Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Middle-Eastern Greens today: Spinach with things from the deli visits

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Middle-Eastern Spinach after cooking

It was time to cook a new batch of Greens, and today those greens are spinach. I used the 4-qt stainless sauté pan.

• 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, drizzled over bottom of pan
• 1 large red onion, chopped
• 1 good pinch Diamond Crystal kosher salt
• about 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 1 large head Russian red garlic, cloves peeled, chopped, and allowed to rest 15 minutes
• 4 enormous domestic white mushrooms chopped
• 2 300g packages frozen chopped spinach
• about 1 quart fresh spinach, chopped (from Costco run, left over after making salad)
• 3 spicy preserved lemons, cut into eighths (from the deli trip)
• 2 roasted red peppers, chopped (I have a jar of them from the deli trip)
• splash of brine from the jar of lemons
• splash of Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar
• splash of Red Boat fish sauce

I sautéed onions with the salt and crushed red pepper until onions softened, then added garlic and mushrooms and continued to cook, stirring fairly often, until mushrooms released their liquid.

I then added the rest of the ingredients and cooked covered at 225ºF for 25-30 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2021 at 3:05 pm

My favorite squash

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Not this particular one — the variety:  Buttercup. it’s totally wonderful, and they’re just starting to appear, along with those giant Russian red garlic from the fall harvest. This particular squash is a small one, bought in part because it’s cute — but also oh!, so tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2021 at 11:27 am

Free Resource for Evidence-Based Nutrition

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Dr. Michael Greger blogs at NutritionFacts.org:

Are you a medical professional interested in sharing resources on healthy eating with your patients or clients? To support your important efforts, we invite you to apply to receive free copies of our Evidence-Based Eating Guide by completing this form.

The Evidence-Based Eating Guide: A Healthy Living Resource from Dr. Greger & NutritionFacts.org is a tool designed to help make the switch to a healthier lifestyle even more simple. It’s easy to understand and filled with information on eating healthier, including a breakdown of Dr. Greger’s Traffic Light Eating, tips for using his Daily Dozen checklist, sample menus, and more.

We hope the guide will help you help your patients or clients improve the length and quality of their lives. (Note: This application is open to health professionals and organizations, but individuals can get the guide for free here.)

Continue reading. There’s more. Emphasis added to note that non-professionals can get a free copy of the guide from this page.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2021 at 9:54 am

Salty Diet Helps Gut Bugs Fight Cancer in Mice

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A while back I cut way back on my salt intake — and I overdid it, which resulted in woozy spells. Salt is in fact a necessary nutrient, but like many nutrients, too little and too much are both bad news (cf. iodine, zinc, iron, vitamin A, and so on). So I resumed a moderate salt intake. I still buy no-salt-added canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, and canned beans, and I don’t eat highly processed foods or bread or cheese, all of which are high in salt. But I do add a modest amount of salt in cooking, and that has worked.

Sophie Fessl has an interesting article in The Scientist on some unexpected benefits of salt in the diet:

In mice, a diet high in salt suppresses tumor growth—but only when gut microbes are there to stimulate immune cells, a September 10 study in Science Advances reports. The findings raise tantalizing questions about the role of diet and gut microbes in human cancers, and may point to new avenues for therapeutic development.

While the study isn’t the first to connect a high-salt diet to shrinking tumors, “[the authors] have shown a unique mechanistic role of high salt induced gut microbiome changes as the central phenomenon behind their observed anti-cancer effect,” writes Venkataswarup Tiriveedhi, a biologist at Tennessee State University who has studied the effect of salt on cancer progression but was not involved in the study, in an email to The Scientist.

Amit Awasthi, an immunologist with the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in India and corresponding author of the study, says he and his colleagues pursued this line of inquiry because previous research had linked high salt intake with autoimmune diseases, suggesting that increased salt stimulates immune cells. Meanwhile, tumors are well known to grow in immune-suppressive environments. Awasthi recalls wondering with his team: “If we put salt in the mice’s diet, maybe [the immune system in] the tumor environment becomes activated,” suppressing cancerous growth.

Indeed, a 2019 Frontiers in Immunology study from a European team led by Hasselt University immunologist Markus Kleinewietfeld reported that high-salt diets inhibited tumor growth in mice. When Awasthi and his colleagues carried out similar experiments, implanting mice with B16F10 skin melanoma cells and then feeding the tumor transplant mice diets with different salt levels, they got similar results: tumors grew slower in mice who were fed a high-salt diet.

That led to what Awasthi calls an “obvious question”: How does the immune system respond to dietary salt? To answer that, the team dissected the tumor sites and found that immune cells known as natural killer (NK) cells were enriched in the mice fed the high-salt diet compared with mice fed diets with normal or slightly elevated salt levels. When the NK cells were removed, the high-salt diet no longer led to tumor regression—an effect that wasn’t seen after depleting both T and B cells.

To drill into why salt had this effect on NK cells, Awasthi and his colleagues looked in the literature and found studies reporting that high-salt diets alter the gut microbiome, as well as others that found the gut microbiome modulates patients’ response to cancer immunotherapy. To test for a role of the resident gut bacteria in the effects of a high-salt diet on cancer growth, the researchers gave the mice antibiotics before feeding them the different diets. Sure enough, a high-salt diet no longer suppressed tumor growth. But that wasn’t all: when the team transplanted fecal material from mice fed a high-salt diet into microbe-free mice, they were surprised to find that tumors shrank, Awasthi recalls.

See “Does the Microbiome Help the Body Fight Cancer?”

The researchers looked at the diversity of species in the mice’s gut and saw an increased abundance of Bifidobacterium species in mice fed a high-salt diet. Moreover, the tumors of these mice showed a sixfold increase in Bifidobacterium abundance compared with the tumors of mice on a normal diet. According to Awasthi, that suggests “Bifidobacterium is leaking out from the gut and actually reaching the tumor site,” likely the result of salt-induced gut permeability.

In mice fed a normal diet, injection of Bifidobacterium into tumors led to tumor regression, an effect that disappeared if the researchers removed the animals’ NK cells, they reported. Awasthi says that might mean there’s a way to capitalize on the tumor-fighting qualities of a high-salt diet while avoiding the potential downsides, such as autoimmune issues or hypertension: “we can replace the salt with the Bifidobacterium.

Kleinewietfeld says the new study is in line with  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2021 at 6:23 pm

How to cut every type of cheese

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I no longer eat cheese very often at all, but I once did, and I found this video interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

17 September 2021 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Video

Pleasantly meditative video on making Japanese curry udon noodles

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Note the size of the garlic cloves.

Written by Leisureguy

15 September 2021 at 4:21 pm

It’s Not Just Us: Even American Animals Are Getting Fatter

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David Epstein had an interesting article back in October 2013. I came across it this morning. It begins:

Everyone knows Americans are fat and getting fatter, and everyone thinks they know why: more eating and less moving.

But the “big two” factors may not be the whole story. Consider this: Animals have been getting fatter too. The National Pet Obesity Survey recently reported that more than 50 percent of cats and dogs—that’s more than 80 million pets—are overweight or obese. Pets have gotten so plump that there’s now a National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. (It was Wednesday.) Lap dogs and comatose cats aren’t alone in the fat animal kingdom. Animals in strictly controlled research laboratories that have enforced the same diet and lifestyle for decades are also ballooning.

In 2010, an international team of scientists published findings that two dozen animal populations—all cared for by or living near humans—had been rapidly fattening in recent decades. “Canaries in the Coal Mine,” they titled the paper, and the “canaries” most closely genetically related to humans—chimps—showed the most troubling trend. Between 1985 and 2005, the male and female chimps studied experienced 33.2 and 37.2 percent weight gains, respectively. Their odds of obesity increased more than 10-fold.

To be sure, some of the chimp obesity crisis may be caused by the big two. According to Joseph Kemnitz, director of the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, animal welfare laws passed in recent decades have led caretakers to strive to make animals happier, often employing a method known to any parent of a toddler: plying them with sugary food. “All animals love to eat, and you can make them happy by giving them food,” Kemnitz said. “We have to be careful how much of that kind of enrichment we give them. They might be happier, but not healthier.”

And because they don’t have to forage for the food, non-human primates get less exercise. Orangutans, who Kemnitz says are rather indolent even in their native habitats in Borneo and Sumatra, have in captivity developed the physique of spreading batter.

Still, in “Canaries in the Coal Mine,” the scientists write that, more recently, the chimps studied were “living in highly controlled environments with nearly constant living conditions and diets,” so their continued fattening in stable circumstances was a surprise. The same goes for lab rats, which have been living and eating the same way for thirty years.

The potential causes of animal obesity are legion: ranging from increased rates of certain infections to stress from captivity. Antibiotics might increase obesity by killing off beneficial bacteria. “Some bacteria in our intestines are associated with weight gain,” Kemnitz said. “Others might provide a protective effect.”

But feral rats studied around Baltimore have gotten fatter, and they don’t suffer the stress of captivity, nor have they received antibiotics. Increasingly, scientists are turning their attention toward factors that humans and the wild and captive animals that live around them have in common: air, soil, and water, and the hormone-altering chemicals that pollute them.

Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers, released by a particular gland or organ but capable of affecting cells all over the body. While hormones such as testosterone and estrogen help make men masculine and women feminine, they and other hormones are involved in a vast array of functions. Altering or impeding hormones can cause systemic effects, such as weight gain.

More than a decade ago, Paula Baille-Hamilton, a visiting fellow at Stirling University in Scotland who studies toxicology and human metabolism, started perusing scientific literature for chemicals that might promote obesity. She turned up so many papers containing evidence of chemical-induced obesity in animals (often, she says, passed off by study authors as a fluke in their work) that it took her three years to organize evidence for the aptly titled 2002 review paper: “Chemical Toxins: A Hypothesis to Explain the Global Obesity Epidemic.” “I found evidence of chemicals that affect every aspect of our metabolism,” Baille-Hamilton said. Carbamates, which are used in insecticides and fungicides, can suppress the level of physical activity in mice. Phthalates are used to give flexibility to plastics and are found in a wide array of scented products, from perfume to shampoo. In people, they alter metabolism and have been found in higher concentrations in heavier men and women.

In men, phthalates interfere with the normal action of testosterone, an important hormone for maintaining healthy body composition. Phthalate exposure in males has been associated with a suite of traits symptomatic of low testosterone, from lower sperm count to greater heft. (Interference with testosterone may also explain why baby boys of mothers with higher phthalate levels have shorter anogenital distances, that is, the distance between the rectum and the scrotum. Call it what you want, fellas, but if you have a ruler handy and find that your AGD is shorter than two inches, you probably have a smaller penis volume and a markedly higher risk of infertility.)

Baille-Hamilton’s work highlights evidence that weight gain can be influenced by endocrine disruptors, chemicals that mimic and can interfere with the natural hormone system.

A variety of flame retardants have been implicated in endocrine disruption, and one chemical originally developed as a flame retardant—brominated vegetable oil, or BVO—is banned in Europe and Japan but is prevalent in citrusy soft drinks in the U.S. Earlier this year, Gatorade ditched BVO, but it’s still in Mountain Dew and other drinks made by Gatorade’s parent company, PepsiCo. (Many doctors would argue that for weight gain, the sugar in those drinks is the primary concern.) PepsiCo did not respond to a request for comment, but shortly after the Gatorade decision was made a company spokeswoman said it was because “some consumers have a negative perception of BVO in Gatorade.”

And then there are the newly found zombie chemicals, which share a nasty habit—rising from the dead at night—with their eponymous horror flick villains. The anabolic steroid trenbolone acetate is used as a growth promoter in cattle in the U.S., and its endocrine disrupting metabolites—which wind up in agricultural run-off water—were thought to degrade quickly upon exposure to sunlight. Until last month, when researchers published results in Science showing that the metabolites reconstitute themselves in the dark. . .

Continue reading. Endocrine disruptors — for example, the microscopic plastic particles now commonly found in seafood — are very bad because their effect is amplified by natural bodily processes: a tiny amount can have a large effect.

Written by Leisureguy

14 September 2021 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Diet may affect risk and severity of COVID-19

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Tracy Hampton writes in The Harvard Gazette:

Although metabolic conditions such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes have been linked to an increased risk of COVID-19, as well as an increased risk of experiencing serious symptoms once infected, the impact of diet on these risks is unknown. In a recent study led by researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in Gut, people whose diets were based on healthy plant-based foods had lower risks on both counts. The beneficial effects of diet on COVID-19 risk seemed especially relevant in individuals living in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation.

“Previous reports suggest that poor nutrition is a common feature among groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but data on the association between diet and COVID-19 risk and severity are lacking,” says lead author Jordi Merino, a research associate at the Diabetes Unit and Center for Genomic Medicine at MGH and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

For the study, Merino and his colleagues examined data on 592,571 participants of the smartphone-based COVID-19 Symptom Study. Participants lived in the U.K. and the U.S., and they were recruited from March 24, 2020 and followed until Dec. 2, 2020. At the start of the study, participants completed a questionnaire that asked about their dietary habits before the pandemic. Diet quality was assessed using a healthful Plant-Based Diet Score that emphasizes healthy plant foods such as fruits and vegetables.

During follow-up, 31,831 participants developed COVID-19. Compared with individuals in the lowest quartile of the diet score, those in the highest quartile had a 9 percent lower risk of developing COVID-19 and a 41 percent lower risk of developing severe COVID-19. “These findings were consistent across a range of sensitivity analysis accounting for other healthy behaviors, social determinants of health and community virus transmission rates,” says Merino.

“Although we cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings, our study suggests that individuals can also potentially reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 or having poor outcomes by paying attention to their diet,” says co-senior author Andrew Chan, a gastroenterologist and chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at MGH.

The researchers also found a synergistic relationship between poor diet and increased socioeconomic deprivation with COVID-19 risk that was higher than the sum of the risk associated with each factor alone.

“Our models estimate that nearly a third of COVID-19 cases would have been prevented if one of two exposures — diet or deprivation — were not present,” says Merino.

The results also suggest that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2021 at 4:52 pm

Plant-Based Diet Tied to Better Urological Health in Men

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The subtitle of this article will also be of interest to many men:

Eat more plants for your prostate and your erections

Mike Bassett, Staff Writer, writes in MedPage Today:

Men interested in preserving their urological health may benefit from eating more vegetables and fruits, researchers reported.

A trio of studies presented at the American Urological Association (AUA) virtual meeting suggested that plant-based diets were associated with a decreased risk of erectile dysfunction (ED), lower PSA rates, and possibly a lower rate of total and fatal prostate cancer among younger men.

“We can summarize this session succinctly,” said AUA press conference moderator Stacy Loeb, MD, of NYU Langone Health in New York City, who also presented one of the studies.

“Eat more plants for your prostate and your erections,” she advised.

Plant-Based Protection

Investigators at the University of Miami (UMiami) Miller School of Medicine used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to evaluate the association between a plant-based diet and PSA levels. Using Food Frequency Questionnaire dietary data they calculated a plant-based diet index (PDI) and healthful plant-based diet index (hPDI).

Ali Mouzannar, MD, reported that in a cohort of 1,399 men, those with a higher consumption of healthy plant-based diet (high hPDI scores) had a decreased probability of having an elevated PSA (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.24-0.95).

“It seems plant-based diets have protective effects against prostate cancer,” Mouzannar said during the press session. “We still need more insight and more clinical trials to establish the causative effect, but there have been multiple associations between lower risk of prostate cancer, lower risk of elevated PSA with a plant-based diet.”

He added that “it also works the other way around — meat has been shown to be associated with a high rate of aggressive prostate cancer, and high risk of recurrence.”

In a second UMiami-based study, Ruben Blachman-Braun, MD, Ranjith Ramasany, MD, and colleagues used NHANES data base to evaluate 2,549 men, 57.4% of whom had some degree of ED. He reported that risk factors, such as increased age, BMI, hypertension, diabetes, and history of stroke, were all strongly associated with the risk of ED.

“However, increasing plant-based consumption was associated with a decreased risk of erectile dysfunction,” Blachman-Braun pointed out (OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.96 0.99).

Loeb and colleagues conducted a prospective study involving 27,243 men, who were followed up to 28 years, in the Health Follow-up study.

They found that in men ages ≤65 at diagnosis, greater overall consumption of plant-based diet was associated with a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer (HR 0.68, 95% CI 0.42-1.10). Among younger men, greater consumption of a healthful plant-based diet was associated with lower risks of total prostate cancer (HR 0.81 95% CI 0.70-0.95), and fatal disease (HR 0.53, 95% CI 0.32-0.90).

“This is really encouraging given the many health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets,” Loeb said. “And we believe they should be recommended for men who are concerned about the risks of prostate cancer.”

‘A Win-Win’

On the issue of the environmental impact of following plant-based diets, Mouzannar noted that higher meat consumption is associated with greenhouse gas emissions, water issues, decreased biodiversity. “There is a significant effect in following plant-based diets,” he said. “Whether that’s in individuals by promoting a healthy lifestyle and decreasing the risk of multiple cancers — in addition to prostate cancer, specifically — or the environmental effects.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2021 at 4:06 pm

The role meat may play in triggering Parkinson’s disease, and the role fiber may play in protecting against it.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2021 at 3:02 pm

Other Vegetables, Chinese Style

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You see at the bottom of the photo a bitter melon, and above that a few Shanghai bok choy mue (“mue” seems to mean “really young”) and a chayote squash. To the right of the squash are a Nantes carrot (these are huge) and two Chinese leeks. Above and to the left are two Roma tomatoes (I ended up using three) and to the right a turmeric root and a head of Russian red garlic. The jar contains spicy preserved lemons (small: about the size and shape of a ping-pong ball).

I also included some olive oil, salt, a great quantity of ground black pepper, a handful of sultanas, a good splash of Red Boat fish sauce and a good splash of white-wine vinegar, along with some of the liquid from the jar of lemons (briny and spicy). The lemons I cut into eighths: halved, then halved again, then halved once more.

It’s simmering now. I think it will be good. Not the most common version of Other Vegetables, but good from a standpoint of variety. After some cooking at 5, stirring often, the vegetables wilted somewhat, so I reduced heat to 225ºF and cooked for 25 minutes, covered. Result:

In case you’re wondering: it’s very tasty. I’m having a bowl now, with 2 tablespoons of soybeans and 2 tablespoons of oat groats mixed. Definitely a spice kick from the lemons and preserving liquid — and the black pepper, as well.

Written by Leisureguy

11 September 2021 at 1:20 pm

18-foot kale

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An old postcard showing a grove.

I want one of the canes made from the stalks. 

Amelia Soth writes in Atlas Obscura:

SKYSCRAPER CABBAGES: THAT’S HOW BOTANIST Edgar Anderson described the massive kale endemic to Jersey, the little island off the coast of France. You can almost hear the wonder in his voice as he recalls his visit: “The lower leaves had all been harvested from time to time, as green food for cattle, and the plants had kept on growing until they were well over my head; I really walked in their shade.”

Up until recently, 12-foot kale was a common sight on the island of Jersey. Dotted throughout the agricultural landscape, the plants dwarfed everything except for full-sized trees. They clumped in thickets between potato fields, served as posts for beans to twine around, and even formed living fences. With their strange, nubbly stalks and drooping, silvery leaves, they looked like palms, lending the temperate little island an oddly tropical appearance.

Jersey’s gentle climate, stabilized by the sea, provides the perfect conditions for monster kale stalks to shoot towards the sky. Sown in the late summer, the plants could keep growing all through the island’s mild winter. The crop’s primary use, at least at first, was as animal fodder; according to some accounts, just 60 plants were sufficient to keep a cow fed for a year. Rolls of the famously rich and golden Jersey butter those cows produced could be wrapped up in leaves from the same plants before being taken to market. Another Jersey delicacy, the cabbage loaf, got its flavor from being baked between two jumbo leaves.

Although the plant is now known mostly as Jersey kale, it has gone by many names, attesting to its long history of human cultivation. In French, it was known as chou cavalier; in Portuguese, couve galega; in English, long jacks. Scientists knew it by the mellifluous name of Brassica oleracea longata; Victorian-era salesmen rebranded it under the tempting title “Waterloo Caesarian Evergreen Cow Cabbage.”

It’s hard to say exactly where the crop originated or how it came to attain its ultimate towering form. But we do know that it was the Jersey growers who hit upon the bizarre innovation that guaranteed the plant’s fame: kale walking sticks. On the island, after the plants had served their purpose as fodder, they lived a second life. Craftspeople on Jersey dried, sanded, varnished, and transformed them into canes. Particularly ingenious growers even discovered a method of digging up their kale and replanting it at a slant, so that the stem would grow into a curved handle.

When you hear “kale walking sticks,” what do you imagine? Whatever you’re picturing, I’m willing to bet that the real article is much more elegant: golden brown, appealingly knobbly, and extraordinarily light. They were irresistible souvenirs. “Nearly everyone . . .

Continue reading. More images at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

8 September 2021 at 12:08 pm

Red Kale Plus

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The supermarket had extremely fresh red kale in large bunches, so that’s what I’m cooking now. It looks good, and I think I got a nice combo.

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large red onion, chopped
• 1 1/2 large carrots, diced (1//2 because it was left over from Carrot Cake in a Jar)
• stems from 1 bunch of Lacinato kale (used in yesterday’s soup), chopped small
• good-sized pinch of salt
• cloves from 1 head of Russian red garlic, chopped small
• 1 turmeric root the size of my forefinger, minced
• 10-12 medium domestic white mushrooms, chopped
• 1 lemon, ends cut off and discarded, diced
• 1 big bunch of red kale, stems minced and put in with onion, leaves chopped
• several good dashes fish sauce — about 1 tablespoon
• about 1-2 tablespoons Frank’s Hot Sauce
• about 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper

The first thing I did was peel and chop the garlic and set it aside to rest, then chop the kale and put it in a large bowl so it also could rest (for 45 minutes). I didn’t cut out the stems, as I had done for the Lacinato kale, but just cut off the part of the stems below the leaves and minced that.

With the garlic and kale resting, I prepared the rest. I put the olive oil in the 6-qt pot. I used the large pot because, before the kale cooked down, it more than filled the pot — I had to add it a little at a time — but as it cooks it wilts, and at the end the pot is not close to full, as you can see in the photo above.

With the oil in the pot, I added the minced Lacinato stems, then diced the carrot and added that, then chopped the onion and added that. I minced the turmeric and put in the bowl where the garlic was resting, and then I chopped the mushrooms by cutting them in half vertically, putting a half on the flat side and slicing it into several pieces. I had a fairly good pile of mushrooms when I was done. 

I diced the lemon and added that to the bowl with the kale — the lemon is for flavoring and also, with the mushrooms, for some liquid.

Once the timer went off, I turned on the burner to 4 and started cooking. The kale stems, carrots, and onion in the pot I cooked for 5-7 minutes, adding a good pinch of salt and stirring frequently. When that seemed to have cooked enough so that the onions were transparent, I added the garlic, turmeric, and mushrooms and cooked thos for several minutes, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms started to give up their liquid.

Then I added the kale and diced lemon — put a handful in the pot, stir it, lifting up what was on the bottom of the pot to put it over the leaves. As the leaves collapsed, I added more. 

About halfway through that, I added the fish sauce, pepper sauce, and ground black pepper. I add pepper toward the end because in a hot pan, pepper can burn and get an off taste. Once there’s liquid in the pot, burn risk is gone. 

I covered the pot, set temperature to 225ºF and timer to 30 minutes, and let it cook. A couple of times I went in to stir and verify that there was still liquid in the pot — I could always add some water if it cooked dry, but there was ample liquid to steam the kale.

Photo above take right after it was done. Colorful, eh? This I will count as Greens, although of course it does include some Other Vegetables.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2021 at 12:59 pm

Soup with Lacinato kale, white bean, and Calabrian pepper paste

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I’m making this soup again, but this time I’ll use regular shallots (as called for in the original recipe), but instead of ‘nduja, I’ll use Calabrian pepper paste. Calabrian peppers are what give ‘nduja its color and taste, so it should work fine as a substitute. I’ll update this post along the way. I’m following more closely the original recipe, except I did add some marjoram and basil, as much for the antioxidant value as the taste. No tomatoes, though I did include 1 cup cooked oat groats.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 2:13 pm

Cultured Carrot Cake in a jar

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Right after all added to jar.

So today I made this recipe from Cultured Food Life:

2 cups carrots, shredded
2 whole apples, shredded – [I went for 2 cups of shredded apples, and the 2 apples I had did the job – LG]
4 whole dates, chopped
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8  teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon Cutting Edge Cultures

Instead of the culture, I’m using about 1 cup of juice from sauerkraut from the refrigerated section (i.e., unpasteurized sauerkraut in which the culture is still living).

You can read the remaining instructions at the link, but basically you mix althat well in a bowl, and put into into a quart wide-mouth jar. A canning funnel is a big help for that. Cover the jar in a way that keeps air out but lets gas escape, and let it ferment for a few days. I’m using a canning jar and I’ll put a small weight on the lid. That will hold it down to keep air out, and as pressure builds up the jar, the gas can burp out.

UPDATE: During the night after I packed the jar full and set it on the counter to ferment, it occurred to me that the carrots and apples would likely expand, causing some overflow. I therefore put the jar in a bowl, and this morning around noon I did find liquid in the bowl. I tasted it, and it does indeed taste like carrot cake.

A process like this fermentation roughly follows an exponential curve: initially very little visible activity, but then things speed up. I expect that tomorrow (the second day of fermentation), fermentation will be visible, and certainly on the third day I will see activity. 

So far, so good. /update

UPDATE 2: It’s extremely tasty. I thought it would be sour (like sauerkraut), but it’s just somewhat tart. I’m definitely making this again, and I think I’ll try using a packaged starter culture. And I’ll also try these airlock fermentation lids. (I didn’t want to buy supplies until I knew whether I liked it.) /update

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 1:56 pm

Cacao chia pudding with berries and/or nuts

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I blogged this previously, but it was hard to find because title doesn’t include the recipe name. And I did have a couple of enhancements. Here it is, tested and with enhancements to the original recipe:

CACAO CHIA PUDDING – REVISED

• 2 1/4 cups water
• 1 cup raw cashews
• 5 soft dates (preferably Medjool), pitted and chopped
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 1/2 cup raw cacao powder (or use regular unsweetened natural (not Dutch process) cocoa powder)
• 1/2 cup chia seeds (white or black)
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup –
• 1 1/2 cup frozen blueberries or mixed berries or 1 cup walnuts or both

If the dates are hard, soak them in hot water for an hour to soften, then drain before chopping.

The pudding must be chilled for 2-3 hours before serving. It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. It never lasts that long for me — and not because it spoils, if you get my drift.

Put into a blender the cashews, dates, vanilla extract, maple syrup, salt, and chia seeds and add 1 to 1 1/2 cups water and puree until very smooth. Add cocoa power and the remaining water and blend to mix thoroughly.

Pour into a glass storage container and mix in the berries and/or nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until set

You could chop the walnuts, but since I buy “pieces and halves,” quite a few are broken halves, so I just use them as is. A good chunk of walnut is not a bad thing.

Really tasty. But the total recipe is 77 WW points, so small servings work best.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2021 at 2:19 pm

Tackling Inflammation to Fight Age-Related Ailments

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Jane E. Brody writes in the NY Times:

The quest for a fountain of youth is many centuries old and marred by many false starts and unfulfilled promises. But modern medical science is now gradually closing in on what might realistically enable people to live longer, healthier lives — if they are willing to sacrifice some popular hedonistic pleasures.

Specialists in the biology of aging have identified a rarely recognized yet universal condition that is a major contributor to a wide range of common health-robbing ailments, from heart disease, diabetes and cancer to arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. That condition is chronic inflammation, a kind of low-grade irritant that can undermine the well-being of virtually every bodily system.

Chronic inflammation occurs to varying degrees with advancing age in all mammals independent of any existing infection. Researchers call it “inflammaging.” As Roma Pahwa of the National Cancer Institute and Dr. Ishwarlal Jialal of California Northstate University put it in a recent report, “Although chronic inflammation progresses slowly, it is the cause of most chronic diseases and presents a major threat to the health and longevity of individuals.”

However, recent studies have identified measures potentially available to everyone that can minimize the potency of chronic inflammation and stymie — and possibly even reverse — its progression. The measures will come as no surprise to people familiar with the healthful advice that has been offered in this column for many years: Adopt a wholesome diet (details to follow), get regular exercise, avoid or reduce excess weight, get adequate quality sleep, minimize stress and don’t smoke.

In essence, chronic inflammation, which can last indefinitely, results from the failure of the immune system to completely shut down its response to an illness, insult or injury. Among the factors that cause it are the body’s failure to eliminate an inflammation-inducing agent like a bacterium or fungus; exposure to a foreign substance, like asbestos or silica dust, that can’t be eliminated; and the presence of an autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis.

As people age, their immune responses become less well regulated, resulting in elevated blood levels of inflammatory substances like C-reactive protein and chemokines, and allowing inflammatory agents like interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-alpha) to persist in body tissues.

The drug metformin, commonly used to treat Type 2 diabetes, is known to have an anti-inflammatory effect and will be tested for its ability to delay the development of age-related diseases in a forthcoming trial called TAME, the acronym for Targeting Aging with Metformin.

Another consequence of aging is the accumulation of so-called senescent cells, normal cells that stop dividing, contribute to tissue aging and secrete substances like cytokines that induce inflammation. Elimination of senescent cells can counter chronic inflammation, said Steven N. Austad, director of aging studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A combination of two drugs, dasatinib and quercetin, was shown in a Mayo Clinic study in obese mice to remove senescent cells and permit cell growth to resume in the brain. The findings were reported in January in Cell Metabolism.

But consumers don’t have to wait for the results of drug studies in people to take steps that can ward off chronic inflammation and the age-related ailments that it may contribute to or cause. Many practical measures known to counter chronic inflammation can be safely adopted now.

Let’s start with what to eat and the foods to avoid eating. What follows will likely sound familiar to aficionados of a Mediterranean-style diet: a plant-based diet focused on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and cold-water fish and plants like soybeans and flax seeds that contain omega-3 fatty acids.

A Mediterranean-style diet is rich in micronutrients like magnesium, vitamin E and selenium that have anti-inflammatory effects, and its high-fiber content fosters lower levels of two potent inflammatory substances, IL-6 and TNF-alpha.

Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, strongly recommends limiting or eliminating consumption of foods known to have a pro-inflammatory effect. These include all refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and pastries; sugar-sweetened beverages; deep-fried foods; and red meat and processed meats. They are the very same foods with well-established links to obesity (itself a risk factor for inflammation), heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

In their stead, Dr. Hu recommends frequent consumption of foods known to have an anti-inflammatory effect. They include green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collards; fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines; fruits like strawberries, blueberries, apples, grapes, oranges and cherries; nuts like almonds and walnuts; and olive oil. The recommended plant foods contain natural antioxidants and polyphenols, and the fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, all of which counter inflammation.

Coffee and tea also contain protective polyphenols, among other anti-inflammatory compounds.

The bottom line: the less processed your diet, the better.

At the same time, don’t . . .

Continue reading. And there’s no paywall on this one. It’s a gift article.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2021 at 4:56 pm

On Milk

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Alicia Kennedy has a post on “vegan milk”. The URL is odd — as though it doesn’t link to a specific post, but just to her most recent post, so the article may later be hard to find. It begins:

The way people talk about non-dairy milk, you’d think it was a fad dreamed up by vegans in the ’90s and gradually force-fed to the populace via overeager baristas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Swedes of Oatly. Unfortunately for people who’d like to simplify all narratives around not using animal products, almond milk dates back to at least 1226, when it was mentioned in A Baghdad Cookery Book. Soy milk came onto the documented scene in 1365, and almond milk had made it to Europe by 1390, when it became popular during Lent. The first written mention in English of soy milk was in 1704. Thank you to the SoyInfo Center!

Contrast this with a “Shouts & Murmurs” in the August 23, 2021 issue of The New Yorker begins its “A History of Alt-Milk” in 218 B.C. with, “Elephant steps on errant walnut” and skips over all actual developments in the name of “humor,” because there is nothing funnier than not drinking the breast milk of another species.

Historically, human diets have been much more diverse and localized than in the West of the past 100 years or so, and the idea of cow’s milk dairy as the most neutral and “normal” is a European invention. “Most people who retain the ability to digest milk can trace their ancestry to Europe,” as Scientific American reported back in 2013. According to this 2002 (yes, old) study, that’s only 35 percent of the global population. That’s the thing we’ve been force-fed: a non-diverse diet based on European taste and genetics, with animal exploitation a given at an industrial level of production. In the U.S., dairy producers received subsidies totaling $3.5 billion in 2020, whereas oat producers received $44 million. The power is not with dairy alternatives, despite whatever guilt the media folk of New York City have observed among their peers.

It doesn’t get everyone on Twitter’s panties in a knot to realize this, though, and panties in a knot are what drive traffic. Better to talk about how “sensible” one’s experience of summer 2021 in Europe was and announce that hot girls are bringing back whole milk, as this Grub Street piece published last week states based on a couple of tweets. Apparently non-dairy milk’s popularity and creep toward culinary normalcy has been manufactured by the wellness industry, and people haven’t felt like they’re “allowed” to have cow’s milk. This idea, in the piece, comes from someone who works in artisanal cheese. It reminds me that the IDFA (International Dairy Foods’ Association) lobbied for more milk in schools against the advice of nutritionists because they see sales declining.

“In 2018 alone, the IDFA spent around $300,000 a quarter lobbying on issues including school lunches,” wrote The Guardian in 2019. “‘Any government program is going to be a huge moneymaker for them and that includes schools,’ said Levin. ‘That’s where a lot of excess surplus product is dumped; it’s dumped in schools, it’s dumped in prisons.’” That’s hot, just like having that European gene for lactose tolerance!

And as Austin, Texas–based barista Katie Hatch tells me, whole milk probably isn’t making a comeback. She has anecdotal experience, yes, but that’s also what the beloved free market tells us: Oat milk sales grew 170 percent in 2020. It seems to be the only consumer choice people are making on a big enough scale to have an actual impact on industrial animal agriculture.

One hypothesis Hatch has is that people realized they don’t want to drink ounces upon ounces of cow’s milk in the morning—that it’s indeed one easy dietary and ethical change they can make in their lives to feel good about.

“I’ve worked in coffee the past seven years and everyone was into the local, low-temp pasteurized, non-homogenized milk in 2014–18,” Hatch tells me. “Since oat milk made its U.S. debut three to four years ago, it has completely changed the game. Cafés are making their in-house chocolate ganache oat-based, featuring seasonal menu items that complement the oat flavor, and making sure they have a vegan or dairy-free version of just about every menu item. I clear a fridge full of oat before I go through four gallons of whole milk these days! Hot girls drink iced oat lattes and tip at least $2. Rich people drink iced Fronk’s lattes (locally made almond, cashew, date blend that has a five-day shelf life and is a $2 upcharge), but mostly because rich people can’t deny the most expensive version of something and Austin can’t deny a local brand.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like milk, so I have a pretty fierce anti-milk bias. I use full-fat coconut milk in most recipes, sweet and savory, and also have Costco packs of almond or macadamia around to put in cakes, but I take my coffee black. When I was in college, I would order a double tall soy mocha from Starbucks on my way to school sometimes, because I had been proven lactose intolerant about 100 times over and I was sick of running to various bathrooms (most notable of these vivid memories of gastrointestinal distress involve Dunkin’ Donuts, whether on the Hutchinson River Parkway or Main Street in Port Jeff).

A new restaurant in San Juan, Pío Pío, has challenged my resolve by serving the most exquisite Irish coffee I’ve ever tasted. I drink it, because it is good and because by the time dessert rolls around, I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine. Then I pay the price.

I grew up in a whole cow’s milk house, though I would never drink a glass of it on its own, nor would I ever eat anything cheesier than a slice of pizza, because I’ve always been averse to what I would later realize I’m intolerant of. Because of that intolerance and my later strict veganism, I have a very judicious relationship with dairy as a whole. To me, all milk is just . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 7:12 pm

Looking forward and looking back: A FutureMe letter from September 1, 2020

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As I’ve occasionally mentioned, I write myself an email the first of every month to be delivered to me a year later. Occasionally, I’ll write a FutureMe email with another interval — for example, when I’m facing a move and worrying about all that might go wrong, I’ll write one to be delivered a few months after Move Day. Then I’ll have moved and settled in, and I have the pleasure of seeing how groundless were my worries. And sometimes I’lll write an email to be delivered in a few years — for example, my predictions regarding how well some president might do.

I received a fairly long letter this morning from 9/1/2020. In it I wrote about my resolutions regarding habits I was establishing, and as I look back at the past year from today, I see clearly how establishing new habits involves what should be viewed as practice attempts but often are seen as failures. In the letter I wrote about resolutions regarding diet, exercise, and finance, and though for some the year was spotty, this past month I feel I’ve corralled all three.

Diet was the easiest. That was mainly a matter of cutting out too-frequent deviations from the diet and establishing a new pattern of eating, which I set out in that letter and is now an established habit — see the Update in this post.  So I’m chuffed that in the past year I’ve stuck with the new meal plan to the point that now I don’t even think about it — it’s just the way I eat.

Exercise took longer to get established, but in late July I took another run at it, going out early morning for a Nordic walk, six days a week. I’ve worked up to a daily walk that lasts at least an hour (3.4 miles) and often about 15 minutes more (4.1 miles). I now readily exceed Cooper’s recommended minimum of aerobic points. My average for August was 39.8 points per week, and that included ramping up gradually to an hour (or more), so September’s weekly average should be better.

Finance reform was hardest — I had to break bad habits solidified over many years — but I kept working at it — practice gradually can eliminate flaws in technique — and finally figured it out. The key elements for me were:

  1. I built my budget on 95% of take-home pay, not 100%. Unexpected expenses occasionally arise. For example: my La-Z-Boy recliner will be repaired on Friday: $150 labor charge (parts covered by lifetime warranty).
  2. At the beginning of the month my monthly income arrives in my checking account, and except for the amount budgeted for day-to-day spending (groceries, miscellaneous, and discretionary), I immediately move the money into my savings account and park it there.
    .
    When I have to pay a bill, that money then comes from savings, not from my weekly day-to-day money in checking. I pay bills with Visa and then immediately pay the charge — by a transfer from checking if it’s a grocery bill or other day-to-day expense, and by a transfer from savings if it’s anything else.
    .
    Thus the day-to-day budget never has to take a big hit — those bills are covered by money I already transferred to savings. And my Visa balance hovers right around zero.
  3. With all the big bills covered by money transferred to Savings, I can focus my attention on remaining strictly within my weekly allotment for grocery, miscellaneous, and discretionary. Staying within budget each week results in staying within budget each month. Today is 1 September and I have money still remaining from my August allotment for G&M and Discretionary, and my Savings account is flush with money for non-daily expenses as they arise.

So reading that letter from a year ago — where I set out what I was going to work on in the coming year — provided a good chunk of satisfaction to begin the day. Tonight I’ll write an email to myself to be delivered September 1, 2022, where I’ll write down new goals for the coming year.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 1:34 pm

How Much Lead Leaches Into Organic Chicken Bone Broth?

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I had always assumed bone broth was nutritious. Guess not. Read this post.

From the post:

most of the lead ends up in the birds’ skeletons, which raises the question: What happens when you try to make chicken soup?

There may be an upswing in people boiling bones, which is “encouraged by advocates of the paleolithic (or ‘paleo’) diet,” but the problem is that lead is a neurotoxin—but not just a neurotoxin. Lead also adversely affects the bone marrow, digestive tract, kidneys, circulatory system, hormones, and reproduction. Symptoms of too much lead exposure include impaired cognition, anemia, abdominal pain, kidney problems, high blood pressure, miscarriages, memory problems, constipation, impotence, depression, poor concentration, and more. What’s more, we know from human studies that lead is sequestered in bones. When there is a lot of bone turnover, for example, during menopause or pregnancy, lead levels in the blood can go up. This bump can be minimized during pregnancy by getting enough calcium and lowering sodium intake, though. When astronauts lose bone in space, the lead is released into their bloodstream. Ironically, since they’re no longer being exposed to all the lead on Earth, their overall lead levels may go down. Bones are so good at sucking up lead, they can be sprinkled on firing ranges to prevent lead from leeching further into the environment.

Researchers concerned that the boiling of farm animals’ bones might release lead into the broth made three types of organic chicken broth—one using the bones, a second using meat without the bones, and a third using the skin and cartilage without the bones. All three of the broths exceeded the maximum allowable dose level for lead—even the one made without bones. Surprisingly, the skin and cartilage broth was the worst, exceeding the safety level per one-cup serving by about 475 percent.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

31 August 2021 at 12:39 pm

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