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Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 1997

PASTA GUIDELINES MAKE IT EASY TO ADD NUTRITION TO DIET

March 5, 1997

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Cooking Q &A by Susan Krumm

I understand that I should eat six to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta each day. Could you tell me what one serving of pasta is?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers one serving of pasta to be a half cup of cooked pasta. An easy way to remember it when serving is to think of it as a rounded ice cream scoop. By filling your plate with pasta, it would be easy to have two or three servings in one meal.

I have a hard time judging how much pasta to cook for a meal. Are there any rules of thumb?

To determine how much pasta to cook, follow this guide:

  • For short goods, like elbow macaroni, shells, spirals, wagon wheels, mostaccioli, ziti, etc., a half cup dry uncooked pasta equals one cup cooked.
  • For medium egg noodles, a half cup dry yields just more than a half cup cooked.
  • For long goods such as spaghetti, angel hair, vermicelli, linguine, etc., a half-inch bunch dry equals one cup cooked.

How do the pastas flavored with spinach or tomatoes compare nutritionally to regular pasta?

Although there is an array of flavored pastas on the market today -- such as spinach and nutmeg, tomato and basil, and even lobster or squid ink -- the nutritional value remains about the same as regular pasta.

Only a small amount of vegetable solids, which may be fresh, canned, dried or in the form of a puree or paste, are added to pasta to give it an attractive color. But like most plain pastas, they provide about 200 to 220 calories and 1 to 3 grams of fat per 2 ounces of dry pasta.

Though the nutrients are equivalent, the prices are not. Expect to pay as much as six times more for flavored pastas.

What is acidophilus milk? Is it easier to digest than regular milk?

Acidophilus milk is a cultured dairy product with the same nutrient content as other milk. It is pasteurized low-fat or skim milk to which lactobacillus acidophilus, a bacteria, is added for fermentation.

Some believe that this acidophilus helps maintain the balance of microorganisms in the intestinal tract and reduces gastrointestinal problems. Research is still in progress to investigate its effects.

Some people believe acidophilus milk is easier to digest than regular milk. People who have a hard time digesting milk may be able to tolerate it with a meal, or in similar quantities.

I don't seem to have very good luck in cooking with new lower-fat cheeses. What am I doing wrong?

The new lower-fat cheeses -- like "light" American, Cheddar, Swiss and mozzarella -- often contain 33 to 50 percent less fat than regular cheeses. Instead of fat, they may be made with added milk solids, natural gums or fat substitutes.

Because there is less fat, the texture is firmer. The flavor may be milder because reduced-fat cheeses do not age as well as higher fat cheeses.

To get the highest quality product when cooking with these reduced fat cheeses:

  • Add grated, diced or slivered cheese to sauce at the end of cooking. Remove from heat and stir until melted. Use mustard, salsa or spices for a more intense flavor.
  • In casseroles, layer the cheese for smooth melting. When low-fat cheese is used as a topping for baked dishes, add it near the end of baking and heat only until it's melted. Serve at once.
  • For broiled cheese sandwiches, place the slices as far away from the heat as possible or choose a temperature below "broil."
  • Use a mixture of half reduced-fat and half full-fat cheese to lower saturated fat content without affecting the flavor or texture.
  • Don't try to use nonfat American and Cheddar cheeses in cooking. They're better served at room temperature as a snack or in sandwiches and salads. Nonfat cream cheese is also not intended for baking, but you can toss it with hot pasta for a creamy sauce.
  • Because reduced-fat cheeses have a shorter shelf life, it's important to keep them wrapped and refrigerated and use them as soon as possible.

I am concerned about the dark color of meat around the bones of chicken. How do you prevent it?

First, it's perfectly safe to eat chicken meat that turns dark during cooking. The darkening around bones occurs primarily in young broiler fryers. Because their bones have not completely calcified, pigment from the bone marrow can seep through the porous bones. When the chicken is cooked, the pigment turns dark.

Try buying a more mature 5- to 7-pound baking hen or debone the chicken before cooking if you are concerned about the dark color around the bones.

Where is the best place to store citrus fruits?

Contrary to common opinion, citrus fruits are best stored at a cool -- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in home economics and consumer science with K-State Research & Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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