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A genetic mutation that makes people feel always full, never hungry

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The same gene in another mutation makes people feel always hungry, never full: the obesity gene, in effect. Gina Kolata reports in the NY Times:

The study subjects had been thin all their lives, and not because they had unusual metabolisms. They just did not care much about food.

They never ate enormous amounts, never obsessed on the next meal. Now, a group of researchers in Britain may have found the reason.

The people carry a genetic alteration that mutes appetite. It also greatly reduces their chances of getting diabetes or heart disease.

The scientists’ study, published on Thursday in the journal Cell, relied on data from the U.K. Biobank, which includes a half million people aged 40 to 69. Participants have provided DNA samples and medical records, and have allowed researchers to track their health over years.

A second study in the same journal also used data from this population to develop a genetic risk score for obesity. It can help predict, as early as childhood, who is at high risk for a lifetime of obesity and who is not.

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Together, the studies confirm a truth that researchers wish more people understood. There are biological reasons that some struggle mightily with their weight and others do not, and the biological impacts often are seen on appetite, not metabolism. People who gain too much weight or fight to stay thin feel hungrier than naturally thin people.

The study of the appetite-dulling mutation was led by Dr. Sadaf Farooqi, professor of metabolism and medicine at the University of Cambridge, and Nick Wareham, an epidemiologist at the university.

The study drew on Dr. Farooqi’s research into a gene, MC4R. She has probed it for 20 years, but for the opposite reason: to understand why some people are overweight, not why some are thin.

People with MC4R mutations tend to be obese. Researchers have recorded as many as 300 mutations in this gene, and they are the most common single-gene cause of obesity. Mutations in the gene account for 6 percent of children with severe obesity.

The mutations destroy satiety, the feeling of fullness after a meal, Dr. Farooqi and her colleagues have found.

Normally, when people eat a meal, the gene is switched on and sends a signal telling people they are full. Then the gene turns itself off. But some people carry a rare mutation in MC4R that prevents the gene from working.

As a result, their bodies never get the signal that they have eaten enough. They always feel hungry and often are overweight. Their risk of diabetes and heart disease is 50 percent higher than those without the mutation.

In the new study, Dr. Farooqi and her colleagues found that in some thin people, the MC4R gene is always turned on, instead of always off, because of different mutations involving a previously unknown metabolic pathway.

These people continually feel satiated. About 6 percent of the population carries such protective mutations.

“This proves that MC4R is an important, if not the most important, controller of weight,” Dr. Farooqi said. And the new pathway provides an obvious target for drugs to protect against obesity.

Researchers increasingly are finding that appetite and satiety determine who gains excess weight and who does not, noted Cecilia Lindgren, professor of genomic endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Oxford. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2019 at 7:21 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Oat-bran muffins recipe

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When The Wife was commuting to work, I made these and she had one for breakfast each morning during the commute (after a coffee stop). This went on for years. I haven’t made them recently, and today for some reason I had to find the recipe—and I did. Here it is.

The quality of the oat bran makes an enormous difference. I highly recommend you use Quaker Oat Bran Cereal or Mother’s Oat Bran Cereal. I have tried generic oat bran, and it’s not nearly so good as these.

Oat-Bran Muffins
Modified from The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure

2 1/4 cups oat-bran cereal (Quaker or Mother’s)
1/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pistachios—whatever you like)
1/4 cup raisins (or chopped dates, or currants, or dried cranberries, …)
1 Tbsp baking powder (not baking soda)
2 Tbsp turmeric (i.e., ½ teaspoon per muffin)
1/4 cup brown sugar (or honey or molasses)
1 1/4 cup skim milk (or evaporated skim milk)
2 eggs
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or canola oil)

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the oat-bran cereal, nuts, raisins, baking powder, and turmeric. Stir in the brown sugar or liquid sweetening. Mix the milk, eggs, and oil together, and blend in with the oat-bran mixture. Do not overmix or muffins will be terrible. Stop mixing as soon as you can—barely mixed is what you want. And mix by hand—do not use a mixer. See video below.

Line muffin pans with panties & fill with batter. Bake 15-17 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Serving: 1 muffin, which amounts to 14g net carbs. Each muffin is 5 WW Freestyle points.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2019 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Perfect evening (with photos)

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Where to start? Right now I’m having a wonderful Manhattan, made with Gibson’s Finest Rare 12-year-old Canadian whisky (which back in the day meant rye whisky, but probably a rye-and-wheat mix—I’ll have to get some genuine rye: Crown Royal Northern Harvest or Odd Society Prospector (scroll down)), Martini & Rossi red vermouth, and a dash of Angostura, of course. (The great cartoonist Vip – Virgil Partch – did cartoons for their ads for years. “Don’t forget the Angostura!” It’s burned into my brain.) Example at right.

But for the past few hours I’ve been letting this flat-iron steak rest at room temperature (“tempering” the steak). Note the unusual grain, running lengthwise through the steak rather than across (as the in T-Bone, Porterhouse, rib-eye, NY/KC strip steak, etc.). It’s a very tender steak, however. In the photo I have already applied a thin coating of extra-virgin olive oil. I cooked mine this way in my No. 8 Field Company pan, which I heated in an oven to 500ºF, and using the sauce described at the post.

And while the oven came to temperature, I used this recipe to make 8 oz sliced Crimini mushrooms (scroll down). I discovered that my 11 7/8″ Matfer Bourgeat carbon-steel skillet is ideal for this. It provides a lot of room, and I can heat it on the range top rather than in the oven. And, like the cast iron, it is nonstick.

Here are the mushrooms before:

and after:










With the steak and mushrooms I had a glass of an inexpensive Côtes du Rhône.

And to add to all that, I’m reading “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” which offers an escape when the Amazon Prime Video “Hanna” becomes too tense. I do think translating the movie into a series is working well: makes you more conscious of the texture.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 April 2019 at 6:11 pm

Another food new to me, simmering now: Duck gizzards

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They’re a good size. I cut them in half through the thin membrane that attaches the two halves, the across each half. I’m cooking in a tomato sauce, so I used the stainless 4-qt sauté pan. Recipe has been updated (see below).

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
7 shallots, chopped
1 large jalapeño, chopped small (including core and seeds)
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 green, yellow, or red bell pepper, chopped (see below)
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
2-3 tsp dried marjoram
2-3 tsp dried thyme
2-3 tsp cracked dried rosemary
4-5 tsp Mexican oregano
2-3 tsp smoked paprika
8-10 cloves garlic, chopped fine
10-12 medium-large Crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 cup chopped celery
1 chayote squash, diced somewhat small
1.5 lb duck gizzards, quartered
1 can Ro-Tel Original tomatoes with green chiles
1 14-oz can whole Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 540ml can diced tomatoes (with black pepper and roasted garlic, the label says)
1 small can or jar of tomato paste
good dash of Red Boat Fish Sauce
good dash tamari
juice of 1-2 lemons
1/4 cup sweet vermouth

Sweat the onions, shallots, jalapeño, and olives in the olive oil over medium heat, then added the herbs and cook them a little more.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the mushrooms, celery, chayote, and gizzards.

Cook that for several minutes, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, fish sauce, tamari, lemon juice, and vermouth. I would have added some pitted Kalamata olives if I had them. (I have to go out, so maybe I’ll get some.) I also would have added a chopped green bell pepper if I had had one on hand. I do have a yellow bell pepper, come to think of it. I’ll add it now. And I added it to the list of ingredients above in the place where it should have gone. Updated photo (and the gizzards are more visible now after 30 minutes of simmering):

The tomatoes and lemon juice are for acid: gizzards have a tough muscle. The sweet vermouth was just to use up the bottle, though in this sort of recipe I’ll often add a little red wine, and the vermouth works for that.

I’ll simmer it uncovered for an hour. It’s got a lot of liquid, and reducing that somewhat will be good. In the photo that’s a duck gizzard quarter at about 8 o’clock. The gizzards and the quartered Crimini mushrooms look alike, which is the idea.

If I were still eating carbs, this is the sort of thing I might have with crusty bread—a baguette, for example—or perhaps with rice. A red wine would be good with this.

Obviously, this would also work with chicken gizzards, though those I might just halve.

Update: My shopping trip to get pitted Kalamata olives was successful, and I updated the recipe to include them at the appropriate place. I also got some chayote squash; my regular store had been out, and if I had had one I would have diced it and added it with the mushrooms, celery, and gizzards (as noted above). Chayote squash is another relatively new-to-me food, and I like it a lot. (I also got a tin of Colman’s Mustard Powder, which for some reason was hard to find. I use it mainly for my quick & easy steak.) The recipe I made today is without chayote, alas.

Update again: I just added some tomato paste and will simmer it a bit. Recipe updated for that, too. (This is how I cook: adding things as they occur to me.)


Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2019 at 12:48 pm

Interesting approach to meal prep

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In my long post on my diet, I include quite a bit on cooking: recommendations of tools, techniques, tips, recipes, and attitude. I just came across a video that covers some of the things I had worked out for myself (including the weekend grocery shopping followed by prep work so your fridge has a good selection of foods ready to be combined and cooked), but with some additional ideas. I’ve added the video to that post, and here’s that video:

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2019 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes, Video

To Cook a Steak, First You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned

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Emily Timberlake has an interesting article in Taste on the way to cook steak over coals. From the article:

Conventional Wisdom: Remove your steak from the fridge and temper it for 20 minutes before cooking.

Franklin Steak SaysTwenty minutes won’t make any difference at all. And in some cases, it’s better to throw your steak on cold!

“For super-thin pieces, I’ll sometimes throw it in the freezer, wait until it’s really, really cold, and then put it on the grill,” says Franklin.

The first time I read this piece of advice in the manuscript, I was certain it was a mistake. But the more I think about it, the more Aaron’s counterintuitive advice makes sense. If you’re cooking a steak thinner than one inch, say a skirt, hanger, or even a thinly cut strip, and if your goal is rare or medium-rare doneness, then you want to slow the cooking of the interior to give yourself enough time to develop a proper crust on the outside of the steak.

A giant piece of meat, by contrast—say a bone-in tomahawk rib eye, which might weigh as much as 2 1/2 pounds, or a standing rib roast—benefits from tempering, since it will take quite a bit longer for the interior of the meat to reach doneness, and you risk drying out the exterior if you start grilling meat when the interior is super-cold. But for a piece of meat that massive to reach room temperature could take hoursPersonally, I’m fine leaving a hunk of meat on the counter for that long. The USDA, not so much. “We did check the gradient on how fast a steak warms on the counter,” says Mackay, “and it’s very slow. Taking it out of the fridge 30 minutes before you cook it, or even an hour, especially for a thick piece of meat with a bone in, ultimately does very little.”

I do this right: when I cook a thick steak, it sits out for around three hours.

Conventional Wisdom: Don’t flip your steak too often—let it rest in one place on the grates. You know, for those magazine-worthy grill marks that are clear sign of the perfectly cooked steak.

Franklin Steak Says: Those grill marks are a lie. The goal is an allover crust, so flip early and flip often.

This doesn’t really apply for indoor cooking so much, but I do get my cast-iron skillet good and hot before the steak hits it. (See this post.)

Conventional Wisdom: Rest, rest, REST!

Franklin Steak Says: As soon as you can touch your steak without burning your fingertip, slice the thing and serve.

And this too I’ve been doing right.

Read the whole thing. More tips in it, along with a couple of recipes.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2019 at 2:09 pm

What to put on french fries: An encyclopedic guide

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I don’t actually eat french fries anymore—incompatible with a low-carb diet—but I found this article by Dan Nosowitz in Gastro Obscura quite interesting:

THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT A french fry that begs to be dipped. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re shaped sort of like a finger, which is the ideal form for dipping. Maybe it’s that modern potatoes—at least those outside the Andes Mountains—are mostly neutral in flavor, and take to any combination of additions. Maybe it’s the external crispiness that cries out for a contrasting texture. There are dozens of well-known fry dips, all around the world, and they fall into several families—producing a web of unexpected global connections around the world. You never really know where you are in the world until you dip a fry and take a bite.

Before we get to that, let’s explore the much-disputed creation of this ubiquitous foodstuff. Potatoes come from the Andean region of South America, and Andean peoples have not only thousands of different varieties of potato, but also many, many ways of preparing them. In the pre-Columbian Andes, and even for awhile after European contact, the most common methods were boiling, roasting, and a freeze-dry method that produces a product called chuños. Deep-frying, and cooking in oil in general, is a relatively new thing for potatoes.

Cooking in oil has a long history in certain parts of the ancient world. There are mentions of frying in Apicius, a Roman cookbook with recipes that probably date back to the first century. Olive oil was the medium of choice in the Mediterranean, and was plentiful, but for most of the world, fat and oil were prized and expensive. Olives are unusual in that a simple press can extract their oil, whereas for most plants, you have to smash them, boil them, then quickly skim off the oil as it separates. It was expensive to render fat from animals, and both expensive and time-consuming to produce it from vegetables.

Outside the Mediterranean, up until the end of the Middle Ages or so, fat and oil were too important to be used simply to cook something else. They were treated more like meat: vital sources of calories, not something to be used to cook something else. Fat would be spread on starches like bread, or added to soups and stews. That started to change around the time of the Industrial Revolution, when new machines and methods for extracting oil emerged. Roll mills, in which two rotating cylinders press material between them, started to be used to efficiently squeeze oil from plant matter in 1750. The hydraulic press was created in the late 1700s, then solvents in the mid-1800s (though the first solvents were almost certainly not fit for human consumption).

This is all to say that deep-frying, which requires a great deal of oil, is a mostly modern method—so french fries are a mostly modern dish. A common legend states that french fries originated in the Namur region of Belgium, where locals usually fried fish. One particularly vicious winter, the legend goes, their river froze solid, and so desperate and hungry locals cut potatoes into small, fish-shaped pieces, and fried those. That story comes from a 1781 manuscript wherein the author states that “this practice goes back more than a hundred years already.” But it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone was even eating potatoes in Belgium in 1681, let alone using wildly expensive oils to cook them.

Culinary historian Pierre Leclerq instead suggests that french fries—which he clarifies as being deep-fried, and not shallow-fried in a pan like home fries—probably came around in the mid-1800s, following the widespread availability of plant-based oils around Europe. They likely were first sold as street food in Belgium, France, or both. It’s also likely that the concept of deep-frying potatoes evolved independently elsewhere, too. After all, once oil was more affordable, why use its browning and crisping abilities on just about everything?

From there, the deep-fried potato—usually, but not always, in stick form—spread around the world. And so did its dips. Each fry dip is reflective of both local tastes and colonial conquests, new technologies and old traditions. The french fry is the medium through which you can see the parts that make up a modern culture. How you choose to flavor that most fundamental of snacks—deep-fried starch—says an awful lot about who you are. And it also shows how strangely interrelated world cuisine has become.

The state of the french fry dip in 2019 is wild: globalization has brought ketchup to the entire world, sure, but it’s also led to an almost impossibly large array of regional sauces and combinations. With that in mind, it doesn’t really make sense to break up the fry dips along geographic lines; the United States, dip-wise, has more in common with the Philippines than it does with Canada, for example. The world’s fry dips are better sorted by family. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Here’s just the section on the ketchup family of dips:

The Ketchup Family

“Ketchup” is a Malay word to describe a Chinese sauce consisting mostly of pickled fish. The word and vague concept of a sweet-and-sour sauce made it to the United Kingdom, where it was made with mushrooms, and then to the United States, where it was made with that most glorious of New World fruits, the tomato.

Where the primary attribute of the Creamy Family is its fat content, the Ketchup Family is sweet, sour, and sweet again. Standard tomato ketchup is ubiquitous in the United States but pretty widely available elsewhere, with minor variations in sweetness, sourness, and acidity.

Like mayo, ketchup has a curry-spiked variety, most associated with Germany, and particularly with Berlin street food, though it’s also popular in Denmark, the Netherlands, and, yet again, Belgium. But ketchup doesn’t have to be made with tomatoes. Modern ketchup, really, is a fruit puree kicked up with vinegar, sugar, and spices. In the Philippines, banana ketchup (often dyed red) is a common dip. In Belgium, a version of a South Asian pickle is also common—something like a very sweet relish. It’s not pureed, like tomato ketchup, but given its status as a sweet-sour vegetable, it’s at least a ketchup cousin, maybe.

Throughout Southeast Asia there are chili ketchups, to be enjoyed blended or separately, depending on the diner’s taste. McDonald’s in Thailand, for example, has “American ketchup” and “chili sauce,” the latter of which is described as orange and tangy.

Brown sauce, a United Kingdom favorite, is a little trickier to parse. It looks like gravy (more on that family later), but is fundamentally a ketchup: tomato base, with vinegar and sugar. What separates it from standard ketchup is the additions: dates, raisins, tamarind, or any combination thereof, along with spices, a bit like what Americans consider steak sauce.

The key attribute of ketchup and its relatives, I think, is sugar. Ketchup has about four grams per tablespoon—more than vanilla ice cream (also a pretty good dip for fries). Ketchup, like mayo, has some acidity and an excellent viscosity for clinging to fries, but no other sauce on this list is anywhere near as sweet.

Emphasis added, and that explains why I made my own ketchup using this recipe: no refined sugar.

Do read the whole thing.


Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2019 at 10:08 am

Posted in Food

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