Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Smoked Nuts and a Chemistry Lesson on BHT Butylated Hydroxytolulene

There are so many snack mixes available yet very few are paleo friendly. Most contain wheat, dairy, or an inflammatory oil like corn, soy, or canola. Even if you are not following the paleo lifestyle you will definitely gobble these up. I tested them on a few friends and they couldn't eat them fast enough. Hence, they are one of my kitchen creations that instantly became "blog worthy".

Make sure the nuts you use are raw and do not contain any inflammatory oils or salt. In the photo above you'll see that I used cashew pieces instead of buying the whole nut because they are significantly cheaper that way. You can also buy nuts in the bulk section of the grocery store so that you only have to buy what you will use in the near future. Oils in nuts can become rancid over time so store them in a cool place to slow down this process.

Combine a cup of each: almonds, pecans, cashews. Then add 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds. In a separate bowl combine cumin, garlic, salt, onion, and salish with 2T of oil using a whisk if you need to break up any spice clumps. Toss the nuts with the spice mixture and spread them evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat and bake at 350 degrees for 15 min.

Something I was surprised to discover was that the pecans roasted this way tasted a lot like pretzels. I love pretzels so it was a nice surprise to find a paleo friendly version.

Spice Mixture
2T Oil of your choice*
1/2t salish (smoky salt. I found it in the bulk spice section at Whole Foods.)
1/2t onion powder
1/2t salt
1t ground cumin
1t garlic powder

Flavor Variation (non paleo) but reminds me of Chex mix
reduce cumin to 1/4t
use 2T of ghee instead of oil
add 2t worcestershire

*When I first made this recipe I did the big no-no of using Olive Oil because it was the only neutral tasting oil I had available. Finding the perfect fat to cook with seems daunting these days because so many of our choices are inflammatory oils or oils, like Olive Oil, that break down at high temperatures. When I made the "Chex Mix" variation I used ghee because it has a smoke point of 450F. I've missed eating Chex Mix for years and so I ate quite a bit of this mix in one sitting. Then I had a reaction similar, but not as intense, as the one my body has to dairy, so ghee is off the table for me. So a neutral tasting oil with a high smoke point that isn't inflammatory looks to be avocado oil.

Worcestershire isn't paleo because it contains sugar and the ever questionable natural flavorings. I figured at 1g of sugar per teaspoon the impact wouldn't be that significant since only 2 teaspoons were being used. Looking for a better alternative I discovered Michelle from Nom Nom Paleo recommends The Wizard's Worcestershire sauce. Looking over the ingredients it still contains sugar, same amount as my Lea & Perrins, but at least the ingredients are all organic and there is a gluten free version.

The Chex Mix StoryI used to love Chex Mix but I quit buying it years ago when I discovered it was preserved with BHT. One day I had the pleasure of testing BHT in the laboratory and it's a very fine white powder that smells almost exactly like moth balls. Moth balls keep bugs away and BHT is a preservative which had me quickly wondering what BHT does on a cellular level. Working in a lab I had access to all of the MSDS sheets of the chemicals we worked with. That is when I began reading food ingredient labels with a very close eye. It's appalling what they allow into our food. The quote below is from section 11 of the MSDS. Follow the MSDS link to learn more.

MSDS Toxicological information of BHT (Butylated Hydroxytolulene)
 Routes of Entry: Absorbed through skin. Dermal contact. Inhalation. Ingestion.
Toxicity to Animals: Acute oral toxicity (LD50): 650 mg/kg [Mouse].
Chronic Effects on Humans:
CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: A4 (Not classifiable for human or animal.) by ACGIH, 3 (Not classifiable for human.) by IARC.
MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast. May cause damage to the following organs: blood, liver, central nervous system (CNS).
Other Toxic Effects on Humans:
Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of inhalation (lung irritant). Slightly hazardous in case of ingestion, .
Special Remarks on Toxicity to Animals: Not available.The Wizard's Worcestershire sauce
Special Remarks on Chronic Effects on Humans:
May affect genetic material (mutagenic). May cause cancer based on animal test data. No human data found. May cause adverse reproductive effects and birth defects (teratogenic)
Special Remarks on other Toxic Effects on Humans:
Acute Potential Health Effects: Skin: Causes mild to moderate skin irritation. Eyes: Causes moderate eye irritation. Inhalation: May cause respiratory tract (nose, throat) irritation. Ingestion: May be harmful if swallowed. The clinical manifestatioins of acute are not well known. May cause gastritis, vomiting, hypermotility, diarrhea. May affect behavior/central nervous system(dizziness, weakness, somnolence, slurred speech, ataxia, visual and auditory hallucinations, headache, confusion, temporary loss of conciousness), respiration (respiratory depression), blood (reduced ability to clot) Chronic Potential Health Effects: Ingestion: Prolonged or repeated ingestion may affect the liver, kidneys, thyroid, adrenal gland, behavior/central nervous system and learning ability, blood(reduced ability to clot), and may cause weight loss. Ingestion or skin contact may also cause allergic reaction (dermatitis, asthma)