Thrilled to share my food allergy/travel piece in this morning’s Boston Globe. This has been in the works a while and my editor did a great job preserving the heart of the piece while trimming it enough to accommodate the section’s need for space.

I wanted to share some of the info omitted due to space constraints.

In addition to those Energy Bites, TSA travel-friendly foods include:

rye crackers

Ivy Manning (another IACP friend) has an excellent book on the simple joy of homemade crackers. If you are allergic and traveling crackers are another great thing to make and bring, particularly if you crave crunchy things as I do.

And don’t forget apple-quinoa cake. I love Yvette Van Boven’s recipe.

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I’m starting a new feature here, a series called “So Glad You Asked!” – I want to hear from you.

I’ll tackle topics like ingredients you’re curious about, techniques, recipe revisions or whatever piques your culinary curiosity…for example:

  • What coriander is? How to use it?
  • Wondering about a new cuisine and looking for a starter recipe?
  • Curious about an ingredient?
  • Pros and Cons of the latest fad or trend?

All are fair game. Simply drop a comment with your question. If you’re curious, you know lots of other people are, too. I’m going to get the ball rolling by answering a question one of my private cooking clients asked about.

What is Canola Oil? 

Some people have shied away from canola oil because they don’t know where it comes from. We know peanut oil comes from peanuts. Olive oil from olives. Corn oil from corn. But what the heck is a “canola” anyway?

Turns out – nothing! It’s actually a made up name for rapeseed oil, originated by the Canadian rapeseed oil marketers to get around the unfortunate association we have with the word “rape” in English. Rapeseed is from the rape plant -brassica napum -from the Latin rāpum turnip. It’s a member of the mustard family – see the color of the flowers below? What does that remind you of? Think of “broccoli rabe”  or “rape” (“rah-pay”), rapini. These are all derived from the same plant and name. In fact broccoli rabe is cime di rape which is “head of the turnip” in Italian. So this whole turnip/mustard/brassicacae plant family – it’s one you need to know. First, because, well, brassicas = YUM. Second, they’re really healthy. Third, they’re easier to incorporate than you may think. Try blanching and freezing in a muffin tin. Then you’ve got portions ready to go into a soup, stew or smoothie.

Did you know?

Another superfood we all love today goes by a new name, it used to be called Colewort. Do you know what this is? Kale!

In fact, the Colewort family includes kale, collards, cabbages, broccoli, kolrabi …

rapeseed oil AKA Canola Field of brassica napus – mustard or rape plant

 

But what about that nasty “scientific” report I heard about? 

There is no shortage of misinformation on this product but I urge you to look at Snopes.com for a handy analysis of this silliness. One of the oft-cited “dangers” goes back to the historic uses of rapeseed oil in China. Taking what was grown primarily for livestock feed (a common purpose for the plant to this day) the seeds were pressed into oil but not refined. Today’s Canola oil is refined. What difference does this make? Nutritionally the older version of unrefined rapeseed oil was not healthy for high heat cooking. It contained potentially unhealthy levels of erucic acid. Some animal studies in the 1970s showed ill effects from erucic acid.

Today’s Canola oil is a different product. The composition is actually a very healthy oil. Canola oil contains more oleic acid and alpha linoleic acid than erucic.

From WebMD

  • Canola oil has 7% saturated fat, compared to 12% for sunflower oil, 13% for corn oil, and 15% for olive oil. There’s solid evidence low fat is not the answer, it’s the type of fat we should be concerned about.
  • It is very high in healthier unsaturated fats. It’s higher in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil except flaxseed oil.

canola

Uses for Canola oil

Rapeseed oil has a light, neutral flavor and high smoke point. It’s a great choice for dishes when you don’t want the flavor of olive oil or peanut oil. It can be used in salads, stir fries, even baking.

Look at this gorgeous Chiffon Cake made with Canola oil in place of butter.

  • Canola oil has the lowest saturated fat
  • is trans-fat free
  • is a good plant-based source of Omega 3 fatty acids

More info on Omega 3s.

And if you have food allergies, as I do, you need to know what oil your restaurant is using. “Vegetable oil” can be problematic if you have soy allergy, for example. Here’s a great post by Amy (Adventures of an Allergic Foodie) that covers some of the fine points. Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know. From what I’ve read, there’s some room for disagreement on whether highly refined oils contain enough particles to trigger a reaction. As Amy discovered, you may have to learn what your body will tolerate. Hopefully you can avoid trauma in the education process.

 

So Glad You Asked about Canola Oil. 

Now, what other culinary questions do you have?

 

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30 Days of Vitamix: Lemon Meringue Pie Smoothie

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One of the best things about winter is citrus. Enjoying citrus on a cold, snowy morning is one of our digressions from “eating local.” I have had lemon chess pie, lemon bars, and lemon meringue pie on my mind. Thanks to my in-laws, I have a big supply of beautiful, organic Meyer lemons. This is […]

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Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies – Dipped and Salted and Wonderful

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Aren’t you starting to think about next year already? I know I am. In the last flush of holiday hustle, there are so many decisions to make. I’ve been intrigued by the notion of decision-fatigue. Even President Obama understands the power of eliminating decision-fatigue. I think I read that he wears only one or two […]

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Crackly Sparkling Cranberries

December 19, 2014

This is one of our holiday favorites, albeit it newer tradition. This year, I had a bottle of Basque still cider that I wasn’t fond enough of to drink, it was so yeasty and apple-y I couldn’t toss it. What to do? Cranberries, of course! The added benefit: at the end of the process you […]

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30 Days of Vitamix – Say hello to Red!

December 14, 2014

I like red for so many reasons. It’s lucky. It’s life. It can pull me out of blue. It’s the color of World AIDS Day, the color of Women’s Heart Health. And it’s just plain sexeh. Meet Red There’s my early Xmas/Birthday present: a Pro Series Vitamix in Candy Apple Red. I’m calling her “Red.” […]

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Foodservice East | Guest Column: Ten Points of Liability & Ten Best Practices

December 5, 2014

15 Million Americans have food allergies and we crave a great dining experience just as much as our non-allergic friends and families do. Restaurants that “get it” and offer us a relaxing and safe dining experience will be rewarded with repeat business. Restaurant staff in all positions – front of the house, back of the […]

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