Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

The honey detectives are closing in on China’s shady syrup swindlers

leave a comment »

Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas and Jonathan Lake write in Wired:

Shortly before dawn most days, José Eduardo Moo Pat sets out from his home in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with a protective suit and his metal smoker for calming honey bees. He drives six miles through low-lying tropical jungle to tend to his 30 hives nestled in a clearing.

His work has always been hard. But now making a livelihood is even tougher and his bees are at real risk – not from pesticides or deforestation, but from a catastrophic collapse in the wholesale price of honey. “I think every day about profitability,” says Moo Pat “I have seen many beekeepers disappear in the last two or three years. I don’t know if I can continue. I don’t even have enough money to pay for the fuel to go to see my bees.”

Five years ago, Moo Pat, who is 42 and from the small Mexican town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, was paid 47 pesos (£1.73) per kilogram for his organic honey by a local fair trade co-operative, but the price has now slumped to just 35 pesos per kilogram. The price for conventional honey has fallen even further, from 43 pesos per kilogram to just 23 pesos. Many of Mexico’s estimated 42,000 beekeepers – much of whose honey goes to Europe – are now giving up and abandoning their hives.

Moo Pat blames China for his financial plight. There, cheap honey and sugar syrup are produced on an industrial scale and blended together by fraudsters. Beekeepers believe this adulterated honey is responsible for saturating the market, crashing global prices and deceiving millions of customers.

“Most of the honey imported from China into Europe is blended with syrup,” says Etienne Bruneau, chairman of the honey working party at the European agricultural umbrella organisation Copa-Cogeca. “In China, they tell you if you want honey it’s one price and if you want a cheaper price you can have syrup in it.”

In the UK, beekeepers are also finding themselves squeezed by bargain honey pouring off the production lines in China. “Even for large scale bee farmers the size of the operation would need to be off the scale to be able to compete on price for the product that they sell as honey,” says Martin Pope, who runs Beeza Ltd, producing honey and wax products from apiaries around Kingsbridge in South Devon.

Moo Pat and other beekeepers in Mexico are starting to fight back, campaigning internationally to investigate and expose the honey fraudsters – and the looming risk to biodiversity from abandoned hives and declining bee populations. His federation of honey producers has helped fund tests on supermarket honey in the UK, one of the world’s biggest importers of Chinese honey.

The tests have indicated widespread adulteration, but also laid bare the limited and often unreliable tools available to detect and police honey fraud. Scientists and regulators around the world are now developing a test with a vast database of sample honeys which they hope will lead to the prosecution of honey fraudsters and bring the illicit industry to a sticky end.

Beekeeping is one of the most ancient forms of farming, with archaeological evidence suggesting humans have been harvesting honey from bees for nearly 9,000 years. Research published in Nature in November 2015 found traces of beeswax on pieces of Neolithic crockery unearthed in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

There are now more than 90 million managed beehives around the world producing about 1.9m tonnes of honey worth more than £5 billion a year. The industry provides a huge environmental benefit because three out of four crops depend to some extent on pollination by bees and other insects for yield and quality.

Farming bees is, however, labour intensive, so honey is expensive – and that makes it a tempting target for adulteration with cheap substitutes. The most common fraud is the dilution of genuine honey with sugar syrup, typically manufactured from rice, corn or sugar beet.

China is the world’s biggest producer of honey, accounting for about a quarter of global output, but its rise to dominance and its low prices have long been viewed with suspicion. In the eastern province of Zhejiang, where much of the country’s beekeeping industry is concentrated, industrial plants manufacture cheap rice and corn syrup to be blended with honey. Alibaba, the Chinese online marketplaces, even advertises industrial “fructose syrup for honey” for as little as 76p per kilogram.

Beekeepers warn that the flow of adulterated honey coming out of China is so great that it’s distorting the market. In November Copa-Cogeca warned that the livelihoods of many European beekeepers were in peril after  . . .

Continue reading. I would also note that some supermarket honey brands, such as Sioux Bee, strangely never crystallize.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2021 at 1:48 pm

A wonderful boar brush and Darkfall, with the redoubtable iKon 102

leave a comment »

My Omega 20102 is now well broken in, and it’s a wonderful brush — but you already knew that from the title, right? It has excellent capacity, a very nice feel on the face (a perfect degree of give and resilience), and it works up an awesome lather, though of course the shaving soap is definitely a contributing factor to that, and Declaration’s Darkfall in their Icarus formula is quite a nice soap:

Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Avocado Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Mango Seed Butter, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Bison Tallow, Lamb Tallow, Colloidal Oatmeal, Goat’s Milk, Lanolin, Bentonite Clay, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Extract, Salix Alba L. (White Willow) Bark Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tussah Silk

The fragrance is aimed at autumn as the name implies. Their description:

Darkfall is a spicy oriental designed to capture the spirit of fall in the rural south. Agarwood, amber, and benzoin provide a deep, warm base for the cinnamon and clove top notes. Birch tar adds a slight smokiness that represents the ever-present smell of burning leaves that heralds the arrival of fall in Georgia.

Because the knot is fairly large, I left it slightly wetter than usual because I wanted to load it with enough soap for the size of the knot, and that I got it well loaded in one go (no added water needed), despite the Bentonite clay in the soap.

The iKon 102 is a superb razor, and shaving with it is a delight. It easily left my face perfectly smooth in three passes.

A good splash of Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave, a favorite, and the week begins — yet another momentous week.

I’ll mention in passing that I’ve updated my quick & easy steak post with how to do a slow & easy steak, a method that strikes me as better in several respects.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2021 at 10:56 am

How the Right Foods Increase the Likelihood of a Healthier Gut and Better Health

leave a comment »

Anahad O’Connor reports in the NY Times:

Scientists know that the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in our guts play an important role in health, influencing our risk of developing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and a wide range of other conditions. But now a large new international study has found that the composition of these microorganisms, collectively known as our microbiomes, is largely shaped by what we eat.

By analyzing the diets, health and microbiomes of more than a thousand people, researchers found that a diet rich in nutrient-dense, whole foods supported the growth of beneficial microbes that promoted good health. But eating a diet full of highly processed foods with added sugars, salt and other additives had the opposite effect, promoting gut microbes that were linked to worse cardiovascular and metabolic health.

The researchers found that what people ate had a more powerful impact on the makeup of their microbiomes than their genes. They also discovered that a variety of plant and animal foods were linked to a more favorable microbiome.

One critical factor was whether people ate foods that were highly processed or not. People who tended to eat minimally processed foods like vegetables, nuts, eggs and seafood were more likely to harbor beneficial gut bacteria. Consuming large amounts of juices, sweetened beverages, white bread, refined grains, and processed meats, on the other hand, was associated with microbes linked to poor metabolic health.

“It goes back to the age-old message of eating as many whole and unprocessed foods as possible,” said Dr. Sarah E. Berry, a nutrition scientist at King’s College London and a co-author of the new study, which was published Monday in Nature Medicine. “What this research shows for the first time is the link between the quality of the food we’re eating, the quality of our microbiomes and ultimately our health outcomes.”

The findings could one day help doctors and nutritionists prevent or perhaps even treat some diet-related diseases, allowing them to prescribe personalized diets to people based on the unique makeup of their microbiomes and other factors.

Many studies suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. The new study, for example, found that while some foods were generally better for health than others, different people could have wildly different metabolic responses to the same foods, mediated in part by the kinds of microbes residing in their guts.

“What we found in our study was that the same diet in two different individuals does not lead to the same microbiome, and it does not lead to the same metabolic response,” said Dr. Andrew T. Chan, a co-author of the study and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “There is a lot of variation.”

The new findings stem from an international study of personalized nutrition called Predict, which is the world’s largest research project designed to look at individual responses to food. Started in 2018 by the British epidemiologist Tim Spector, the study has followed over 1,100 mostly healthy adults in the United States and Britain, including hundreds of identical and nonidentical twins.

The researchers collected data on a wide range of factors that influence metabolism and disease risk. They analyzed the participants’ diets, microbiomes and body fat. They took blood samples before and after meals to look at their blood sugar, hormones, cholesterol and inflammation levels. They monitored their sleep and physical activity. And for two weeks they had them wear continuous glucose monitors that tracked their blood sugar responses to different meals.

The researchers were surprised to discover that genetics played only a minor role in shaping a person’s microbiome. Identical twins were found to share just 34 percent of the same gut microbes, while people who were unrelated shared about 30 percent of the same microbes. The composition of each person’s microbiome appeared instead to be driven more by what they ate, and the types of microbes in their guts played a strong role in their metabolic health.

The researchers identified clusters of so-called good gut bugs, which were more common in people who ate a diverse diet rich in high-fiber plants — like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, nuts and seeds — as well as minimally processed animal foods such as fish and full-fat yogurt. They also found clusters of “bad” gut bugs that were common in people who regularly consumed foods that were highly processed. One common denominator among heavily processed foods is that they tend to contain very little fiber, a macronutrient that helps to nourish good microbes in the gut, the researchers said.

Among the “good” strains of gut microbes were Prevotella copri and Blastocystis, both of which were associated with lower levels of visceral fat, the kind that accumulates around internal organs and that increases the risk of heart disease. These microbes also appeared to improve blood sugar control, an indicator of diabetes risk. Other beneficial microbes were associated with reduced inflammation and lower spikes in blood fat and cholesterol levels after meals, all of which play a role in cardiovascular health. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2021 at 11:32 am

How the Right Foods May Lead to a Healthier Gut, and Better Health

leave a comment »

Anahad O’Connor reports in the NY Times:

Scientists know that the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in our guts play an important role in health, influencing our risk of developing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and a wide range of other conditions. But now a large new international study has found that the composition of these microorganisms, collectively known as our microbiomes, is largely shaped by what we eat.

By analyzing the diets, health and microbiomes of more than a thousand people, researchers found that a diet rich in nutrient-dense, whole foods supported the growth of beneficial microbes that promoted good health. But eating a diet full of highly processed foods with added sugars, salt and other additives had the opposite effect, promoting gut microbes that were linked to worse cardiovascular and metabolic health.

The researchers found that what people ate had a more powerful impact on the makeup of their microbiomes than their genes. They also discovered that a variety of plant and animal foods were linked to a more favorable microbiome.

One critical factor was whether people ate foods that were highly processed or not. People who tended to eat minimally processed foods like vegetables, nuts, eggs and seafood were more likely to harbor beneficial gut bacteria. Consuming large amounts of juices, sweetened beverages, white bread, refined grains, and processed meats, on the other hand, was associated with microbes linked to poor metabolic health.

“It goes back to the age-old message of eating as many whole and unprocessed foods as possible,” said Dr. Sarah E. Berry, a nutrition scientist at King’s College London and a co-author of the new study, which was published Monday in Nature Medicine. “What this research shows for the first time is the link between the quality of the food we’re eating, the quality of our microbiomes and ultimately our health outcomes.”

The findings could one day help doctors and nutritionists prevent or perhaps even treat some diet-related diseases, allowing them to prescribe personalized diets to people based on the unique makeup of their microbiomes and other factors.

Many studies suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. The new study, for example, found that while some foods were generally better for health than others, different people could have wildly different metabolic responses to the same foods, mediated in part by the kinds of microbes residing in their guts.

“What we found in our study was that the same diet in two different individuals does not lead to the same microbiome, and it does not lead to the same metabolic response,” said Dr. Andrew T. Chan, a co-author of the study and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “There is a lot of variation.”

The new findings stem from an international study of personalized nutrition called Predict, which is the world’s largest research project designed to look at individual responses to food. Started in 2018 by the British epidemiologist Tim Spector, the study has followed over 1,100 mostly healthy adults in the United States and Britain, including hundreds of identical and nonidentical twins.

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

The researchers identified clusters of so-called good gut bugs, which were more common in people who ate a diverse diet rich in high-fiber plants — like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, nuts and seeds — as well as minimally processed animal foods such as fish and full-fat yogurt. They also found clusters of “bad” gut bugs that were common in people who regularly consumed foods that were highly processed. One common denominator among heavily processed foods is that they tend to contain very little fiber, a macronutrient that helps to nourish good microbes in the gut, the researchers said.

Whole-food plant-only diet for the win!

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2021 at 5:05 pm

Interesting recipe search engine

leave a comment »

Type in the name (or part of the name) of a recipe and get results from a 2,000,000-recipe database.

You’ll see a long list of hits, which you can then filter by ingredient. The filter, however, does not seem to allow for excluding an ingredient — for example, you cannot get a set of cornbread recipes that do not contain flour, though you can get a set of cornbread recipes that (for example) do contain bacon. The filter seems to work with OR as the connector, not AND — for example, if you search “cornbread” and filter for  both bacon and buttermilk, you get a list of recipes that contain either or both of those, not a list of only recipes that contain both. I would say the filter function requires more work.

Another limitation (naturally enough) is that the list of filter items is limited. There’s a “show more” option, but even that list is limited. If you want a cornbread recipe that contains chorizo, for example, you will not see “chorizo” listed among the filter choices. However, an easy workaround is to include the desired ingredient in the recipe search term. For example, entering “cornbread chorizo” as the search term will list cornbread recipes that include chorizo.

Similarly, if you want a soup that contains kale, don’t look to the filter (“kale” is not listed, even with “show more”). Instead, just enter “kale soup” as the search term. You can extend this: enter “soup kale chorizo” and get a list of recipes that contain both kale and chorizo.

It’s a quick way to sift through 2,000,000 recipes. Here it is.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 January 2021 at 5:58 am

Beans for Life!

leave a comment »

I eat beans at each meal, and I’ve grown to like them a lot because of the variety. For example,

  • Cook, drain, chill, and use in salads or standalone — lentils (black belugua, Du Puy, brown, green), kidney beans, soybeans, black beans, and a jillion kinds of heritage beans (some favorites: Christmas Lima beans, black valentine beans (better than black turtle beans), flageolet beans, mortgage lifter beans (enormous), corona beans (a special favorite—sweet and creamy and hold their shape), scarlet runner beans, black rice beans (very small), and others. Good sources: Purcell Mountain Farms and Rancho Gordo and see the list in this post.
  • Make a soup — for example, Lentils Monastery Style is easy to make with ingredients you might already have on hand (and that in any case are easily found).  I also made a variation when I was active in WW, Lentils WW Style. Or try Senate Bean Soup.
  • Cook and mash to make hummus (chickpeas and tahini with lemon juice and olive oil) or a variation with a different kind of bean and perhaps a nut butter (almond butter, hazelnut butter) instead of tahini — see Hummus, Generalized and also browse this list for variants I’ve made. My stand-by standard recipe is what I make most often.
  • Cook and don’t mash to make some sort of bean salad or side-dish, such as Texas Caviar or Mark Bittman’s Bean Salad (with variations).

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2021 at 11:57 am

Variations on Dutch babies

leave a comment »

Dutch babies can be consider a sweet version of Yorkshire pudding, using butter instead of beef fat or beef drippings and topped with powdered sugar, as shown in this brief video (recipe details; and a variant recipe):

And for comparison, here is Yorkshire pudding (recipe details):

My immediate thought was of variations on the recipe — for example, a Dutch baby with duck fat instead of butter, and sprinkled with (say) ground chipotle or smoked paprika instead of sugar. That would be tasty with roasted vegetables, I bet.

By varying the fat and the flavorings, you could create many varieties. The batter might include (for examaple) a dash of Worcestershire sauce and/or a small dash of liquid smoke. You could sauté some minced garlic in the fat before adding the batter. I imagine you can think of other variations incorporating flavors you like — fresh rosemary, for example, or a bit of curry powder.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2021 at 7:10 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes, Video

The weight-loss program that got better with time

leave a comment »

New Year’s Day is a time of resolutions and resets, so I thought this brief video would be of interest.https://youtu.be/PzcYvQHpHlE

Written by LeisureGuy

1 January 2021 at 12:40 pm

U.S. Diet Guidelines Sidestep Scientific Advice to Cut Sugar and Alcohol

leave a comment »

I do not understand the bad faith that consistently seems to drive government decisions. I do understand it is the result of kowtowing to money and power, but I can’t understand why so many people act exactly as if they had no integrity].

Roni Caryn Rabin reports in the NY Times on how the government quite deliberately includes in its dietary guidelines advice that they know is bad and will harm the public, and they do that willingly. One doesn’t wish to be judgmental, but it’s hard to feel anything but contempt for such decisions and actions:

Rejecting the advice of its scientific advisers, the federal government has released new dietary recommendations that sound a familiar nutritional refrain, advising Americans to “make every bite count” but dismissing experts’ specific recommendations to set new low targets for consumption of sugar and alcoholic beverages.

The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” are updated every five years, and the latest iteration arrived on Tuesday, 10 months into a pandemic that has posed a historic health threat to Americans. Confined to their homes, even many of those who have dodged the coronavirus itself are drinking more and gaining weight, a phenomenon often called “quarantine 15.”

The dietary guidelines have an impact on Americans’ eating habits, influencing food stamp policies and school lunch menus and indirectly affecting how food manufacturers formulate their products.

But the latest guidelines do not address the current pandemic nor, critics said, new scientific consensus about the need to adopt dietary patterns that reduce food insecurity and chronic diseases. Climate change does not figure in the advice, which does not address sustainability or greenhouse gas emissions, both intimately tied to modern food production.

A report issued by a scientific advisory committee last summer had recommended that the guidelines encourage Americans to make drastic cuts in their consumption of sugars added to drinks and foods to 6 percent of daily calories, from the currently recommended 10 percent.

Evidence suggests that added sugars, particularly those in sweetened beverages, may contribute to obesity and weight gain, which are linked to higher rates of chronic health conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, the scientific panel noted.

More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese; obesity, diabetes and other related conditions also increase the risk of developing severe Covid-19 illness.

The scientific advisory group also called for limiting daily alcohol consumption to one drink a day for both men and women, citing a growing body of evidence that consuming higher amounts of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of death, compared with drinking lower amounts.

The new guidelines acknowledge that added sugars are nutritionally empty calories that can add extra pounds, and concede that emerging evidence links alcohol to certain cancers and some forms of cardiovascular disease — a retreat from the once popular notion that moderate drinking is beneficial to health.But officials at the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services rejected explicit caps on sugar and alcohol consumption.

Although “the preponderance of evidence supports limiting intakes of added sugars and alcoholic beverages to promote health and prevent disease,” the report said, “the evidence reviewed since the 2015-2020 edition does not substantiate quantitative changes at this time.”

The new guidelines concede that scientific research “suggests that even drinking within the recommended limits may increase the overall risk of death,” and that alcohol has been found to increase the risk for some cancers even at low levels of consumption.

But the recommendation from five years ago — one drink per day for women and two for men — remains in place.

The new guidelines do . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2020 at 5:07 pm

Million-Dollar Dip recipe

leave a comment »

Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2020 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Augmented Hoppin’ John post

leave a comment »

I learned more about how and why Hoppin’ John has changed from what it was back in the day (late 19th century), and about how to replicate the earlier version, so I updated my Hoppin’ John post with the new information.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 December 2020 at 9:55 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

Time for Hoppin’ John — or at least black-eyed peas

leave a comment »

Black-eyed peas are not so easy to find here, but they are a Southern necessity for New Year’s Day. I usually just cooked them as a bean dish, though drained black-eyed peas are the basis for Texas caviar (of which there are many versions — here’s mine and here’s another version, also mine).

The name “Hoppin’ John” seems to have arisen as a mondegreen of the Haitian French “Pois Pigeon” (PWAH pee SHAWN) — say it aloud and you can hear how a non-French speaker with a lazy ear could find “Hoppin John” in it. And the true Hoppin’ John of the old South is no longer available because of the way foods have been debased to facilitate industrial production — this article explains it well. From the article:

If you try to cook Sarah Rutledge’s recipe for Hoppin’ John using bacon, rice, and black-eyed peas from the supermarket, you’re probably going to be pretty disappointed. Today’s ingredients have been transformed by a century of hybridization, mechanization, and standardization to meet the demands of an industrialized, cost-minimizing food system.

As we’ve already seen, Southern stone-ground cornmeal was replaced by hybridized corn picked unripe, air-dried, and bashed to powder by steel roller mills, forcing cooks to add sugar to cornbread to simulate its former sweetness. Tomatoes are bred to be as indestructible as racket balls, and they’re picked green, shipped to supermarkets across the country, and get a good zap of ethylene gas so they arrive perfectly round, bright red, and flavorless. Heirloom breeds of pigs, with meat so red it’s almost purple and marbled with thick layers of fat, gave way to lean, factory-raised American Yorkshire engineered to pass as white meat.

All three of the main ingredients in Hoppin’ John have suffered a similar fate. Let’s start with the bacon. Not only are the breeds the pork bellies come from different, but so is the way those bellies are treated.

The Bacon

In the old days, salt and smoke were used to preserve the meat, which cured for weeks and then was smoked for two days or more. Today’s commodity bacon is processed in less than a day: brine-injected, flash-smoked, and packed for shipping.

The Rice

The original Hoppin’ John was made with the famed Carolina Gold rice, a non-aromatic long-grained variety prized for its lush and delicate flavor. But that rice was ill-suited for modern agriculture. The Lowcountry tidal swamps were too soft to support mechanical harvesters, and the rice required far too much manual labor to be viable in the post-Emancipation world. A hurricane in 1911 effectively finished off the industry in the Carolinas, and American rice production shifted to Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, where planters grew new hybridized varieties on dry ground.

The new rice varieties are mechanically processed—heat-dried, polished, and degerminated. They aren’t nearly as nutty and flavorful as the old Carolina Gold and not nearly as nutritious, either, since the processing strips away all of the bran and germ. Until well after World War II, much of rural South Carolina still depended on a diet heavy on rice and beans, but that rice was the new kind brought in from the Gulf regions. During the winter months when fresh produce was unavailable, rural South Carolinians started suffering from malnutrition due to lack of proteins and nutrients. A 1956 law required that all rice sold in the state be enriched with the very vitamins and minerals that mechanical processing had stripped away.

The Peas

Finally, let’s address the thorniest issue: the peas. It’s a hard to know out exactly when black-eyed peas started being used in Hoppin’ John, for people have tended to use the terms cowpeas, field peas, black-eyed peas interchangeably. All these beans (they’re technically beans, not peas) belong to the species Vigna unguiculata, and they’re often called “crowder peas” because of the way the beans crowd together in the pod.

Red cowpeas have a black-eye in the center just like their paler cousins, so they can be referred to as “red black-eyed peas.” To complicate matters, in the 19th century there were any number of landrace and cross-bred varieties, often unique to just one or two family’s fields. These included the Sea Island Red Pea, which was once a key rotation crop on the Sea Island just south of Charleston but whose production was abandoned when rice growing ended.

As Adrian Miller relates in Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate as a Time (2013), black-eyed peas spread more widely than other cowpea varieties. They were eaten throughout the South by both blacks and whites alike, but they were looked down on as poor-people food and were slow to take on in the north. For most of the 20th century, the navy bean was preferred by most northern shoppers, except for the African-Americans who had arrived during the Great Migration. Miller posits that these expatriate Southerners ended up substituting black-eye peas the traditional red peas in Hoppin’ John because the red versions weren’t available outside of the Carolinas.

The two peas aren’t the same. Old-fashioned red cowpeas are firmer than black-eyed peas and have a deep, rich flavor that can only be described as “meaty.” You walk a fine line when preparing dried commodity black-eyes: cook them too briefly and they’ll be unpleasantly crunchy in the middle; cook them too long and they turn to mush. You don’t have that problem with red cowpeas, for their texture holds up well, staying firm and chewy even with long, slow cooking.

Read the whole article — it’s informative and interesting — and note the conclusion:

Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills sells Carolina Gold rice online, and he has worked with farmers in the Lowcountry to cultivate heirloom beans and peas, too, including Sea Island Red Peas. A few smokehouse operators like Benton’s in Madisonville, Tennessee, and Edwards of Surry, Virginia, were still practicing their craft quietly out in the countryside, and their rich, deeply-smoky products have been rediscovered by chefs and home cooks alike.

So, for this New Year’s Day, try to get your hands on some Sea Island Red Peas, Carolina Gold rice, and some good old-fashioned smoky bacon. Cook them together in the same pot until the grains of rice and the peas stand separate and apart, the rice dyed a purplish-red hue from the peas. I can’t guarantee it will bring you more money in 2015, but you’ll certainly enjoy true riches on your plate.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 6:15 pm

Diet Drift and a Hard Reset: Learning to recover from failure

leave a comment »

I just had another article published on Medium. It discusses something I’ve blogged about, though with an emphasis on the learning aspect.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 5:18 pm

Enhancing Pink Power Juice; or, Gilding the Lily

leave a comment »

I often make this beverage as an afternoon treat, mixing it in the beaker that came with the immersion blender I use. Today I blended:

1 lemon, peeled as shown here
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries,  blackberries, and raspberries)
1 1/2 cup frozen cranberries
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (omit if allergic to peanuts)
2 heaping tablespoons erythritol
3 tablespoons dried mint
1 teaspoon vanillin (artificial vanilla)
hibiscus tea to cover

I blended it well and now I’m enjoying it.

After reading the article on vermouth, I was inclined to have some red vermouth on the rocks with a twist, but I have gradually come to realize that when I have a drink I almost invariably make unwise food choices (which and how much). So I dug around in my mind for something suitably enjoyable and festive and made this.

I do, BTW, very much like Carpano’s Antica Formula and often have that on hand for an aperitif or to use in making a Manhattan, though right now I have only Martini & Rossi.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 December 2020 at 3:54 pm

Vegetable melange template

leave a comment »

The way I cook and what I cook changes over time. For example, in May of last year I discontinued adding salt to the foods I cook or eat (and avoid foods high in salt — for example, sauerkraut, pickles, potato chips). And I stopped (in general — occasional exceptions) eating meat, dairy, eggs, and fish — which initially made it difficult for me to think out a meal, but then I found Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen and have used that as a general guide since.

In this post I’ll describe how I now approach a vegetable dish. I’m not sure what to call it — it’s not a stew, exactly, and it’s always a combination of vegetables. I’ll go with “vegetable melange.” (I also cook a variety of greens together, so I’ll describe later my “greens melange.”) The vegetable melange fits the Daily Dozen category of “Other Vegetables.” (See also an earlier and somewhat different take in this post.)

I now keep on hand some form of cooked beans (beans, lentils, tempeh) and some kind of cooked intact whole grain (kamut most commonly, but also whole rye, hulled barley, red fife wheat — and also occasionally quinoa or amaranth). These take care of the Beans and Grain categories, and when I serve vegetable melange it is with Beans and Grain (and sometime Nuts/Seeds: usually walnuts or pepitas/pumpkin seeds).

Pot

Vegetables tend to be bulky (though not so bulky as Greens) until they cook down, so I often use my 6-qt 11.3″-diameter pot (wide diameter helps with cooking), but if I’m going to sauté the vegetables, then I’ll use a large (12″) cast-iron skillet or my 4-qt d3 All-Clad Stainless sauté pan.

Oil

I use extra-virgin olive oil (and get a reliable brand), and generally about 1.5 tablespoons. Not much is needed since I include vegetables that will release some liquid during cooking (e.g., mushrooms, tomatoes, summer squash)

Allium

I always include garlic. Since the dish is large — I like cook once to get multiple meals — I use a fairly large amount of garlic, generally a head of garlic. I peel the cloves and slice (using a garlic mandoline) or chop them. I do this first in preparing the vegetables so the garlic will have time to rest.

I also include leeks or scallions or (in season) spring onions. I don’t use storage onions all that often since the leaves (of leeks, scallions, and spring onions) have considerable nutritional value and storage onions lack those.

  • Leeks: Use all but the root; the leaves are very nutritious, but rinse the top well after halving the leek lengthwise: dirt tends to collect at the base of the leaves. As a snack, I like to roast short sections of the white part of a leek, and then I save the top (green) part to cook in my next vegetable melange.
  • Scallions: I use these often since they are always available and the generous extent of green enhances the nutritional value. I much prefer thick scallions to those the diameter of knitting needles. I certainly use scallions in salads but mostly in cooking.
  • Spring onions are available in only one season, which I will at some point reveal. They are really excellent, and they come in both white and red varieties. (I always go for a darker vegetable color if there’s a choice: darker pignments in general are a sign of more phytonutrients.) Spring onions have a definite bulb and large, long leaves.
  • Storage onions: These are always available. I prefer red to yellow and yellow to white. White onions are easy to peel but very low in nutritional value (but good dietary fiber). Sweet storage onions (Walla Walla, Vidalia, Maui, Texas Sweet) are good in salads but not so good in cooking. They lack the pungency of regular storage onions because they are grown in soil low in sulfur (and presumably because of their genetics).
  • Shallots: These can be considered a type of storage onion, and I do use them occasionally. “Shallot” is pronounced “sha-LOT” and not “SHALL-ut” (despite what you may hear — and while I’m on the topic, “basil” is “BAZ-ul” and not “BAY-sel”).

Mushrooms

I always include mushrooms because (a) I like the taste and mouthfeel, (b) they are a good source of pantothenic acid (B5) and when I was using Cronometer I found that my regular diet was a tad light in that, and (c ) they release their water as they cook which aids in cooking the vegetables. I sometimes use oyster mushrooms but more often domestic white or crimini mushrooms. (When crimini mushrooms grow up, they are called portobello mushrooms.) Depending on my mood, I chop them coarsely or slice them, thickly or thinly.

Root vegetable

I generally will include one or two root vegetables.

  • Daikon radish has a variety of good nutrients, but the one of interest to me is potassium, since Cronometer showed I was running light on that. (Tomato paste is also a good source, and I often use that as well.) One short section, diced, is enough.
  • Beets: Naturally I prefer dark red to golden beets (the darker the color, the more nutrients (in general)), and I just dice them. The juice from raw beets doesn’t stain the way juice from cooked beets does. I rinse them well but don’t peel them, and I follow this rule in general (with some exceptions — e.g., bananas, oranges). One beet is enough.
  • Carrots: Again, I just dice the carrot, and one is enough.
  • Turnip: Same as carrot. Though turnips are not terribly high in food value, I like the taste.
  • Potatoes: Never. Potatoes raise my blood glucose, plus regular potatoes (russet, Yukon gold, white potatoes) seem boring. So far as I’m concerned, they don’t bring much to the party. Sweet potatoes are more interesting (and more nutritious), and I particularly like purple sweet potatoes, which have a wonderful flavor, but there is for me the blood glucose problem.
  • Celeriac/celery root: I actually don’t eat this often, but it’s a good choice and quite tasty. I think I’ll get some.
  • Parsnips: Same problem as potatoes: too great an impact on blood glucose.
  • Turmeric: I like to include turmeric root — generally a couple of pieces about 2″  long that I chop small. And to make the nutrients bioavailable, it’s important to include a fair amount of ground black pepper. I especially don’t peel turmeric; since it is so stainy, I handle it as little as possible.
  • Ginger: Good fresh ginger is a nice addition. I will either chop it fine or slice it on my garlic mandoline.

Peppers

Peppers are always good, both hot (jalapeño, habanero, Thai red or green, serrano) and mild (Anaheim, poblano, bell peppers (green, red, yellow, or orange), banana peppers, Hungarian peppers). Hot peppers I chop including core and seeds; mild peppers I remove core and seeds. A small can of chipotles in adobo is a nice addition — cut up the chipotles with kitchen scissors — if you like spicy.

Eggplant

I like to include eggplant from time to time, either Japanese or Italian. I dice it in large dice so I can get the taste and mouthfeel. (I do not, of course, even thinking of peeling them.) When I include eggplant, I generally omit the root vegetables, and I also include:

  • Zucchini and/or summer squash: Like eggplant, cut in rather large dice so it will maintain some structure.
  • Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes (generally whole Roma/San Marzano tomatoes, which I cut up with kitchen scissors after adding to the pot; sometimes diced tomatoes) or fresh tomatoes (usually halved cherry tomatoes). I also use sun-dried tomatoes (no oil — I find them at Whole Foods), which I cut up with kitchen scissors.
  • Tomato paste: One small can — good source of potassium, as noted above. And it’s worth noting that the lycopene in tomatoes, unlike the lycopene in watermelon (an excellent source), is not bioavailable until and unless the tomatoes have been cooked. Raw fresh tomatoes (in a salad, for example) are for decoration and taste, not nutrition.
  • Pitted kalamata olives: A good amount. Sometimes I halve them to increase the likelihood of getting an olive taste in each spoonful and to check for pits. Often I use them whole.
  • Mexican oregano: A good amount — 1/4 cup, say — and often also thyme (about 2 teaspoons).
  • Italian parsley: I chop an entire bunch — no point in keeping half a bunch of parsley on hand to rot.
  • Red wine or red vermouth: About 1/4-1/2 cup.
  • Diced lemon: A diced lemon works well in here, at least for me.

As you can see, once eggplant enters the picture, it tends to take over the dish and pushes it toward ratatouille, but still I resist — for example, I might also include some chopped fresh fennel.

Squash

Besides summer squash (yellow crookneck or patty pan) and/or zucchini, I might also include diced winter squash: delicata, buttercup (a favorite), or kombucha. I don’t use an entire winter squash, but just a quarter or a half. The rest I’ll probably roast, and then I also roast the seeds.

Fennel

I chop fresh fennel, both fronds and bulb (but not the core), are cook them or use them raw in salads (see: Salad Checklist).

Leaves

If I’m going to cook leaves, I generally am cooking a batch of Greens, but some leaves are good in cooked vegetables. Italian parsley I’ve already mentioned, but I might also use one or two baby bok choy or baby Shanghai bok choy, or a section of red cabbage (depending on the size of the head, one-eighth or one-quarter), chopped. Cilantro I would add at the end, not during cooking. Fresh tarragon has a wonderful flavor.

Kohlrabi

I don’t often see, but it is excellent to add: peel and dice. It’s also good raw, slivered for salad.

Flavor boosters

Last, I always include flavor enhancers.

  • Umami booster: Tamari or soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce (preferably Red Boat)
  • Added acid: Acid brightens the taste. I use a good splash of vinegar (apple cider or red wine or sherry or rice vinegar) and/or lemon pulp. Sometimes I dice a whole lemon (cut off and discard ends, cut lemon into slabs and dice them), which works best if the peel is thin. Meyer lemons are excellent for this.
  • Herbs/spices: Crushed red pepper, Mexican oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, herbes de Provence, paprika, and so on — whatever catches your eye and sounds good.
  • Liquid smoke: If I’m in the mood. Just a littlle is plenty. Wright’s is a good brand. Colgin includes additives that don’t appeal to me.
  • Miso: A good big spoonful of miso (red, white, brown…) adds a nice flavor.

This is one of those posts to which I’m sure I’ll return and augment as additional things occur to me. But I think there’s enough here to get you started.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2020 at 12:18 pm

Moroccan Carrot Red Lentil Soup

leave a comment »

The Younger Daughter recommended this recipe, which is simmering now. It’s dark and a wet snow is falling, so it’s a good night for a hearty soup.

I have three little jars of ground cardamon because I constantly misremember “coriander” as “cardamon.” I had to trudge through the rain/snow combo to the store to buy ground coriander. I thought I had bought it, but apparently I again bought ground cardamon. :sigh:

I’ll probably serve it over some kamut.

Update: Tasty. And quite a thick soup. I didn’t blend. I cooked the crushed red pepper in the soup, but did add cilantro and lemon juice to it in the bowl.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2020 at 4:37 pm

The Effects of Obesity on Back Pain, Blood Pressure, Cancer, and Diabetes

leave a comment »

Obesity is sufficiently dangerous enough to justify a serious and in-depth reconstruction of one’s diet — that is, not just “cutting back,” but basic changes in food choices. And food is the major driver, not exercise. Exercise is good — being fit is more healthful (and more pleasant) than being unfit, but in terms of weight loss, the focus should be on food choices (which foods and how much of them).  I had my best success with this diet.

This video takes a look at just some of the costs of obesity that research has found.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2020 at 1:07 pm

An “Other Vegetables” dish

with 2 comments

The day is dark and rainy, a good day to stay indoors. I ran out of my “Other Vegetables” dish, so I decided to go with things on hand. (The “Other Vegetables” label is from Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen.)

I used my 6-qt 11.3″-diameter All-Clad d3 Stainless pot. It makes quite a bit, and the 4-qt sauté pan would be at best full, more likely overflowing.

I put into the pot:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 turmeric roots, chopped small (about 1.5″ each; I don’t peel these)
8 cloves garlic, chopped small (the last of the garlic — would have used more; I do peel these)
1 large leek, sliced along with all the green part
2 leek tops, sliced (leftover from when I roasted leeks)
2 bunches scallions, chopped, also with all the green part
about 5 small tops of celery (i.e., short inner stalks with some leaves)
at least 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper (for the turmeric)

It’s important to rinse the leek tops well, since dirt often collects there. I started the heat at this point, stirring occasionally as I chopped and added:

1 large carrot, diced (I don’t peel any of the root vegetables, just rinse them well)
1 good-size beet, diced
1 large turnip, diced
4 slices daikon radish, diced
1/2 bulb fresh fennel, cored and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

At that point it was cooking well, so I added:

1 can Ro-Tel Original
1 small can chipotles in adobo (makes it spicy, can omit)
about 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
a good splash of apple cider vinegar
several good dashes fish sauce
1 thin-skinned lemon, ends discarded, cut into slabs and then diced

I wish I had mushrooms on hand. Chopped mushrooms would be good. Also a zucchini or patty pan squash would have been nice.

I simmered it — once all has been added and stirred — for 30 minutes (so total cooking time is longer, since it had started simmering while I was adding ingredients).

It’s spicy, from the chipotles in adobo. If spicy is not your thing, just omit that. Quite tasty. Vegetables tender but far from mushy: al dente, I would say.

It makes plenty. At 1/2 cup per serving, two servings a day, it will last a week.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2020 at 12:38 pm

Hard-reset results, cont’d

leave a comment »

My blood glucose this morning was 5.6 mmol/L, lowest possible “pre-diabetic” reading. This week (Sunday to today): 5.1, 5.4, 5.7, 5.5, 5.6. Of those 5 readings, 3 are in the “normal” range. My goal for next week: all 7 readings in the normal range.

And the reset continues to be surprisingly easy because i know the ropes from having done it before and worked out my routine. As the saying is, “It’s like riding a bike,” enjoying both a sense of familiarity and of novelty, something like returning to one’s home town after a decade’s absence.

I blog about this because, given how common diabetes has become, I feel certain that it afflicts some of my readers.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2020 at 12:02 pm

The Big Thaw: How Russia Could Dominate a Warming World

leave a comment »

Abrahm Lustgarten reports in ProPublica:

IT WAS ONLY November, but the chill already cut to the bone in the small village of Dimitrovo, which sits just 35 miles north of the Chinese border in a remote part of eastern Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region. Behind a row of sagging cabins and decades-old farm equipment, flat fields ran into the brambly branches of a leafless forest before fading into the oblivion of a dreary squall. Several villagers walked the single-lane dirt road, their shoulders rounded against the cold, their ghostly footprints marking the dry white snow.

A few miles down the road, a rusting old John Deere combine growled on through the flurries, its blade churning through dead-brown stalks of soybeans. The tractor lurched to a halt, and a good-humored man named Dima climbed down from the cockpit. Dima, an entrepreneur who farms nearly 6,500 acres of these fields, was born in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China — his birth name is Xin Jie — one of a wave of Chinese to migrate north in pursuit of opportunity in recent years. After Dima’s mostly Chinese laborers returned home this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been forced to do much of the work himself. Bundled against the wind in a camouflage parka, he bent to pick a handful of slender pods from the ground, opening one to reveal a glimpse at Russia’s future.

A great transformation is underway in the eastern half of Russia. For centuries the vast majority of the land has been impossible to farm; only the southernmost stretches along the Chinese and Mongolian borders, including around Dimitrovo, have been temperate enough to offer workable soil. But as the climate has begun to warm, the land — and the prospect for cultivating it — has begun to improve. Twenty years ago, Dima says, the spring thaw came in May, but now the ground is bare by April; rainstorms now come stronger and wetter. Across Eastern Russia, wild forests, swamps and grasslands are slowly being transformed into orderly grids of soybeans, corn and wheat. It’s a process that is likely to accelerate: Russia hopes to seize on the warming temperatures and longer growing seasons brought by climate change to refashion itself as one of the planet’s largest producers of food.

Around the world, climate change is becoming an epochal crisis, a nightmare of drought, desertification, flooding and unbearable heat, threatening to make vast regions less habitable and drive the greatest migration of refugees in history. But for a few nations, climate change will present an unparalleled opportunity, as the planet’s coldest regions become more temperate. There is plenty of reason to think that those places will also receive an extraordinary influx of people displaced from the hottest parts of the world as the climate warms. Human migration, historically, has been driven by the pursuit of prosperity even more so than it has by environmental strife. With climate change, prosperity and habitability — haven and economic opportunity — will soon become one and the same.

And no country may be better positioned to capitalize on climate change than Russia. Russia has the largest land mass by far of any northern nation. It is positioned farther north than all of its South Asian neighbors, which collectively are home to the largest global population fending off displacement from rising seas, drought and an overheating climate. Like Canada, Russia is rich in resources and land, with room to grow. Its crop production is expected to be boosted by warming temperatures over the coming decades even as farm yields in the United States, Europe and India are all forecast to decrease. And whether by accident or cunning strategy or, most likely, some combination of the two, the steps its leaders have steadily taken — planting flags in the Arctic and propping up domestic grain production among them — have increasingly positioned Russia to regain its superpower mantle in a warmer world.

FOR THOUSANDS of years, warming temperatures and optimal climate have tracked closely with human productivity and development. After the last ice age, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2020 at 11:39 am

%d bloggers like this: