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Impromptu cod stew

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I used my 11″ 4-qt sauté pan.

1.5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 bunches thick scallions, chopped (including the leaves)
good pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper

Sauté onions until they wilt. Add:

2 Serrano peppers, chopped small
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped small
10-12 San Marzano cherry tomatoes, sliced
8-10 cloves garlic, chopped small
1-1.5″ piece of ginger root, grated
about 1.5-2 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp smoked (Spanish) paprika

Sauté for a few minutes. Add:

1-1.5 lbs Icelandic cod, cut into chunks
1/4 cup white wine (Gerwurtztraminer, as it happens)
2 teaspoons tamari

Cover, reduce heat, simmer for 10 minutes.

Add to stew:

1/2 can black-eyed peas

Stir to mix and heat. Then serve.

I just had the peas on hand but they really make a difference.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2018 at 1:30 pm

A wonderful beef shank from Farm & Field Butcher

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In my 10″ 2-qt sauté pan, I put about 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil and then added:

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped small
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup celery, chopped small (with leaves)
1 Serrano pepper, chopped small
8 cloves garlic, chopped small
salt
pepper

I sautéed that for a while until onions were translucent, then put the beef shank cross-section on top and gave it several dashes of Maggi seasoning.

The covered pan went into a 200ºF oven for 7 hours. Extremely tasty. There was enough marrow in the bone to justify getting out my antique silver double-ended marrow spoon.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 October 2018 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

No Wonder It Works So Well: There May Be Viagra In That Herbal Supplement

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Ronnie Cohen reports at NPR:

They claim to help you sleep, make your hair grow, speed weight loss, improve your sex life and ward off the nasty cold going around the office. Though it’s often impossible to tell if dietary supplements work, consumers generally feel certain they can’t hurt.

But they can.

The Food and Drug Administration has identified hundreds of supplements tainted with pharmaceuticals — from antidepressants and erectile dysfunction remedies to weight-loss drugs — since 2007, a study published Friday shows. Even after FDA tests proved the supplements contained unapproved or recalled medications, many of the products continued to be marketed and sold, the analysis finds.

The report in JAMA Network Open calls into question the FDA’s ability to effectively police the $35-billion-a-year supplements industry.

“The FDA didn’t even bother to recall more than half of the potentially hazardous supplements,” says Dr. Pieter Cohen, a Harvard Medical School professorand an internist with Cambridge Health Alliance in Boston, who wrote an accompanying commentary in the journal.

“How could it be that our premier public health agency spends the time and money to detect these hidden ingredients and then doesn’t take the next obvious step, which is to ensure that they are removed from the marketplace?” he asks.

The FDA does not comment on specific studies “but evaluates them as part of the body of evidence to further our understanding about a particular issue and assist in our mission to protect public health,” says Lindsay Haake, a press officer for the regulatory agency.

For the study, researchers from the California Department of Public Health and other state agencies examined an FDA database containing supplements that the FDA has purchased, tested and found to be adulterated. The FDA identified 746 supplement products that were pharmaceutically adulterated from 2007 through 2016.

Adulterants included unapproved antidepressants and designer steroids, the prescription erectile-dysfunction drug sildenafil, and a prescription appetite suppressant its manufacturer withdrew from the market after a study linked it to heightened risk of stroke and heart attack.

Although the FDA has the power to recall tainted supplements, the federal agency failed to require any of the 146 companies that manufactured the adulterated products to remove them from the market.

In 360 cases, manufacturers announced a voluntarily recall of the tainted supplements, though there is no way of knowing if the products actually were recalled, Cohen says. In 342 cases, the agency posted a notice on its website warning the public about the tainted supplements.

Only in seven cases did the FDA issue a warning letter nudging the manufacturer to remove the adulterated products. Before the FDA could seize a supplement and destroy it, it would have to send a warning letter to the manufacturer, Cohen says.

The study’s authors write that they find it “alarming” that the adulterated supplements continue to be sold.

“This report shines a harsh light on the problem of adulteration,” says Dr. Peter Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. Lurie was not involved in the research. “It’s a very disturbing picture. You’ve got hundreds of these products that contain active pharmaceuticals, many of which pose a real threat to human health.”

Some of the drugs slipped into supplements without appearing on the label can have dangerous interactions with other medications people may be taking. For instance, drugs such as sildenafil may interact with other drugs to lower or raise blood pressure to dangerous levels. Others, including anabolic steroids present in some muscle-building products, have been associated with liver and kidney damage, heart attacks and strokes.

“The study lays a foundation for ongoing enforcement work in this area, by the FDA and other partner agencies, to curb the illegal manufacture, importation, distribution and sales of adulterated dietary supplements,” the California Department of Public Health said in a written statement.

More than half of American adults take supplements such as vitamins, minerals, protein powders, botanicals, fish oils, glandular extracts and probiotics. Under a 1994 law, the U.S. government reclassified supplements as food rather than food additives. The law exempts supplements from any of the premarket safety and effectiveness testing the FDA requires for drugs.

In the 24 years since the law took effect, the supplements industry has boomed.

“The underlying problem is this is a huge industry with fly-by-night actors, and it’s completely impossible for the agency to keep up with them,” says Lurie, who worked at the FDA for eight years. “We’d all like to see the agency doing more. In some cases it has limited authority. In other cases it has limited resources.” . . .

Continue reading.

The obvious answer: a stiff Federal tax on supplements with the proceeds directed toward beefing up the part of the FDA that monitors supplements, plus very stiff fines for manufacturers who have adulterated supplements with unsafe ingredients, the fines likewise going to the FDA. A Democratic Congress might do this; a Republican Congress, never.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 October 2018 at 8:37 am

Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture

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Christie Wilcox writes in the Scientific American in 2011:

Ten years ago, Certified Organic didn’t exist in the United States. Yet in 2010, a mere eight years after USDA’s regulations officially went into effect, organic foods and beverages made $26.7 billion. In the past year or two, certified organic sales have jumped to about $52 billion worldwide despite the fact that organic foods cost up to three times as much as those produced by conventional methods. More and more, people are shelling out their hard-earned cash for what they believe are the best foods available. Imagine, people say: you can improve your nutrition while helping save the planet from the evils of conventional agriculture – a complete win-win. And who wouldn’t buy organic, when it just sounds so good?

Here’s the thing: there are a lot of myths out there about organic foods, and a lot of propaganda supporting methods that are rarely understood. It’s like your mother used to say: just because everyone is jumping off a bridge doesn’t mean you should do it, too. Now, before I get yelled at too much, let me state unequivocally that I’m not saying organic farming is bad – far from it. There are some definite upsides and benefits that come from many organic farming methods. For example, the efforts of organic farmers to move away from monocultures, where crops are farmed in single-species plots, are fantastic; crop rotations and mixed planting are much better for the soil and environment. My goal in this post isn’t to bash organic farms, instead, it’s to bust the worst of the myths that surround them so that everyone can judge organic farming based on facts. In particular, there are four myths thrown around like they’re real that just drive me crazy.

Myth #1: Organic Farms Don’t Use Pesticides

When the Soil Association, a major organic accreditation body in the UK, asked consumers why they buy organic food, 95% of them said their top reason was to avoid pesticides. They, like many people, believe that organic farming involves little to no pesticide use. I hate to burst the bubble, but that’s simply not true. Organic farming, just like other forms of agriculture, still uses pesticides and fungicides to prevent critters from destroying their crops. Confused?

So was I, when I first learned this from a guy I was dating. His family owns a farm in rural Ohio. He was grumbling about how everyone praised the local organic farms for being so environmentally-conscientious, even though they sprayed their crops with pesticides all the time while his family farm got no credit for being pesticide-free (they’re not organic because they use a non-organic herbicide once a year). I didn’t believe him at first, so I looked into it: turns out that there are over 20 chemicals commonly used in the growing and processing of organic crops that are approved by the US Organic Standards. And, shockingly, the actual volume usage of pesticides on organic farms is not recorded by the government. Why the government isn’t keeping watch on organic pesticide and fungicide use is a damn good question, especially considering that many organic pesticides that are also used by conventional farmers are used more intensively than synthetic ones due to their lower levels of effectiveness. According to the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, the top two organic fungicides, copper and sulfur, were used at a rate of 4 and 34 pounds per acre in 1971 1. In contrast, the synthetic fungicides only required a rate of 1.6 lbs per acre, less than half the amount of the organic alternatives.

The sad truth is, factory farming is factory farming, whether its organic or conventional. Many large organic farms use pesticides liberally. They’re organic by certification, but you’d never know it if you saw their farming practices. As Michael Pollan, best-selling book author and organic supporter, said in an interview with Organic Gardening,

“They’re organic by the letter, not organic in spirit… if most organic consumers went to those places, they would feel they were getting ripped off.”

What makes organic farming different, then? It’s not the use of pesticides, it’s the origin of the pesticides used. Organic pesticides are those that are derived from natural sources and processed lightly if at all before use. This is different than the current pesticides used by conventional agriculture, which are generally synthetic. It has been assumed for years that pesticides that occur naturally (in certain plants, for example) are somehow better for us and the environment than those that have been created by man. As more research is done into their toxicity, however, this simply isn’t true, either. Many natural pesticides have been found to be potential – or serious – health risks.2

Take the example of Rotenone. Rotenone was widely used in the US as an organic pesticide for decades 3. Because it is natural in origin, occurring in the roots and stems of a small number of subtropical plants, it was considered “safe” as well as “organic“. However, research has shown that rotenone is highly dangerous because it kills by attacking mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of all living cells. Research found that exposure to rotenone caused Parkinson’s Disease-like symptoms in rats 4, and had the potential to kill many species, including humans. Rotenone’s use as a pesticide has already been discontinued in the US as of 2005 due to health concerns***, but shockingly, it’s still poured into our waters every year by fisheries management officials as a piscicide to remove unwanted fish species.

The point I’m driving home here is that just because something is natural doesn’t make it non-toxic or safe. Many bacteria, fungi and plants produce poisons, toxins and chemicals that you definitely wouldn’t want sprayed on your food.

Just last year, nearly half of the pesticides that are currently approved for use by organic farmers in Europe failed to pass the European Union’s safety evaluation that is required by law 5. Among the chemicals failing the test was rotenone, as it had yet to be banned in Europe. Furthermore, just over 1% of organic foodstuffs produced in 2007 and tested by the European Food Safety Authority were found to contain pesticide levels above the legal maximum levels – and these are of pesticides that are not organic 6. Similarly, when Consumer Reports purchased a thousand pounds of tomatoes, peaches, green bell peppers, and apples in five cities and tested them for more than 300 synthetic pesticides, they found traces of them in 25% of the organically-labeled foods, but between all of the organic and non-organic foods tested, only one sample of each exceeded the federal limits8.

Not only are organic pesticides not safe, they might actually be worse than the ones used by the conventional agriculture industry. Canadian scientists pitted ‘reduced-risk’ organic and synthetic pesticides against each other in controlling a problematic pest, the soybean aphid. They found that not only were the synthetic pesticides more effective means of control, the organic pesticides were more ecologically damaging, including causing higher mortality in other, non-target species like the aphid’s predators9. Of course, some organic pesticides may fare better than these ones did in similar head-to-head tests, but studies like this one reveal that the assumption that natural is better for the environment could be very dangerous.

Even if the organic food you’re eating is from a farm which uses little to no pesticides at all, there is another problem: getting rid of pesticides doesn’t mean your food is free from harmful things. Between 1990 and 2001, over 10,000 people fell ill due to foods contaminated with pathogens like E. coli, and many have organic foods to blame. That’s because organic foods tend to have higher levels of potential pathogens. One study, for example, found E. coli in produce from almost 10% of organic farms samples, but only 2% of conventional ones10. The same study also found Salmonella only in samples from organic farms, though at a low prevalence rate. The reason for the higher pathogen prevalence is likely due to the use of manure instead of artificial fertilizers, as many pathogens are spread through fecal contamination. Conventional farms often use manure, too, but they use irradiation and a full array of non-organic anti-microbial agents as well, and without those, organic foods run a higher risk of containing something that will make a person sick.

In the end, it really depends on exactly what methods are used by crop producers. Both organic and conventional farms vary widely in this respect. Some conventional farms use no pesticides. Some organic farms spray their crops twice a month. Of course, some conventional farms spray just as frequently, if not more so, and some organic farms use no pesticides whatsoever. To really know what you’re in for, it’s best if you know your source, and a great way to do that is to buy locally. Talk to the person behind the crop stand, and actually ask them what their methods are if you want to be sure of what you’re eating.

Myth #2: Organic Foods are Healthier

Some people believe that by not using manufactured chemicals or genetically modified organisms, organic farming produces more nutritious food. However, science simply cannot find any evidence that organic foods are in any way healthier than non-organic ones – and scientists have been comparing the two for over 50 years.

Just recently, an independent research project in the UK systematically reviewed the 162 articles on organic versus non-organic crops published in peer-reviewed journals between 1958 and 2008 11. These contained a total of 3558 comparisons of content of nutrients and other substances in organically and conventionally produced foods. They found absolutely no evidence for any differences in content of over 15 different nutrients including vitamin C, ?-carotene, and calcium. There were some differences, though; conventional crops had higher nitrogen levels, while organic ones had higher phosphorus and acidity – none of which factor in much to nutritional quality. Further analysis of similar studies on livestock products like meat, dairy, and eggs also found few differences in nutritional content. Organic foods did, however, have higher levels of overall fats, particularly trans fats. So if anything, the organic livestock products were found to be worse for us (though, to be fair, barely). . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 October 2018 at 11:37 am

A New Study Shows How Mushrooms Could Save Bees. (Yes, Mushrooms.)

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Jackie Flynn Mogensen writes in Mother Jones:

e stuff of science fiction. Back in 2006, beekeepers first noticed their honeybees were mysteriously dying off in huge numbers, with no clear cause. For some, a whopping 30 to 90 percent of their colonies were disappearing, especially on the East Coast. Worker bees were abandoning their queens and leaving hives full of honey. That first winter, beekeepers nationwide lost about a third of their colonies. Since then, the numbers haven’t improved.

Researchers now call this ongoing phenomenon “colony collapse disorder,” but scientists still haven’t identified a singular cause. They say it’s a combination of factors: pollution, habitat loss, herbicides, and viruses, though some experts believe viruses may be the primary driver. For instance, “deformed wing virus,” which causes bees to develop disfigured, nonfunctional wings, can be nasty, and, like other viruses, is transferred to bees by parasitic mites. Until now, scientists haven’t developed any antiviral treatments to protect the bees.

But in a landmark study published Thursday in Nature journal Scientific Reports, researchers revealed they’ve discovered the first-ever “vaccine” for bees, procured from an unexpected source: mushrooms. Specifically, it’s mycelia—cobweb-like fungal membranes found in and on soil—from two species, “tinder fungus” and Red Reishi mushrooms.

“Up until this discovery, there were no antivirals reducing viruses in bees,” Paul Stamets, the lead author on the study, tells Mother Jones. “Not only is this the first discovery, but these extracts are incredibly potent.” Stamets is a Washington-based mycologist and author whose work includes books Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The WorldGrowing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, and Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Stamets also holds patents “pertaining to the use of fungal extracts for antiviral activity and honeybee health,” according to the study.

This giant discovery actually has very humble origins. Decades before colony collapse hit the United States, Stamets says he had noticed bees in his own yard feeding off water droplets on the mushrooms that were growing on wood chips in his garden. They had pushed the wood chips aside to expose the mycelium. At the time, he thought they might be getting sugars from the fungi, and it wasn’t until about five years ago—after researching the antiviral properties of fungi for humans—that he made the connection to viruses affecting bees. “I had this waking dream, ‘I think I can save the bees,’” he says.

In collaboration with researchers from Washington State University, Stamets decided to conduct a two-part study to test his theory that fungi could treat the viruses in honeybees. First, in a controlled, caged experiment, he and his team added small amounts of mushroom extract, or “mycelial broth,” to the bees’ food (sugar water) at varying concentrations and measured how it affected their health. Then, they tested the best-performing extracts in the field.

The extracts worked better than Stamets ever imagined.

The team measured the virus levels in 50 bees from 30 different field colonies and found the bee colonies that consumed the mycelium extracts saw up to a 79-fold decrease in deformed wing virus after 12 days and up to a 45,000-fold reduction in Lake Sinai virus (another virus linked to colony collapse) compared to the bees that only ate sugar water.

“We went out of the laboratory, into the field—real-life field tests,” says Stamets. “And we saw enormous benefit to the bees.”

So what’s going on here? Stamets says the operating hypothesis is this: “These aren’t really antiviral drugs. We think they are supporting the immune system to allow natural immunity to be strong enough to reduce the viruses.” More research, he says, is needed to fully understand how the fungi are working.

Diana Cox-Foster, a research leader and entomologist at the USDA’s Pollinating Insects Research Unit in Utah who was not involved in the study, tells Mother Jones the research looked “promising” and adds that it could have ramifications for other pollinators, like bumblebees. “These viruses are widely shared,” she says. “If we could knock down viruses in honeybee colonies, it could lead to greater health in other pollinators.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 October 2018 at 11:14 am

Chi-chi-chi recipe: Chicken chili with chickpeas

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This looks good, and I had the (unusual) foresight to use a large-enough pot: my large-diameter (to make sautéing easy) 6-qt pot.

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (6 WW points—everything else is 0 WW points)
1.5 large yellow onions, diced as described in an earlier video
good pinch of salt
about 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Sauté, stirring often, until onions are cooked through and transparent. Add:

8 cloves garlic, chopped small (I used hard-stem Red Russian garlic)
1/4 cup freshly grated ginger

Sauté for a minute or so, then add:

1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 Anaheim peppers chopped
2 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1.5-2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground Ancho chili
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp crushed dried rosemary
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp ground coriander

Sauté for a few minutes, then add

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 14 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp tomato paste (I use tomato paste in a tube, so I just squirt it in)
1 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp liquid smoke

Stir and bring to simmer. Add:

2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks

Simmer 25-30 minutes.

I thought about adding the juice of a lemon or lime and may do it yet.

This is clearly going to be at least 8 one-cup servings, so at most 1 point per serving.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2018 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

If farms are to survive, we need to think about them as tech companies

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Brandon Alexander writes in Quartz:

Growing up on my granddad’s farm—he grows cotton, peanuts, and potatoes in Texas—I often heard that technologies like genetically modified crops were required to scale food production. My granddad believed that organic practices do not scale and will not feed the world at an affordable price point. Given the state of technology then, I believe he was right.

But the industry has changed with much more than the seasons, and we need more than an iterative improvement on past technologies. We are reaching a plateau in food production. According to research published in Nature, about one third of the world’s agricultural lands have maxed out the amount of rice, wheat, and corn farmers can grow.

At the same time, the World Resources Institute suggests we will need to double our food production by 2050 to feed nearly 10 billion people. In order to boost yield, we need to systematically improve the entire grow process and maximize the potential of every plant. To enable this next age of agriculture, we will need to rely on two new advances: machine learning and robotics.

The amount of data available to farmers has skyrocketed. In addition to collecting data at a macro level from satellite or drone imagery, we can also capture data at the micro level, thanks to a combination of cheaper, lower-powered sensors. These sensors provide farmers with insights like hyperlocal measurements on soil conditions, for example.

ut a firehose of data does not equate to insights, and that’s where the newer methods of applied machine learning come in. Companies likeDescartes Labs and FarmLogsare applying machine learning and computer vision to glean insights from these new data streams, providing farmers not just pretty graphs, but actionable information to increase yield.

Machine learning and computer vision enables us to scan each plant in acres of land, detecting plant diseases before they spread and significantly minimizing yield loss and the need for pesticides. For example, traditionally a farmer would inspect parts of a plot of land for plant diseases like powdery mildew or signs of pest pressure like aphids. Because it was physically impossible for them to inspect each plant on acres of land, they would have to extrapolate their findings across the entire plot. Now, modern computer-vision techniques can take multiple images of every plant and stitch them together for a full 3D reconstructed model of the produce.

Data may give us the information we need to improve yield, but something still needs to perform the action. And it’s increasingly not humans.

We are experiencing a growing labor-shortage epidemic. According to the US Census, the average farmer is 58.3 years old, and new generations are not inspired to take on the laborious task that their elders did—even those who have generations of farmers in their family, like myself. This issue isn’t a shortage of food: It’s of people. Crops are rotting on bushes and vinesbecause there aren’t enough staff to maintain and pick them. Considering that one in nine people onEarth aren’t getting adequate nutrition every day, it’s devastating.

This means that though there are more mouths to feed than ever, there will be less land to provide them food, and less calloused hands to tend to the crops that will feed them. So what do you do when you have little land to work with and fewer hands to help? You turn to technology.

Automation allows for a more accurate work environment with little human oversight. It will involve hardware that is more agile than the human eye or hand, and it will be able to give each and every plant the unique attention it needs.

Recent advancements in computing power, dexterity, motion planning, and computer vision are enabling a new generation of robotic applications. Robotics excel at rapidly performing repetitive tasks, but combined with computer vision, robots can start making real-time decisions on a per plant basis, from adjusting the nutrients to pruning. Companies like Blue River have successfully automated tasks like weeding (a manual process for non-GMO crops) to great effect, which is why John Deere bought the company for over $300 million last year.

At Iron Ox, we’ve designed the entire grow process with arobotics-first approach. That means not just adding a robot to an existing process, but designing everything, including our own hydroponic grow system, around the robotics. In an indoor farm, tasks like seeding or harvesting are happening thousands of a times a day. These labor intensive, repetitive tasks are perfect for robotics. And by integrating machine learning and computer vision, we’re able to have the robots respond to an individual plant’s needs. For example, our robot can quarantine a plant if it shows early signs of pest pressure before it contaminates others nearby or change the nutrition recipe for a plant based on phenotyping.

And we don’t even need arable land: By  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2018 at 8:08 am

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