Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Very tasty dinner: Braised eggplant and pork

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I thought this was excellent. I used a globe eggplant, not a Japanese one, and I worked fine. My market had no Enoki mushrooms, so I simply skipped the mushrooms, but I did think of using finely chopped plain white domestic mushrooms as a substitute. It didn’t really need it. And I used Amontillado sherry rather than the wine. For the sausage I bought bratwurst links and removed the casing and broke up the meal. I went with 8 ounces. No rice: low carb.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2017 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

One food executive has pledged $25 million to fight his own industry

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Caitlin Dewey reports in the Washington Post:

In late 2015, Daniel Lubetzky learned of a federal rule that puzzled him: Salmon, avocados, olives, eggs and tree nuts aren’t “healthy,” according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Lubetzky, the chief executive of snack brand KIND, had just received a letter from the FDA warning him to stop putting the term on the packaging of his snack bars. The agency’s labeling regulations — dating back to the height of the anti-fat craze — prevented even “good” fats from calling themselves healthy, while allowing the label on some high-sugar products.

Learning about the origins of the rule — and, later, trying to change it — Lubetzky concluded that his industry had too much power in how food policy is decided. On Wednesday, he launched a new public advocacy organization, called Feed the Truth, designed to explore, expose and “counteract” that sort of influence. He is now giving $25 million to fund the organization–$5 million now and $20 million more over the next decade — though he says he won’t have any role in deciding the organization’s approach beyond choosing three nutrition experts to choose the group’s board.

“I don’t want to talk to them. I don’t want to know who they are. I’m not going to forward them articles,” Lubetzky said. “The announcement will be done by us. After that, we’re cutting the cord — the decisions will be made by board members I’ve never met.”

Experts generally agree that the food industry’s influence over public health has gone too far. Political contributions from food and beverage companies have more than doubled in the past 18 years, and the industry spends billions to fund complementary research, finance “shadow” groups to advance its local agendas, and lobby regulators.

Michael Jacobson, the president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and one of three prominent nutrition experts who will choose Feed the Truth’s board, said the industry’s political activities are vast. (The other early advisers are Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, and Deborah Eschmeyer, the former executive director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative.)

“Compared to that, [Feed the Truth] is a small organization,” Jacobson said. “$25 million is a nice chunk of dough. But no, it’s not $100 million.”

There are several major battlegrounds in this larger fight against food industry influence. One is labeling, Jacobson said, but not just of the sort encountered by KIND. Several powerful trade associations have also marshaled their lobbyists to fight front-of-package food labeling, which would more clearly identify less healthful foods, and the updated Nutrition Facts panel, which will explicitly call out added sugars.

The processed food lobby has also fought voluntary sodium reduction targets, which Jacobson says could save “tens of thousands of lives.” During a recent FDA comment period, dozens of public health departments and organizations urged the FDA to adopt the targets — while a number of well-funded trade groups, including the North American Meat Institute and the National Milk Producers Federation, opposed it.

“The industries with the most political clout and the deepest pockets tend to sway the way things go,” said Andy Bellatti, the strategic director of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, a professional group. . .

Continue reading.

I highly recommend reading the entire article, though it’s depressing: the drive to maximize profits has been extraordinarily corrupting, as the article shows.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2017 at 12:27 pm

So, as an experiment, I bought a pork shoulder…

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This was a bone-in pork shoulder, 3.5 lbs. My though was that I could cut a chunk from it and then use that chunk in a recipe rather than cooking the entire shoulder.

So I’ve been doing it and it works really well. The chucks (which I weigh) turn out to be close to 4.5 ounces, and I think cut the big chunk into small pieces. Yesterday I made a really good and fresh-tasting chili. Today:

First step: Prep

1/2 very large red onion, chopped—about 1.5 cups chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced—these should rest for 15 minutes before cooking
4-5 oz piece of pork shoulder, cut into small chunks—you could use tempeh or tofu (firm or extra-firm would be best)
1 c steamed cauliflower, cut into chunks (I happened to have this; can be omitted)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
[optional: 1 jalapeño, chopped]
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
10-12 pitted Kalamata olives, halved (which also checks for pits)
1 Meyer lemon, at the ready—I use Meyer lemons because the skin is very thin
Sherry (cream sherry or Amontillado sherry) at the ready

Second step: Cooking

Heat 9″ sauté pan (skillet with steep sides) on medium-high heat. Add:

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
the onion from above
big pinch of salt
a good amount of freshly ground pepper
about 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
about 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Sauté until onions are soft and transparent. Then add the cauliflower and the peppers and sauté some more. When the peppers have softened somewhat, add:

minced garlic
pork

Stir for a few minutes as it cooks, then add peppers. Cook until peppers soften slightly, then add:

tomatoes
olives
juice of the Meyer lemon, and then cut the peel into small pieces and add that as well
good splash of sherry

Cover, reduce to simmer, and let cook 30-minutes. Surprisingly tasty. I’m having it with Apothic blended red wine, which seems pretty good to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2017 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

Things that make me lose heart: School lunch division

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It’s depressing how difficult it is to implement changes that are obviously for the better, particularly when those changes are to improve things for children. One of the weaknesses of capitalism is that it has no moral sense.

The chart below is from a must-read article I have already blogged, but I just could not get this out of my mind:

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I highly recommend reading the article itself, “Revenge of the Lunch Lady.” It’s depressing the degree to which the welfare of children counts for nothing in political calculus.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 February 2017 at 12:39 pm

The casual cruelty of the Republican party and the emergence of a local hero

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Jane Black has an article at Huffington Post, “Revenge of the Lunch Lady,” that is totally worth reading just for the personal drama and vindication of a government employee. Read the whole thing, but let me quote just one section. (The article is long, but fascinating.)

. . . To those unfamiliar with the absurdist theater of school lunch, it is puzzling, even maddening, that feeding kids nutritious food should be so hard. You buy good food. You cook it. You serve it to hungry kids.

Yet the National School Lunch Program, an $11.7 billion behemoth that feeds more than 31 million children each day, is a mess, and has been for years. Conflicts of interest were built into the program. It was pushed through Congress after World War II with the support of military leaders who wanted to ensure that there would be enough healthy young men to fight the next war, and of farmers who were looking for a place to unload their surplus corn, milk and meat. The result was that schools became the dumping ground for the cheap calories our modern agricultural system was designed to overproduce.

This tension has played out over and over again, with children usually ending up the losers. A case in point: In 1981, America was awash in surplus dairy. The government’s Inland Storage and Distribution Center—a network of tunnels beneath Kansas City, Missouri—was filled with 200 million pounds of cheese and butter, stacked “like frozen pillars and stretching over acres of gray stone floor,” according to The Associated Press. In an effort to ease the glut, the USDA purchased millions of pounds of dairy for schools. But, according to Janet Poppendieck, a professor at Hunter College who specializes in poverty and hunger, this encouraged dairy farmers to keep on milking. So in 1986 the government had to create a new program, the Whole Herd Buyout, which paid farmers to slaughter the dairy cows. The government then bought the beef, which was turned into hamburger, taco meat and so on for school lunch.

That flood of meat and dairy hiked the fat content of school meals just as the country was descending into an anti-fat frenzy. In 1990, the federal government issued new dietary guidelines, declaring that a healthy diet should contain no more than 30 percent fat, with a 10 percent cap on saturated fat. But cafeterias simply had too much of the wrong food to comply. In a USDA study of 544 schools conducted several years later, only 1 percent met the requirement for overall fat and just a single school had managed to keep saturated fat to a healthy level. The deeply conflicted nature of the program was showing itself once again.

Since the 1990s, the USDA has made many improvements—it now requires that canned vegetables have less salt and insists that ground beef be 95 percent lean. But school lunch is still a disgrace, and the timidity of Congress is largely to blame. In 2011, the USDA proposed limiting the amount of potatoes and other starchy vegetables permitted in school lunches so that cafeterias could make room for healthier options. But the Senate, led by members from two top potato producers, Maine and Colorado, killed the idea in a unanimous vote. Then there’s the pizza lobby. When the 2010 revision of nutrition standards increased the minimum amount of tomato paste required for pizza to count as a vegetable from two tablespoons—the typical amount found on a slice—to half a cup, the National Frozen Pizza Institute and other groups howled, and Congress opted for the status quo. The idea that pizza might not be considered a vegetable was, apparently, un-American.

What makes school lunch so contentious, though, isn’t just the question of what kids eat, but of which kids are doing the eating. As Poppendieck recounts in her book, Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, the original program provided schools with food and, later, cash to subsidize the cost of meals. But by the early 1960s, schools weren’t receiving enough to feed all their students, and many pulled out of the program. As a result, middle-class students, whose parents could cover the difference between the government subsidy and the actual cost of a meal, ended up benefiting the most from school lunch, while the truly needy went hungry. This moral failing became clear in 1968, when a landmark report called “Their Daily Bread” revealed that only one-third of the 6 million children living in poverty were receiving free or subsidized lunch. Schools’ ability to pay for food was so limited that one in Mississippi rotated 100 lunches among more than 400 students, while another in Alabama had just 15 meals for 1,000 needy kids. School lunch had its first official scandal.

In response, Congress, which had preferred to let schools decide who got to eat and who did not, established a three-tiered system. Students from families with incomes up to 25 percent above the federal poverty line—about $3,300 for a family of four, or around $24,000 in today’s dollars—were entitled to free meals. Those from families with incomes between 25 and 95 percent above the poverty line paid a reduced price, while everyone else paid the full price. (Just to make things extra confusing, schools also received a small subsidy for those meals as well). This system had the virtue of guaranteeing that the poorest children would be fed. But it also transformed school lunch from a program designed to feed all students into one for the poor.

Once school lunch was perceived as welfare, it became a target. President Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980 on a promise to slash domestic spending, attacked the program. It was one thing to help the genuinely needy, Reagan’s budget director David Stockman declared, but it was “wasteful” to support middle- and upper-class families who could afford to buy lunch. What he didn’t mention was that the cutoff for a free meal was nowhere near a middle-class income and excluded many kids who needed the help.

Still, Congress agreed to cut the small subsidy for full-price lunches by more than a third. The effect was quick and severe. Lunch prices rose, and in the space of just three years, more than a quarter of the kids in the full-price tier stopped buying school lunch. With fewer students participating and smaller reimbursements for each meal served, schools lost their (already limited) economies of scale. The ensuing budget crisis forced schools to seek out even cheaper food—the highly processed stuff, such as chicken nuggets and corn dogs, that they are now condemned for serving. And on it goes.

Not that any of these cautionary tales have diminished the Republicans’ desire to gut the program. In 2014, now-House Speaker Paul Ryan said that public assistance, including school lunch, offered a “full stomach and an empty soul” because it made kids reliant on government handouts. With the party now in control of Congress and the White House—and with Michelle Obama, the program’s greatest defender, gone—school lunch is as vulnerable as it’s ever been.

One Republican strategy to hobble school lunch involves changing an innocuous-sounding proposal called the Community Eligibility Provision. The formula for CEP is complex, but it essentially allows schools in high-poverty areas to provide free meals to all students. This alleviates the administrative burden of keeping track of who qualifies for which tier, and allows money that would normally be spent on administration to go toward paying cooks or buying better food instead.

Judging by its popularity among food service directors, CEP has been one of the most successful innovations in school-lunch policy in decades. Studies show the program reduces the long-standing stigma for kids getting free lunch and enables those who don’t qualify for subsidized meals, but who actually need them, to eat if they’re hungry. This prevents situations like the one that took place last fall, when a school cafeteria worker in Pennsylvania resigned after having to take away the lunch of a first-grader whose parents failed to pay their bill. Not surprisingly, CEP has been embraced in impoverished areas like North Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, where food-service directors have been forced to hire collection agencies to chase down parents who haven’t paid for their kids’ meals.

Conservatives insist that it’s not the taxpayers’ job to cover for negligent parents. Todd Rokita, an Indiana Republican who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees school food, called CEP “perverse,” alleging that it incentivizes schools to give free meals to students who either already pay or are capable of paying for school lunch. This despite the fact that schools, like most places in America, have become increasingly segregated by socioeconomics over the last two decades. So the throngs of coddled middle-class kids Rokita thinks are eating for free don’t actually exist.

Rhonda McCoy is emphatic that kids shouldn’t be punished for their families’ financial situations. “It’s not their fault that the parents didn’t pay the bill,” she said. Before CEP, she remembers getting calls, which she said “broke my heart,” about students who chose to go hungry rather than have an embarrassing conversation about money. But if Rokita wins this battle, more than 7,000 schools, feeding nearly 3.4 million kids, will once again have to start charging for some meals. In West Virginia, the new formula would exclude 327 schools, including all 26 in Cabell County. “This would all be over,” McCoy told me. “It would kill us.” . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2017 at 4:52 pm

Some good news in the mortar-and-pestle category

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“The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true,” but I have had a heck of a time find a mortar and pestle that will do the job, whether it is crushing allspice, grinding cumin seeds, or smashing chopped garlic into a paste. I got a series of mortars from which the ingredients would fly when I brought the pestle into play. But now, at last, I have found a good mortar and pestle: this Cole & Mason solid granite mortar and pestle:

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The key is that the mortar is quite deep and the sides are steep, so as you smash things they don’t escape the Pit of Doom.

Instructions say not to wash with soapy water. Instead, grind up some rice in it and discard. (I think water alone would be okay.)

Here’s the recipe I made tonight, using the Cole & Mason mortar and pestle to make the garlic paste. It worked perfectly.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2017 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Small cooking note

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I like to prepare my mis en place over the afternoon, doing a little chopping here, a little grating there, and putting ingredients in prep bowls. (I like these, though mine are pumpkin in color.) That allows me to take my time and thus enjoy the process instead of feeling rushed, but even if I were rushed, it’s vital to have everything read before you start a stir-fry. (I’m making “Stir-Fried Tofu and Peppers,” by Martha Rose Shulman, whose recipes I tend to like.)

The small note is that I’ve gradually learned to put into the same bowl those ingredients that are added together. In this recipe:

tofu and scallions in same bowl
ginger and garlic in the same bowl
walnuts and chopped bell peppers in the same bowl

It reduces the number of bowls required and ensures that I don’t neglect an ingredient.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 February 2017 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

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