Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dreamfields Pasta Review (and a recipe)

Lately, this little blog has attracted the attention of several people/businesses in the "healthy food" category. At first, I thought that was a little bit odd. I don't post about diet foods or weight loss. And I do post about a lot of baking, including white breads and desserts.

I pointed this out to one of the companies. The response: "We're just interested in people who eat real food and are interested in local and seasonal foods." Well, okay, I can get behind that.

But it still puzzled me a little bit. Then the light bulb lit above my head. While I don't think of my blog as particularly healthy, it's also not laden with processed foods and cake mixes. I blog about what I cook, and that's mostly fresh and single-ingredient items.

Sure, I wander off into interesting sauces and condiments now and then, but I spend a lot of time making things from scratch.

Including noodles. I actually like making home made noodles. But I also buy dried pasta. It depends on my mood - and how much time I have - and what I'm making. Sometimes fresh pasta is perfect, and sometimes dried pasta is exactly right.

So when Dreamfields Pasta contacted me and asked if I'd like a sample of their pasta, I figured "why not?" Dried pasta is something I use quite often, so it's not like I was selling my soul for a sample of something that I wouldn't normally buy.

The fact that there are health benefits to the pasta ... that might be interesting, too.

I bought some whole wheat pasta on a whim when it was on sale, and I liked it well enough to buy again. Maybe I got lucky with the brand, but I thought it worked well in a cold pasta salad, and was pretty much indistinguishable from regular pasta when served with a tomato sauce.

But adding whole wheat to pasta is something I could do on my own. And the heath benefits are simply the health benefits of whole grains. Dreamfields Pasta is different because it uses some sort of process in the manufacturing that (allegedly) reduced the amount of carbs that can be absorbed. So, while it's got close to the same number of total carbs as regular white pasta, the amount you digest is much less.

What this means to me is ... virtually nothing. I'm not a low-carb dieter, and there's no other reason for me to worry about the amount of carbs in a serving of pasta. But after reading about this stuff, the real benefit is to people who are diabetic. It seems that this pasta doesn't cause a spike in blood sugar.

Or does it? Apparently it works for some people, but for others the spike occurs much later - instead of happening after 1-2 hours, it happens 5-7 hours later. Some people noted that there was a spike, but that it was much lower than when they ate regular pasta. Whether all this is significant or not, I have no idea. If you've got a medical condition, talk to your doctor and make up your own mind about it.

For dieters (and apparently for some people who are sensitive to carbs), the problem is that a couple hours after eating something like pasta, hunger kicks in again. Many people reported that Dreamfields didn't trigger those cravings and that they were full and satisfied after eating, unlike some products that were less satisfying. Anecdotal? Yes.

As far as calories, I have no idea if it has fewer calories than regular pasta, but apparently it has slightly more fiber. In fact, fiber is the (alleged) magic ingredient. The semolina is coated with some sort of fiber that keeps the carbs from being absorbed and eventually your digestive system sees it as fiber rather than a carb.

For this to work, you're not supposed to overcook the pasta and you're not supposed to re-heat it at high temperatures, or reheat it with an acidic sauce, like tomato sauce. It's not that anything terrible happens to the pasta, but the carbs lose their protective layer of fiber, so you end up with something that's got the dietary equivalent of regular pasta.

So after all of that, my question is what it tastes like.

Drumroll, please ...

It tastes like ...

Pasta.

Nothing more and nothing less. It tastes just like regular pasta, it cooked in about the same time, and it didn't have any strange textures. And after I ate it, I didn't notice any reactions at all. Then again, I don't notice any reactions when I eat regular pasta, so I guess I'm not much of a test subject as far as the health benefits.

As far as taste, though. It's pasta. Warm or cold, it tasted like what I expect from dried noodles. Nothing scary, nothing spectacular. Just pasta.

When it comes to the health benefits, that's up to you to decide. If you're checking your blood sugar, you can monitor your own reactions and make your own decisions. If you're dieting and have cravings a couple hours after eating carb-heavy food, this might be worth a try. If it works, that's great. If it doesn't, then at least you're not suffering through something that tastes terrible.

If you're not after the health benefits, how about a recipe?

Needless to say, I used Dreamfields Pasta rotini for this recipe, but you could use any brand - and really any shape you like.

Rotini Pasta Salad

1/2 box (about 6 ounces) rotini, cooked
1 1/2 cups mixed vegetables (your choice)
1 tomato
1 tablespoon flavored olive oil
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

When the pasta is cooking, prepare the vegetables: chop them into small pieces (depending on what you're using - you'd want raw onions in a small dice, but zucchini just needs to be in bite-size pieces.) I used a mix of raw, fully-cooked, and blanched vegetables including onions, corn, zucchini, and snap peas. This is a great way to use up small amounts of left over vegetables, or bits of vegetables that are left over from recipes. The amount isn't set in stone - you can add more or less, depending on what you have on hand.

Put the vegetables into a large bowl.

Chop the tomato into bite-sized pieces. Add it to the bowl.

For the flavored olive oil, I used garlic oil and chive oil - but you could use any flavored or unflavored oil you like. Lemon oil would be nice.

Add the oil, mustard, and lemon juice to the bowl with the vegetables. Stir to combine.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain well and add it to the vegetables. Mix well. Serve hot, warm, cool, or cold. I like serving it hot the first day and serving leftovers chilled.
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