Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Why Chocolate May Be Good for the Heart

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I file this under “good news.” Nicholas Bakalar reports in the NY Times:

Eating chocolate has been tied to a reduced risk of heart disease. Now scientists have uncovered one possible reason.

Using data from a large Danish health study, researchers have found an association between chocolate consumption and a lowered risk for atrial fibrillation, the irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke, heart failure and other serious problems. The study is in Heart.

Scientists tracked diet and health in 55,502 men and women ages 50 to 64. They used a well-validated 192-item food-frequency questionnaire to determine chocolate consumption. During an average 14 years of follow-up, there were 3,346 diagnosed cases of atrial fibrillation.

After controlling for total calorie intake, smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index and other factors, they found that compared with people who ate no chocolate, those who had one to three one-ounce servings a month had a 10 percent reduced relative risk for atrial fibrillation, those who ate one serving a week had a 17 percent reduced risk, and those who ate two to six a week had a 20 percent reduced risk.

Dark chocolate with higher cocoa content is better, according to the lead author, Elizabeth Mostofsky, an instructor at Harvard, because it is the cocoa, not the milk and sugar, that provides the benefit. Still, she warned about overindulgence.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2017 at 9:51 am

Posted in Food, Health, Science

Why a Paleolithic diet is not practical

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I do restrict my carbs severely (generally under 30g/day), so in terms of a diet high in fat and low in carbs, the Paleolithic diet is similar (in macronutrients) to any low-carb, high-fat diet. However, the Paleolithic diet has as its goal to eat like humans did when they were gatherers and hunters, before they were relied on herds of domesticated animals (goats, sheep, cattle) or agriculture. So both Paleolithic dieters and I avoid grains (high in carbs) and beans (same), but I can eat cream and butter and they cannot.

But the reason it is impractical is that virtually all of the plant foods in the store are not like they were in the old days, due to centuries of selective breeding. For an example, look at the Paleolithic version of the banana. That is a far cry from a modern banana.

Or take the Paleolithic version of the carrot, which again looks like little more than a weed.

You can see more photos of Paleolithic area vegetables here. The watermelon is particularly pitiful

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2017 at 8:46 am

Spring Shrimp Surprise 2

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It will come as no surprise to regular readers that, on making SSS again today, I modified the original recipe (modifications made at the link)

The olives were a good idea, I think, as well as the jalapeño. Sherry was okay, but I’m sticking with dry vermouth in the future. Fish sauce does add to the recipe.

It contains a lot of vegetables per shrimp, but that’s part of the “spring.”

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2017 at 5:49 pm

Shrimp Spring Surprise

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I improvise a lot in cooking, and when something turns out very well, I save it as a recipe, which requires a name. I find I am partial to “Surprise,” and since this recipe includes asparagus, “Spring” seemed appropriate. Given the name, I wanted the dish to be light. This was a hit. Serves two.

The very first step is to mince the garlic. Minced garlic requires about 15 minutes to stabilize before it hits the heat.

The dish calls for preserved lemons, which give a nice bitter note, and you can substitute Mark Bittman’s quick “preserved” lemons. If you don’t want to make a full batch, just “preserve” one lemon. I cut off the ends, then slice the lemon into slabs and dice as shown in the video at the link. For one lemon, sprinkle the diced lemon with 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, stir, and let sit for half an hour before using

2 tablespoons olive oil (or use 4-5 oz diced pancetta)
1 big bunch large scallions, sliced (or 2 spring onions)
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow (or red) bell pepper, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup halved olives (I used a mix of green and Kalamata)
[Optional: 1 jalapeño, including core, chopped small]
[Optional and experimental: 1/2 cup walnut pieces]

2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced (red is okay, but I like the look of yello), chopped
1 preserved lemon with a little of the juice (see note)
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1 to 1 1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and cut into 2-3 pieces if large

juice of 1 lemon or lime
cilantro, chopped

I should explicitly note that I do all my chopping and lemon squeezing and the like in advance, before I even heat the pan. I have these prep bowls and also some Rösle stainless bowls (11″, 9.4″, 7.9″, 6.3″, and 4.7″). As each ingredient is chopped, it goes into a bowl. (If ingredients are added to the pan at the same time, they can share a bowl.) Lemon juice is squeezed into a bowl.

Once everything is chopped, and I’ve cleaned up knife and cutting board, I heat the oil in my sauté pan. Once the oil is hot, I start adding ingredients to the pan, each bowl at the appropriate time in the cooking process. And as I empty each bowl into the sauté pan, I rinse the bowl and put in in the drainer. Once everything’s added, there’s no clean-up except later for the pan and the bowls from which we ate.

If using pancetta, sauté it for a few minutes to render the fat, then add onion and garlic; otherwise, add onion and garlic once the olive oil is hot. Sauté onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add bell pepper (and jalapeño if using that) and sauté 4-5 minutes more.

Add cherry tomatoes and preserved lemon and continue to cook until tomatoes are cooked and the liquid thickens a bit.

Add vermouth, fish sauce, shrimp, and asparagus and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Squeeze lemon or lime juice over the dish and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Preserved lemons

If you want to make actual preserved lemons, here’s what I do, but these will not be ready for five weeks, so if I have none on hand, I use Mark Bittman’s method linked above. The following recipe is derived from several different on-line recipes. I have made these, and I used the last one when I made the Shrimp Spring Surprise.

8-12 Meyer lemons, depending on jar size
kosher salt

If you can’t find organic lemons, let the lemons soak in a vinegar-water solution for a few minutes to clean the outer peels, then rinse. In any event, wash the lemons well.

Cut the ends off the lemons, then slice vertically into quarters, but not all the way through the lemon, so the quarters are still attached at the base.

Put 1 teaspoon of salt in the bottom of the jar, and add 1-2 teaspoons of salt to the interior of the quartered lemon, rubbing the lemon quarters together a bit to mash the salt into it.

Then mash the lemon into the jar, open end down so that the lemon spreads into a cross shape. Repeat with additional lemons until no more lemons will fit into jar.

Add enough additional fresh lemon juice to cover the lemons completely, cover the jar, and leave it out on the counter for about a week, giving it a turn every so often.

Make a good space for the jar in your fridge, and let it sit for another month or so, with an occasional turn and shake. They’ll keep perfectly, refrigerated, for at least a year.


Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2017 at 8:22 am

20 and 50 Grams of Carbs – How Much Food Is That?

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Interesting article with several photo comparisons at Here’s one:

Scroll to the bottom of the post at the link above for more visual comparisons.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 May 2017 at 8:58 am

Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong

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Gina Kolata reports in the NY Times:

The salt equation taught to doctors for more than 200 years is not hard to understand.

The body relies on this essential mineral for a variety of functions, including blood pressure and the transmission of nerve impulses. Sodium levels in the blood must be carefully maintained.

If you eat a lot of salt — sodium chloride — you will become thirsty and drink water, diluting your blood enough to maintain the proper concentration of sodium. Ultimately you will excrete much of the excess salt and water in urine.

The theory is intuitive and simple. And it may be completely wrong.

New studies of Russian cosmonauts, held in isolation to simulate space travel, show that eating more salt made them less thirsty but somehow hungrier. Subsequent experiments found that mice burned more calories when they got more salt, eating 25 percent more just to maintain their weight.

The research, published recently in two dense papers in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, contradicts much of the conventional wisdom about how the body handles salt and suggests that high levels may play a role in weight loss.

Continue reading the main story

The findings have stunned kidney specialists.

“This is just very novel and fascinating,” said Dr. Melanie Hoenig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “The work was meticulously done.”

Dr. James R. Johnston, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, marked each unexpected finding in the margins of the two papers. The studies were covered with scribbles by the time he was done.

“Really cool,” he said, although he added that the findings need to be replicated.

The new studies are the culmination of a decades-long quest by a determined scientist, Dr. Jens Titze, now a kidney specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research in Erlangen, Germany.

In 1991, as a medical student in Berlin, he took a class on human physiology in extreme environments. The professor who taught the course worked with the European space program and presented data from a simulated 28-day mission in which a crew lived in a small capsule.

The main goal was to learn how the crew members would get along. But the scientists also had collected the astronauts’ urine and other physiological markers.

Dr. Titze noticed something puzzling in the crew members’ data: Their urine volumes went up and down in a seven-day cycle. That contradicted all he’d been taught in medical school: There should be no such temporal cycle.

In 1994, the Russian space program decided to do a 135-day simulation of life on the Mir space station. Dr. Titze arranged to go to Russia to study urine patterns among the crew members and how these were affected by salt in the diet.

A striking finding emerged: a 28-day rhythm in the amount of sodium the cosmonauts’ bodies retained that was not linked to the amount of urine they produced. And the sodium rhythms were much more pronounced than the urine patterns.

The sodium levels should have been rising and falling with the volume of urine. Although the study wasn’t perfect — the crew members’ sodium intake was not precisely calibrated — Dr. Titze was convinced something other than fluid intake was influencing sodium stores in the crew’s bodies.

The conclusion, he realized, “was heresy.”

In 2006, the Russian space program announced two more simulation studies, one lasting 105 days and the other 520 days. Dr. Titze saw a chance to figure out whether his anomalous findings were real.

In the shorter simulation, the cosmonauts ate a diet containing 12 grams of salt daily, followed by nine grams daily, and then a low-salt diet of six grams daily, each for a 28-day period. In the longer mission, the cosmonauts also ate an additional cycle of 12 grams of salt daily.

Like most of us, the cosmonauts liked their salt. Oliver Knickel, 33, a German citizen participating in the program who is now an automotive engineer in Stuttgart, recalled that even the food that supplied 12 grams a day was not salty enough for him.

When the salt level got down to six grams, he said, “It didn’t taste good.”

The real shocker came when Dr. Titze measured the amount of sodium excreted in the crew’s urine, the volume of their urine, and the amount of sodium in their blood.

The mysterious patterns in urine volume persisted, but everything seemed to proceed according to the textbooks. When the crew ate more salt, they excreted more salt; the amount of sodium in their blood remained constant, and their urine volume increased.

“But then we had a look at fluid intake, and were more than surprised,” he said.

Instead of drinking more, the crew were drinking less in the long run when getting more salt. So where was the excreted water coming from?

“There was only one way to explain this phenomenon,” Dr. Titze said. “The body most likely had generated or produced water when salt intake was high.”

Another puzzle: The crew complained that they were always hungry on the high-salt diet. Dr. Titze assured them that they were getting exactly enough food to maintain their weights, and were eating the same amount on the lower-salt diets, when hunger did not seem to be problem.

But urine tests suggested another explanation. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2017 at 9:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Turkey Thighs with Bacon, Tomatoes, and Porcini

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This started out as a Mark Bittman recipe, but I made a fair number of changes. It is really tasty:

4-5 slices thick bacon
2 turkey thighs

3 cups chopped aromatic vegetables, like 1 cup chopped celery (about 1 stalk), 1 diced carrot, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, and 4 shallots (or other allium: 1 big onion, for example; or 2 spring onions; or a large leek or 2 small leeks)

1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
8-10 garlic cloves, chopped fine
splash of sherry (Amontillado or Cream)
good dash Red Boat fish sauce (optional)
1 cup sliced cherry or grape tomatoes
1 packet dried porcini

White wine; or water, red wine or stock

I use my 10″ 6-qt pot since the thighs sit fairly high on the vegetables, just a little too high for the 10″ 4-qt pan. (Lid must fit tight for the oven cooking.) Bring thighs out of fridge 1-2 hours before cooking so they can come to room temperature.

Get all the vegetables chopped and ready—more chopping time required than I expected.

Brown the bacon pieces, then remove with a slotted spoon and set it aside.

Salt and pepper turkey thighs well on both sides. Brown the turkey thighs in the bacon fat, skin side first. Brown the skin side 5 minutes minimum without disturbing. The skin side should be well browned. Then flip and brown other side for 3 minutes. Then remove thighs to a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 250ºF.

Add vegetables, rosemary, and garlic together to the pan, deglazing it with a splash of sherry. Stir vegetables and season with salt and pepper as you cook. (Since these are added together, you can put them all in the same bowl as you chop them.) When they’re a bit softened, add the tomatoes and the dried porcini and a dash of Red Boat fish sauce if you have it.

Add liquid to almost (but not quite) cover the vegetables. Lay the thighs, skin side up, on the vegetables and add the cooked bacon on top of the thighs. Cover and cook in the 250ºF oven for 3.5-4.5 hours. Turkey should be falling off the bone. Garnish if you like and serve.

Turkey meat has little fat, so the bacon helps.

UPDATE: Next time, I’m going to try to using just a little more liquid and stir in 3 tablespoons of pearled barley just before I put the thighs back.


Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2017 at 4:52 pm

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