September is a busy month for food and is the monthly host for additional culinary delights, some of which pair quite nicely with mushrooms. It turns out that September is also National Wild Rice and National Organic Harvest Month. What a great fit if you’re in the mood for celebrating these monthly themes!
We continue to commemorate mushrooms during the month of September; however, the ninth month of the year is also National Cholesterol Education Month and National Self Improvement month (no kidding).
Over twenty years ago, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) launched the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) in order to help reduce illness and death from coronary heart disease (CHD) by reducing the percent of Americans with high blood cholesterol.
September is National Mushroom Month and is a great time to enjoy an exotic food once reserved for royalty. I’d like to present some fun facts about mushrooms. Let’s see how mushroom savvy we are!
Did you know?
While often thought of as a vegetable and prepared like one, mushrooms are actually a fungus, a special type of living organism that has no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds.
Mushrooms are more closely related to animals than plants and like most living organisms, are 85-95 percent water. Also similar to mammals, mushrooms take in oxygen for their digestion and metabolism and “exhale” carbon dioxide as a waste product.
Mushrooms grow from spores, not seeds, and a single mature mushroom will drop as many as 16 billion spores!
Most kids are excited about the prospect of going back to school–new clothes, new books, new supplies, –an opportunity to reconnect with classmates. But going back to school also means increased exposure to germs. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that nearly 22 million school days are lost each year due to the common cold, flu and other infections.
And, unfortunately, as nationwide budget cuts increase, larger class sizes, shorter school years and fewer staff, including janitorial services means a less clean classroom.
When preparing children for going back to school, learning about germ prevention and healthy habits are just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.
Frozen dinners have come a long way since the ‘50s. Today, with the increased use of microwave ovens and less time spent stove cooking, frozen dinners have become a large part our dinner meal time. According to a Harris Interactive online survey, each American chills out with six frozen meals per month. Research by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) reports that over $4.5 billion is spent on frozen meals per year, mostly because consumers want convenience and prefer to eat dinner at home after a busy week. Summer excursions and back-to-school shopping trips cut further into dinner prep time, resulting in even less time spent on meal planning and cooking and increased spending on frozen entrees and pizza.
1. The average American eats an average of 46 slices (23 pounds) of pizza a year.
2. Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second.
3. Kids between the ages of 3 to 11 prefer pizza over all other food groups for lunch and dinner.
Emphasis on Flavorful Foods with Nutritional Benefits
The standard American diet (also known as SAD) is typically high in processed foods, which tend to be high in saturated and hydrogenated fats, high in sugar and salt and low in complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Two emerging food trends in the US have been identified as a demand for more nutritious food and food with flavor. The latest food trends include get back to basics with meals that are quick, but with an emphasis on flavor and also offering superior nutritional value.
Food with Health Benefits – Functional Foods
While there’s no formal definition for “functional food,” the meaning typically includes foods that provide a health-promoting or disease-preventing property beyond the basic function of supplying vitamins and minerals. For example, tomatoes contain a “phyto-nutrient” (plant compound) known as lycopene and is associated with a lower risk for prostate cancer. For example, tomatoes could be referred to as a functional food for men with increased risk for prostate cancer. Functional foods have also been extended to include processed foods or foods and beverages fortified with health-promoting additives, such as calcium enriched orange juice (to lower risk for osteoporosis). Fermented foods with live cultures are also included in the functional food category with probiotic benefits.
Last week’s blog targeted the growing trend of simplifying meals with an emphasis on flavor and health. Today’s blog continues with more food trends identified by The Food Channel and CNN for 2010, and how Hokto mushrooms fit right in.
Food Trends in 2010
• Back to basics economy and a return to natural ingredients
• Flavor delivery using international foods
• Food Safety
• Foods with nutritional benefits
• Food with flavor (Umami)
Despite the abundance of convenience foods and drive-thrus, in today’s economy, families are beginning to cook more at home. According to research published by the Food Channel, CNN and others, quick, simple meals expressing individuality, flavor delivery, and sprinkled with a dash of ethnicity are a few of the latest trends in 2010. Home cooked meals in minutes. Hokto mushrooms can certainly contribute to that!
Also, more and more people are moving away from a “meat and potatoes” diet to include more vegetables and less meat in their home-cooked meals. According to USDA statistics, consumption for meat has been decreasing over the last three years. In fact, this trend has created a new word, “flexitarian”. While not true vegetarians and not quite fulltime carnivores (meat-eaters), flexitarians tend to eat a mostly plant-based diet composed of grains, vegetables, and fruits, but they occasionally obtain protein from lean meat, fish, poultry, or dairy. A quarter of Americans fit the description, consuming meatless meals at least four days a week, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Now that the introductions are out of the way, are you’re ready to try a rather exotic looking mushroom but not sure how to begin? Wash? Rinse? Peel? The good news is that Hokto’s mushrooms are ready to be cooked right out of the bag. They do not need to be washed, rinsed, or peeled because they are not grown in dirt and are completely bug-free!
The 2010 San Diego County Fair is in its final week of “Taste the Fun” theme that celebrates food and local venders from San Diego County. The main, theme-based attraction continues with the “Tour of Tastes,” an exhibition featuring cooking competitions and demos. Today, I had another opportunity to work with one of the chefs and speak on behalf of Hokto at the San Diego County Fair on June 29th, demonstrating the continued versatility and great flavor of Hokto mushrooms with the theme of vegan and vegetarian meals. Vegetarians may eat dairy and eggs (ovo-lacto), but vegans avoid all animal products. So mushrooms are a great compliment to a meatless dish in adding a savory flavor and mouthfeel.
Again we had a record breaking audience observe Chef David prepare three dishes made with all four varieties of Hokto mushrooms –King Trumpet, White Beech, Brown Beech and Maitake.