Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice!


September 30, 20230

Fall is in the air! It’s a favored season by many with the cooler weather and colorful fall leaves. It is also a time for favorite seasonings!

The first thing my mother wants to know when the weather starts changing is when she can get a Pumpkin Spice Latte!! Well, it’s not all “pumpkin and spice” anymore. And, some of these flavors don’t just pertain to fall or even to coffee for that matter. There are quite a few others to consider, such as apple, caramel, cranberry, fig, maple, hazelnut, and pecan. Top any one of these off with some salty pretzels, savory bacon and/or robust spices like cinnamon, rosemary or nutmeg, and well… your senses will be screaming fall! These flavors are showing up in milkshakes, craft cocktails, smoothies, desserts, pancakes, and so much more!

Why do we crave all of these flavors? Some say it’s your brain’s way of coping and bracing for the upcoming cooler season ahead. Scarcity creates demand since many of these flavors are only experienced during the fall season. According to perception researchers at Johns Hopkins University, it’s the powerful scent. The smell of autumn flavors often trigger familiar and cozy memories creating a national nostalgia and increased desire to reunite with the upcoming season. The smell of pumpkin reminds us of Thanksgiving. Scientists say that our sense of taste actually starts with our sense of smell. The parts of the brain that process odor are very close to the parts of the brain that process memory information. We are drawn to pumpkin-flavored items and other similarly nostalgic products because they remind us of moments in our lives that make us happy and bring us comfort, says Dr. Zishan Khan, a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health. Whatever it is, it’s amazing, it tantalizes my senses and it is GOOD!

Here are a few seasonal favorites and the establishments that provide them…

  • You can get a pumpkin spice latte or pumpkin coffee at 7-11.
  • Bob Evans Restaurants has a caramel apple breakfast menu to put a twist on their classics.
  • Caribou Coffee offers 15 different beverages from their extensive pumpkin spice menu!
  • If you love ice cream, Culvers offers a pumpkin pecan fresh frozen custard, Salted Caramel Pumpkin Concrete Mixer, and a Pumpkin Spice Shake. Oh my!
  • Dairy Queen has a Blizzard menu featuring Pumpkin Pie and Snickerdoodle, and several others.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with actor Ben Affleck and rapper Ice Spice for their new Ice Spice Munchkins drink. They merge frozen Dunkin’ coffee with Munchkins pumpkin-cake donut holes, and top it off with whipped cream and a dribble of caramel.
  • Wendy’s has a Pumpkin Spice Frosty and a Cream Cold Brew with the same flavors.
  • Starbucks introduced the world to pumpkin spice latte two decades ago! Some say that fall doesn’t start till they have the first sip of this famous and limited latte. Of course, Starbucks also offers so many more fall flavors like Iced Apple Crisp Oat Milk Shaken Espresso. That’s a mouth full!

Whatever your fall pleasure, I hope you enjoy it! “Go big or gourd home!”


August 31, 20230

It’s back to school time and that means back to packing daily school lunches again. The primary things we focus on when packing school lunches for our children is that we want them to be healthy and balanced, keep the costs reasonable, and make the process as easy as possible. We’ve compiled some tips for you to do this very thing.

According to Raising Children, healthy food for school lunches come from five healthy food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains, reduced-fat dairy, and protein. These foods have the nutrients needed that are important for a child’s growth, development, and learning. Your lunch provides you with the fuel to keep running at your top capacity. It’s what gets you through your afternoon.

Here’s a rule of thumb you can follow…

  • Use a variety of fruits and veggies such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, berries, applesauce, carrots or cucumbers with dip, cherry tomatoes, green salad, and bell pepper strips. These give your child energy, vitamins, anti-oxidants, fiber and water. They also help to fight off diseases later in life such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers. This should make up half of the lunch.
  • Include healthy protein sources such as rotisserie chicken, chicken salad, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, hummus and chick-peas, cottage cheese, beans, edamame, and Greek yogurt. These foods are important for your child’s growth and muscle development.
  • Pack a variety of grains such as quinoa, whole grain pasta, cereal, couscous, polenta, trail mix, granola, pasta salad, and whole grain muffins. Grain foods with a low glycemic index will give your child longer lasting energy and keep them feeling fuller longer.
  • Reduced-fat dairy such as milk and yogurt should be included. Compared to dairy made with whole milk, low-fat varieties provide less saturated fat, more protein, and less calories. Fat is critical for brain development in the first two years of life, but after this period of brain growth, children don’t require such a large amount of fat in their diets.
  • Healthy fats may also be included, but only a small portion.

Foods that should be avoided are salty, fatty and sugary food items, low-fiber foods, processed snacks, and drinks with caffeine or a lot of sugar.  It’s important to reduce the saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium.

Here are some ideas to pack in your child’s lunch, according to Strong4Life…

  • Homemade Lunchables
  • Chicken and guacamole
  • Pasta salad with grains and veggies
  • Nut butter cracker sandwiches
  • Chicken salad
  • Deconstructed tacos
  • Ham and cheese rollup
  • Leftover pasta

You also want to make sure you are not doing the same thing every day that burns you and your child out. Afterall, we want them to eat the lunch you prepared. Instead of always using bread to make a sandwich, try using wraps, lettuce leaves, tortillas, flatbreads, bagels, English muffins or pita bread. Try new fruits and vegetables too. Create a rainbow of colors!

Here are some tips for packing a healthy lunch:

  • Plan ahead of time.
  • Use leftovers from a healthy dinner.
  • Don’t pack foods your child doesn’t like.
  • Pack the lunch early.
  • Pack multiple lunches for a couple of days at a time instead of one each day.
  • Consider packing water or homemade fruit-infused water instead of sugary drinks or juices.
  • Let the kids help you make the lunches.
  • Pack a frozen milk, yogurt or water to keep the lunch box cool.
  • Use a freezable lunch bag to keep food cool.

Statistics show that kids who eat a healthy lunch achieve better grades, learn healthy eating habits, avoid the obesity battle and perform better in sports. If you need ideas, search the Internet for healthy school lunches or look on Pinterest. I was surprised to see how many easy to make and healthy choices there are out there.

Good luck with the school year and pack the cool!


July 31, 20230

The newest taste buzz is Kokumi! We all know the “Big Five Tastes” – Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Umami. Well, Kokumi is said to the be the newest taste sensation and potentially the sixth taste on our pallet. While it doesn’t have a taste of its own, it does provide a rich texture. Kokumi is a Japanese word which roughly translates to “rich taste” and/or “rich mouthfeel.” It’s kind of like the experience you get from drinking skim milk versus whole milk. You get a much richer and fuller taste drinking whole milk. It leaves a coating on your tongue and makes foods taste richer. It also rounds out sweet, salty and umami tastes.

Scientists have found that the Kokumi sensation is not owed to one molecule, but rather depends on an interaction or activation between various receptors and peptides. Researchers with the Ajinomoto Group managed to determine the chain of amino acids responsible for the sensation of kokumi, noticing that calcium receptors are activated by kokumi foods. As a result of the activation, the signals to the brain regarding textural mouthfeel, complexity, and duration of flavors are magnified. The Ajinomoto Group was then able to isolate the compound and create a powder that can be added to food, increasing its richness, roundness, and savoriness. A heightened experience of kokumi can be created by adding the powder to foods. However, it is also naturally present in protein-rich foods and fermented food such as alcohol, soy sauce, and fish sauce.

Kokumi has a bright future since it magnifies flavors and increases mouthfeel. The flavors pop and it also balances out flavors like salt does or increases sweetness in reduced sugar products. Imagine something tasting better and having less salt and/or sugar. It would be much healthier. In addition, it can be used to increase flavor in nutritious foods given to malnourished people and make food more appetizing for elderly people who have a diminished taste sensation.

(For more information on tastes, read our previous blog: “How Many Flavors Do We Taste?”)


June 30, 20230

We are experiencing the worst drought in a millennium which is causing a tomato shortage. Tomato prices are up as much as 80% from 2021, and very limited supply means the product may not even be on shelves for those willing to pay a higher price.

Tomato paste, which is the foundational component of ketchup, salsa and spaghetti sauce is disappearing from store shelves. US food inflation is already nearing 50-year highs, and this summer’s punishing drought is not helping matters. Farmers growing tomatoes are facing numerous challenges this year, particularly in California where more than 90% of the country’s tomatoes come from.

Coming into the tomato-planting season, inventory across the country was already in short supply because of years of drought, substandard crops and growers’ focusing on their other commodities, said Mike Montna, the president of the California Tomato Growers Association. Farmers who conserve rainwater to irrigate their fields used to be able to allocate three to four feet of water for every acre of farmland, but now only have three to four inches to use per acre. Therefore, farmers are increasingly turning to groundwater reservoirs which are more expensive. The historic drought has led to statewide restrictions in California limiting groundwater use. Many farmers are choosing to cut back on tomato production altogether, focusing on less water-hungry crops that are easier to cultivate in areas with groundwater restrictions and historically low rainfall.

Tomato paste is one of those ingredients so full of flavor that it can make a dish pop. It belongs in various recipes because it blends the umami and sweet tastes that result from cooking tomatoes for a long period of time. Because tomato paste has a strong flavor, most recipes only require a slight amount, so it’s best to buy it in small cans or jars. What happens when you run out of this versatile ingredient and your recipe calls for its unique flavor and texture?

Some like to use tomato sauce as a substitute, but the big difference between paste and sauce is the flavor and texture. Tomato paste is reduced by boiling it until it thickens. It produces a more robust, acidic flavor and a naturally sweet taste. The sauce is lighter, has more liquid, and it may also have added sugar, sweet notes, and other ingredients or flavors like garlic and basil. A rule of thumb is to use 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce for every one tablespoon of tomato paste your recipe calls for. Add the sauce to your recipe. Cook and stir constantly until the sauce has reduced and thickened. If your recipe calls for sugar in it, you might want to substitute ketchup and reduce the amount of sugar your recipe calls for. These are nice substitutes, but they are no match for the flavorful tomato paste.

What do you do if you are a manufacturer of a product that contains tomato paste? Natural flavor modifiers might help. LifeWise Ingredients has two products – P60M and Simply Savor Tomato. They boost the tomato profiles and add back the fresh, bright flavor. In addition, our products help potentiate a stronger tomato flavor which may reduce the amount of tomato paste you need in your applications. Why not click here to reach out for a free sample and try it? At LifeWise, flavor is just the beginning…

A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins. – Laurie Colwin


May 30, 20230

If you Google this question on the internet, you will get a lot of different answers. According to Thomas Hummel, author of the book, “Taste and Smell: An Update,” there are between five and several dozen independently experienced sensations on the tongue. The five most standard, and common flavors in food that are directly detected by the tongue are: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and savory/meaty (umami).

Taste is one of your most basic senses. It helps you evaluate food and drinks so you can determine what’s safe to eat and prepares your body to digest food. It certainly helped our ancestors to survive.

Taste refers to the perception of the sensory cells in your taste buds. When food compounds activate these sensory cells, your brain detects a taste like sweetness. Flavor, on the other hand, refers to taste and odor. Sensory cells in your nose interact with odor particles and then send messages to your brain.

As mentioned above, there are dozens of others tastes…

Kokumi is a newer flavor that some say will become the sixth standard and common taste. Kokumi translates (from Japanese) to “mouthfulness, and heartiness. This taste has been proclaimed by researchers from the same Japanese food company, Ajinomoto, who helped convince the taste world of the fifth basis taste, umami, a decade ago.

Astringent is a taste that humans perceive. It contains tannins that constrict organic tissue. It causes a puckering sensation that might be described as rubbery, dry or rough. It may also be described as harsh when found in wines. An astringent flavor is typically found in unripe fruit, green apples, rosemary, and lentils.

Cool or hot sensations are not referring to temperature but rather to foods that chemically trigger a sensation that is similar to a cool or hot sensation. For example, a cool sensation may come from mint or menthol, whereas hot sensations may come from spicy peppers. These sensations come from a different set of nerves. In fact, the exposed mucous membranes in the nose and eyes are also affected by these.

A few new ones that are currently being researched by scientists are: alkaline, metallic, and water-like.

Check in to next month’s blog to learn more about the science behind taste and what can affect your sense of taste.


April 28, 20230

Believe it or not, there are many factors that alter our flavor perception. Not sure I really gave this much thought before now, but it makes sense. These factors vary greatly from your age to your health.

Did you know that your taste buds begin to degenerate around age 45, and taste loss continues to diminish as you continue to age? As a result, you may need to increase certain flavors. For example, the thresholds for sweet, salt and bitter are 2.5 times higher in the elderly compared to younger consumers. That means you may need to increase the amount of the flavor you are looking for as you age to appreciate the same perception you had when you were younger. There’s actually a reason many kids don’t like sauerkraut or maybe dill pickles until they are older when the flavor seems less intense.

Meal timing and choice are contributing factors. Your taste sensitivity is reduced for one to four hours after eating or drinking. Spicier foods have a greater impact on this taste sensitivity.

Smoking can damage nerve endings and decrease the taste buds’ ability to register bitter, sour, sweet and salty tastes. Yet, just two days after quitting, these nerves begin to heal, and a person may experience a sense of taste and smell that is stronger than before.

Taste buds can be impacted by high and low temperatures. Decreasing temperature may increase the response to bitterness and decrease the response to sourness. The opposite is true as well. Increased temperatures may increase the response to sweetness and decrease it to saltiness and bitterness. Who knew?

There are additional factors that alter our taste perception as well. According to FONA, your hunger level, life experiences, health status, adaptation, and taste medium can be factors. It makes sense. If you have the flu, your taste buds are less sensitive. If you tie a comfort food to a special experience or memory in your life, it brings you great joy because it affects the other senses as well.

When you’re tasting, you usually engage other senses as well, such as smell, mouthfeel, texture, hearing and more. They help us to describe the flavors and tastes we are experiencing. Enjoy engaging your senses!


April 2, 20230

Consumers are growing more health-conscious than ever before. Because of this, the demand for health and wellness products is on the rise. Spices and herbs are replacing sugar, salt, and artificial additives. Consumers want natural flavoring, organic foods, and safe dietary supplements.

Spices and herbs have been in use for centuries both for culinary and medicinal purposes. They enhance the flavor of our food, and provide aroma, texture, and color to feed our senses. We use them to preserve foods, and many contain incredible nutritional and health benefits that protect from acute and chronic diseases. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is now ample evidence that spices and herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, as well as glucose and cholesterol lowering activities, and they contain properties that affect cognition and mood.

According to Medical News Today, the top ten healthy herbs and spices are as follows:

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cumin
  • Peppermint
  • Echinacea
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili Powder
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Cardamom

Spices and herbs not only improve the taste of food but are also a good source of vitamins B and C, iron, calcium, and other antioxidants. It’s like having a medicine cabinet in your cupboard.

Why not add a little spice to your life today?


February 26, 20230

Although there is no definitive answer as to who actually invented the snack bar in the US, it is clear that it started with some healthy granola in a kitchen that ended up in bar form. They became popular in the 1980’s by athletes and fitness enthusiasts. They typically contained cereal grains, nuts, protein powders, sweeteners, fats or dried fruits. It was deemed a healthy and convenient, on-the-go snack that provided quick energy on demand. You would typically find them in the health food section of the grocery store.

Today, you can find snack bars in several grocery store aisles, like cereal, snacks, health food, and even in the candy aisle. You can also find them in gas stations, convenience stores, pharmacies, gyms and grocery stores. We have a variety of flavors to choose from, such as peanut butter banana with dark chocolate, s’mores, blueberry cashew, lemon meringue, and so many, many more. They sound divine!

Snack bars are deemed to be healthy snacks for when you are on the go. It’s no wonder snack bars are all the rage! You can throw them in your bag, have some on hand in the car, quick snack when you’re out and unable to eat a meal, they don’t require refrigeration. The global market for protein bars is growing quickly and expected to surpass more than $2 billion by the end of 2026, according to the financial analysis site, MarketWatch.

What’s the catch? Many snack bars are highly processed, high in salt, and loaded with sugar. “Many protein bars are really just candy bars with a lot more protein,” said Dr. Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Would you purchase a box of candy bars to have on hand as quickly as you would a box of snack bars (also known as nutrition and/or protein bars)? Probably not.

You want to pay attention to the nutritional content of the snack bars you choose. Check the grams of added sugar and protein, as well as the number of calories. Look at the ingredients. Nuts and fruit are good. What about the other items? It is good to be informed. You might want to take a look at your go-to snack bar and compare it to sweets such as candy bars, cookies, and bakery items. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying don’t eat snack bars. They have all of the conveniences I mentioned above. You just might want to rethink whether or not you are eating something healthy for you. If that’s your goal – verify the ingredients or grab a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts.

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