No Such Thing

This profusion of taste buds can make kids more sensitive, or even resistant, to strong flavours, but being exposed to those foods over time can make them more receptive. Unfortunately, many parents don’t realize this is a stage, and never offer the offending item again.

The way we introduce new foods to our child is to ask them to try the food at least once per meal. (i.e., stick out your tongue and taste it, and maybe chew it a little.) We offer the food every time, whenever we happen to cook it, and model eating it. Beyond that, we don’t force them to eat it. We also try to have at least one dish during the meal that we know they like and will eat, which ensures they won’t leave the table hungry (at least, not too hungry).