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Archive for May 28th, 2014

Low-carb breakfast on the run

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Breakfast bites

Most recent update 21 Feb 2021. One serving (of the 9 the recipe makes) is 7 Weight Watcher Freestyle points if you use 12 oz sausage, 3 WW Freestyle points if you use 12 oz poached chicken breast chopped into small pieces. /update

I found a good recipe here, and so I adapted it more to my taste. It’s basically a frittata, so you can look around at frittata recipes for variations. I’ve updated this below (on 27 Feb 2016) with new information (specifically, this time, on the parchment sheets). Photo of the frittata cooling added 26 Mar 2016.

Sausage & Egg Breakfast Bites

This frittata makes 9 squares, each square containing 1.1 eggs.

• 1-2 tablespoons bacon fat (butter, olive oil, and ghee also work well)
• 1 medium to large onion, finely diced (or 2 spring onions, including green leaves
• good pinch of salt
Lots (like 1.5-2 Tbsp) of freshly ground black pepper (Pepper helps with the turmeric: see this article.)
• 1 bunch kale, red kale, chard, red chard, or spinach—stems minced, leaves chopped fairly small. I mostly use red chard or red kale.
• [Optional:  4-8 garlic cloves, minced—The Wife vetoed this for a breakfast dish.]
• Either 12 oz uncooked bulk or link sausage (7 WW Freestyle points per serving); or instead use 12 oz chopped poached chicken breast (3 WW Freestyle points per serving). (12 oz = 0.75 lb) See below for best way to poach chicken breast.
• 1.5 tablespoon ground turmeric.
• 10 eggs (I use jumbo, but extra-large is fine)
• [Optional: 1-2 tablespoon Dijon mustard]
• 1 cup grated cheese: Gruyère, Swiss, cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack. You can use instead crumbled blue or Gorgonzola as well.
• [Optional: several dashes pepper sauce (The Wife doesn’t like spicy, but I would use; I would also use spicy sausage.)]

Just before step 2, preheat the oven to 375ºF and prepare this Wilton 8×8 pan. I’ve experimented with various ways of ensuring the frittata doesn’t stick, and I’ve settled on the use of parchment paper—every other approach resulted in sticking.

King Arthur Baking Company sells pre-cut sheets of parchment paper (16 1/2″ x 12 1/4″) in 50-sheet packages ($12.95) and 100-sheet packages ($19.95). The pre-cut sheets are much easier to use than tearing off a piece from a roll of parchment paper: those tend to curl up so you have to fight them. UPDATE: I just learned that if you wet the parchment paper, then wring it dry, it is easy to shape and will not fight you. /update

I fold the sheet at an angle so the edge of the end lines up with the edge of the side to make a triangle shape and cut off the excess, leaving only the triangle. When you open it, you have a square that is 12 1/4″ on a side. I fold it to line the interior of the pan. In practice, that means putting the sheet on top and the pan and pressing it down into the pan, folding it as you go. Corner folds I just mash into place. (After the cooked frittata has cooled, it slides easily from the pan onto the cooling rack, and the parchment paper is easily peeled from the frittata.) Update: I now know that if I wet the sheet and wring it dry, I could easily mold it to match the shape of the pan. Still the method describes works pretty well — the photo above is of one made that way.)

Step 1

You can use a regular onion, but when they’re in season, I use spring onions (both bulb and leaves) and have also used shallots, scallions, and leeks: the idea is to use some variety of allium, and you can choose which one.

Sauté the onion (or other allium) for a few minutes. While the onions cook, chop the greens. I mostly use red chard or red kale, and I use the stems as well as the leaves, chopping the stems small. Add the greens and continue sautéing until the greens wilt.

While the greens cook, if you’re using sausage, cut bulk sausage into strips and then across the strips into little squares; this makes it easier to break up in the pan as you cook it. If you’re using link sausage, just cut in the links into small cross-sections.

OTOH, if you’re using poached chicken breasts, it’s better to chop the meat small before you start.

After the greens have cooked down somewhat: If you’re using sausage, add the roughly cut sausage and continue to sauté until sausage is cooked. If you’re using poached chicken breast, no need to cook it more: just stir it in and proceed.

Add salt and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. I use at least 1 tablespoon and closer to two. (I use this little coffee mill as a pepper grinder for cooking, and it turns out to be an inspired purchase: easy to use, easy to fill, and pumps out ground pepper like nobody’s business.)

With chicken breast, you can add, stir, and proceed, but the sausage must be cooked. Make sure the sausage is cooked (and any excess water boiled off—sometimes sausage seems to have a little added water). Then, whether using sausage or chicken breast, add the turmeric and stir it in. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and it’s a good idea to get 1/2 tsp daily. For 9 breakfast squares, that’s a total of 4.5 tsp = 1.5 Tbsp. Add the turmeric after the sautéing is done since turmeric tends to stick.

Turn off heat. Let that cool for a while. (I really like how I get a break in making this; sometimes I let it cool for an hour or two while I go do something else, but 15-20 minutes is plenty.)

Step 2

Whisk the eggs with the Dijon mustard (if you’re using that), then whisk in the cheese. Once that is well mixed, add the sautéed onions, greens, sausage/chicken, and turmeric. Mix well. This whisk works particularly well if you can find it. (Try searching on the name.)

Pour the mixture into the 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper folded to fit the pan.

Bake 35 minutes and test. When you give the pan a shake, the middle should remain still, not jiggle at all. With jumbo eggs I bake for 45 minutes before testing, and they’re always done.

Let the frittata  sit to cool for 20 minutes or so, then put this 10.5″ round rack on top of the pan and then invert the pan and place the rack (now with the frittata on top, still in the cooking pag) on this Wilton 9×9 pan, which comes with a snap-on cover—handy for storing the frittata in the fridge. The idea is to provide good airflow around the frittata to speed cooling.

Lift the cooking pan off the frittata (it comes off easily because of the parchment-paper lining), and then peel the parchment paper off the frittata. (See photo above for result.) Let the frittata cool on the rack, then put it into the 9×9 pan, snap on the cover, and refrigerate it overnight. (If you cut the frittata while it’s hot, it’s crumbly and harder to eat out of one’s hand—on the way to work, for example. Thus, refrigerate before cutting.)

The next morning turn it out onto a cutting board. Cut twice vertically to make 3 columns, turn it 90º and cut twice more to produce 9 squares.

As I figure it: Each square has 275 calories, along with 4.9 g carbs and 1.0 g fiber, so 3.9 g net carbs per square. If you’re on Weight Watchers Freestyle, each square is 7 points.

What to do with the two leftover eggs

What I do is make mayonnaise, which is ever so much better than store-bought and is very easy if you have this immersion blender with its beaker. Here’s the recipe with variants.

Poaching chicken breasts

Use four chicken breast halves.

Pound the thickest part of each chicken breast half to make the piece more uniform in thickness. (Use Saran Wrap or the like around the breast as you pound it.) This pounder works well.

In a large pot, put 4 quarts water, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar and stir to dissolve. Put the chicken breasts on a steamer rack and immerse in the pot. Leave for 30 minutes to brine and flavor the chicken. The steamer rack is to keep the chicken breasts from sitting on the bottom of the pot, where they can easily overcook from the heat conducted through the metal.

Put the pot over medium heat and heat until the water temperature reaches 175ºF, stirring occasionally to keep the water temperature uniform. When the temperature is reached, remove pot from heat, cover, and let sit 15 minutes, and then start taking the temperature of the meat. (I use this instant-read thermometer. I made two changes to the default settings (manual tells you how): I made the readout include tenths of a degree, and I locked the display in place rather than allowing it to rate.)

You want the meat just to reach 160ºF. Remove breasts from heat and, if serving immediately, cover with foil and let sit 5 minutes.

I generally just refrigerate them to use them in various recipes: the ratatouille, a tossed salad, with beans as a chili, and so on. In the Weight Watchers plan, boneless skinless chicken breasts have zero points.

More on my LCHF progress — and, in updates, why I switched to a whole-food plant-based diet

It feels weird to eat low-carb meals like these breakfast bites because I’ve been so thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that eating fat will make me fat, a silly idea if your total daily calorie intake is reasonable. Even with the (false) idea that all calories are alike, fat should have been deemed okay to eat. But somehow we had the idea that eating fat will make us fat—as if eating starches made us starchy, or eating sugar made us sweet, or eating greens made us green.

A lot happens to any food—whatever it is—becomes body fat, including digesting it and metabolizing it. And simple carbs—foods using refined flour and/or sugar of one form or another (soft drinks, for example, or candy, bread, pasta, rice, crackers, cookies, cake, white potatoes, potato chips)—trigger a rush of insulin, which protects the stored body fat, preferentially burning the refined carbs.

So once the sugar burns off, having no access to your stored fat, you’re hungry again. So you eat again, and often that meal or snack has a lot of refined carbs…  It’s a vicious circle. Thus fat accumulates because you can’t makes use of it if your diet is high in carbs.

That’s the idea behind a low-carb diet. I highly recommend Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat and also Nina Teicholz’s excellent book The Big Fat Surprise.

One thing that now makes sense: why fat tastes so good. Probably it’s because it was a major source of calories as we evolved. Those who developed a taste for it fared better. And once you start to think of fat as simply another food and source of calories, your diet can achieve a better balance.

A very good intro to LCHF eating, and a good success story. (See also this introduction.)


UPDATE: BTW, there are vegetarian and vegan low-carb diets, as well.

UPDATE 2: It occurs to me that modern agronomy and food processing methods have exposed a bug, as it were, in our digestive/metabolic/storage system. Evolution never tested for high fructose corn syrup or refined sugar or white flour or the like. The result is like when a programmer forgets to consider the effect of negative numbers in an input field, resulting in program failure. But since evolution doesn’t think, just operates blindly to the next step, it can hardly be blamed. And in any event, evolution is fixing the bug that right now: people whom the new diet sickens will not be so successful, overall, as those who can handle the new diet (or avoid the new diet), and so that particular metabolic weakness exposed by refined carbohydrates will select out a subgroup, and as favorable mutations randomly occur, the capacity to live well on such foods will fare relatively better. It’s slow, but what’s a few ten thousands of years? (If we last that long, which seems unlikely.)

But our body’s reaction to a high-carb diet is indeed a problem for our ability to function, and thus it does engage the slow-grinding wheels of evolution to begin work toward a solution. What we’re seeing is evolution in action: those less able to find a solution will not succeed so well as the others.

It’s definitely a bug: unexpected input blows the program out of the water.

Update 3: I found that I initially lost weight using LCHF but then that stopped, so clearly it was necessary to limit intake. I started Weight Watchers Freestyle, using the on-line tools only (no meetings) and it is working extremely well. There are over 200 zero-point foods, and it’s quite easy to eat a low-carb high-fat diet using WW Freestyle.

Update 4: After five years on a LCHF diet, I learned of some serious long-term drawbacks, and I switched to a whole-food plant-based diet. “Plant-based” means no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy, though I do include fungi (not plants, but also not animal). “Whole-food” means I don’t eat refined foods (refined sugar, foods made from refined flour, fruit juice (though whole fruit is fine) nor highly processed foods manufactured from refined ingredients and various additives using industrial processes and sold packaged under a brand name).

For example, I eat grain, but because I eat whole foods, I do not eat grain that has been processed by being cut (steel-cut oats or pot barley, for example) or polished (white rice, pearled barley) or smashed (rolled oats, barley flakes) or pulverized (flour and food products (like bread) made from it) — and I certainly do not eat boxed breakfast cereals, manufactured from refined ingredients (generally including lots of refined sugar).

Instead, I eat intact whole grain — oat groats, hulled barley, wheat berries, whole rye, Kamut® (organically grown khorasan wheat, my favorite), spelt, emmer, farro, red fife wheat, etc. — that you can buy (at low cost) from the bulk bins at a good supermarket or grocery store. Reason: intact grain is more healthful than processed grain. See also this excellent article.

Because intact whole grains take a fairly long time to cook, I cook a batch on weekends and take a portion for each meal. They all follow the same recipe: Add 1 cup intact whole grain to 3 cups boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until all the water’s been absorbed. Depending on the grain, that can take from 1 to 2 hours—just continue checking from time to time, since the water levels’s easy to see. Toward the end, stir the grain to make sure the water’s all been absorbed.

Note: Rice and also pseudograins — like amaranth, quinoa, and the like — use 2 cups water (not 3) to 1 part rice or pseudograin. I don’t use much rice, and when I do I prefer black/forbidden rice, though brown rice or wild rice (which includes the bran) is okay.

Once it’s done, put it into a storage container and refrigerate. (This step makes the starch resistant so that it is more slowly digested and thus lengthens satiation and nourishes the gut microbiome in much the way that dietary fiber does.) Then for each meal take a portion and eat it hot or cold with whatever accompaniments I want.

I collected into one (somewhat detailed) post everything I’ve learned about a good diet. Read that post for the whole story.

Update: This recipe is also interesting. (Link is to video.)

180 firinda = 356ºF
25 dakika = 25 minutes
4 potatoes,
1 leek,
2 carrots
100 grams of spinach (I would use 4 oz)
1/2 red pepper
4 eggs,
4 tablespoons of olive oil,
4 tablespoons of milk
4 tablespoons of flour
1/2 pack of baking powder ( ≈ 3 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons salt, pepper.
50 grams of grated cheddar cheese (I would use 2 oz)
Sesame, black seed

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2014 at 2:49 pm

Chamber of Commerce—well, the independent analyst they hired—makes strong financial case for fighting climate change

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Very good find by Paul Krugman. And I find it persuasive.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2014 at 1:29 pm

Terrific dance number

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Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2014 at 10:45 am

Posted in Video

The DEA deserves a harsh look

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And this article begins it. Two Ryans (Reilly and Grimm) write at Huffington Post:

Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart and her boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, appear locked in a bureaucratic staring match over the Obama administration’s attempt to reform the way the federal government approaches criminal justice and punishment.

For Holder and for President Barack Obama, sentencing reform has become a critical, second-term legacy item, as they aim to bend the arc of incarceration policy away from a federal system well practiced at imprisoning drug offenders for as long as possible. But those efforts are colliding with institutional resistance from law enforcement officials with a single-minded focus and, perhaps, turf to defend.

The high-level shift toward easing punishment for drug offenders, backed by public opinion, raises the question of whether any DEA chief who could win the support of rank and file agents would be willing to carry out White House reforms. So far, Leonhart appears uninterested, at best.

She publicly distanced herself from Obama’s remarks about marijuana’s relative harmlessness. She griped about the Justice Department’s failure to try to block marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state. She clings to a comically outdated view of drugs, refusing to acknowledge a difference between pot and crack cocaine. And this week, her agency picked a fight with Kentucky over the state’s purchase of industrial hemp seeds to begin a newly legalized agricultural test.

For now, it’s sentencing reform that raises the biggest questions. Leonhart’s remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month about mandatory minimum sentences caused people in top echelons of the Justice Department to ask whether she was on board with her bosses on sentencing reform, sources familiar with the tensions told The Huffington Post.

Leonhart was responding to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who asked about the importance of mandatory minimums. Some law enforcement groups oppose the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bipartisan bill that would roll back the length of certain mandatory minimum prison terms. Leonhart emphasized the importance of mandatory minimums, leaving the impression she opposed changes to the current sentencing structure, which gives federal prosecutors huge leverage over defendants.

Justice Department concerns about Leonhart were heightened when, after her testimony, a DEA spokeswoman would not say whether Leonhart endorsed changes mandatory minimums, telling The Huffington Post that the DEA administrator’s testimony would “have to speak for itself.”

The concerns led to a conversation between Holder and Leonhart, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Leonhart told her boss there had been a misunderstanding. . .

Continue reading.

The DEA must go. I like Mark A.R. Kleinman’s comment at the end: close the DEA and transfer its personnel to the FBI. Get them working on corporate crimes. And fire Michelle Leonhardt immediately.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2014 at 10:39 am

Misogyny, cont’d

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Terrence McCoy reports in the Washington Post:

On Tuesday, a pregnant 25-year-old woman was stoned to death by her family for marrying a man she loved.

The stoning took place in the middle of the day, outside a courthouse, beside a busy thoroughfare. The woman and her husband had been “in love,” her husband said, and they’d gone to a courthouse to sign the paperwork. Outside, the woman’s father, brothers and extended family waited. When the couple emerged, the family reportedly tried to snatch her, then murdered her.

“I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” her father told police, adding that it had been an “honor killing.”

The anecdote is horrifying. But even more horrifying is the regularity with which honor killings and stonings occur in Pakistan. Despite creeping modernity, secular condemnation and the fact there’s no reference to stoning in the Koran, honor killings claim the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani women every year, according to a Pakistani rights group.

They have widespread appeal. Eighty-three percent of Pakistanis support stonings for adultery according to a Pew survey, and only 8 percent oppose it. Even those who chose modernity over Islamic fundamentalism overwhelmingly favor stonings, according to Pew research.

It’s the year 2014. Why is this still happening?

Some Islamic fundamentalists think that only through the murder of an offending family member can honor be restored to the rest of the family. Honor killings predominantly affect women – 943 women were killed under such circumstances in 2011 and another 869 in 2013, though not all of them were stoned. Some were just gunned down in cold blood.

One man in Punjab province suspected his teenage nieces of having “inappropriate relations” with two boys. So on January 11, he killed both girls, confessed and said he did it for “honor.”

Another teenage girl, living in Sukkur, was allegedly shot dead by her brother while she was doing homework because her brother thought she was sleeping with a man.

One mom and dad allegedly killed their 15-year-old daughter with acid because they said she looked at a boy and they ”feared dishonor.” ”There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle,” her father told BBC. My daughter “turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that; it’s wrong. People talk about us.”

The mother added: “She said ‘I didn’t do it on purpose. I won’t look again.’ By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way.”

Those who are stoned in an honor killing are oftentimes accused of committing adultery. Both genders face stonings in Pakistan and across 14 Muslim countries, but women are more frequently the targets. . .

Continue reading.

Note that many of these are killed merely on suspicion, but one cannot cast stones (as it were): the United States routinely kills unidentified persons that it suspects might be terrorists—even though quite often the suspicions prove false (e.g., wedding parties, gathering of village elders, etc.). We went through a long period to develop a system of justice in which mere suspicion is insufficient, but Obama and Bush have taken us back to killing on suspicion.

What’s awful about suspicion is that the person who is killed may have done nothing to warrant the suspicion, as seems to be the case in several of the instances described above. The suspicion resides in the person who does the killing, and a very suspicious person might kill many—as does the US.

I’m all for cultural diversity, but some cultures simply are wrong in terms of human rights. It would be interesting to know the psychological forces that make parents hate their children enough to murder them merely on suspicion. One suspects (that word again) that the parents are projecting quite a bit of their own internal struggles, but it would be nice to find out whether and to what degree that is true.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2014 at 10:09 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Wonderful shave with Feather AS-D1

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SOTD 28 May 2014


A very fine shave indeed. The Wet shaving Products Baroness immediately made a perfect lather from HTGAM’s Pumpkin Pie spic shaving soap, and the Feather (with a Feather blade) effortlessly wiped away the stubble. A good splash of Dominica Bay Rum, and the day is launched.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2014 at 8:47 am

Posted in Shaving

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