family kitchen tips

Chile Pepper Heat Rating - The Scoville Scale

Chile peppers add a special flavorful dimension to cooking. Not only just the heat and spice, but a variety of flavor sensation too!

When you visit the grocery market today, you'll find more variety of chile peppers than ever. Some peppers are more on the mild side and other chili peppers pack enough wallop of heat, they can take your breath away.

There's actually an somewhat standard and commonly used method to rate the heat level of chili peppers. Although you may not see these ratings on display at the supermarket, "Scoville Units" are a useful way to classify the various levels of heat from one variety of chile pepper to another.

The Scoville method was developed almost 100 years ago by Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacist,  in 1912. Originally, the method employed human tasters to determine by how much an extract of a pepper's pungency would have to be diluted by sweetened water to neutralize the sensation of heat from the chile peppers on the tongue.

Today, a more modern process is used called "High Performance Liquid Chromotography" (or HPLC) which measures the amount of capsaicinoids (capsaicin) in parts per million. Capsaicin is the compound found in chiles that is responsible for the heat.

Sodium Content in Foods

For many people, excess sodium in the diet can contribute to high blood pressure and other adverse health effects. The daily recommended sodium intake falls between 1500 mg and 3000 mg, depending on how many calories you consume (about 1,000 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories).

Interestingly, according to the Mayo Clinic, only about 11 percent of the sodium in the average US diet comes from adding salt to the food. The majority of sodium, over 77 percent, comes from eating prepared or processed foods that contain salt. Unfortunately, fast foods are some of the worse offenders when it comes to high salt content (just add salt and you can cover up just about anything).

And even the sodium levels present in the public water supply can vary significantly from one area to the next. Yes, salt intake from just the water we drink. The New York city public water supply has one of lowest sodium levels of sodium in the country and Galveston, Texas has one of the higher levels of sodium (from the public records, not an exhaustive and conclusive study).

Here is a list of common food items with their associated sodium content. Some of the sodium levels in our everyday food may surprise you. For example, canned peas have over 100 times the sodium of raw peas.

Broccoli Tips

Broccoli is a super nutritious vegetable

Here are some interesting broccoli tips of the information variety. Of course, the kind of broccoli tips you can eat are often called florets. broccoli is a nutritious vegetable Fresh broccoli is available year round, but the best season is from October to May. Look for broccoli with more slender stalks. Overly thick stalks may indicate older broccoli. Wilted leaves and yellowish buds also indicate older broccoli that's not as fresh.

The broccoli clusters should be firm and a rich green color. Best to prepare your broccoli as soon as you purchase, but refrigeration will help to retain the vitamin A and vitamin C content.

Broccoli is full of healthful nutrients. One cup of chopped broccoli contains 90% of the RDA of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, 6% of niacin, 10% of calcium, 10% of thiamine, 10% of phosphorous and 8% of iron. It also provides 25% of your daily fiber needs. And in addition to all of the vitamins and minerals, a one cup serving of broccoli provides 5 grams of protein.

Milk Facts You May Not Know

If you're not a voracious milk consumer, but like to have a some milk on hand for occasional bowls of cereal, cooking and perhaps a coffee creamer, sometimes those half gallon containers of milk sit in the refrigerator longer than we intend. As a rule of thumb, milk can retain its freshness for up to one week after the expiration date on the carton.

Most people think that buttermilk is high in fat content. To the contrary, buttermilk only contains about 1% milk fat.

The Leanest Cuts of Beef

Do you enjoy red meat and beef, but want to keep a healthful balance and try to stick to the leaner cuts of of beef? Here's the low down on the leanest cuts of beef.

Government Meat Grading - U.S.D.A
Be aware that the U.S.D.A grading scale emphasizes tenderness and flavor at the highest grades (Prime). More flavor and more tender means higher levels of fat content.

  • U.S.D.A Prime - Most tender cut, highest fat content
  • U.S.D.A Choice - Very tender cut, less fat content than Prime, most common grade sold

Protect Yourself from Foodborne Illness

Did you know that foodborne illness strikes as many as 80 million Americans each year? Most of the incidents are mild cases. However, 9,000 cases of foodborne illness are fatal. Most of the worse cases are caused from meat and poultry contamination.

Here are a few tips you can follow to protect yourself from common food contamination.

E. coli bacteria may be responsible for over 20,000 cases of food poisoning each year. For your protection, cook all meat and poultry to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Keep Your Cutting Board Clean

A study performed sometime ago determined that cutting boards may be a source of frequent contamination in the kitchen. Especially wooden cutting boards which can form cracks, crevices, nicks and gouges over time from use. And the porous wooden fibers can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

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