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Category → Chemistry and Food

Green Banana Pasta, Just like Mama Never Used to Make

These days it seems like everything’s turning green. Cars. Buildings. And now, thanks to a team led by University of Brasilia Ph.D. nutritionist Renata P. Zandonadi, even pasta is turning green.

For her doctoral thesis, Zandonadi used unripe, green bananas to develop an alternative for individuals, such as those with the autoimmune condition celiac disease, who are allergic to the gluten normally found in pasta. The results were recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

(DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.04.002).

Green bananas: Miss Chiquita’s preferred pasta ingredient. Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Bhaskaranaidu

Typically pasta is made with wheat flour (which contains gluten) and whole eggs. Zandonadi’s team, however, cooked up a pasta with green banana flour (which does not contain gluten), egg whites, water, and guar and xantham gum. According to Zandonadi’s teammate Raquel Botelho, green banana flour serves as a great replacement for wheat flour because the fruit’s resistant starch “forms a net similar to gluten” that traps water inside the pasta, ensuring a moist and elastic consistency.

Unripe fruit might not sound like the most appetizing of ingredients, but the experimental pasta actually proved quite tasty. The team cooked a meal of green banana pasta for a focus group of 25 people with celiac disease as well as a meal of green banana pasta and whole-wheat pasta for another group of 50 with no gluten allergies. The team then asked the tasters to rate their experience. The diners raved about the experimental pasta, ranking it ahead of whole-wheat pasta in terms of aroma, flavor, texture, and all-around quality. Not bad for pasta that contains 98% less fat than its whole-wheat counterpart. Another benefit, says Botelho: Green banana pasta serves as a source of inulin, a polysaccharide that stimulates the development of “good,” immunity-boosting intestinal bacteria. Continue reading →

Specialty Food Chemistry at DC’s Fancy Food Show

Chemistry is everywhere, as we’re fond of saying in the pages of C&EN. So I was excited to let my taste buds partake in the biochemistry at the Fancy Food Show, which rolled into DC this past weekend. Sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, the Show is a mecca for makers of specialty foods such as cheeses, confections, and snacks. It draws the most diverse group of attendees I’ve ever encountered–on the expo floor I ran into folks from nerd gift emporium ThinkGeek, agribusiness giant Cargill, and the U.S. State Department.

Chew on some tidbits of science I picked up at the show, some of which are connected to past C&EN coverage. Continue reading →

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings of this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.

Credit: Flickr user buildinghugger

MIT engineers devise coating to squeeze the last drops of delicious ketchup from the bottle. Now if they could just figure out a way to get rid of that annoying watery layer that always comes out first. [Brainiac]

Finally, research on why heirloom tomatoes are just better than all the others. Here comes the chemistry of volatile compounds. [Scientific American]

Attention Canadians: You may soon get to buy apples that won’t go brown after they’ve been cut. [Cnews]

To see the QR code on this glass, you’ll have to pour a pint of Guinness. [BoingBoing]

Slate takes on baby veggies – Are they the veal of the vegetable world? [Slate]

Cuttlefish are just SO unevolved. Pigments in their ink sacs haven’t changed for 160 million years. [iO9]

Top 10 newly discovered species of 2011 announced. List includes a sneezing monkey, a night-blooming orchid, and a walking cactus. [Science Daily] For coverage of 2010’s list, click here: [C&EN/Newscripts]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.

Credit: Flickr user snelly23

Putting water on cereal is weird. Now there’s science to prove it. [Discoblog]

Buying your own wedding ring is for weaklings. This guy forged his from a meteorite. [io9]

Roadkill, it’s no longer just good eats. It’s doing science. [Wired]

Welcome to the age of social media: Hospital in Houston live tweets a brain surgery, with video and photos. Click to see the Storify-ed version. [Memorial Hermann/Storify]

Mathematician reveals how he beat the roulette wheel in the 1970s with wearable computer. [New Scientist]

When your parrot curses a blue streak, does it know what it’s saying? [Slate]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.

Credit: McAlpine et al./Princeton

In the future, your teeth may transmit signals … to doctors. You thought we were going to say aliens, didn’t you? Now THAT’s crazy. [RSC]

Torani to unveil syrup flavored like chicken and waffles for your bizarre latte cravings. Newscripts gang looking for “The Onion” stamp on this one, but it looks legit and we were right. It was an April Fool’s joke. [Torani via The Impulsive Buy]

Fun with crayons and a spectrophotometer. [Photo Journal via the Annals of Improbable Research]

Snow and avalanche researchers lend Nestlé a hand in understanding why ice cream goes bad. [GeekoSystem]

Which wine pairs best with semiconductors? [Discoblog]

Nine reasons not to work with pure evil (which apparently comes from toasters in the south of England). [Boing Boing]

Researchers investigate pros and cons of breeding cows that are less flatulent. Con: Cows no longer fun at frat parties. [TVNZ]

Gilbert Stork on How Not to Dispose of a Steak

Gilbert Stork as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, possibly thinking of the best way to get rid of the steak mouldering on his window ledge. Courtesy of Gilbert Stork

When writing about science, it’s easy to focus on the facts of discovery and leave out the actual scientists who do the work. This is a shame, since science is ultimately a human endeavor, spurred on by folks with colorful personalities that often compliment (and sometimes overshadow) their remarkable intellect. Now chemistry historian Jeffrey I. Seeman, of the University of Richmond, has put together a collection of witticisms by and about renowned synthetic organic chemist Gilbert Stork. It just went up online in Angewandte Chemie.

I know not everyone has access to Angewandte Chemie, and the article is on the long side, so I thought I’d poach some of my favorite tidbits for you, dear reader of this blog. Here’s the gem that gives this post its name:

“There was this one really idiotic time. I remember I was really scared that I was going to blow up the entire Chemistry Department at the University of Wisconsin. I had a steak on the window ledge of my office. It was the winter, and I used the window ledge as a refrigerator. You obviously were not supposed to be cooking steaks in the lab, but I had a small lab where I was usually alone in there, and so I had a steak. But I also was not aware that biodegradable material is biodegradable, and this steak was clearly degraded on the window ledge. And the question was, what to do with it? And I decided to toss the steak in a hot acid bath which we used to clean up glassware. So, it’s fuming nitric and sulfuric acid. It’s really aqua regia in that bath, in that heavy lead dish, and the steak.

“And then, as I just had thrown it in there, and it fumed furiously and red fumes of who knows what, nitrous oxide of various kinds were being produced there. I became frantically concerned because fat is glycerides. So, I’m hydrolyzing the fat to glycerin. You make nitroglycerine by taking glycerin and nitric acid and sulfuric acid, and obviously, I’m going to produce a pile of nitroglycerine and blow up the entire building with my steak.

“Now, what is an interesting point there, why didn’t it? And of course, the reason is kinetics. That is, the kinetics of oxidation of the glycerol at that temperature is much, much, much, I mean, infinitely faster than the cold temperature nitration of glycerin. And so the place was safe.”

Continue reading →

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.

Denim kilts. Who knew? Credit: Flickr user alt_kilt

Chemist dons denim kilt to fight air pollution. [Boulder Weekly]

Dinosaurs, robots, and 3-D printing. Add a lightsaber and some bacon, and this might just be the coolest research of all time. [Forbes]

Talk about a green thumb. Russian scientists revive seeds that are 32,000 years old. [NY Times]

The Newscripts gang have seen some crazy molecular gastronomy in our day, but this takes the cake: An edible apple-flavored balloon. [Geek O System]

Researchers make superglue based on proteins from flesh-eating bacteria. Remind us never to accidently stick our fingers together with this stuff. [PhysOrg.com]

Ten chemical reactions caught on film. [iO9]

Not to be outdone, these guys collected five videos about hydrogen experiments. Do YOU know what hydrogen sounds like? [Tech E Blog]

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.

Credit: Flickr user Squirmelia

Scientists take another step toward making the highly desired “invisibility cloak,” by masking objects in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Hey hover-board scientists, the Newscripts gang would now like an update on YOUR progress. [BBC News]

U.K. chemists develop first magnetic soap. Newscripts gang wonder what happens if you wash with it and then go use the NMR. [PopSci]

Retired chemist (of course) figures out how to make hooch taste like high-end whiskey. [Gizmodo]

Attention Wine Spectator writers: Be prepared to add “with hints of meteorite” to your wine descriptions. [io9]

And in a final shot of alcohol-tinged news, mad scientist and cocktail whiz Dave Arnold opens his own bar. Get your cocktails fresh from the rotovap in NYC at Booker & Dax (2nd Ave. and 13th St.) [NY Post]

Who knew that tree rings could compose a musical score? Watch out John Williams, your job might be in jeopardy. [Gizmodo]