Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On nutritional information and "real" food.

I have an iphone. Frankly, I don't know what I did before I had it. It does everything. Seriously.

The app I probably use most is called "Lose It!". It's awesome.

You know how all the articles and advice about losing weight tell you to keep a food diary? That's essentially what this app is. You can set a daily limit, based on your height and current weight, and your goal weight. But, it also has nutritional information for just about any food, even restaurants and grocery store brands. And, you can add in your exercise and it subtracts those calories you burned from your food intake for the day. Super-easy. It only takes a minute if you keep track of your food when you get ready to eat it. It's a bit harder if you wait until the end of the day, plus you're more likely to forget something.

So, for lunch today, I brought some soup that made back in February and had frozen. I am actually really looking forward to it, because this soup is SOOOO good and hearty, and it's filling. It's from my Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life cookbook, which I absolutely love.

Superb Squash Soup with the Best Parmesean Croutons
Makes 8 servings (It really makes 6 Jennelle-size servings)

Olive Oil
16 fresh sage leaves
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 spigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1/2 fresh red chile, to taste, seeded and finely chopped (I used half of a frozen Hungarian Wax pepper)
sea salt and pepper
4 1/4 pounds of winter squash such as butternut, onion squash or musque de Provence, halved, deseeded
     and cut into chunks (I actually used pumpkin)
2 quarts of good quality chicken stock (I used 1 Qt. chicken and 1 Qt. vegetable stock)
extra virgin olive oil

extra virgin olive oil
16 slices of ciabatta bread
1 chunk of parmesean for grating

Put a large saucepan on medium heat and pour in a couple glugs of olive oil. Add the sage leaves and fry for about 30 seconds or until dark green and crisp. Quickly remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl limed with paper towels. In the pan, you're left with a beautifully flavored oil, so put the pan back onto the heat and add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary, chile and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are sweet and soft. Add the squash and the stock to the pan, bring to a boil and simmer for around 30 minutes.

When the soup is cooking, make your croutons. Drizzle a little oil over the ciabatta slives, and press some grated parmesean onto each side. Place in a non-stick pan without any oil and fry until golden on both sides.

When the squash is soft and cooked through, whiz the soup with an immersion blender, or pour it into a traditional blender, 2 cups at a time, and puree. *When blending hot liquids with a traditional blender: remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and fill no more than halfway. Release one corner of the lid of the blender and hold the lid on with a towel. This prevents the vaccum effect that creates heat explosions.

Divide the soup between bowls and place croutons on top of each. Sprinkle with a few of the crispy sage leaves and a drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil.

The croutons were okay. I actually think the soup is better without them.

So, back to the iphone app. I was trying to enter the recipe for the soup so I could get the calories for 1 serving. The main ingredient is pumpkin. When I search pumpkin, all the hits in the app are for canned pumpkin or pumpkin pie filling. No fresh stuff. Okay, sometimes I can't find the food I need in the data base to calculate my calories. This has happened a few times before. No biggie. There is a function for you to create your own food, and you can enter the nutritional information manually. So, I go to a site I like that is maintained by the USDA with extensive nutritional information. Apparently, using fresh pumpkin is a novel idea to them, as well. I got several hits for the canned stuff. So, I google "nutritional information for pumpkin,"  and after the top three or four hits, I FINALLY found what I needed. Ridiculous.

It's like those 6-year olds on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution that couldn't identify common vegetables. I'm sure every kd knows what a pumpkin looks like because of Halloween. But has it ever occured to them (or even some adults) that you can actually eat those Halloween pumpkins? I didn't think about that too much either, before last year. The pumpkin in my soup is one I grew last summer. It was actually a volunteer from the year before. The crusty old farmer at the farmers market that I talked to last fall about how to cook blue hubbard said most people who buy those, and the other pumpkins and squash they sell in the fall there, just put them out on the porch for decoration.

It reminds me of something I heard last fall. Apparently, there was a pumpkin shortage last year leading up to Thanksgiving. The canned stuff was in short supply at the grocery store. But it was a banner year at the Farmer's Market here in Charleston for the pumpkin crop.

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