Saturday, December 19, 2015

Homemade Granola Bars

Last year I made granola bars as Christmas gifts for most of my family and friends. Everyone loved them so I'm doing it again this year. Like most foods, making granola bars from scratch creates a healthier version than popular pre-made brands. This year I've slightly altered my recipe and created nutrient fact panels.

Here's the basic recipe I've been using:
8x8 pan
1½ cup Oats
½ cup Brown Rice Syrup
1 cup Crunchy (nuts, graham crackers etc.)
½ cup Sweet (chocolate, marshmallows, dried fruit etc.)
½ cup Other (pumpkin seeds, sesame sticks, cereal flakes, etc.)
Optional tablespoon of peanut butter, coconut oil, etc
Optional teaspoon vanilla extract, cinnamon, cocoa powder etc

Makes 8-10 bars
Bars stay fresh for two weeks.
1. Preheat oven to 325F
2. Mix ingredients in a bowl
3. Lightly grease pan before pouring in the granola mix. Distribute evenly
4. Bake for 20-30 minutes
5. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting

For Christmas 2014, I made flavors like Cranberry-Walnut-Pumpkin Seed, Dark Chocolate-Walnut-Cranberry, Peanut butter-Chocolate chip, Smores (chocolate chips, marshmallows and graham crackers), and Dark Chocolate-Coconut-Cashew. In my original post, I explained the health benefits of some of the ingredients I chose. 

For Christmas 2015, I mixed up the ingredients creating flavors like teddy-graham smores, cranberry-almond-pumpkin seed, double nut-chocolate chip, and dark chocolate-walnut-cranberry. This year I used the USDA super-tracker site to get nutrient information and a free label generator from to create nutrient fact panels for my bars.

Almond-Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Bars:

Double Nut-Chocolate Chip Bars:

Teddy Graham Smores Bars:

When comparing my bars to popular brands like Quakers, Nature Valley and Special K bars, I noticed that these brands seem to determine the bar size based on the amount that will equal 100 calories. My bars are much larger (about 1 inch by 4 inches) than Quaker or special k bars. They are closest to the size of a nature valley bar but a bit thicker.

While my bars contain more calories than these brands, they also contain more protein, dietary fiber, and minerals like calcium and iron. Except for my smores bars, I used all organic ingredients containing no soy or corn syrup. (I used teddy grahams and marshmallows in the smores that did contain these ingredients and were not organic.) 

My fruit, nut and seed bars are a healthy alternative to more processed products available today. Pumpkin seeds, cranberries, walnuts, almonds, cashews and peanut butter are healthy snack options that provide a variety of nutritional benefits. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Coleslaw Research Project

The following is a research project on reducing the fat content of coleslaw. I worked on this project over nine weeks for a course called Experimental Food Science at Queens College. This project helped me discover my interest in product development. My group members and I spent alot of time working on our recipes and I'm proud of our results. In addition to this report, we had to present our findings to the class and create a poster display.

Sensory Evaluation and Consumer Acceptability of Low Fat Coleslaw Prepared by replacing mayonnaise with plain and Greek yogurts

 Abstract: Consumer preferences were analyzed in testing Coleslaw recipes formulated with variable amounts of fat content by replacing part or all of the mayonnaise with plain or Greek yogurt. The four recipes were evaluated by an untrained panel with 20 members (Average age 30, 4 Males:16 Females) and statistical analysis was done using one-way analysis of variance and a tukey test. None of the samples showed a significant difference for tanginess, sweetness or line spread. Yellowness was significantly higher in the mayonnaise sample while thickness was significantly higher for the 100% Greek yogurt sample in sensory evaluation. There was no significant difference in overall acceptance between the control mayonnaise based recipe and the 50/50 mayo/Greek yogurt recipe which contained 7 g of fat, less than half of the control’s 18 g of fat, which also decrease cholesterol and saturated fat levels. The 50/50 sample also contained more protein and calcium for fewer calories than the control. Successful formulation of a modified recipe decreasing fat and calories in Coleslaw is beneficial to preventing coronary heart disease and obesity in the population.                          Keywords: Coleslaw, Mayonnaise, Yogurt, Greek yogurt, Sensory Test, Line Spread Test

     Consuming a diet high in full fat foods can lead to obesity which is linked to many of the leading causes of death in the United States. More than one third of Americans (around 78.6million people) are obese. (Ogden)
     Coleslaw is a fairly common side dish often served alongside sandwiches or burgers. Coleslaw is traditionally made from cut up vegetables covered in a mayonnaise based dressing. While the vegetables offer a variety of beneficial nutrients, the mayonnaise in the dressing is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. 
     Recently, researchers have been working to find acceptable lower fat alternatives to products like mayonnaise. One study tested mayonnaise made with soy milk instead of egg. These scientists found that substituting some of the egg (about 50%) with soy milk lowered the fat content while still creating an acceptable product. (Rahmati) We considered this method of combining ingredients in our research. 
     Another study tested Greek yogurt made with different types of animal milks each at three different levels of fat. Researchers determined that consumers are sensitive to milk from goat or sheep, but don't seem to notice much of a difference between fat levels. They concluded that reduced fat cows milk produced a healthier and
acceptable Greek yogurt. (Atamian) 
     In our research we attempted to make a lower fat coleslaw by replacing the mayonnaise with plain yogurt, fat free Greek yogurt, and a combination of 50% mayo / 50% yogurt. We tested for sensory factors like color, tanginess, sweetness, thickness and acceptability. We also evaluated viscosity.

     Three modified coleslaw recipes were compared to a control. Preliminary testing was done to determine the optimal method of mixing and what sensory characteristics to evaluate.
The materials we used to make our coleslaw included: Packages of Dole Classic Coleslaw Mix (Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. Monterey, CA), Fage Total Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Fage USA Dairy Industry Inc. Johnstown, NY), Stonyfield Organic Plain Low Fat Yogurt (Stonyfield Farm Inc. Londonderry, NH ), Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise (Unilever US, Inc. Englewood Cliffs NJ), Granulated Sugar (Domino Foods, Inc.Brooklyn, NYand McCormick Onion Powder (McCormick & Company Inc. Sparks, MD). 
     We determined that a serving size was ¼ cup and that the coleslaw should be served chilled at 17C.

Table 1: Formulation for Coleslaw Samples
Ingredients: Control: Mayo Plain Yogurt Greek Yogurt 50/50 Mayo/Yogurt
Coleslaw 14 oz 14 oz 14 oz 14 oz
Sugar ¼ cup (58 g) ¼ cup (58 g) ¼ cup (58 g) ¼ cup (58 g)
Apple Cider Vinegar 2 Tablespoons 2 Tablespoons 2 Teaspoons 2 Teaspoons
Onion Powder ½ teaspoon ½ teaspoon ½ teaspoon ½ teaspoon
Salt ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon
Pepper ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon
Mayonnaise 1 cup (236 g) N/A N/A ½ cup (112 g)
Stonyfield Low Fat Yogurt N/A 1 cup (270 g) N/A N/A
Fage 0% Fat Greek Yogurt N/A N/A 1 cup (264 g) ½ cup (130 g)

     First, we measured each ingredient in grams using a digital scale. We prepared each sample by mixing the mayo or yogurt, sugar, vinegar, onion powder, salt and pepper with an electric mixer at level 1 for 45 seconds. Then we poured the dressing mixture over the coleslaw mix and tossed. The samples were refrigerated for 20 minutes before serving and temperature was recorded at 17F.
     The electric mixer we used was a Black & Decker spatula smart heavy duty power boost model.

Sensory Evaluation
     20 panelists from Queens College (4 males, 16 females, average age 30) judged yellowness, tanginess, sweetness, thickness, and overall acceptability on a 1-9 scale. (1 being weak and 9 being strong) Sample size was 1 tablespoon placed in a Dixie cup. All four samples were given a three digit code to number the dixie cups which were placed on trays. Water was provided between samples.

Table 2: Sensory Characteristics Evaluated

Sensory Attribute Definition
Appearance Yellowness Lower numbers mean “light yellow”

and higher numbers mean “dark yellow”
Flavor Sweetness Tastes similar to sugar or honey, one of the basic flavors,

weak means “bland” and strong means “very sweet”

Tanginess Tang is a specific tart spicy flavor similar to zest or piquant,

weak means “bland” and strong means “very tangy”
Texture Thickness Rate at which sample flows down the side of a tilted container,

weak means “watery” and strong means “thicker”
Overall Acceptability Liking Overall consumer acceptability

Objective Evaluation
     A line spread test was done to evaluate our four samples of coleslaw dressing for viscosity. This test was performed on the third lab day, so we prepared new batches of dressings, the same way as the samples, except that we didn't include the coleslaw vegetables. Line spread tests were done three times for each formulation in order to get a mean value. Each test was performed using 2 tablespoons of dressing.

Data Analysis
     Statistical analysis will be performed using SPSS Statistics Processor, (2013, IBM Inc., Armonk, NY). Analysis of variance was done as well a tukey post-hoc test. To create nutrient fact labels, we used The Food Processor program, version 10120, ESHA Research 2012.

Sensory Evaluation
     Analysis of data indicate that there is no significant difference (p < 0.05) between any of the coleslaw samples for sweetness or tanginess. Yellowness was significantly higher in the control mayonnaise coleslaw sample. Thickness was significantly higher in the Greek yogurt sample. For overall acceptability there was no significant difference between the control mayonnaise sample and the 50/50 mayo/Greek yogurt sample. The panelists disliked the Greek sample which earned the lowest mean values of 2.9 for yellowness and 3.8 for overall acceptability. The Greek sample was significantly thicker with a mean value of 7.1 (refer to table 3).
     Tanginess and sweetness might not be important characteristics of coleslaw since the control mayo sample received the same score for tanginess as the Greek sample. Panelists favored a less thick, more yellow coleslaw sample.
The control mayonnaise coleslaw sample was rated the highest for yellowness which makes sense since Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise is made with egg yolks that contain carotenoids.
     The Greek yogurt coleslaw sample was rated the thickest which makes sense the process of making Greek yogurt involves extensive straining. Less liquid means a thicker texture.
     Overall acceptability was not significantly different between the control mayonnaise coleslaw sample and the 50/50 mayo/Greek yogurt sample. They both had means of 6.4, indicating that the 50/50 sample is an acceptable lower fat replacement for the mayo control sample.

Table 3: Sensory Attributes for Coleslaw Samples (Mean + SD)

Sensory Attributes Samples

Control: Mayo Greek Yogurt Plain Low-Fat Yogurt 50/50 (Mayo/Greek)
Yellowness 5.0ᵇ + 2.0 2.9ª + 1.6 3.7ªᵇ + 1.5 3.8ªᵇ + 2.0
Sweetness 5.5ª + 1.9 4.9ª + 2.5 4.4ª + 2.0 5.9ª + 1.3
Tanginess 5.0ª + 2.0 5.0ª + 2.6 4.3ª + 2.2 4.6ª + 1.6
Thickness 6.2ªᵇ + 1.7 7.1ᵇ + 1.3 5.1ª + 1.7 5.7ª + 1.7
Overall Acceptability 6.4ᵇ + 1.8 3.8ª + 2.0 4.4ª + 1.5 6.4ᵇ + 1.7

Figure 1: Bar Graph for Sensory Attributes of Coleslaw Samples

Objective Analysis
      In the line spread test the analysis of the data resulted in no significant difference between samples. A visible difference was seen in the thickness of the Greek yogurt sample. (Refer to table 4 below) Greek yogurt is made by straining liquids off of yogurt, so it makes sense that it would have a thicker texture.

Figure 2: Averages of Line spread Test

Table 4: Line Spread Tests (Mean + SD)

Line Spread Test Control: Mayo Plain Yogurt Greek Yogurt 50/50 (Mayo/Greek)
Averages of 3 Trials 3.81ª + 0.43 4.1ª + 0.05 2.7ª + 0.06 4.26ª + 0.01
* Mean + Standard Deviation of 3 trials (12 measurements)
*Four values were obtained from each individual line spread test, measured in centimeters
* Means with the same superscripts indicate no significant difference (Tukey test, p<0.05)

Figure 3: Nutrition Facts
Control: Mayo Sample
Greek Yogurt Sample

Plain Yogurt Sample 
50/50 Mayo/Greek Sample

Nutrient Analysis
     Greek yogurt has calcium and protein with no cholesterol or fat making our Greek yogurt coleslaw the healthiest sample. It was chosen for the 50/50 mayo/Greek sample for its nutritional benefits. By replacing 50% of the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt, the 50/50 sample has almost half the calories, fat and cholesterol of the control mayo sample. The 50/50 sample also contains protein that the control did not.
     The Greek yogurt sample was the healthiest option. It fulfills FDA requirements to be labeled as low calorie, fat free and cholesterol free. It contained only 21% of calories of the mayo control sample.
     The 50/50 mayo/Greek sample meets FDA standards to be labeled as a reduced fat, reduced calorie and reduced cholesterol product. It contained only 39% of the fat of the mayo control sample and only 53% of the calories.
     The control recipe contained 18g of fat, 2.5 of those grams were from saturated fat. The 50/50 sample contained only 39% of the fat. The plain yogurt sample contained 33% while the Greek sample contained 0% of the fat of the control mayonnaise sample.

     This study demonstrated that low and reduced fat versions of coleslaw can be created that still fulfill certain sensory characteristics and are overall acceptable to consumers. The control mayonnaise sample was equally acceptable and showed no significant difference to the 50/50 mayo/Greek yogurt sample. 
     We initially hypothesized that using yogurt by itself to replace mayonnaise would result in noticeable flavor differences, however no significant differences were found for sweetness or tanginess between samples which seemed to indicate that flavor was not an important factor for overall acceptability. 
     With the right ratio of 50% mayonnaise and 50% Greek yogurt, we were able to create a product that contained the nutritional benefits of the yogurt while adequately meeting sensory characteristics needed for consumer acceptability. 
     This healthier version of coleslaw should be incorporated into restaurant menus to provide a delicious yet healthier option to traditional coleslaw. More research should be done on the exact ratios of mayonnaise to Greek yogurt for replacing mayonnaise in other recipes. Sensory analysis performed with a larger panel would also produce more statistically significant results. 
     The line spread test may have been flawed. The plain yogurt sample appeared much more liquidy than the others. In our test, we may have taken a scoop that somehow more viscous than the sample overall. Our sensory results revealed that texture was an important factor in consumer acceptability so further studies on viscosity should be done.

Ingredients and equipment provided by the FNES department at CUNY Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11367. The experiments were performed with the help of Eguono Evwiehor, Stephanie Honeywell and Jacqueline Lofters.

Ogden, Carroll, Kit &Flega. Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 311(8), 806-814.

Rahmati, Kobra. Mazaheri, Teherani, Mostafa. Daneshvar, Kazem. Soy milk as an emulsifier in mayonnaise. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 51(11), 3341-3347.

Atamian, Olabi, Baghdadi, Omar, & Toufeili(2014). The characterization of the physiochemical and sensory properties of full-fat, reduced-fat and low-fat bovine, caprines and ovine Greek yogurt. Food Science & Nutrition. 2(2), 164-173. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Oxidation reactions involve molecules being broken down and loosing electrons. Usually, when oxidation occurs in the body it is followed by a Reduction reaction that involves electrons being gained by the molecule. Sometimes oxidation occurs without reduction, resulting in the formation of free radicals. Free radicals are atoms with an unpaired electron. Unpaired electrons are highly unstable. They can destabilize other molecules and damage our cells.

Antioxidants are compounds that have the ability to prevent or repair the damage cause by oxidation reactions in the human body. Antioxidants come in the form of vitamins, minerals or phytochemicals.

Our bodies naturally produce a small amount of free radicals in the process of energy production. However, a large accumulation of free radicals has been linked to many diseases including cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's & Parkinson's.

Recently, researchers have been studying the connections between antioxidants and cancer prevention. We know that whole food sources of antioxidants like fruits vegetables and whole grains are more beneficial than artificially created antioxidant supplements. Studies have shown that populations consuming high amounts of whole food antioxidants have lower rates of cancer.

Vitamin antioxidants work by donating their electrons or hydrogen atoms to free radicals to stabilize them, reducing the damage caused by oxidation.
Examples include: Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
Food sources include:
Vitamin C content is high in cantaloupe, kiwi, citrus fruits, mango and pineapple.
Vitamin A can be made from the provitamin beta carotene which is found in carrots and spinach.

Mineral antioxidants act as cofactors, assisting enzymes in antioxidant enzyme systems that convert free radicals to less damaging substances for excretion. Mineral antioxidants also breakdown fatty acids that are oxidized, destroying the free radicals and making more antioxidant vitamins available.
Examples include: Selenium, Copper, Iron, Zinc and Manganese.
Food sources include:
Iron content is high in meat, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, lentils, soy and spinach.
Selenium content is high in nuts, seafood, whole grains, seeds and mushrooms.

Antioxidant phytochemicals help stabilize free radicals similar to antioxidant vitamins.
Examples include: Beta-Carotene, Apigenin, Anthocyanins, Catechins, and Glucosinolates.
Food sources include:
EGCG found in tea, especially green tea.
Resveratrol found in the skins of grapes, blueberries and raspberries
Ellagic Acid found in berries, pomegranate and walnuts.
Sulfoaphane found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbages.

The best way to get the health benefits of antioxidants is to incorporate a variety of types into your diet. Eat the rainbow, incorporate a range of colors of fruits and vegetables on your plate.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Grapefruit Lotion from Scratch

My first lotion experiment went well, but I wanted to make a slightly thicker product. I modified the original recipe by adding shea butter to thicken and replacing half of the almond oil with apricot oil just to mix it up.

My second lotion recipe:
5 cups of Water1/4 cup Sweet Almond Oil1/4 cup Apricot Oil
1/2 cup Emulsifying Wax1/4 cup Stearic Acid

1 Tbsp Raw Shea Butter1 Tbsp Citric Acid1 Tbsp Potassium Sorbate1/2 teaspoon Vitamin E Oil1 teaspoon Grapefruit Essential OilRed Cosmetic Grade Colorant(yields 48 oz of lotion)

Pot one: emulsifying wax, almond oil, apricot oil, stearic acid and shea butter

Pot two: water and potassium sorbate

Both pots are heated. Pot one removed from heat as soon as wax has melted completely. Pot two is removed from heat right before boiling and citric acid is added. Pot two is slowly added to pot one while stirring. 

I stirred for 5 minutes and then let my lotion cool, stirring again every 20 minutes. After an hour had passed, I added vitamin E oil, grapefruit essential oil and red colorant to achieve the color and scent I desired. The lotion had to cool for another 2-3 hours before I could bottle it. 

While I waited for my lotion to cool, I created an ingredient label and a picture label for my lotion bottles:

Grapefruit Lotion
Handmade with Love by Audrey
Use within a year
Water, Emulsifying Wax, Almond Oil, Apricot Oil, Stearic Acid, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Vitamin E Oil, Grapefruit Essential Oil and Cosmetic Grade Red Colorant

Friday, December 4, 2015

Homemade Lavender Lotion

I became interested in making my own lotion from scratch after making it in a lab for the organic chemistry course I was taking. We used lanolin (sheep fat) which is pretty common in commercial lotions. In the lab, we experimented with different ingredients to see how they impacted the final lotion product.

        I enjoyed the lab but wanted to make a vegan lotion, using plant based fats. I wanted to add scent and possibly color. I started googling recipes for diy lotion and quickly became frustrated. Many diy recipes for products like lotion and soap are just wrong. Lotions are emulsions, meaning there is a liquid portion blending with a fat/oil/wax portion. In order for this to occur, an emulsifying agent must be used. Far too many of the diy recipes I found were just blending fats together (won't moisturize skin and dosent really qualify as lotion) or missing the emulsifying agent (meaning the final product will separate when left standing)! I lost some faith in the internet diy community that day.
        I started by looking at ingredient labels of lotions from my favorite natural body care brands, including Lush, Honest Co and the Body Shop. I looked at what ingredients overlapped, what was found in all the lotions. I researched the ingredients that stood out and started developing a recipe with them, following the model we used in the chemistry lab. While the chemicals in lotion making are fairly harmless, I strongly believe that a background knowledge of some chemistry basics is necessary to make a proper lotion from scratch.

        The first recipe I concocted was:
5 cups of Water
1/2 cup Sweet Almond Oil
1/2 cup Emulsifying Wax
1/4 cup Stearic Acid
1 Tbsp Citric Acid
1 Tbsp Potassium Sorbate
1/2 teaspoon Vitamin E Oil
1 teaspoon Lavender Essential Oil
Blue & Red Cosmetic Grade Colorant
(yields 48 oz of lotion)

Pot one: emulsifying wax, almond oil and stearic acid

Pot two: water, potassium sorbate

Both pots are heated. Pot one is removed from heat as soon as wax has melted.

Pot two is removed from heat right before boiling and citric acid is added. At this point, I took the temperature of both pots to make sure they were close to each other.

Pot two is slowly added to pot one while stirring.

Stirring really helps the emulsifying agent do its job and keeps the oils and liquids from separating. I stirred for a solid 5 minutes and then let it sit, stirring every 20-30 minutes for the next 3 hours.

After the lotion had cooled for one hour, I added the lavender essential oil, vitamin E oil and cosmetic grade colorants. I didn't really measure these, just slowly added and stirred until I got the color and smell I was looking for. (I went for a light purple which was hard to capture in pictures)

Once the lotion had almost cooled completely (about 3 hours) I used a funnel to bottle my lotions. I'm really happy with the way the lotion turned out. I had fun labeling the containers too.

I used 8oz and 4oz containers for my lotion. This recipe yielded 48 oz of lotion. The consistency was somewhat liquidy making it ideal for a pump style container. It has a nice lavender scent and moisturizes the skin without leaving any greasy residue.