Friday, November 18, 2011

Reconstituting with steam - an experiment

I love steamed veggies. They taste better than boiled (in my opinion) and they keep more nutrients. So here's some nutrition 101 info for you: The different vitamins and minerals found in fruits and veggies are what give them their color. The general rule is: the richer and deeper the color, the more nutrition it gives you. Perfect example: iceberg lettuce vs. spinach. Iceberg is such a light shade of green, it's almost white on many leaves. Not a lot of nutritional value. Spinach on the other hand is a rich dark green -- leaves, stems, all of it. You guessed it;  that rich, dark green color means it's packed with nutrients. So much so, spinach is considered a "super food". Now, when you boil veggies and drain off the water, you'll notice that the water you drain off is not clear, but rather colored according to whatever you were boiling. So really, when you drain off the color, you're draining off the nutrients. But with steaming, veggies aren't surrounded by water that leeches off their nutrients, so they retain more nutritional value.

Okay, the food science lesson is over. Now on to the science experiment. I wanted to try the FD Broccoli and Cauliflower, and I wanted to steam them in order to reconstitute them. So I got my big pot boiling, placed the steamer insert on it and threw in a few handfuls of veggies. Here's what the Freeze Dried Broccoli and Cauliflower look like straight from the can.

I popped on the lid, and walked away for a few minutes. When I came back to check on it, here is what I found:

The heat cooked the dry product faster than the moisture could reconstitute it. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes: Steaming veggies provides little moisture, but high heat, which heats cooks veggies by heating the moisture in the veggies themselves. Since Freeze Dried veggies have no moisture in themselves, if you cook them, the dry portions will burn quickly.

So how DO you reconstitute your THRIVE veggies?
You can boil them or let them sit in hot water for 3-5 minutes, or let them sit in cold water, but plan on it taking quite a while longer. This is what Shelf Reliance recommends. Personally, if I'm putting them in a dish that's already cooking, (like my Pot pie filling, or my lentil chili) I just throw them in and let them boil with the rest of the recipe. If I am going to use them separately, like in my mini quiches or on top of pizzas, I just put them in a Tupperware with hot water and let them sit for a few minutes. Here's the great news: when I let them sit in hot water for a few minutes and then drain it off, I typically find that I am not draining off too much water, nor too much color. Because it's freeze dried, it doesn't take long to reconstitute, so there's not much time for the heat of the water to take away any nutrition. I did a second batch of the veggies by throwing them into the boiling water I had used under my steamer. After a few minutes, I drained off the water (practically no color lost), and here's what the FD Broccoli and Cauliflower look like, correctly reconstituted.

I've pureed these in a soup, used them with baked potatoes, and topped them with great cheese sauce (cheese blend and magic mix) that people seemed to love. So I give the Broccoli and Cauliflower an A++, as long as you follow the instructions and reconstitute correctly.

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