Ingredient Insights: Liquid Smoke, Tomato Paste, Stevia, & Blueberries


I came across an Overheard LA post yesterday while scrolling through Instagram. It went something like this:

“What’s ‘lap ride?’ Is it a music festival? I keep seeing #lapride on instagram.”
“You mean LA Pride?”

Happy Sunday and happy Pride, everyone! It’s been one heck of a week, and boy, am I glad it’s Sunday – time to unwind with a cup of afternoon coffee (I totally slept in this morning, no ragrets) and a daily dose of the fun kind of news like scrolling through Eater LA or Thrillist or, in your case, Ingredient Insights!

Let’s get started!


Liquid Smoke:

Liquid smoke is literally liquid smoke.

Let’s rewind a little bit to how it was discovered. Liquid smoke was created by Ernest H. Wright back in 1895 – after dabbling in some experimentations to perfect the formula. But before that, he discovered liquid smoke at the age of 15, by tasting the black liquid that ran down his stovepipe (because that’s obviously what you would do at that age, right?). He learned that when smoke rises from the stove, it produces vapor that collects in droplets and runs back down the ventilation pipe. And there you have it.

As for commercial production, it’s pretty much the same process – hickory or mesquite woods are burned at a high temperature, then smoke particles are collected from the vapor, the vapor is then distilled into concentrate, the concentrate goes through a filter (see ya later, soot & ashes), and voila! Liquid smoke!

This seasoning is commonly used to help food replicate the deep, smokey flavor of being on a wood-fired grill without the actual wood-fired grill.

“I would never eat something with an artificial smokey flavor! Blegh!”

Welp, hate to break it to ya but liquid smoke is E V E R Y W H E R E. It’s just in disguise as “natural smoke flavor” on food labels. Barbecue sauce, chips, smoked cheese, jerky – the list goes on. We’ve even used it in our Smoky Maple BBQ sauce and Roasted Sweet Potato & Tempeh Bacon Breakfast Burritos.

You can find liquid smoke at most grocery stores – Whole Foods has been our go-to for it. If not, the internet’s also a good place to look. I recommend Wright’s brand for the purest liquid smoke.


Tomato Paste:

“Doesn’t tomato paste have lectins in it?”
“But there’s lectins in tomatoes!”
“Why do you use tomato paste if there’s lectins in tomatoes?!”
“LECTINS OMG NOOO!!!”

Okay that last one was made-up, but to answer this popular controversy, there are no harmful lectins in tomato paste (as long as you check the labeling and make sure there’s no funky ingredients added to it). Why? Because tomato paste is just concentrated tomatoes that’ve been cooked down with the seeds and skins strained out… And then its cooked down even more until it’s super dense, aka a paste.

As compared to tomato sauce, tomato paste is way more intense in flavor, so a little goes a long way, which is why cans of tomato paste are much smaller than a can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce.

If you have 30 minutes to spare, crack open a can and make yourself a nice bowl of Mediterranean Chickpea Stew for lunch!

A can of tomato paste is probably a dollar or less at your local grocery store – may as well grab a few, amiright? Just be sure to purchase organic tomato paste in BPA-free cans, as tomatoes soak up high amounts of pesticides and BPA is terrible for the human biome.


Stevia:

You either hate it or you love it, and honestly, I personally don’t like it. Mainly for its strange licorice-like, bitter flavor. But hey, if you enjoy Stevia, all props to you.

Stevia was originally discovered in the late 1800’s and was known as Kaa-he or “sweet herb” by the native population, who have used it as a treatment for burns, digestive problems, and even as a contraceptive. This zero-calorie sweetener comes from the Stevia plant, a part of the Asteracae family, that mainly grows in Paraguay and Brazil.

This day in age, stevia can help:

  • treat endocrine diseases
  • keep blood sugar levels balanced
  • manage cholesterol
  • sweeten your coffee and pastries without all the sugar

PSA: use Stevia with caution, as it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar. Insane, I know!

Another PSA: don’t ever lick Stevia by itself. Not even a drop. I made that mistake once – never again. It’s STRONG and STUPIDLY SWEET.

There are actually two compounds that make up Stevia: Rebaudioside A, which is most often extracted and used in Stevia sweeteners. And Stevioside, which makes up 10% of the sweetness and is the main reason for Stevia being slightly bitter.

Many of the Stevia sweeteners on the market today go through dozens of steps of processing, from bleaching to altering chemicals to even adding other sugar alcohols into the mix – so be sure that when you look for pure Stevia to buy one without any added other fillers like dextrose or even cane sugar. If you can, look for pure stevia as a liquid in a tincture or in pure, powdered form!


Blueberries:

A blueberry’s motto: “Tiny but mighty!”

Seriously guys, blueberries are such a super fruit. I’m sure you already know what a blueberry is and what they look like and all that, but maybe you’ll learn a new thing or two about them after reading this section!

Blueberries are one of the most nutritious and antioxidant-rich foods in the world. They help fight cancer, reduce risks of heart disease, reduce inflammation, and more! Like I said, they’re super fruits. I don’t know about you, but my memory is terrible – blueberries help out here too. Many studies have shown that eating blueberries help improve memory and cognition.

Blueberries are not only low in calories, but they’re also full of fiber, which helps keep you feeling full for longer, thus resulting in weight loss.

Wow, what can’t this fruit do?! I guess they can’t play golf or sing karaoke. That would just be weird.

Did you know…

  • that Florida grows 17 million pounds of blueberries every year? Now you know.
  • that blueberries freeze in only 4 minutes? Now you know.
  • that there are two types of blueberries, highbush (what you would find in stores) and lowbush (used for processing jams, juice, etc.)? Now you know.
  • that 1 cup of blueberries equals 25% of your daily amount of vitamin C? Now you know.
  • that Native Americans used to call blueberries “Star Berries” because the blossoms made a star shape? Now you know.

I’ve been obsessed with blueberries recently sooooo keep a look out for a new recipe with blueberries this week!

And if you’re shopping for blueberries at your local market, be sure to buy organic ones so you don’t poison your body with pesticides!


LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

If you haven’t heard, Ryan and I have started a campaign to help support our start-up, Hoolivegans. Long story short, we want to start giving you something a little more personal that you can easily whip up in your home with little-to-no effort. With the fall and winter seasons approaching, we thought it would be a great idea to create instant vegan & sugar-free hot chocolate mixes!

You can click here for more information about Hoolivegans, such as what we’re about and why we want to do this. And the best part is, if you donate $10 or more, you will receive a complimentary supply of instant hot chocolate mixes AND a special surprise RIGHT TO YOUR DOORSTEPS.

Hoolivegans means a lot to Ryan and I – it would mean the world to us if you could help, even if it’s as simple as sharing a link to your friends and family.

Till next week!
Kimberly

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