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Taste Test: Chris and Jaime Try Different Dried Fruits

Taste Test: Chris and Jaime Try Different Dried Fruits

We tried 4 unusual dried fruits—these aren't your raisins or cherries. Here's what we thought.

This week on the Cooking Light Taste Test, Chris and I tried four different types of unusual dried fruit. Instead of raisins, cherries, or other other berries, our producers went to the bulk bin section of our local natural foods store and found some of the more unusual varieties for us to sample.

As always, we had no idea what we were trying ahead of time. Some of them—like kiwi and starfruit—were pretty easy to figure out by their shape and color. Others we had a hard time guessing (looking at you, papaya!)

Though these dried fruits were delicious, they were all candy-sweet, raising concerns about the amount of sugar. The not-so-great part about buying from bulk bins is that, while you can see the ingredient list, the nutrition facts aren’t always available.

Through a bit of Googling, we found that a handful of similar dried fruit had almost 40g of sugar per serving! So, while some of them were tasty, you'd definitely want to go easy, and use them sparingly as an ingredient in a dish, as opposed to just snacking directly on them.

Chris loved the way the dried papaya tasted, and I loved the dried kiwi, but we both agreed that a little bit of each would go a long way chopped up into homemade granola or sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt—for breakfast, or for an after-dinner snack. They'd also work well as a topping for oatmeal.

You can find out more about all these, and what we thought, by watching the video above. And as always, if you like the video be sure to comment on Facebook or YouTube, and while you're there, subscribe to the channel. You can watch all of our videos so far, and we'll be back with more tasting next week.


This creation started out as a challenge. A wonderful gal from Canada contacted me and asked if I could recreate a tomato chip like the one they are selling back in her local town. We shared, through email, some great conversations back and forth about how to make this treat. I told her I would give a shot.

So late one night, I started tinkering around with a sauce. Every once in a while I dipped a finger in to taste test and then it hit me… how can I possibly recreate something that I have never tasted? She has tried several times on her end, and she has the store-bought product to compare it to. But I didn’t. So, I decided that maybe it wasn’t productive for me to take on this challenge, at least until I can get my hands on the original.

So, once I let that go, I started playing around with more spices and flavors, and this is the end result. After dehydrating and cooling to room temperature, they are crispy but do a have a slight bend in them. You can easily bite into the chip, and it breaks right off in your mouth. Flavor-wise, the tomato really shines through, right along with the cheesy, smoky, and spicy flavors. Delicious!

To get really thin tomato slices, I used my mandolin. That way, I could get them as thin as possible without disturbing the membrane of the tomato too much. Also, when you have even and consistent slices, they will dehydrate at the same rate. You will want to select ripe but firm tomatoes for this recipe. Mushy ones just won’t work.

To make this nut-free, you can use sunflower or hemp seeds in place of the cashews. I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you try making it, please let me know how it goes. :

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked 2+ hours
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups (1 large) red bell pepper, rough chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt

Preparation:

  1. Wash and dry the tomatoes.
  2. Spread two paper towels out on the counter top.
  3. With a mandolin, I made 1.5 mm slices. Lay the slices on the paper towel in a single layer. As the towels fill up, lay another paper towel on top and continue. I did this to absorb the liquid from the tomatoes. Otherwise, the tomato juice would make the sauce too runny. I had a stack of 3 layers. You could use Roman tomatoes which have less liquid in them.
  1. After soaking the cashews, drain and discard the soak water. Place in a high-speed blender.
  2. Add the water, bell pepper, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, oregano, paprika, pepper flakes, and salt. Blend to a smooth and creamy sauce. Depending on the machine this can take 1-3 minutes. Pour into a medium-sized bowl.
  • Prepare the dehydrator trays by lining them with the teflex sheets. If you don’t have those, you can use parchment paper. Don’t use wax paper food tends to stick to it.
  • Dredge each tomato slice through the sauce. Allow any excess to drip off before laying it on the teflex sheet. Lay them out in a single layer.
  • Dehydrate at 115 degrees (F) for 6-8 hours, until dry enough to peel off the teflex.
  • Place the chips on the mesh sheet and continue to dry for another 6-8 hours or until crisp.
  • These dry times are a basic estimate. It will vary on the climate you live in, the machine model that your own and how full the dehydrator is.
  • Store on the counter till gone. :)

Culinary Explanations:

  • When working with fresh ingredients, it is important to taste test as you build a recipe. Learn why (here).
  • Don’t own a dehydrator? Learn how to use your oven (here). I do however truly believe that it is a worthwhile investment. Click (here) to learn what I use.

Related Posts

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Roasting, Steaming, and Sautéing Without Oil

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Flavor Balancing and How to Fix a Recipe


Sulfites in Dried Fruits

Dried fruits are among the foods highest in sulfites, with raisins and prunes containing between 500 and 2,000 parts per million. By comparison, wine -- a food thought by many to be high in sulfites -- contains between 20 and 350 parts per million. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandates that foods containing more than 10 parts per million of sulfites must list this information on the food label. Countries have different standards for sulfites. The Australian government limits the amount of sulfites in foods to 3,000 ppm, while the British government limits sulfites in food to 2,000 ppm.


5 Healthy Muffin Recipes That You Can Make At Home

Say muffins and the image of a sweet, gooey, delicious piece of cake come to mind. And if you've had one, you're guilty of having many more. The thing is, these are easy to grab and eat on the go and for those with the sweet tooth, it's rather easy to eat more than you should. But what if we told you that there are healthy muffing recipes out there. Yes. You can make your own healthy breakfast muffins with low calories.

Healthy muffins are now even more in demand as they are an easy snacking option and they don’t have tons of calories either.

These are easy to bake muffin recipes that even a beginner at baking can make. All you need is a whisk, a bowl, a baking tray and an oven. You can easily bake muffins at home and add you own healthy ingredients to it for a healthy breakfast and snacking on the go. From nuts to healthy grains, seeds and dried fruits, healthy muffins can be made with different range of ingredients.

Here are 5 types of delicious muffins recipes for you to try:

1. Pistachio and date muffin recipe

This dates and pistachio muffin is a perfect Indian version of muffin. Flavoured with cardamom and containing the goodness of walnuts and pistachios, this recipe uses ragi flour along with whole wheat flour. This recipe is gets it Indian touch with the addition of muscovado sugar aka khaand.

Ingredients:

  • Ghee or white butter
  • Khaand (replacement sugar)
  • Ragi flour
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Corn starch
  • Salt
  • Cardamom (ground)
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Buttermilk
  • Water
  • Dates
  • Pistachio

Method:

  1. Start by preheating the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Take a muffin tray and grease it with butter .
  3. Mix the butter and khand (natural sweetener) in a bowl, mix these two together and see an ice cream like texture.
  4. Add ragi flour whole wheat flour, corn starch, ground cardamom, baking powder and baking soda to this mixture.
  5. Now add buttermilk and water to the batter and mix it well until all the ingredients are blended together.
  6. Add chopped pistachios and dates to the batter.
  7. Put this in the muffin tray and bake it for 25-30 minutes.

2. Apple carrot muffin recipe:

This recipe has the goodness of fibre thanks to apple and carrots, and another plus side is that both are low in calories. In this recipe you can incorporate dried fruits and flax seeds to make it healthier. You can also add oats - one of the best food grains to use in a muffin.

Ingredients:

  • Almond flour
  • Oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Baking soda
  • Sea salt
  • Chopped walnuts, raisins and chocolate chips
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Eggs
  • Butter (melted)
  • Apple (grated)
  • Carrots (grated)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven 180 degree Celsius and line the muffin tray with paper muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and other optional ingredients.
  3. In another bowl whisk together honey, eggs and butter. Pour mixture into a dry ingredients, mixing until combined.
  4. Spoon the batter into muffin cups, filling each to a decent level.
  5. Bake until the muffins are nicely browned on top and try a toothpick to see if the muffins are ready or not. Bake time would be 25-30 minutes. Allow muffins to cool down before storing them.
  6. Store leftover muffins in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. If you like them warm, reheat them on low power in the microwave.

3. Whole wheat muffin recipe:

For this recipe the muffins are baked with bran cereal and whole wheat flour, apple sauce and sugar (brown) is used to sweeten the product.

Ingredients:

  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Egg
  • Vanilla
  • Milk
  • Whole wheat flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Start by lining the muffin tins using paper baking cups or use cooking spray to coat the bottom of the muffin tin.
  2. Using a mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, and baking soda.
  3. In another bowl beat together eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add this to the cream texture and beat until it gets fluffy.
  5. Add the milk and then gradually add the whole wheat flour and start by lightly stir the ingredients together just until combined. Don’t over mix your muffin batter!
  6. Fill it in to about 2/3 capacity.
  7. Bake these for 15 - 20 minutes or until browned and done.

4. Pumpkin and feta muffin recipe:

If you prefer the piquant flavour taste over sweetness, then this recipe is sure to make your taste buds happy. With the goodness of pumpkins and spinach, this recipe stands out for its nutritional power. Addition of Sunflower seeds also helps. It also contains feta and Parmesan cheese. But if you’re looking to keep your calorie intake in check, then you can decrease the amount of cheese a bit.

Ingredient:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Pumpkin (cubed)
  • Butternut squash 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Baby spinach (chopped)
  • Parsley or coriander (chopped)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  • Cubed feta
  • Whole-grain mustard
  • Eggs (lightly beaten)
  • Milk
  • Flour
  • Baking powder
  • Grain sea salt

Method:

  1. Sprinkle some olive oil and some salt and pepper over the squash. Toss well and turn onto a baking sheet or roasting pan.
  2. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 15-25 minutes or cook them until completely cooked.
  3. Now transfer some of the squash to a large bowl and add spinach, parsley and sunflower seeds, parmesan, also two-third feta and all of the mustard.
  4. Gently fold together. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and milk together and add to the mix.
  5. Sift the flour and baking powder onto the squash mix, top with the salt and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper and fold together just until the batter comes together, be careful not to over mix.
  6. Spoon the mixture into prepared pan, filling each hold up to 3/4 full.
  7. Top each muffin with a bit of the remaining squash and feta (see photo above).
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely.
  9. Let cool for a couple minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

5. Blueberry oats greek yogurt muffin recipe:

These blueberry oats greek yogurt muffins are filled with blueberries and oats to make them healthy, plus there's no butter or oil. Perfect for breakfast or dessert or even good for light snack. If you are looking for a source for protein then greek yogurt would fill in that place.


Popular Meal Brands

There are a wide variety of companies making and selling freeze-dried backpacking food. We chose some of the top brands and put them to a taste test to see how they compare.

Per 100g Serving Calories DV Protein (g) DV Fat (g) DV Fiber (g) DV Carbs (g) DV
Alpine Aire - Cheese Enchilada Ranchero 475 24% 18.7 37% 20 30% 6.25 25% 60 20%
Backpackers Pantry - Louisiana Red Beans & Rice 352.9 17% 14 28% 1 1% 19 76% 73 24%
Mountain House - Breakfast Skillet 571.4 28% 20 40% 34.2 52% 5.7 22% 42.8 14%
Wild Zora - Mountain Beef Stew 435.2 21% 42 84% 9.4 14% 10.5 42% 38.8 13%
Harmony House - Soutwest Style Mixed-Bean Chili 70.5 4% 4.7 9% 0 0% 3.5 14% 12.9 4%
Outdoor Herbivore - Fiesta Salad 437.5 22% 9.3 18% 13.5 20% 13.5 54% 72.9 25%
Packit Gourmet - Texas State Fair Chili 438.7 22% 25.8 52% 17.4 27% 13.5 54% 46.45 15%
Next Mile Meals - Chicken & Broccoli 492.7 24% 55.6 111% 27.3 42% 2.7 11% 8.2 3%
Trailtopia Adventure Food - Beef Stew 369.8 18% 20.5 41% 4.1 6% 10.9 43% 67.1 22%
Wise Food - Chili Mac with Beef 385.5 19% 20.4 40% 10.8 16% 10.9 43% 54.2 18%
Backpacker's Bistro - Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf 116.6 6% 3.8 8% 2.1 3% 2.1 8% 21.9 7%
Good To-Go - Herbed Mushroom Risotto 431.5 21% 13.7 27% 10.5 16% 4.2 17% 67.3 22%
Mary Janes Farm - Organic Shepherd's Meat Pie 328.9 16% 19.7 39% 7.8 12% 3.9 15% 47.3 15%
Nomad Nutrition - Hungarian Goulash 600 30% 20 40% 23 35% 21 84% 80 27%
Patagonia Provisions - Organic Red Bean Chili 338.4 17% 21.5 43% 3 4% 18.4 73% 61.5 20%
Mother Earth Products - Refried Bean Mix 346 17% 23 46% 0 0% 23 91% 69.2 22%

Alpine Aire

Alpine Aire has been making freeze-dried backpacking food for forty years, so the company is far from a newcomer. Alpine Aire meals can be purchased online and in outdoor specialty shops.

Some freeze-dried backpacking meals have high sodium, but Alpine Aire keeps the added salt to a reasonable amount. The company does make some exciting meals like Wild Quinoa Pilaf with Hemp Seeds, Himalayan Lentils & Rice, and Wild Thyme Turkey. Besides meals, Alpine Aire also makes desserts, snacks, dips, and smoothies.

The meals are easy to prepare - open the pouch, remove the oxygen absorber and add hot water. Each bag has a ruler on the side to help you measure the amount of water that you need. When it is ready, you can do all your eating right in the bag.

Order AlpineAire's Cheese Enchilada Ranchero for $6.95 on REI.

Backpackers Pantry

Backpackers Pantry was founded in 1951 to make lightweight and nutritious trail meals for girl scouts. The company quickly expanded beyond its girl scout roots and is now known for its backpacking meals. The Colorado-based company is praised for its international flavors and its diversity of meals which are available in both single serving pouches and large cans suitable for groups.

Like most backpacking meals, the pouches can be used for soaking and eating. They are ideally-shaped for backcountry use thanks to the gusseted bottoms that help them stand up. You can set them on top of a log while they soak and not have to worry about losing a meal because they fell over.

Order a 2-serving pouch of Backpacker's Pantry's Louisiana Red Beans & Rice for $5.95 on REI.

Mountain House

Mountain House is the most visible company among those making freeze-dried meals. They've been making freeze-dried foods since 1968, supplying the military Special Forces with soldier rations. Mountain House then moved into the consumer market where it has flourished.

Mountain House is known for its homestyle American meals that are hearty and have a consistent flavor. The biggest critique is the meal's high sodium content. The company has an extensive reach its breakfast, dessert, and dinner meals are found online, in outdoor shops such as REI and big-box retailers like Walmart.

Order Mountain House's Breakfast Skillet on Amazon.

Wild Zora Paleo-Meals-To-Go

Initially started by a mother and son hiking team who wanted healthy freeze-dried backpacking food for the trails, Paleo-Meals-To-Go is now owned by Wild Zora. The meals are paleo with whole ingredients such as local grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, farm-fresh vegetables, and hearty seasonings.

Healthy and hearty food is the focus of the Wild Zora Paleo-Meals-To-Go line of food. Each pouch contains a robust single-serving that is more than enough for the hungry hiker. All the meals are gluten-free, soy-free, milk-free, grain-free, protein-rich and shelf-stable for two-years from the date of manufacturing. Some meals are even nut-free, while others are made according to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), a form of the paleo diet designed to minimize autoimmune diseases.

Paleo-Meals-To-Go ships in a resealable pouch that is suitable for cooking and eating. Just add water, wait for the food to soak, and you can eat right from the bag.

Shop for all Wild Zora's Paleo-Meals-To-Go here.

Harmony House

Harmony House freeze-dried backpacking food is for the DIYer who wants to make their recipes for dining in the backcountry. The company sells individual components such as freeze-dried fruits and vegetables. It also offers soup blend kits and chili mixes that contain everything you need to make a freezer bag recipe. Besides freeze-dried foods and dehydrated vegetables, Harmony House also sells textured vegetable protein (TVP) which is an inexpensive meat alternative that you can drop into any meal for a protein kick.

Find all Harmony House freeze-dried meals here.

Outdoor Herbivore

Outdoor herbivore meals are made in small batches using food that is sourced locally as much as possible. More than 80 percent of the organic, non-GMO ingredients are grown in the United States. Meals are made with whole food natural ingredients that are freeze-dried and dehydrated. Outdoor Herbivore does not add flavor enhancers, fillers, processed foods or artificial ingredients to their meals. The focus is on quality foods seasoned with herbs, spices, and minimal salt.

Unlike other manufacturers that supply a bag suitable for cooking and eating, Outdoor Herbivore ships their meals in a light, non-gusseted bag to dave on space and weight. To eat outdoor herbivore meals, you have to transfer them to a pot or similar cooking vessel.

Order Outdoor Herbivore's Fiesta Salad for $6.49 on their website.

Packit Gourmet

Packit Gourmet hails from Texas and is a family-owned and operated business. The company's roots started in the 70s when founder Jeff and Debbie Mullins hit the road with their growing family and worked hard at dehydrating food to make a decent meal. After decades of food making, their daughter Sarah had the crazy idea of turning their family camping foods into a business. In 2008, the family started making backpacking foods in their attic and advertising them out of a Volkswagen bus at 17 national parks. The rest is history. The company has earned accolades for its meals and is now among the top freeze-dried backpacking food companies.

Packit Gourmet places a priority on wholesome foods and classic homemade flavors. Each meal uses high-quality freeze-dried and dehydrated produce, lean meat proteins, and robust seasoning blends. They are authentic all-in-one meals as the company goes the extra distance to include packets of hot sauce, olive oil or cheese if a meal could use that extra kick.

Order Packit Gourmet's Texas State Fair Chili for $8.99 on their website.

Next Mile Meals

Next Mile Meals has a small selection of meals, but there is a good reason for that selectivity. The company is relatively new born during a 2017 PCT thru-hike fueled by keto-focused meals. During that journey, the homemade recipes not only provided plenty of fuel for a long distance hike but were popular among other hikers who were always asking for extras.

Now Next Mile Meals has a lineup of ketogenic-friendly fare for camping, hiking and traveling. The meals are designed to be low in carbohydrates and high in protein and healthy sources of fat. Because of this extra fat, Next Mile Meals tend to be more calories dense than meals that rely on carbs. Similar to other freeze-dried backpacking food, you can eat Next Mile Meals out their storage pouch after rehydrating them.

Order a variety pack of Next Mile Meals' best-sellers on Amazon.

Trailtopia Adventure Food

Trailtopia Adventure Food is an up and coming company dedicated to making dehydrated and freeze-dried backpacking food. Based in Minnesota, Trailtopia launched in 2014 after founder Vince Robichaud was encouraged by friends and family to start selling the backpacking meals he was preparing for trips. The family-run company has been growing since its inception.

The meals are packed in compact pouches so you can add water and eat from the pouch without needing a long spork or spoon. The recipes have a nice balance of carbs and proteins.

Order Trailtopia's Beef Stew on Amazon.

Wise Food

Wise Food targets the emergency preparedness market and is known for the long shelf life of its foods. It uses a specialized Metallyte packaging developed by ExxonMobile that protects the freeze-dried and dehydrated foods from oxygen and moisture. This added protective layer ensures the food is shelf-stable for up to 25-years. If you don't need a long-term storage solution, the company also makes and sells its outdoor-focused food in a mylar pouch with a seven-year shelf life. You can choose the packaging you prefer when you purchase a meal.

Because it focuses on emergency preparedness, Wise sells its food in bulk quantities. You can purchase individual meals in cases of 6 pouches or choose sample kits that provide a variety of entrees and breakfast meals. The Wise meals are cheaper than other freeze-dried backpacking food options because it uses artificial ingredients and fillers.

Order the Chili Mac with Beef 6-pack here.


Award Winning Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

I have a strong passion for baking cookies. I don’t know what it is, but I absolutely love it, and have numerous recipes for various cookies that I have perfected the recipes to. This peanut butter cookie though, is where it all began.

I always loved baking, I think it’s my favorite thing, right along with breakfast. Those are just my specialties.

When I was a young adult in my teens and early 20’s I always made cookies, pies, and cakes – always from the box though. In those early years I think a bag of flour would last me forever. I threw away the bag before I had a chance to use it all! It was all about convenience food, something fast, and if I wanted a cake I picked up my favorite box. Or I bought a pie or cake ready made!

When I started experimenting in the kitchen with cooking and food in general, I realized there were many pantry staples I just didn’t have. So I started stocking up the more and more I cooked, the more things needed and stored away. Flour, sugar, oils, and spices were all things I started collecting. I started getting more fearless and ready to experiment.

One night I decided I wanted some cookies, but I didn’t have a premade mix, and to be honest I didn’t really want one. So I found a peanut butter cookie recipe that had everything I already owned in my pantry, and that’s when I realized that making cookies from scratch is so much more convenient! They taste so much better, you use things you already have, and it makes a much bigger batch!

Now, I have no idea where I found that original peanut butter cookie recipe, but through the years it’s been changed and perfected in many different ways. This recipe is always requested by my family and friends. When there’s a bake sale, this is always what I get asked to make.
When I made this particular batch my husband had just come home from work and was leaving on a quick errand. He grabbed a cookie and says “Oh my God, that’s good” and grabbed a second. He’s had these countless times, but they still elicit that same reaction! My 3 year old is obsessed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so these are right up his alley and are his favorite of all time. He’s my sneaky little cookie monster, he comes downstairs in the middle of the night and takes one bite out of each cookie, just so no one else will eat them!!

Needless to say, it’s very rare I share this recipe. This is one of my very near and dear to my heart recipes, I hope you love it as much as we do!


Taste Test: Chris and Jaime Try Different Dried Fruits - Recipes

If you think the food airline companies serve up is bland or unappetising, it’s not necessarily their fault. Essentially, you leave your normal sense of taste behind at the airport departure gate. Get on board a plane and cruise to a level of thousands of feet, and the flavour of everything from a pasta dish to a mouthful of wine becomes manipulated in a whole host of ways that we are only beginning to understand.

Taste buds and sense of smell are the first things to go at 30,000 feet, says Russ Brown, director of In-flight Dining & Retail at American Airlines. “Flavour is a combination of both, and our perception of saltiness and sweetness drop when inside a pressurised cabin.”

Everything that makes up the in-flight experience, it turns out, affects how your food tastes. “Food and drink really do taste different in the air compared to on the ground,” says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University. “There are several reasons for this: lack of humidity, lower air pressure, and the background noise.”

Dryness and low pressure

When you step on an aeroplane, the atmosphere inside the cabin affects your sense of smell first. Then, as the plane gets higher, the air pressure drops while humidity levels in the cabin plummet. At about 30,000 feet, humidity is less than 12% – drier than most deserts.

The combination of dryness and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds to sweet and salty foods by around 30%, according to a 2010 study conducted by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, commissioned by German airline Lufthansa. To investigate this the researchers used a special lab that reduced air pressure simulating cruising at 35,000 feet (10.6km) – as well as sucking moisture out of the air and simulating the engine noise. It even made seats vibrate in its attempts to mimic an in-flight meal experience.

Interestingly, the study found that we take leave of our sweet and salty senses only. Sour, bitter and spicy flavours are almost unaffected.

But it’s not just about our taste buds. Up to 80% of what people think is taste, is in fact smell. We need evaporating nasal mucus to smell, but in the parched cabin air our odour receptors do not work properly, and the effect is that this makes food taste twice as bland.

So airlines have to give in-flight food an extra kick, by salting and spicing it much more than a restaurant on the ground ever would. “Proper seasoning is key to ensure food tastes good in the air,” says Brown at American Airlines. “Often, recipes are modified with additional salt or seasoning to account for the cabin dining atmosphere.”

Gerry McLoughlin, executive chef at rival US airline United, says he has to use “vibrant flavours and spices” to make in-flight meals taste “more robust”.

He and his fellow chefs also have the constant loud humming of the jet engines to contend with. While you may think that flavour is influenced by your nose and mouth, psychologists are now finding that your ears can also play a part. (For more on this, see this video and try out a taste experiment) A study found that people eating to the sound of loud background noise rated food as being less salty and less sweet than those who ate in silence. Another twist: to those surrounded by noise, food surprisingly appeared to sound much crunchier.

However, a plane’s loud background noise of around 85db does not affect all tastes equally, says Spence. For example, seasonings like cardamom, lemon grass and curry taste more intense in the sky than salt or sugar.

Mass-produced recipes

It’s not just the in-cabin conditions that have to be taken into account. Preparing and serving tasty food for a few hundred people above the clouds is not an easy task. Because of food safety standards, all meals must be cooked on the ground. There the food is packed, blast-chilled, refrigerated, and finally must survive re-heating in the air. All of this would modify the flavour even if it was served at sea level.

To re-heat food on board, for safety reasons nearly all airlines use convection ovens, which blow hot, dry air over the food. Microwaves and open flames are not allowed, although the first induction ovens are now on the market.

“Airline chefs are unique in that they mass produce recipes for thousands of customers,” says Brown. “Many times the final product is not what was originally envisioned due to things outside their control. We design food with ingredients and packing we know can survive the long process between food preparation and delivery.”

Recently fashionable ways of cooking like sous-vide – where the food is cooked in a sealed plastic bag for a long time at a relatively low temperature - also help making in-flight food taste better, says Pam Suder-Smith, president of the International Flight Services Association.

So to improve the quality of airline food, airlines are beginning to experiment with testing meals in pressurised environments or aboard actual aircraft to replicate what passengers will experience.

Simulated cabin

“You can’t use the same recipes for airline meals that you would use on the ground,” says David Margulies of Sky Chefs, a company specialising in catering for airlines. “But that doesn’t mean that meals served on airplanes can’t taste just as good. Our executive chefs have mastered the art and science of adapting recipes to changes in how food tastes at high altitudes.”

So far, this proves true mostly for meals in first and business class, though. “Coach meals may be less elaborate,” he concedes.

The umami notes of tomato juice seems stronger in the air than on the ground (Getty Images)

For First and Business class, Sky Chefs employ a team of executive chefs who work with airline customers – and use state-of-the-art kitchens, similar to those in a restaurant. Most meals are then placed in special carts and kept chilled until they are re-heated during the flight. “They are prepared in a manner that takes the re-heating process into account so they are not overcooked,” says Margulies.

Airlines keep finding better ways to research food preparation at altitude. Singapore Airlines, for instance, works closely with their in-flight catering provider, SATS, which has a simulated aircraft cabin at their in-flight catering centre at Singapore Changi Airport, where meals are cooked and tested under low-pressure conditions. “It enables us to replicate the conditions of a flight at 35,000 feet and our airline has developed many in-flight dishes based on research conducted in this facility," says a Singapore Airlines spokesperson.

Nasal sprays

Some of our senses, however, are unaffected by altitude, especially the so-called fifth taste, umami. It is the pleasantly savoury taste imparted by foods such as sardines, seaweed, mushrooms, tomatoes, and soy sauce. “Umami taste may actually be enhanced by loud background noise,” says Spence.

And because tomatoes are so rich in umami, “this links to people ordering tomato juice and Bloody Mary in the air in a way they never do on ground,” he adds.

Similarly, United’s McLoughlin is using umami-rich ingredients such as spinach, tomatoes and shellfish to enhance in-flight meals.

In a more radical approach, British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal hoped to help British Airways deliver better in-flight food, by distributing nasal spray to passengers to clear their sinuses before they ate. That approach proved unpopular, though. So Blumenthal resorted to umami, for example with a recipe for shepherd's pie that featured seaweed in the crust.

The champagne you pop at 30,000ft doesn't taste like it does on the ground (Getty Images)

Besides having an umami-rich menu, BA is also introducing soundtracks to match the taste of the food using noise-cancelling headphones, says Spence. Available for first, business and economy, “it is one of the channels on all long-haul flights introduced from November, and it includes both semantic matches such as for example Scottish music for Scottish fish, and more synesthetic matches designed to up sweetness.” Synesthesia is the technical term for evoking a sensation (like taste) through the stimulation of a different sense, in this case hearing.

Some airlines are also investigating whether changing the cutlery might help, because when heavy cutlery is replaced by knives and forks that are light and plastic, it makes food taste worse, says Spence. “And the cheap plastic cups in which we drink our gin and tonic and wine don’t help either.”

‘Thin, tannic and acidic’

Speaking of wine, some varieties, however outstanding on terra ferma, may lose their edge as soon as they are up in the air, says Liam Steevenson, the head of UK wine distributor Red & White, who is also one of the senior wine buyers at grocery chain Waitrose. The company used to supply business-only airline Silverjet for two years with the wine to go with the menu designed by the restaurant Le Caprice. That involved a lot of tasting and assessment of wines on the ground and then in the air, while Steevenson himself worked as a consultant for Silverjet.

“Wines that on the ground taste quite fruity, suddenly taste thin, tannic and acidic,” says Steevenson. “Wines certainly thin out and become much leaner and more structured. Liquids expand and contract according to atmospheric pressure and therefore perhaps this is what is happening to the wine. The mid-palate is tasting less fruity as the pressure changes.”

To deal with the issue, airlines have to select wines that are fruity with low acid and low tannin. “This is not always easy – champagne is high in acid and lots of people want to drink champagne on board,” says Steevenson. “Claret is tannic and sometimes acidic – again lots of business travellers want Bordeaux – so in my mind all these buying decisions have to be made whilst thinking about what will happen to them in the air.”

And because very low humidity changes our palate perceptions, it is “probably best to drink wine early in the flight rather than towards the end, when we have dried out considerably more,” he adds. “As we dry, out taste buds become less effective.”


Healthy Chicken Recipes

Rethink healthy eating with these flavorful and delicious chicken recipes. From better-for-you takes on lasagna and chicken Parmesan to healthier spins on chicken fingers and pizza, these are meals you’ll want to make again and again.

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Homemade Frozen Chicken Fingers

Store-bought chicken fingers are often loaded with all kinds of can't-pronounce ingredients. Stock your freezer with this homemade version instead &mdash your kids will love them, but don't be surprised if they're a grown-up favorite, too.

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken Chasseur (Hunter-style Chicken)

This French-style classic is rich with Bobby&rsquos creamy, wine-tomato-and-mushroom sauce. Perfect for a night in.

Lemon Herb Chicken Pasta with Green Peas, Snap Peas and Spinach

Eddie's gorgeous lemony chicken pasta feels like spring with the addition of green peas, spinach and snap peas, plus fresh parsley and basil.

Chicken-Chickpea Curry

Don&rsquot know what to do with your canned chickpeas? They&rsquore the perfect ingredient for bulking up this chicken curry.

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Marinated Chicken Breasts

Baked Chicken Fajita Naan Pizza

Having an arsenal of foolproof recipes you can effortlessly whip up in minutes is key to eating healthfully even on the busiest days. Here, Tex-Mex flavors meet Indian in a chicken fajita naan pizza that's easy to make. Throw it in the oven and in less than 15 minutes you'll be sitting down to a tasty meal.


Matzah Taste-Test: 15 Kinds to Try This Passover

To some, this question is an oxymoron. For these folks, edible matzah doesn’t exist it’s a bland, stale cracker that you’re forced to eat once a year, and even then out of protest. To you I say: Matzah is awesome! No, really, I love it. I eat it all year round (but mainly the matzah that’s not kosher for Passover, which tastes even better).

Until you embark on a matzah-tasting journey, you don’t even realize the variety of kosher for Passover matzah on the market. So allow me to take you on a very savory, very crumbly journey, in which I eagerly try 15 variations, all so you don’t have to. You may be wondering: How, exactly, do you capture the essence of what makes matzah delicious? Well, great matzah isn’t just about taste, because even I will admit that matzah with nothing on it isn’t that appealing. What makes matzah delicious is what you put on it. So, in addition to tasting it plain, I also sampled these with a variety of toppings, including hummus and spreadable cheese, because I wanted to see how each piece stood the test of the topping. Did it collapse into a pile of crumbs? Hold itself together? Read on to find out.

This is the classic when I think about matzah, especially since it was the one my family consumed every year while I was growing up. It’s solid and inexpensive. It holds up well to toppings, which, as I learned this week, is important to my business attire.

Pro: What you’d know from trying so many matzah varieties in quick succession is that the consistency often differs from box to box in some brands. But not here you can tell they have an amazing factory just shooting this stuff out.

Con: Eaten by itself, it tastes of air and nothingness.

I didn’t even realize the regular version wasn’t already “organic.” Whatever they did to make this more organic works, since it looks, feels and tastes less factory-produced.

Pro: If the pristine nature of the regular version bothers you, this is a good alternative.

Con: It’s much more delicate than the original, especially if you’re trying to spread something on it.

If you just need something that people will recognize as matzah and you don’t care about how the box looks or whether it holds up under spreading, this will certainly do. It doesn’t taste terrible, but it doesn’t bring anything to the table either. It literally is what it is.

Pro: If you’re using this matzah as the afikoman, you can hide it in multiple places because these pieces are definitely not sticking together.

Con: The terrible box design won’t close, and all the pieces come in one wrapper, so there’s no freshness guarantee here.

Osem is a new brand for me, but I like it already. It has more of a matzah smell, if that makes sense, and holds together well without feeling overly produced.

Pro: It holds up fairly well to spreading.

Con: I couldn’t open this box without tearing up the whole thing! Do they expect people to eat the entire box in one sitting? Maybe.

If you’re looking for matzah that’s not too fragile and not too over-produced, this is it. It’s not as strong as Manischewitz Matzos, but it tastes better and is stronger than its Yehuda Matzos counterpart.

Pro: It might be the most delicious of the matzot without any topping.

Con: Its stupid box! Why?! Why have you forsaken us, oh God?

Going in, this was my original favorite. It’s light, but with a stronger flavor than its plain counterpart. However, that comes at a price—not a monetary price, but the inability to hold up to any topping.

Pro: It’s a great alternative to plain.

Con: It will collapse in your hand the second you touch it.

This is disappointing. It has the lightness of egg matzah without any of the flavor, and it costs more than the brand’s plain version.

Pro: It tastes like something.

Con: It doesn’t taste like egg matzah.

This might be my new personal favorite. Osem is clearly trying to usurp my love for Manischewitz. Well played, Osem, well played. This has more egg flavor but is still pretty fragile.

Pro: It’s a good middle ground on quality versus consistency.

Con: Again, the box is terrible! Why is this so hard?!

If buying whole wheat items is your thing, this matzah will do. Although when people talk about matzah tasting like cardboard, they might be thinking of this one. From the moment you open the box, it smells like cardboard. It doesn’t actually taste that bad, but the smell is hard to get over.

Pro: Whole wheat is good for you, right? Sure, let’s go with that.

Con: It costs more than the brand’s plain version.

This has a cardboard-y smell and taste, but somehow it’s more appealing than Streit’s Whole Wheat Matzos. Also, it holds up well under spreading.

Pro: It’s not actually cardboard.

Con: It’s pricier than the brand’s plain version.

Manischewitz Gluten Free Garlic & Rosemary Matzo-Style Squares

This matzah is delicious! Does it taste like matzah? Sort of. What it does taste like is a very delicious cracker. If you’re lucky enough to find it, buy it.

Pro: It’s funny that one of the gluten-free options is the most delicious. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

Con: It’s hard to come by. (I found a handful at Wegmans in Chestnut Hill.)

I give them credit for the name this does feel like “matzo-style squares.” The best way to describe it? If a Pringle and a Frito had a baby, and that baby inherited the things you like least about Pringles and Fritos. It’s not that bad, but it tastes weird. And it’s quite the delicate flower.

Pro: If you have Celiac disease, here you go!

Con: It’s not as good as the Manischewitz Gluten Free Garlic and Rosemary Matzos.

Holy Land Hand Made Shmura Matzo

This is literally what cardboard tastes like. You, Holy Land Matzo, are why people don’t like matzah. On the other hand, this is probably the closest you’ll ever get to tasting biblical matzah.

Pro: If you ever wondered what matzah from the Torah might have tasted like, you’re in luck!

Con: It’s at least $20 a box. I mean, I get it, but $20?! Also, it tastes terrible.

I’m not going to get into judging whether this matzah is truly shmura matzah or not (it’s machine-made rather than handmade), but it tastes better than Holy Land Matzos and costs a lot less. So, if you need to go shmura, go Osem!

Pro: It has all the benefits of shmura matzah without the terrible taste.

Con:
You might get into an argument with a rabbi about the legitimacy of this matzah.

Holiday Candies Fully Coated Dark Chocolate Matzoh

If you need dessert matzah and don’t want to make it yourself, this will do. It’s very delicate and falls apart quickly, but if you love chocolate you’ll love this.

Pro: It’s chocolate!

Con: For this price, you can dip your own matzah in chocolate.


16 Best Beef Jerky Brands - The Guide to Dried Meat Snacks

Beef jerky is PACKED with protein. One ounce of beef jerky (about 28 grams) generally provides about 14 grams of protein. Consider the average "high-protein bar" weighs about 80 g and only provides 20 g of protein. Beef jerky provides DOUBLE that protein-to-weight ratio. In short, beef jerky is one of the densest sources of protein.

Backpackers are all about lightweight nutrition which makes this snack a staple of the trail diet. Depending on what your nutritional needs are, beef jerky can be a great low fat and low carbohydrate snack as well.

History of Man Meeting Dried Meat.

It is believed that the consumption of dried meat dates as far back as the Neanderthals - notably eating "woolly mammoth jerky". Curing meat as a means of preservation was utilized in a variety of different methods in early civilizations. Some used salt or sugar to withdraw water moisture out of meat through the process of osmosis. Others smoked or dehydrated their meat.

Animal sources, preparation and flavorings evolved over centuries into countless varieties all over the world - Pemmican in North America, Kilishi in Nigeria, Ch'arki in South America, Biltong in South Africa and Bakkwa in China to name a few.

How Beef Jerky is Made.

The fundamentals are pretty simple. Slice up some meat, marinade it and then dry it out. Note drying is not necessarily cooking. The main goal is only to eliminate moisture. The real delicacy and art of the process comes with the cut of meat, the preparation, the marinade, the spices, etc.

Know Your Jerky.

1. Tough or Soft: Some jerky is tough and chewy designed for a slow flavor absorbing experience. Others are soft to go down easy. Generally soft jerky has been tenderized or ground down and reformed.

2. Dry or Moist: You can go heavily spiced and crumbly or sticky to the touch and soaked in sweet syrups.

3. Type of Meat: Beef is our American favorite. Deer (venison), chicken, pork, turkey, buffalo (bison) and duck are all popular as well. Everything from kangaroo to alligator are available though.

4. Structure: Jerky strips, long and skinny sticks, rectangular bars and small bites are on the list. Take your pick.

DUKE'S

Known for being chunky and chewy, Duke's beef jerky comes in thick strips of Angus beef. Founded by Justin "Duke" Havlick and his homemade recipes. See Duke's.

Epic started off with dried meat bars, often with dried fruit blended in (like Bison Bacon Cranberry). They have branched out into all sorts of animal products - from pork rinds to venison strips. See Epic.

CHEF'S CUT

Whipped up by an executive chef, Chef's Cut prioritizes flavor and spice above all else. The Sriracha is a personal favorite. Better for those who like it dry. See Chef's Cut.

TANKA

Minimally processed and great tasting dried meat bars. Tanka also frequently partners and fund raises with Native American organizations. See Tanka.

PEMMICAN

Plain and simple beef jerky with three classic flavors - Teriyaki, Peppered and Original. Complete with an additional organic line. See Pemmican.

KRAVE

Well crafted, artisanal jerky. Love the wide variety of flavors. They've got everything from Mango Jalapeno bars to Chili Lime beef jerky. MSG and nitrite free. and marinated for 48 hours. See Krave.

TRUE JERKY

All locally sourced, pure Southern California cattle. Dry, well seasoned, thick strips of beef. See True Jerky.

MINGUA

Thinly sliced and blackened. Great to let sit on your tongue and soak up the flavor. Tougher than most. See Mingua.

OBERTO

A large rival to Jack Links and found at virtually every gas station. Probably not the best in my opinion, particularly their smoked sausage sticks. Very popular though and stepping into some interesting Trail Mixes. See Oberto.

FIELD TRIP

Aimed at the outdoor and hiker crowd, Field Trip makes minimally processed beef, turkey and pork jerky and sticks. No preservatives, MSG or Nitrites either. See Field Trip.

JACK LINKS

The commercial standard. Honestly, not a huge fan. Too chewy and somewhat bland. Make no mistake though. Jack Links is extremely popular. See Jack Link's.

SAVAGE

I'm not sure why this brand has not taken off to the massive level that Oberto and Jack Links has. Dry and super tasty. Try the Ghost Pepper Buffalo if you dare. See Savage Jerky.

COUNTRY ARCHER

Three products - beef jerky, turkey jerky and 'frontier bars'. A little moister than some other jerky on the list. See Country Archer.

THE NEW PRIMAL

The best jerky on the market in my opinion. Affordable, chew-able and simple seasonings. Ingredients: Grass fed beef, pineapple juice, coconut aminos, honey, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, paprika, ginger and black pepper. See Sticks or Jerky.

THREE JERKS

One of the tastiest jerky profiles - well seasoned, high quality filet mignon cuts, dry and easy to chew. Comes at a high price though. See Three Jerks.

BRICKS

The organic brand of jerky bars. Three flavors with savory ingredients - beef/ bacon/ cranberry, turkey/ sweet potato/ pumpkin seed and beef/ carrot/ apple. Free shipping is nice too. See Bricks.


By Chris Cage
Chris launched Greenbelly Meals in 2014 after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail for 6 months. Since then, Greenbelly has been written up by everyone from Backpacker Magazine to Fast Company. He wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail and currently works from his laptop all over the globe. Instagram: @chrisrcage.

Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.


Watch the video: Snack challenge with. δοκιμάζοντας κινέζικα σνακς (October 2021).