DEAR DR. BLONZ: My family and I left town, and when we returned 48 hours later, I noticed that the stand-up freezer door was partially open. Everything inside was thawed out, except for about 4 pounds of ice from a 20-pound bag. I touched one sealed bag containing salmon, and it wasn't cold. Is this a total loss? -- D.D.
DEAR D.D.: In a power outage, a never-opened freezer can help save food, relying on the unit's insulation to help maintain the temperature. Conversely, a power outage and an open door is a recipe for a total loss. In your scenario -- a working unit with its door open for two days -- the prognosis is not much better.
The unit's compressor was forced to stay on. If it's a frost-free unit, like most are, the fan would also have remained on. Freezer compartments are well insulated and not affected by room air, or by heat from a compressor that only comes on as needed. But here, you had room air mixed with hot air from the ever-on compressor -- all pulled into the food compartment by the fan. I am guessing you noticed the room was warmer than usual when you returned -- not a promising situation.
Tossing defrosted foods that were meant to be stored frozen will always be the safest move. Why assume unnecessary risk? That definitely goes for animal products, including your salmon. There would be a slight chance to salvage some unopened frozen fruits and vegetable products, as long as they contained no dairy or other animal ingredients. The odds might go up for unopened packages that remained chilled -- perhaps those buried and insulated by other products, adjacent to ice or to the freezer's cooling coils. But even then, it's a roll of the dice.
For more detailed salvage options, check foodsafety.gov at b.link/qe5mfi.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I took a cooking class, and the instructor had recipes for moringa. Apparently, it has been used in many forms in other countries. It is advertised to be a good protein source. Are you aware of it, and is it as good as they say? I have checked, but there are not a lot of studies. Can you give me your opinion? -- P.M.
DEAR P.M.: Moringa is a tree native to South Asia, often referred to as the drumstick tree. Its leaves have beneficial substances, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytochemicals. Moringa leaf powder has a slightly bitter taste, similar to matcha green tea.
Moringa has been used in traditional medicine, but is now being promoted in supplements and as a "superfood." There is some protein present, but not enough to be considered a good source, given the amount of powder usually consumed. There are about 25 grams of protein in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of moringa leaf powder, which translates to less than a gram in a teaspoon. Check how much is being added to those full recipes, and then consider what will end up in an individual serving.
My response is not meant to cast aspersions on what moringa might bring to a recipe, merely to add some practical perspective to any "superfood" touting. Enjoy the flavors. Moringa is a fascinating plant that holds great promise in regional agriculture and in populations with limited access to healthful foods.
For more on moringa, read the article at b.link/5b61l0 about research on this plant supported by the Fogarty International Center, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health that focuses on global health research.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.