While watching one of my favorite shows on Create TV, America's Test Kitchen, I learned yet another group of facts that has caused me to further distrust food manufacturers. My decision to eat more raw food, reducing the amount of processed foods by many brands and cook/bake more at home, seems to be further supported. America's Test Kitchen is a educational cooking show with a twist. It teaches why your apple pie tastes so different from a grocery store's or a gourmet restaurant's version. The secret is not only in the ingredients but the brands. Every recipe they make is accompanied by a brand taste test and equipment review. You learn why Cascadian Organic Cherries are the best for your pies and why one ice cream scoop is superior to another. Their reviews are honest and based on trust worthy facts that really have helped me in the kitchen. And quality is not always associated with price.

Today's episode compared Vanilla Ice Cream and discussed why the wording on your vanilla ice cream truly says a great deal about what is in the product and how that contributes to differences in taste and value. I recently (and prior) to seeing this episode spent almost 20 minutes in the freezer aisle of Super Target trying to pick out a vanilla ice cream with he fewest "fake" ingredients. You would not believe how many times the word artificial and complicated chemicals were listed as an ingredient in "food".

Fun Facts about Vanilla:

-Flavor in vanilla beans is predominantly due to the presence of a compound known as vanillin. Vanillin is produced three ways: from vanilla beans, from wood, and from resins.

- “vanilla extract”—natural vanillin extracted from vanilla beans.

-“natural vanilla flavor”—vanillin extracted from wood which is chemically identical to the synthetic vanillin found in artificial vanilla extract.

-Simple “vanilla” turned out to be code for a combination of synthetic and natural vanillin.

-“natural flavors”— (with no mention of vanilla at all) indicates just a trace of natural vanillan (there’s no required level) and other flavorings such as nutmeg that merely trigger an association

Keep these things in mind when picking out your ice cream.

The taste test winner for this episode was Ben & Jerry's Vanilla ice cream, which utilized "vanilla extract" (the real deal) and artificial ingredients to cheaply replace egg yolk but also affects flavor! My pick was Hagen-Daz, which came in 2nd because the vanilla flavor was too strong, but did not have any stabilizers (guar gum). The top taste picks also used regular sugar over syrups and had less aeration which produces a lighter texture but also adds empty ounces to each carton of ice cream (i.e. a pound of Ben & Jerry's may not equal the same as a pound of another brand as far as ingredients are concerned). For instance Ben & Jerry's and Hagen-Daz are about 25% air but Bryer's and Friendly's Vanilla has 94% increase in volume due to air.

My recommendation is to pick out your own (organic, regular or less processed) cream, milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla and create a rarity, authentically delicious vanilla ice cream.

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