thinking about the world differently . . .
August 28th, 2014

Let’s talk about manual dexterity

This guy is amazing. If I tried it, I’d probably cut off half my fingers…

July 26th, 2013

The Common Ingredient

What do jet fuel, electrical transformers and breakfast cereal have in common?

BHT.

BHT is short for butylated hydroxytoluene and it is an organic compound that is used as an antioxidant additive in jet fuels, electrical transformer oil, and breakfast cereal.

Found this list of 25 Craziest Food Additives on a website listing all sorts of “List of of 25” items, many quite astonishing!

June 23rd, 2013

Oh, No, More Paula Deen!

Like a bad dinner with too much butter that comes back to haunt you, so does Paula Deen. I wrote before about her in my blog (here, here, and here.)

But as Roseanne Roseannadanna said: If it is not one thing it’s another!

Watch the Genius of Gilda Radner do her bit including the memorable phrase right here:

Watch on Youtube directly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd_syuD-N_k

 
So, back to Deen. She managed to make waves again, this time by admitting in court to having used racial slurs on her show. Oy! The Food Network, Deen’s latest TV home, announced Friday (6/21/2013) that they will not renew her contract. She did make an apology, but the ax has fallen.

My cartoon Guru, Mr. Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga FreePress, published the following great cartoon on the topic:

Clay Bennett Commenting on Paula Deen's Racial Slurs Admission

Clay Bennett Commenting on Paula Deen’s Racial Slurs Admission

And so melts the Empire all to hell like a stick of butter in a hot skillet…

March 30th, 2013

Drowsy?

This Jerusalem Post article gives the following tips:

1. Get water inside your body first thing after waking up. By that time, you have let your body dehydrate for several hours. IT IS TIME to drink some water.

2. Berries for the afternoon doldrums. They are filled with all sorts of good nutrients, and a big one is fiber. This latter one tends to even out the sugar level in your blood, so you don’t have the ups and downs so many people experience in the afternoons. You get a steady even level of energy.

3. Get a hit of lentils. Rich in nutrients, these legumes, are easy to prepare, very inexpensive, and have lots of needed nutrients. Add them to salads and other dishes.

4. Go Nuts. Well, go after nuts and seeds. They are an excellent source of “the good fats” and have fiber galore. It does not take much nuts or seeds to add significant benefits to a regular food plan, so you need not “get ON a diet of nuts” or off it. I personally love to much on peanuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

5. Greek yoghurt. That one was new on me. I always enjoyed the creamy full taste, but as a quick energizer? Never thought of it. Well, protein galore without the sugar hits of the stuff you find in the supermarket dairy shelves. If you want to sweeten it, crush a few berries in there and go for it.

All of these are inexpensive uplifters. Sure nuts cost a lot per pound, but you need just a small handful, so the pound will last and last. So all this will be good for your wallet, leave room in your pants (your ass will not grow with empty calories), make your body happy, give you long years of life, fix all the other world’s problems in a flash! (I DID get carried away somewhat in that last sentence… :grin:)

March 16th, 2013

It’s a design issue…

Prof. Barry Kudrowitz of the University of Minnesota is a product design teacher. Along with  Bill Fienup, a Chicago-based mechanical engineer, they designed the ultimate solution to a HUGE problem: The Oreo cookie.

Think: It is hard to separate without messing your face, fingers, lips, and the separation of creamy inside is never perfect or complete, so the manual solutions are truly rough at the edges, requiring the refined hand of professorial and engineering touches.

Enter the Oreo Separator Machine – the OROBOT. 

The process is simple: Airpressure separates the top cookie from the cream, shooting it directly into the expecting open mouth. Meanwhile, the cream is heated slightly, liquefying it. A high pressure airstream then jets it into the expcetant, open mouth. An additional blast of air then shoots the bottom cookie, now clean of cream, directly into the mouth of the eater.

Done!

This was reported in the Pioneer Press, retrieved 3/16.2013

Watch the video below:

 

December 29th, 2012

Year End Crunch

What a crunch for year end… My own version of “fiscal cliff” 😀

Here is how:

Slice a bagel in two. If you can find a bagel with a fairly closed middle hole, use it.

Remove the bread material from the bagel halves to create a bowl-like “cavity”.

Knead the breading to make a plug to close the hole in one of the halves.

Place both halves cut side up on a cookie sheet with some foil and bake in a 300F oven for 3 minutes.

Spread one teaspoon of shredded mozzarella on each bagel, and return to the oven foespecially try to melt the cheese around the plug. Let it toast/bake another 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Place bagels on a work surface for assembly.

Now you have two toasted “bowls” and one is more like a bowl.

Crack an egg into the bagel bowl. I like to spice the egg with za’atar, some pimenton (smokey paprika), oregano and rosemary. Just a pinch or so.

Place the bagel bowl on the cookie sheet and back into the oven, at 350F for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, assemble the other half bagel: some rosemary and oregon at the bottom. A layer of thinly sliced tomato, a pinch of parmesan, a layer of thinly sliced celery, a layer of jalapeno thinly sliced, another layer of tomato slices. Top with thinly sliced swiss cheese.

If you prep these ingredients in advance, the assembly will take 5-8 minutes. Add the assmbled bagel to the cookie sheet. Continue baking for about 2-5 mins.

Depending on how you like your egg: runny will be about 12 minutes, more solid will take 15 minutes total time.

Since the egg already baked 5-8 minutes, you can add more time to finish off the whole thing to a glorious nice breakfast.

Bagel with CRUNCH for a festive Yearend Breakfast

Bagel with CRUNCH for a festive Yearend Breakfast

Oh yeah, the CRUNCH: provided by toasting the bagels first and also by the celery.

Enjoy. But: don’t forget to think of the people who cannot enjoy such a sunmptuous meal, or any meal on that day! Give thanks to those who work hard to bring the ingredients to your kitchen. Try to think for a short time about the systemic causes for hunger and poverty.

December 28th, 2012

One that flew under the radar

2012 was a year filled with news items and events that made the news. I doubt it was a more momentous year that other years are, but in retrospect there were events in it that might prove to be somewhat pivotal in a historical sense. For example, the US Election results may turn out to be the wake up call for political activists – the playing field has changed radically, and the changes are beginning to manifest in the voting patterns, and reflecting the changing political musculature of the new demographics in the USA.

In my favorite technology field, very significant computer power seems to have been imbued in tablets. This may turn into real revolution in our relationships with computing-on-the-go, or simply fade like many other fads and be relegated to the status of landfill fillers. We’ll see how this develops in the next 2-3 years, but just remember – you lived through 2012, the year that started the Tablet Revolution or Devolution, whichever.

Earlier today, DW gave me this cryptic missive: “There is a study that shows that consuming red meat will shorten your life.” I love bacon, but have not had any in oooh, 4-5 weeks? My red meat consumption is maybe 1/2 oz. PER WEEK… So I did not rush out to review the latest revision of my will and last testament. Intrigued, I followed up and found the source of DW’s missive: a Yahoo Health review of the health stories of 2012.

As a piece of new, this one falls so flat on its face that it elicits nothing but pity. “There is a study” was as close as they came to identify the study! No date, not source, no organization, nothing. This was a piece not worthy of slaying of ANY electrons!

Mercifully,, they did have some information (amazingly…) and with the help of our ever-present and quintessential Google search (no, I won’t go to Microsoft Bing, I still have too many bad memories of that nasty, evil company Microsoft!) I entered the few salient facts in the Yahoo articleas this search: 100,000 people in the study, over 28 years, red meat consumption.

And voilà! The first item was this: Harvard School of Public Health press release from March 12, 2012 [here]: Red Meat Consumption Linked to Increased Risk of Total, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality.

The study was published online in Archives of Internal Medicine on March 12, 2012.

Indeed, more red meat and processed red meat shortens your life. Mortality rises in total numbers, due to cardiovascular diseases, and due to cancer occurrence.

You can read the Press Reease and the study yourself. It is very fascinating. I recommend it.

But I write this because it is an example of how things fly under the radar! This should have been HUGE NEWS, but it was not. The changes that the conservative political machine is perpetrating on US citizens should be HUGE NEWS, but they mostly are not.

Why?

November 21st, 2012

You know that miracles DO HAPPEN!

On June 15, 2011 I wrote this blog here about Ms. Paula Deen and the rather, well… braindead recipes. I was also taken aback at the time by the amazing recipes she was distributing far and wide – full of butter, more butter, and a bit of butter for good measure, in addition to oil, full cream, and … well you get the point: Cholesterol city!!! Several pictures of her from 2009-2010 period showed a pudgy face, and if there is such a thing as a “diabetic face”, she had one.

You have undoubtedly eagerly read this blog because of the subject line. Ok, wait no more: Miracles seem to happen. Ms. Deen was reportedly given the diabetes type 2 diagnosis in April of 2010, but decided to keep it all a secret. She kept promoting a cooking style on her TV show that leads to weight gain, and the attendant onset of various ailments. Not quite a positive role for a public person.

Well, the miracle part: Here is Paula Deen on MSNBC Today Show:

January 17, 2012 – on MSNBC Today Show

And here, just a few months later – is the same Lady!

Paula Deen in October 2012 – check that great smile!

There is a recipe!!! And a dish 😀 …

July 28th, 2012

Laxpudding, the platform

Laxpudding is a Swedish recipe using potatoes, milk, creme, dill, and lax (salmon) for a highly yummy dish. It falls easily in the class of “comfort food”.

The recipe below is exact, but know that you can violate it quite a bit in two dimensions: quantities and ingredient-substitutions. See more below.

Here is what it looks like in my own kitchen:

Laxpudding

Laxpudding in my kitchen - photo by R. Meshar, used with permission

One recipe for Laxpudding jumped at me and I was hooked. I am quite particular to recipes that are easy to make, low-process and lend themselves to substitutions. It looked easy, simple, and I had nearly all the ingredients already in my kitchen and substitutions could be made for the 2-3 missing ingredients.

The decision was reached: This will be lunch!

At 11:30 I was in the kitchen, pulling together the necessary equipment and ingredients. By about 1pm this dish was under consumption! The EXIF information for the picture above shows “DateTimeOriginal – 2012:07:28 13:27:40” and it was taken after the consumption took place 😀 …

Recipe: I modified it from the original to adapt for the much more modest volumes of eating at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. potatoes, 1/4 in. slices
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk – 2% evaporated milk was great!
  • 1/4 cup cream – I used a liquid creamer I usually use in my coffee
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp butter, 1/3 of it to grease the baking dish
  • 5 oz. can of salmon, broken apart to be quite loose
  • 1 Tbsp dried ground dill herb
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds

Directions: 

  • Heat the oven to 320F
  • Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water
  • Bring to a boil and cook for six to eight minutes, just until tender. Actually, just parboil the potatoes for 5-6 minutes – they will cook much more in the baking step!
  • Strain, refresh under cold water, then drain and pat dry with a clean towel
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cream, half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper. I added the remaining (melted) butter.
  • Grease a 8.5 in. high-sided, round ovenproof dish with some melted butter.
  • Lay a third of the potatoes on the base and spread over half the salmon and half the ground dill.
  • Top with another third of the potatoes, then more salmon and dill, followed by the rest of the spuds.
  • Pour over the custard and grind pepper on top.
  • Spread the caraway seeds on top.
  • Bake for 45 65 minutes, or until the custard is set (a knife should come out dry). At 320F this takes at least 65 minutes, so I will try 375F for 40 minutes next time!
  • Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter.
  • Leave to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving warm.

This came out VERY VERY tasty!

As I read the recipe and directions, it occurred to me that this is a “platform recipe”. “Platform Recipes” are recipes that are quite basic, and with a few modifications, lend themselves to a rich variety of similar, equally yummy dishes.

So some thoughts about substitutions:

Consider non-nordic options:

One slice of prosciutto instead of a layer of salmon and a small amount of dried tomatoes (Italian?),

One thin slice of ham instead of salmon along with swiss cheese and some herb-de-Provence (French?),

Use bacon slices, more caraway seeds, on each layer, and sliced mushrooms, drizzling a bit of balsamic on top for that slight sourness (German?).

Also, we contemplated spreading a small amount of shredded mozzarella cheese on the layers and let it all melt to a nice gooey concoction.

How about spreading some shredded cheddar cheese on top in the last 5  minutes of baking to help with the top crust color and taste?

Anyway, you can see where I am going with this, right?!

Here is another image from the Guardian site:

June 9th, 2012

Hello, and Thanks for All the Fish

Douglas Adams’ fourth book in the trilogy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is called So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. (I am aware of the numerical transgression, as was Douglas Adams.) I was inspired by the title, as well as the video below.

The video is by a chef who had a revalation and awakening when he discovered Veta La Palma and their fish. Veta La Palma (see here) is a fish farm in Southern Spain. It is a successful experiment in working with Nature to produce the bounty provided by natural processes. It is an agricultural farm which produces no waste – on the contrary, it cleanses the water of the river that creates its estuary; it uses no feed to fatten up the fish – and they taste great; it measures its success by the good health of its predatory birds (flamingos) and in fact has become the largest private bird sanctuary in Europe. 20% of its fish are eaten by the (healthy) predatory birds. Still – it produces 1200 tons of fish every year.

The take-away lesson: Intensive agriculture which measures production per acre only is not necessarily the right answer. Such agriculture has many hidden costs: depletion of water tables, waste and in some cases toxic waste, methodical destruction of related natural resources, and much more.

Of course, corporate agribusiness will not discuss any of these costs – they do not pay for them, so the incentive is diminished if not evaporates.

Mr. Barber also touches upon interesting points that have been repeated many times before in many other places by other people: Hunger in the world today is not a matter of lack of production. There is plenty of food produced. World hunger is by far an issue of unfair and ultimately unsustainable distribution.

Sending more food containers to communities that experience hunger will help stave off the immediate problem, but it will not solve the underlying systemic problems. In many cases, as in Central America, food shipments causes even more damage by lowering the price of available food to such a degree that local farmers are priced out of the market and cannot remain farmers, and in many cases join the ranks of hungry, sometime even migrate north to the USA looking for work and food! This is not to say that we should ignore the immediate problems. That does mean to say that just throwing food shipments on this is actually more damaging, and much more care and attention must be paid to solve the underlying, system-wide problems. Of course, this is not so glorious, and hard to brag about in the church on Sunday: “I helped solve a systemic problem in Africa today!” sounds so bla by comparison to “I helped ship 5 tons of food to Africa today!”

June 15th, 2011

I just could not resist this one…

I haven’t posted in awhile here because of workload with clients. But this one gem literally jumped at me and bit me hard! So here it is.

Food Network has a number of chefs who invent recipes, and perform them on TV. A lot of it is merely glitzy cakes, but not all!

On the show Paula’s  Home Cooking, in the Episode “Hail to the Chief” (Episode PA0809H), Paula Deen revealed an astonishing recipe: English Peas!

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2 cans (14 1/2-ounces) English peas, drained

Directions

Melt the butter in small pot and add the peas. Cook over medium heat until peas are warm.

Astonishing culinary challenge, huh?

most commenters were no amused, and heaped plenty of abuse on this “chef”. Justifiably. She took “dumbing down” to a new and exquisite height.

I suppose next will be her recipe for boiling eggs!

Paula Deen with her

April 16th, 2011

Great Nearly Instant Recipes

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes-and-cooking/seafood-made-5-delicious-ways/pictures/page-2.html

These recipes are impressive and are FAST to prepare. Enjoy the images below – click on the titles to see the full recipes.

Shrimp Scampi with Garlic Toasts

Photo by Foodnetwork.com

Pesto Salmon and Potatoes

Photo by Foodnetwork.com

Fried Fish with Smashed Chips

Photo by Foodnetwork.com

Shrimp Salad Pitas

Photo by Foodnetwork.com

Foil Packet Fish with Corn Relish

Photo by Foodnetwork.com


March 7th, 2011

Can You Believe it?

On January 2 2011 I wrote this blog – about Black-Eyed Peas and Ham Hock.

A proud moment for me. I tried something brand new, modified it where it seemed right to do. And it tasted delicious, ushering the New Year with a blast of culinary and gustatory beneficence and delight.

But there was a proverbial fly in the ointment! I spelled the part of the title as “Hock Ham”!

One theory was that it was a desperate corporeal attempt to go “kosher” with that ham thing… After all, some ancient ancestors of mine probably were rolling over in their graves, and others were shaking a gnarled, albeit unseen and ethereal, finger at me from their perch up there alongside God (they were all righteous people, the family oral tradition claims…)

But that is just a crazy story. I just made a mistake, a transposition. I make them occasionally. One I have made since 1970 or 1971 is “washdisher” for the kitchen appliance also known as dishwasher. There are others.

Now “Hock Ham” joins the “team”.

And to think that DW saw it several times, chuckled each time, shrugged her shoulders assuming I knew what I was doing (Big Mistake right there, DW!!!) And went along with that. I hesitated to ask how many times she saw that. I did not want to know the answer. Really didn’t.

I just fixed the typo. If you click there, you won’t see it any more. No more chuckling…

February 21st, 2011

Buckwheat Pancakes

Today I experimented with buckwheat pancakes. This is the first time I made pancakes, and this recipe from Allrecipes.com came in handy.

Buckwheat Pancakes

Photo by Dianne from St. Cloud MN, posted on Allrecipes.com May 30, 2010

The proportions helped, although I modified the ingredients quite a bit. There are 4 photos (at least as of today) attached to the recipe, and mine looked like the image on the left much more than the other images.

The recipe I used was this:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup homemade yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup soymilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 6 Tbsp wholewheat flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 banana, very-very ripe!
  • Spices: Cayenne, Turmeric, Cinnamon – yes, it is not a mistake, read on.

I only had the last of a bag of buckwheat flour, the I backfilled with wholewheat, and decided to cut the white flour by half.

These ingredients make about 6-8 pancakes, each 3-4″ in diameter.

Directions:

  • Whisked yoghurt and egg in a small bowl.
  • In another bowl mixed well the flours, salt, baking soda, and about 1/16 (really a pinch) teaspoon of each cayenne and turmeric. Cinnamon was was about 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Added the egg and yoghurt and mixed well. It was a little too solid, and did not look liquid enough for a pancake mix. So another 1/2 cup soymilk went in. That made it nice and smooth.
  • Chopped the banana and added to the mixe, and smashed it well so there were almost no chunks of banana.
  • Heated my large skillet to medium hot – and added most of the butter.
  • First pancake was a test: Sure enough, the bubbles came up after about 2 minutes in the skiller. They are about 1/4 inch in diameter. If the pancake sticks a bit, leave it for another 15 seconds, and it will list easily and flip over.
  • My pancakes were about 3.5″-4″ in diameter.
  • After the flip, another 2 minutes was enough.

In retrospect, I’d make them a bit more savory yet! I know, most people like them sweet, but I never liked sweet pancakes. The banana and cinnamon blend well and provide nice sweetness, not too much. To complement, I like the surprise of cayenne and turmeric.

So this is what my pancakes looked like:

February 15th, 2011

Salad for the Soul

Last Sunday I was invited to join my local political unit in a party to lift our spirits, celebrate Winter’s upcoming end, and other milestones in our lives. Basically an excuse to rub shoulders, touch base, reconnect.

I was asked to bring a salad. I am from the Middle East originally and we have a different concept for what a salad should contain. Sure, lettuce is fine, but we think more than 3-4 vegetable slices.

So here is what I made: a salad with 16 ingredients!

Photo A. Meshar

Ingredients:

  • Celery root
  • Red and green pepper
  • Red cabbage
  • Green cabbage
  • Plain raddish
  • Red heart raddish
  • Turnip
  • Daikon
  • Parsnip
  • Carrot
  • Tomato
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Napa cabbage
  • White button mushroom
  • Beet

Even with no additional sauces, this salad has its own strong, fresh “veggie” aromas and tastes. The items are mostly seasonal, i.e. some root vegetables, some tubers.

What a delight this salad is. It keeps in the fridge for a few days if kept dry. You can munch on it as a snack, add it to dishes as a salad. I have even used it as an addition to a frittata, stir-fried the salad in wok, added it to soups, made a vegetable soup out of it. The versatility is wide. Just think out of the box.

Preparation: here lies the other secret (the first is using many-many vegetables): CHOP! You have got to chop things down to make the salad really mixed. The size matters some but much less than the fact that there is a mix of vegetables.

I developed good cutting technique and can do it quickly (without slicing my fingers), so I usually cut things down to about 1/4 inch or less. But my salads were just as good before I got good at chopping, and the pieces I cut were only 1/2 inch or even more – so it is ok to start now, get a salad going now!

By the way, 16 items is admittely A LOT! Try salads with 6 items. These will surprise you with their flavor and delight your tongue and palate. Mix colors, mix textures.

Enjoy!

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