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Nutrition

Reducing salt in Parmigiano Reggiano cheese might not negatively affect its flavor

Aged cheeses pack a punch of nutty, sharp flavor. Before they’re fully mature, aged cheeses are either waxed or placed in brine for weeks to create a natural rind. However, the high salt content in brined cheeses deters some consumers.

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Aged cheeses pack a punch of nutty, sharp flavor. Before they’re fully mature, aged cheeses are either waxed or placed in brine for weeks to create a natural rind. However, the high salt content in brined cheeses deters some consumers. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Food Science & Technology present a shortened brining time for Parmigiano Reggiano that results in a less salty product, while still potentially maintaining the cheese’s distinctive texture and flavor compounds.

Parmigiano Reggiano is a lactose-free, crumbly and hard cheese. Manufactured in select provinces in Italy, its protected designation of origin status requires that certain production processes, such as a minimum 12-month ripening period, be performed. Ripening or maturing imparts the cheese’s recognizable taste as milk solids are converted to flavor compounds. But before that, cheese wheels are placed in a saturated brine solution for weeks. The added salt plays a key role in the ripening process by modulating microbial growth, enzyme activity and the separation of solids from liquids, hardening the final product.

One enzyme-mediated reaction is lipolysis, in which triglyceride fats in milk break down into their key components — free fatty acids and diacylglycerides. Free fatty acids not only contribute to the taste of the cheese but are also precursors to other flavor molecules.

So, Silvia Marzocchi and colleagues wanted to test the impact of brining time on the lipolysis reactions responsible for the free fatty acids involved in Parmigiano Reggiano’s flavor profile and distinctive characteristics.

The researchers had five Parmigiano Reggiano dairies brine several cheese wheels by immersing them in a saturated salt solution for either 18 days or a shorter 12-day period. Then the wheels were ripened for 15 months under conditions typical for this type of cheese. Salt content in fully ripened cheese was 9% lower in the samples brined for a shorter time than the group with the longer procedure. Unexpectedly, the researchers found no difference in the moisture level, cholesterol and total fat in the two sets of cheeses.

The team also observed no major variations in compounds involved in the flavor profile, as most of the 32 free fatty acids had overlapping concentration ranges between the two groups. Yet in the cheeses with the shorter salting time, overall, the total free fatty acids and the total diacylglycerides concentration ranges were 260% and 100% higher, respectively, than the traditionally brined version, suggesting the lower salt to moisture ratio resulted in more water available to lipolysis reactions and more rapid enzymatic activity breaking down triglycerides.

The researchers say a reduced brining time for Parmigiano Reggiano could result in a product appealing to salt-conscious consumers, but sensory tests are still needed to indicate if they can detect differences to the overall taste and texture.

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Nutrition

Boosting your Zesty Grilled Steak Salad with flavors

A bold blend of garlic, brown sugar, soy, citrus and Creole seasoning give this Zesty Grilled Steak Salad a boost of flavor.

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Fire up the grill and grab the salad dressing!

A bold blend of garlic, brown sugar, soy, citrus and Creole seasoning give this Zesty Grilled Steak Salad a boost of flavor. The Beach House Kitchen doesn’t mess around when it comes to salads, and thanks to Tony Chachere’s Steakhouse Marinade and Creole-Style Italian Salad Dressing, this sweet and savory salad is guaranteed to please everyone at the table.

INGREDIENTS
2 Strip Steaks (10-12 Ounces Each)
¾ Cup Tony Chachere’s Creole-Style Steakhouse Marinade
3 Ears of Corn, Shucked
8 Cups Spring Mix
6 Campari Tomatoes, Quartered
½ Pound Strawberries, Hulled and Sliced
4 Ounces Blue Cheese Crumbles
¾ Cup Canned Crispy Fried Onions
¾ Cup Tony Chachere’s Creole-Style Italian Salad Dressing

PREPARATION
Prep Time:       20 Minutes
Cook Time:      17 Minutes
Serves:            2-4

  1. Add steaks to a shallow bowl. Cover with Tony Chachere’s Creole-Style Steakhouse Marinade. Flip steaks. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. While the steaks are marinating, preheat grill to high for 10 minutes. Add corn and cook, making sure to turn often until evenly charred, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill and let cool. Once cool, using a sharp knife, slice the corn off the cob onto a plate. Set aside.
  3. Once the steaks are finished marinating, place the steaks on the grill on high heat (400°-450°F). Cook until slightly charred, about 4 minutes. Turn steaks over and continue to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until grilled to your liking. Remove from the grill and slice thin, against the grain.
  4. Add the spring mix to a large bowl or platter. Toss with the corn, tomatoes, strawberries and about half of the dressing. Stir in the blue cheese crumbles and crispy onions. Add the steak and drizzle with remaining dressing, if desired.
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Nutrition

Flavorful spring meal prepped in 20 minutes or Less

Make spending time with family and friends even more special by sharing a quick, delicious, spring-inspired meal together.

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Adding delicious, new flavors to your homecooked meals this spring may be easier than you think. A secret ingredient like cooking wine is a simple way to add a boost of flavor to all kinds of recipes.

During the spring months, few people would prefer cooking in the kitchen for hours rather than enjoying the outdoors. Make spending time with family and friends even more special by sharing a quick, delicious, spring-inspired meal together. Time-saving dishes at home begin with an option like Holland House® Cooking Wines that add an extra boost of flavor to recipes like Chicken Gyro Bowls. Perfect for a weeknight meal, the recipe combines pantry staples and enticing seasonings for an easy-to-make dish using a slow cooker.

Featuring savory chicken gyro meat atop a scoopful of rice, crisp and vibrant veggies, and garnished with crumbly feta and tangy tzatziki sauce, the bowls are bursting with flavor and perfect for the season.

Cooking wines are flavor-enhancing ingredients that can quickly transform an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one. Available in four flavors – Marsala, Sherry, White and Red – Holland House Cooking Wines are made with fine grapes and perfectly blended seasonings, aged to perfection, to offer bold flavor to your springtime cooking. Consider these uses for each variety:

Sherry cooking wine works equally well in dessert recipes, main dishes, sides, soups and sauces. One example is these delicious Chicken Gyro Bowls, which you can leave cooking in the Crockpot throughout the day. The remaining preparation is fast for a weeknight meal that’s ready in next to no time.

Best known for its use in chicken marsala, marsala cooking wine lends flavor to other preparations, too. Marinate sliced meat in marsala cooking wine before grilling, roasting or sauteing, or swirl it into gravies and soups to add delicious, savory flavor.

Stir red cooking wine into gravies and red sauces, or try marinating less-tender cuts of beef, lamb or pork in the refrigerator (for up to 24 hours) to boost flavor and tenderness.

White cooking wine pairs well with fish and lighter fare like chicken and turkey, as well as rice dishes.

Find more recipes to bring mouthwatering flavor to your springtime table at HollandHouseFlavors.com and crock-pot.com/slow-cookers.

Chicken Gyro Bowls
Recipe courtesy of Jillian of Food, Folks and Fun
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 4-6 hours
Servings: 6

Chicken Gyro Meat:
1/4       cup Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine
3/4       cup chicken broth 
2          tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2    tablespoons dried oregano
1          teaspoon salt
1/2       teaspoon pepper
1          medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
2          pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed
4          large garlic cloves, minced

Gyro Bowls:
2          cups long-grain rice
1          medium cucumber, seeded and sliced
1          large tomato, chopped
1          cup shredded iceberg lettuce 
1/2       cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2    cups tzatziki sauce 
            black pepper, to taste
4          pitas, warmed and cut into wedges

To make chicken gyro meat: In small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk cooking wine, chicken broth and lemon juice; set aside. 

In separate small bowl, combine dried oregano, salt and pepper; set aside. 

Add chopped onion to bottom of slow cooker and lay chicken breasts on top of onions. 

Pour cooking wine mixture over onions and chicken. 

Sprinkle half of oregano mixture over top of chicken. Flip chicken over and sprinkle remaining oregano mixture over chicken. 

Evenly distribute minced garlic over chicken. 

Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on high 4-6 hours or low 6-8 hours. 

Shred cooked chicken then use wooden spoon to mix shredded chicken, onions and remaining liquid together. Turn off slow cooker and let mixture sit, with lid on, while preparing rice. 

To make gyro bowls: Cook rice according to package instructions. 

Place rice in bowls and top with chicken gyro mixture, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, feta, tzatziki sauce and black pepper, to taste. Serve with pita wedges.

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Nutrition

Beat the bulge with a nice cup of tea

Studies suggest that tea consumption may also increase the breakdown of fat, independent of the effects of caffeine.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels.com

Does losing weight while you sleep sound too good to be true? According to a study by the University of Tsukuba, it seems that drinking oolong tea might help you do just that.

While all tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, the degree of oxidation, a chemical reaction that turns tea leaves black, defines its specific type. For example, green tea is unoxidized and mild in flavor, while the distinctive color of black tea comes from complete oxidation. Oolong tea, being only partially oxidized, lies somewhere in between and displays characteristics of both green and black tea. But while green tea is lauded for its health benefits, oolong tea remains more of an unknown.

“Like all teas, oolong contains caffeine, which impacts energy metabolism by increasing our heart rate. However, studies suggest that tea consumption may also increase the breakdown of fat, independent of the effects of caffeine,” explains senior author of the study Professor Kumpei Tokuyama. “We therefore wanted to examine the effects of oolong consumption versus caffeine alone on energy and fat metabolism among a group of healthy volunteers.”

Publishing their results in a recent issue of the journal Nutrients, the researchers found that both oolong tea and pure caffeine increased fat breakdown by about 20% in the healthy volunteers compared with the placebo, and that oolong tea continued to have an effect while the participants were asleep. Interestingly, neither treatment caused an increase in energy expenditure, indicating that the volunteers developed a tolerance to the stimulatory effects of caffeine over the 2-week study period.

Because a lack of sleep can impact energy metabolism, and because caffeine is known to inhibit sleep, the researchers also studied the sleep patterns of the volunteers. Significantly, there was no noticeable difference in sleep patterns or the time it took participants to fall asleep between the treatment and placebo groups, indicating that drinking oolong tea is unlikely to prevent you from getting a good night’s rest.

So should we all be downing copious cups of oolong tea to counteract the indulgences of the festive season?

According to Professor Tokuyama, the answer is maybe.

“The stimulatory effects of oolong tea on fat breakdown during sleep could have real clinical relevance for controlling body weight. However, we need to determine whether the effects we observed in the 2-week study translate into actual body fat loss over a prolonged period. In addition, we want to trial a decaffeinated oolong tea to better distinguish the effects of caffeine from other components of tea, which will help us understand exactly how oolong helps with fat breakdown.”

The article, “Subacute Ingestion of Caffeine and Oolong Tea Increases Fat Oxidation without Affecting Energy Expenditure and Sleep Architecture: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blinded Cross-Over Trial,” was published in Nutrients.

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