NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
April 27, 2000
Maybe it was the way the sunlight was filtering through our living room window the other day. Or maybe it was the way our dog Whitey was lying, soaking up the heat from those golden rays. While I can't pinpoint the source, something in that scene made me feel oh so comfortable. And then I started thinking about custard.
Custard is one of those foods that make me feel warm inside--not warm in the physical sense, the way a bowl of soup warms my throat and then my stomach, but warm in a spiritual sense: a feeling of emotional coziness.
For some reason, custard reminds me of Saturday afternoons, probably because Mom spent many Saturday mornings baking when I was a kid. I think I first experienced custard's pale-yellow smoothness as a filling in Mom's tarts. The texture of baked custard is unforgettable. To compare baked custard to mere pudding is to do a great injustice to this delectable union of eggs and milk, which becomes even more memorable with the addition of a pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg or both.
My wife Nicki has stories she can tell about childhood memories involving custard too. But then, doesn't everyone? Shortly after we were married, Nicki's mom gave us a set of custard cups as a gift--the only set of glass dishes that has survived our moves intact.
Custard may not be able to cure nostalgia, but it certainly makes me feel a little closer to home. I'm sure the recipe that follows is capable of starting family traditions.
Almond Crunch Macaroni Custard
This recipe is one of many available through the North Dakota Wheat Commission.
The recipe's creator is Linda Jung of Norwich, N.D.
Yield: 9 servings
½ cup ring macaroni
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon skim (fat-free) milk
¼ cup flour
14 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
6 tablespoons soft butter, divided
1½ teaspoons almond extract
½ cup slivered almonds
Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain. In a blender, place eggs, 1 cup milk, flour, 8 tablespoons brown sugar, 4 tablespoons butter and almond extract. Blend on medium speed for two minutes. Pour mixture into a bowl, fold in macaroni and then spoon into a greased and floured 8x8-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 40 to 45 minutes or until custard is set. Remove custard and turn oven broiler on. While custard is baking, mix remaining brown sugar and butter with slivered almonds. Spread almond mixture on top of hot custard, return to oven and broil two to three minutes, or until top of custard is bubbly and golden brown.
What's Your Take on This, Julie?
Comfort foods vary from person to person and culture to culture, but there seems to be a Midwestern preference for the smoothness of starchy foods like mashed potatoes, creamy soups or puddings. Almond Crunch Macaroni Custard is a comfort food that's easy to make, tasty and maybe a little nostalgic, too. A serving (one-ninth of the recipe) contains about 230 calories, 13 grams of fat, about 10 percent of the daily recommendation for iron, calcium and vitamin A, and about 25 grams of carbohydrates.
Some current diet fads encourage walking away from anything that contains carbohydrates. Walking is always a good idea, but walking--or running--from carbohydrates is not. Numerous research studies consider complex carbohydrates such as cereal, rice and pasta as the body's prime choice of fuel and recommend a diet with about 60 percent of the total calories derived from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates include sugars and starches. Table sugar, chemically known as "sucrose," is the most common food additive in our food supply. While sugar has been accused of causing conditions ranging from hyperactivity to diabetes, research has shown only a direct link between excess sugar consumption--especially sticky treats--and dental cavities.
Sugar adds flavor and serves as a preservative in some foods, but it also shares the tip of the Food Guide Pyramid with fat. At 15 calories per teaspoon, sugar is not nutrient dense and could crowd out healthier foods if excessively consumed.
A recent study found that people were consuming an average of 82 grams of carbohydrates a day (that's 438 calories worth) from added sweeteners, with sweetened soft drinks contributing at least one-third of the sugars. Teenagers were getting about 20 percent of their daily calories from sweeteners.
Unlike simple sugars, starches are complex carbohydrates, or "polysaccharides"--meaning they're made up of many (poly) sugar (saccharide) units. Made up of glucose chains, starch doesn't taste sweet because its particles are larger than those of simple sugars. These larger molecules don't fit on the receptors of our taste buds. Try chewing on a slice of bread for a while; it will begin to taste sweet as the chemicals in saliva break the glucose chains into shorter pieces which our taste buds detect as sweet.
If all these details about carbohydrates have you a little dizzy, here are some simpler facts to chew on. First, a gram (1/28 of an ounce) of most types of carbohydrates provides 4 calories, a gram of protein also provides 4 calories, but a gram of fat provides 9 calories. Second, if weight control is your goal, remember that all foods when eaten in moderation can fit in a healthful diet. And finally, remember your bathroom scale is like a calculator: if you eat more calories than you burn, it will be performing addition, not subtraction.
Sources: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136
Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187
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