Parting Ways

Hello ladies. I hope you are enjoying this spring Sunday afternoon, but I have some good and bad news to share with you all. Bad news first, of course. This will be my last blog post for a few months. Now, the good news. We are expecting a child in November! My husband and I are over the moon with excitement, but the stress of work and focusing on my health has left me little time to communicate with you all. So, I’m going to go out with a bang and discuss everyone’s two favorite things: bread and cheese.

As most of you mothers know, pregnancy brings so many cravings to the table, especially carbs! Bread has always had a special place in my heart, but I have recently started to make my own because I like to eat a little of the dough during the process. While looking for a few recipes, I came across the coolest image to visualize the processes that are happening to that lovely block of carbs that brings so much joy to my belly.

 

 

The-Chemistry-of-Bread-Making-1024x724

 

 

 

 

With the four basic ingredients, all the science begins with the flour, which is made up of proteins- gluten and gliadins. The addition of water allows for hydrogen bonds to form and disulfide links to create a stretchy dough. Stretching and kneading the dough allows for the bonds and links to become stronger. (Kind of like little people. When we are knocked down, getting back up makes us stronger). The addition of salt strengthens this elastic network and adds to the taste! Of course, yeast is also needed to create a nice, plump loaf. The yeast enzymes help in the process of breaking down the starch within the flour into sugar. As the bread is set aside to rise, the yeast feeds on the sugar to create ethanol and carbon dioxide. With the continual kneading, the carbon dioxide bubbles are evenly dispersed within the whole loaf that are then released in the baking process. With the addition of the carbon dioxide, the left over sugars aid in the Maillard reaction for a crunchy crust. The finished product, yummy yummy carbs for a tasty grilled cheese.

The idea of a grilled cheese leads to my next topic. A particular cheese I have been craving is camembert! Yes, I have an image to go along with this one too!

 

The-Chemistry-of-a-Camembert-1024x724

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, this craving hasn’t been strong enough for me to try and make it myself, but I have been watching YouTube videos! This cheese is made from cow’s milk that continues to ripen as the cheese ages due to microbial enzymes in the milk. The cow’s milk contains sugar lactose that is broken down into lactic acid. The lactic acid is further broken down into carbon dioxide and water. During this process, the pH increases allowing the calcium phosphate to hold micelles, milk casein proteins, together. As the pH increases, the solubility of the phosphate decreases. This leads to a soft cheese that is favored by all! However, the softness is not the only quality that attracts many. The smell of camembert contributes to its tasty delight that reminds many of bleu cheese. Several compounds such as isovaleric acid, diacetyl, methanethiol, methanol, 1-octen-3-one, and butyric acid come together to create this unique smell. As the cheese ripens, the smell continues to grow stronger. Therefore, age is a main factor in the particular characteristics it exhibits!

These two topics illustrate how the look of food contributes to our appetite. Bread, especially, is most often prized for its plump, round shape. Cheese, on the other hand, is prized for the gooey characteristics it shows off. Because most the time we choose to put food in our stomach based on what we see, the chemicals that make up both bread and cheese contribute much to these characteristics. In bread, the yeast and flour work together to create a loaf that stands tall while camembert’s compounds contribute to the softness during the aging process. Therefore, the chemicals in both food groups are essential to the eyes they attract and the bodies they are eaten by!

You may wonder why I decided to close out my blog with bread and cheese. Because bread and cheese are the only things needed in life, duh! No I’m kidding (only a little). I wrote on these two topics to continue to strengthen the argument made in my last blog about how chemistry is involved in everything, even the cheese plate you display during dinner parties! If there is one thing I want to leave you ladies with, it is this idea! So many want to ignore the chemistry because they believe it is irrelevant, but it isn’t! I once heard an English professor proclaim that they focus on literature while chemists should focus on chemistry and the two do not mix. However, one must have a basic understanding of literature to be truly educated just like one must have a basic understanding of chemistry to understand and appreciate the processes that occur all around them, food being one. So, my challenge for you is to develop a broad sense of learning and appreciate every new opportunity even if it is boring at the time. It might come in handy some day! I hope you ladies have a wonderful week, and I hope to be back sooner rather than later!

 

 

 

 

Oh, you all should check out the website with the graphics. The writer posts weekly! Here is the link http://www.compoundchem.com. Enjoy!

The Symposium

Okay ladies, please don’t hate me for neglecting the blog, but I’ve been tied down with work. It has been a complete mess since my boss left on maternity leave. She was supposed to attend a chemistry symposium in New York, and, with her absence, the trip dropped in my lap. Usually, I would be thrilled to take an all expense paid trip to New York.  What’s not to love about the Big Apple? But, to my dismay, the week before I flew out, they decided to let me know I would be giving a presentation at the symposium. This was not mentioned when I agreed to attend on her behalf. So, I had a week to catch up on the months of research and planning that she compiled into her presentation. Thankfully, I pulled it off and was able to thoroughly enjoy the event!

Because I was stuck inside all day listening to other presentations and unable to journey out to experience the wonderful food found only in New York, I wanted to share some neat facts I picked up from the presentations and some presentation “do’s” and “don’ts”. My favorite three presentations were the chemistry of Hollywood special effects, glass- how it meets the eye, and artistic chemistry.  In order to keep myself amused, I rated the speakers’ presentations.  The primary factors of my rating technique are the presenter’s energy, the interest level of the topic, and how the information is conveyed to the audience. The Hollywood effects came in first with glass second and art bring up the end. I must say each presenter did a wonderful job engaging with the audience, but the art presentation was the most unique. I think she used Prezi- ladies if you haven’t seen this used, you have to! Its much more entertaining than a normal slide show. However, this blog’s purpose is to talk about chemistry, so lets get to it!

Did you know chemistry is directly involved in Hollywood’s special effects? I didn’t either! The three areas the presenter discussed were artificial snow, makeup, and explosives. To create fake snow, many sets use sodium polyacrylate (the stuff in your kid’s diapers), which breaks down and swells when in contact with water. These ions, when swollen, resemble ice more than snow, so those in “show biz” create polymers that are able to soak up about 2,000 times more water than the average diaper. (Maybe they should start selling these to busy moms, I know I would be an avid buyer). The “on set” makeup, however, involves even more chemistry. Have you ever wondered how the zombies in The Walking Dead look so real and horrifying? It’s liquid latex with a few other ingredients that are whipped to create air bubbles throughout the mixture to give it volume. Some sets use silicone because mixing it with a catalyst builds bridges between the molecules that harden the mixture and create the scary faces that seem far to real to be fake.  Explosives, on the other hand, are more intuitive to chemistry. In order for the explosive to, well explode, chemicals must be mixed in order to cause a reaction. Once chemicals are mixed and heat is added, everything takes off!

Okay, so after looking into each category of the special effects, it makes sense how chemistry is involved. Glass, on the other hand, does not remind me of chemistry at all. However, glass has many characteristics that are related to chemistry that can be used by forensic scientists during an investigation. Because of these characteristics (density, reflective index and thickness), investigators are able to use glass from the crime scene and compare it with glass found on the suspect. If the two are a match, your robber has been caught! You’ll be thankful for glass and its characteristics next time an incident occurs involving your house or car.

So far, we have discussed Hollywood effects and glass, now it’s time for an art lesson. Let’s take a moment to reminisce on our middle school art memories where we learned to draw in 3D and shade. If you messed up, you could just erase and try again. Those were the days, am I right? Well, chemistry is kind of the same thing. Artists often experiment with different techniques just as chemist do with different chemicals. However, some artists’ methods directly involve chemicals, such as pottery. When the clay is fired to create a strong potted bowl, a redox reaction occurs with oxygen and copper ions. The results are carbon dioxide and elemental nickel, which create the shiny bowl sitting on your counter. Stained glass, which is my favorite, also requires chemistry to assemble those beautiful pieces of glass into a work of art. I love seeing all the stained glass windows within old churches, especially on sunny days! To create the window, a cleaning substance, hydrochloric acid, is applied to copper foil, a common craft store buy.  When the hydrochloric acid is introduced, the copper foil moistens and heats, which results in copper (II) chloride. On the surface, pure copper, that is able to bind to the tin solder, is created. Once heat is applied, the glass pieces bind together. The final product is a beautiful piece of art that can be admired from every angle!

As you can see, once objects are examined beyond the surface, the chemistry pops right out! Chemistry is involved in everything you and I do! If its not obvious now, it should be. Whether it is the cooking process of our food or the production process of our favorite movie, chemistry is occurring at all times around us! Without it, we would simply be nothing!

Now, I want to transition from chemistry to presentation skills. Hopefully, since you are smart and bright young ladies, this is just a repeat of what you already know, but listening to so many presentations led me to nail down some awful habits some people exhibit when speaking in front of large crowds. I know I am not perfect at this, but it always helps to listen to others and pick out flaws. Anyway, here is my list!

The “Do’s” and “Don’ts”

  • Interact with the audience
  • Relate the information to those who don’t have the knowledge depth you do
  • Be energetic
  • Speak loudly
  • Allow for questions
  • Do not stare at your notecards or the screen
  • Do not say “um”

This wraps up on my week. I am exhausted, and it is time for my nap! Be on the lookout for next week’s blog as I head to Chicago to indulge in some deep dish pizza! However, during this week, pick out something and examine the chemistry it contains because chemistry matters ladies! Have a great week!

Organic Means Chemical Free, Right?

Okay ladies, I am super bummed because my first post is going to be a total bust. I planned to visit a local juice bar in Lexington, Kentucky this week while my husband attended conferences, but I came down with the flu before we left. So, I had the privilege of staying in bed the past four days while my husband enjoyed the wonderful bluegrass state. Lucky me, right? However, while cooped up, my sister brought over some goodies, including organic strawberries and bananas. Eating “clean” is my passion so what better way to enjoy these wonderful fruits full of antioxidants and free of chemicals than incorporating them into a full day of meals.  My sister told me she spent a little extra to buy organic fruit because she knows my proclivities, which stirred my curiosity.  Do the benefits of organic fruits justify the extra cash or should we just buy non-organic?  I assumed fruits labeled as “organic” were chemical free because organic farmers are held to higher standards and are not permitted to use synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers.  Much to my chagrin, I learned my assumptions were wrong.

With that cliffhanger, let’s get right to the recipes. Breakfast was easy. I made my fantabulous strawberry-banana smoothie. (Recipe posted below)

It’s Bananas

1 c. Crushed Ice

½ c. Sliced Banana

1 ¼ c. Sliced Strawberries

Lunch was a little trickier. I didn’t want to simply serve fruit on the side. I wanted it to be the focus of the meal so I whipped together my momma’s famous spinach and strawberry salad. (Recipe below). Once you get on this salad’s train, you won’t want to get off. It is my favorite dish to pair with anything. It was even a great pair with my favorite sandwich, a grilled peanut butter and banana, baby! This is a sandwich that saves lives. It only takes seconds to make and has a taste to die for. You won’t want to skip over this beauty.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

2 c. Sliced Strawberries

½ c. Almonds

½ c. Goat Cheese (crumbled)

4 -5 c. Baby Spinach

Poppy Seed Dressing

Going Bananas for a Sandwich

3 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread

1 Sliced Banana

Peanut Butter

Honey

As you can see, putting this lunch together is pretty simple. I’m not one to go big in the kitchen. I stick to the basics. For example, to make the salad you just mix all the ingredients together. Equally easy is the sandwich.  Spread the peanut butter on the bread, layer the banana, and drizzle with honey then grill like a grilled cheese. It’s so simple your husbands could do it!        Obviously, breakfast and lunch were homeruns (I’m feeling like Babe Ruth), but dinner left me puzzled. I could include them in a dessert, but I wanted them to be fully incorporated. Luckily I had an epiphany. Breakfast for dinner! This is my momma’s favorite thing to do and a regular family tradition. Because of this ritual, I never realized other families do not engage in this wonderful experience. My first roommate in college encountered her first breakfast for dinner one evening in the dining hall and could not believe it was a thing. I’ve never heard someone complain so much, but myself, on the other hand, felt right at home. Now, back to my dinner, I made my easy, healthy banana pancakes! They are only made with TWO ingredients. Crazy, I know. (Recipe below)

Freaking Flapjacks

1 Medium Ripe Banana

2 Large Eggs

Simply mix the ingredients together in a bowl, pour them in a pan and cook to perfection on the stove. To make the stack pretty, I alternated a pancake layer with strawberry layer.

A whole day’s worth of meals focused around two, organic, chemical free, healthy fruits that only took minutes to throw together! Not only were the recipes easy, but they were so healthy too!

Were my meals really as healthy as they might appear at first glance? I spent an entire evening researching the ingredients I had incorporated. I made a list to see if each one held up to their supposed standards.

Almonds: if raw, check

Goat Cheese: if bought in a block and crumbled by hand, check

Baby Spinach: check

Poppy Seed Dressing: depends on the brand and amount used

Whole Wheat Bread: if bought and sliced by hand, check

Peanut Butter: if true natural, check

Honey: if purchased from the local farmer’s market, check

Eggs: check

You may have noticed I did not include the bananas and strawberries, which returns us to my discovery about “organic” foods and fruit in particular.  As healthy eaters, do we actually read the small print on the labels or do we simply see the large “organic” sticker and assume this means the food is chemical free?  I, like most, am frequently guilty of the latter.

Despite being labeled “organic”, my research revealed that these fruits actually do contain chemicals. I mean it kind of makes sense. Chemicals are all around us. There are even chemicals in our water.

What are the chemicals in bananas and strawberries you may ask? Take a gander at these labels and be prepared for a shock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy? I know! I was floored at all the chemicals that are in a natural fruit. So the whole “organic” on fruits is a bust. Really, the organic label only implies the products are grown with the use of natural pesticides rather than synthetic ones. The producers have no control over the naturally occurring chemicals on the inside! A more appropriate label would be, “Chemical free growing environment”. However, I have no control over how the FDA labels food. I just have control over my wallet. So, buy the regular ones, save your money, and use the saved money to buy some new shoes! That’s all I have for this week, tune in next week to see where I will travel next. (Hopefully somewhere outside of my house!)

 

Resources

Moyer, Melinda W. “Organic Shmorganic.” Web log post. Slate. The Slate Group, 28 Jan. 2014.    Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

“Is Non-Organic Food Full of Chemicals?” Best Food Facts. JNT Company, LLC, 20 Mar. 2013.              Web. 14 Feb. 2016.

Kennedy, James. “Ingredients of an All-Natural Strawberry.” Web log post. James Kennedy.          WordPress, 22 Aug. 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Kennedy, James. “The Ingredients in Food Phenomenon Continues….” Web log post. James                     Kennedy. WordPress, 25 June 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.

Me, Myself, and I

Are you ready for this? I am a foodie searching for the best restaurants around the world. But the tastiness isn’t the only quality, it has to be healthy too! Preparing our summer bods, us girls have to eat right! In the process, we want to have fun too! Eating grilled chicken and rice 24/7 is boring!! Join me on this journey to find the best places to eat while treating your body right! So get ready because this train is taking off, and you won’t want to miss out!
And please do not be afraid to send me any recommendations. Who knows, your fav, healthy restaurant could be pulling your chain about how “healthy” it really is!
XOXO- Jill