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Robinsbite: May 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

From the Family Files..Why does Organic Milk Last Longer than Conventional Milk?

This weekend, my brother-in-law wanted to know why organic milk lasted so much longer than conventional milk. "It's all in the processing" I told him. This was not a good enough answer for him. Nor should it be. It was on to the Internet to find a more suitable answer. I felt that Craig Baumrucker, professor of animal nutrition and physiology at Pennsylvania State University summed it up best in his interview with the folks from the Scientific American in May of 2008:

"So what is it about organic milk that makes it stay fresh so long?Actually, it turns out that it has nothing to do with the milk being organic. All "organic" means is that the farm the milk comes from does not use antibiotics to fight infections in cows or hormones to stimulate more milk production.Organic milk lasts longer because producers use a different process to preserve it. According to the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, the milk needs to stay fresh longer because organic products often have to travel farther to reach store shelves since it is not produced throughout the country.

The process that gives the milk a longer shelf life is called ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing or treatment, in which milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit (138 degrees Celsius) for two to four seconds, killing any bacteria in it.

Compare that to pasteurization, the standard preservation process. There are two types of pasteurization: "low temperature, long time," in which milk is heated to 145 degrees F (63 degrees C) for at least 30 minutes*, or the more common "high temperature, short time," in which milk is heated to roughly 160 degrees F (71 degrees C) for at least 15 seconds.

The different temperatures hint at why UHT-treated milk lasts longer: Pasteurization doesn’t kill all bacteria in the milk, just enough so that you don't get a disease with your milk mustache. UHT, on the other hand, kills everything.

Retailers typically give pasteurized milk an expiration date of four to six days. Ahead of that, however, was up to six days of processing and shipping, so total shelf life after pasteurization is probably up to two weeks. Milk that undergoes UHT doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can sit on the shelf for up to six months.

Regular milk can undergo UHT, too. The process is used for the room-temperature Parmalat milk found outside the refrigerator case and for most milk sold in Europe.

So why isn’t all milk produced using UHT?

One reason is that UHT-treated milk tastes different. UHT sweetens the flavor of milk by burning some of its sugars (caramelization). A lot of Americans find this offensive—just as they are leery of buying nonrefrigerated milk. Europeans, however, don’t seem to mind.

UHT also destroys some of the milk’s vitamin content—not a significant amount—and affects some proteins, making it unusable for cheese."

Needing a more practical application, I headed over to the Organic Valley website. They have a great FAQ section that I can highly recommend. Here is their answer to the commonly asked question "Is my carton of milk good past the sell-by/expiration date?"

Their answer: "We cannot recommend consuming any milk product past the sell-by date. We guarantee its freshness upto the sell-by date if unopened. Once opened, a milk product is freshest tasting within 5 days."

And a bit of information on that USDA Organic Label. If you see it on a food/beverage product, know that the product was made with:

No synthetic hormones
No antibiotics
No synthetic chemicals
No herbicides
No pesticides
No fertilizers
No Genetic Engineering (GE)
No irradiation
No cloning

But is organic food better for you-nutritionally speaking? From the American Dietetic Association's website (

Research shows that nutritionally there is no evidence that organic produce is better or safer than conventionally grown produce. Organic foods differ from conventional foods only in the way in which they are grown and processed.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nearly Rotten Bananas=less sugar needed!

Lately, my excitement for the spring/summer produce extravaganza has proven to be, well, let's just say that my eyes have been bigger than my stomach. Many a fruit and veggie have made it into the freezer this week for a later eating--with the exception of my nearly rotten bananas. (Note-bananas, while not necessarily a spring/summer produce item, has made it into this post today because of their ripening ability!)

The said bananas are staying out for one reason-and one reason only. Annie's Banana Bread. This recipe is found in the Neiman Marcus Pure and Simple Cookbook-a cookbook I've had for nearly 18 years. This is the ONLY banana bread recipe I have made for the last 18 years-since I became a Texan. Makes sense, no? Dallas is the home of Stanley Marcus and the aforementioned Neiman Marcus. The original store downtown is a masterpiece--and it has a wonderful restaurant called the Zodiac Room to boot. Its only fitting that one of the first cookbooks I received since setting foot on Texas soil is one from Neiman Marcus.

The beauty of this recipe is that it calls for 1 cup of sugar. That's a lot of sugar for a loaf of banana bread in my book. I can tell you that I've never put in an entire cup of can easily be reduced by 1/4 or 1/2 and still maintain that sweet flavor. Enter the nearly rotten bananas. As they, ahem, ripen, the natural sugar in them becomes sweeter and therefore reduces the need for the added sugar called for in the recipe. The bread comes out moist, delicious and perfectly sweet-every single time.

By the way, I do feel compelled to say that I'm eating watermelon and pineapple as I type-tastes even better since my dear mother in law cut the fruit and I didn't have to touch a knife!

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Robin's Blog included in the Top 50 Dietitian Blogs

Recently, a terrific surprise came across my screen:

Thank you to writer Suzane Smith and the team at Radiology Technician Schools for including me in this esteemed list. I am also honored to be included among so many of my dietitian colleagues.

The blog, which is housed under the umbrella is called the Health Tech's Blog. See below for a description of the blog:

The Heath Tech's Blog: The Health Tech's Blog is a blog designed to present news, information, features and even some advice relating to health and health care. As someone who believes in the idea that with better information people make better decisions and we can arrive at a better health care system, this blog is my small attempt to encourage discourse on issues such as the current state of health care and propositions for positive reform. In addition, I hope to not keep things too serious so that everyone has fun along the way!

New this week are Cancer Support blogs. Check it out!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

T & A Salad....

Fruit and Vegetable Database: Tomato

Needed a quick and filling snack today, so I picked tomatoes and avocados. Simple and tasty, this reminds me of summer and with the temperatures here reaching almost 90, it seemed appropriate.

You can make this salad a variety of ways, however, I go pretty basic so that I can taste the true flavors of the ingredients.

1/2 of an avocado
1 large tomato

Chop, mix, season and eat. Sure, you can add olive oil, vinegar, your favorite vinaigrette, herbs, lime juice, etc.

Nutrition Brief-Tomato

Choose tomatoes with bright, shiny skins and firm flesh.
Store at room temperature away from direct sunlight,
for use within 1 week after ripe. Tomatoes taste best if not refrigerated; refrigerate only if you can’t use them before they spoil.
Nutrition Benefits:
Low fat; saturated fat free; very low sodium;
cholesterol free; low calorie; high in vitamin A;
high in vitamin C; good source of potassium.

Nutrition Brief-Avocado

Fruit and Vegetable Database: Avocado

Choose avocado with firm skin and no soft spots, firm but yielding to gentle pressure when ripe.
Store when unripe at room temperature in paper bag. Refrigerate when ripe for 2-3 days.

Nutrition Benefits:
Sodium free; cholesterol free; low in saturated fat.

Photos and nutrition information are from the website. Check it out for a plethora of recipes, tips, videos, shopping guidelines, Mom2Mom section, getting kids involved resources and more! All centered around fruits and veggies, of course.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Pacuigo Gelato's Cristiania Ginatta Teaches Science & Taste at Days of Taste Program

The kids from Travis Elementary has a special treat last week during their field trip to the Dallas Farmer's Market for the Days of Taste Program. Days of Taste is a food exploration program sponsored by the American Institute of Wine and Food. The program teaches the kids how food gets from the farm to the table. Pacuigo Gelato producer/owner Cristiana Ginatta spent the morning with the kids telling the tales of gelato making. The kids were enthralled with their science teacher du jour as she discussed sugar, anti freezing properties, the importance of using real ingredients and the art of gelato making.

Of course, no science experiment would be complete without the finished product and Cristiana delivered. See below for a "sample" of the tasting portions for the kids.

The final element of the experiment was when Cristiana's science and samples elevated her to "Rock Star" status as determined by the kids. The day culminated with Ms. Ginatta's autograph appearing on most everyone's t-shirt! Success!

For more information about Days of Taste:
For more information about Pacuigo Gelato:

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Open Faced Roasted Vegetable Sammy with Smoked Gouda

Remember those roasted veggies from the post below?

Here is one example of their multitude of uses!

Crusty, grainy, wheaty-whatever kind of bread. Add roasted veggies in one layer. Top with smoked gouda-happens to be what I had left over from the weekend. Feel free to use whatever you'd like. Toast and then broil until bubbly. Don't be afraid of the broil button on your oven/toaster oven! Just be sure to watch it carefully to avoid over-browning. (Read=burning)

Excellent, easy and tasty! I'm off to enjoy my snack!

Pictures to the left do not do this recipe justice-believe me.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Veggies Turning? Roast Away!

I looked at my once beautiful bowl of red and yellow peppers, zucchini, eggplant and carrots and sighed. These veggies were fresh from the farmer's market this week! They were already starting to turn and I knew there was no way I could possibly eat them fast enough before they moved on to greener (sorry for the pun) pastures. What to do? Roast!

Roasting is great way to create a new and different flavor for tired old vegetables. All you need is a hot oven, your favorite vegetables, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and you've got several side dishes for the week! Remember, if you fail to plan, plan to fail. This is a full-proof way to ensure that veggies are on the menu all week.

  • Your favorite veggies, washed and chopped into the same size for even roasting-I used all of the above-can also use onions, mushrooms, asparagus, squash, potatoes, etc.
  • Garlic Cloves-I used 3 large, smashed-I love the roasted garlic flavor
  • Olive Oil-just enough to coat lightly
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Herbs-optional

Preheat oven to 450. Place all veggies in a roasting pan. Pour olive oil over veggies and season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss lightly to coat. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes, checking once to turn veggies. Remove veggies from oven once they are evenly browned or to desired doneness.

I like to sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a few red pepper flakes for a kick for a side dish. Or, mix in with pasta for a primavera. Use on top of pizzas or throw into soups. The possibilities are endless.


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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Have You Been to Jimmy's?

About once-maaaaaaaybe twice-a year, I succumb to the delicious Meatball Sandwich made famous by Jimmy's. It's the one on the far left in this picture. Everything about it is satisfying. The homemade meatballs-made with love-the right amount of sauce-not too much, but just enough to still be messy-and the cheese. Oh! The cheese! Onions and peppers? Your choice.

The DiCarlo family has been running Jimmy's in East Dallas since the 1960's and I've been shopping there for the past 10 years. Mainly, I go for the homemade pastas, marinara sauce and the meatballs. And, the occasional sandwich. They do have a full prepared to wait a bit if you arrive at high traffic times. The produce prices are always reasonable and today, there were herb and tomato plants for sale at rock bottom prices.

The place is nostalgic, especially if you favor Italy and Italian specialty products--or, if you have a hankering for a Soprano kind of feeling....Me? I just like it in there-it makes me happy!

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beef Part of a Heart Healthy Diet-Just ask Chef Richard Chamberlain

It may seem like an oxymoron-having a great steakhouse chef touting the benefits of red meat for a heart healthy diet. But Chef Richard Chamberlain of noted Dallas restaurant Chamberlain's Steak and Chop House and Chamberlain's Fish Market Grill Restaurant, has been speaking this language for years.

In partnership with the National Cattleman's Beef Association ( and the American Dietetic Association (, Chamberlain penned the book The Healthy Beef Cookbook. Focusing on the 29 leanest cuts of beef, the cookbook is full of easy, delicious and satisfying beef recipes-all with portion sizes that are good for the heart, the waistline and the wallet. The trick-especially here in Texas-is to go for the 3 ounce portion of meat-NOT the 18 ouncer that is so often found in restaurants.

Recently, I attended the Go Red for Women Luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Chef Chamberlain did a 30 minute demo for guests in a standing room only scenario. While making a quick marinade for his grilled ka-bobs, he talked about the importance of caramelization, what are proper food temperatures for beef and how grilled limes and added cumin to salsa are some of his secrets to great tasting food.

By the way, Chamberlain's is one of the ONLY steak houses in Dallas that offers a 5 oz. fillet on the menu. No need to ask for it-just order it. Taking care of customers-and their health!

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