Category: Food science

Sous-vide cooking with our new Anova Cooker

Sous-vide cooking with our new Anova Cooker

Sous-vide cooking amounts to putting your food in a sealed plastic bag and immersing it in a temperature controlled water bath for an hour or so. Until recently, sous-vide cookers had cost several hundred dollars, but the latest models are about $100 and suitable for Christmas presents. Our new Anova Nano Precision cooker is just such a device, and we report here on our first experiences with it.

The essence of sous-vide cookery is immersing your food (meat, fish or some vegetables)  in a water bath at just the temperature you want the food to reach. For example, if you want a steak to have an internal temperature of 130˚ F, you put your steak in a vacuum sealed bag in a temperature-controlled water bath at 130˚ F for about an hour. The entire steak will have an internal temperature of 130˚ rather than just the middle. You finish the steak with a quick browning in a pan to give you the outer crust you’d expect.

The Anova cooker is a well-made, compact appliance that you clamp to the side of any fairly deep pot. It comes with minimal documentation (a tiny 5-page leaflet) directing you to download the Anova app for your smart phone.

This app immediately connects to the Anova via Bluetooth, allowing you to manage the settings from your phone. Use of the app is not entirely transparent: you would think that you could adjust the temperature and time from the app, bit you can actually only select times and temperatures associated with various recipes within the app: Beef Poultry, Eggs, Fish and seafood, Lamb, Port and Vegetables (Carrots and Corn only).

Steak

We bought some on-sale prime sirloin steak for our first experiment, placing the seasoned steak into a gallon zip lock bag with some seasonings.

We set the Anova for 130˚ using the app. This took a little fiddling, as it was not obvious at first ow to switch from Rare to Medium Rare. You just swipe right to move to the next temperature setting, but there was no indication on the screen that it was swipe-able. You should bring the water to temperature before putting the meat in. Since you can get tap water at 130˚, this is not too difficult. For high temperatures, you need to use your stove to heat the water, as the Anova takes quite a while to get to higher temperatures.

You slowly lower the bag into the water, letting the water pressure force out the air, and then seal the bag. It should sink in the water if you got most of the air out. We started the cooker, and an hour later had cooked, steak but with a gray exterior. We browned it in a cast-iron pan and then served it.  It was as good as the steak, which in this case was modest, but the cooker worked like a charm.

Chicken Breasts

We also followed the recipe provided with the cooker for chicken breasts.

Nearly all of these are by noted food writer Kenji Lopez-Alt. In those case, we put each of two breast halves in a separate 1 quart zip lock bag with a little oil and a sprig of rosemary and cooked them at 150˚ F for one hour. Then, we browned the chicken skin on a fry pan and deboned the breast easily. We sliced each breast up for serving and ate it with gusto. The breast was perfectly cooked and juicy, unlike nearly all other chicken breast recipes and an simple evening meal. It was great.

sliced

Carrots

carrot bag

To cook carrots, you cut them into 1-2 inch pieces, bag them and add a bit of sugar and butter, and seal them for immersion. We simply were not able to get all the air out of the bag because of the irregularity of the carrot pieces. We tried weight the bag by clamping a spoon to it, but the bag leaked and the carrots were not fully cooked. You also have to raise the water bath to 183˚ and this is beat done on the stove. You probably need to invest in a vacuum sealer to do carrots, but since we have a number of recipes for carrots already, this is not that urgent.

It’s not clear how often we’ll use our cooker, but it is very easy to use with the smartphone app and the results are really impressive. We have it in our stove drawer now for easy access.

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Why homeopathy is hokum

Why homeopathy is hokum

There are lots of faux drugs on the shelves of many shameless drugstore chains that are labeled “homeopathic.” These are useless nostrums marketed to the gullible.  Usually they are labelled as something like “200C.” This is not a temperature, but the number of dilutions of the original substance.

The completely unsubstantiated hypothesis behind homeopathy is that “like cures like,” and that a very small diluted amount of some “natural substances,” such as plant extracts can stimulate the body to repair itself. There is no evidence that this 18th century idea actually works.

The way homeopaths work is that they select some substance or substances they believe might be helpful and dilute them with shaking, which they call potentization. The word has no actual meaning. Then after many dilutions and shakings, they sell some to you for treatment.

Well now, how much is “some”?

Let’s assume that table salt is a substance that can be used for treatment. It has a molecular weight of (23 + 35.5) of 58.5. We know, from the work of Loschmidt and Avogadro that if you weigh out the molecular weight of any substance in grams (in this case 58.5 g) it contains one  mole of particles, or 6.02 x 1023 molecules.

1 mole saltSo let’s dissolve that mole of salt on one liter of water. Now we have a one molar solution containing those 1023 molecules.  And now, lets dilute 10 ml of that liter by 100, to again make one liter.  This new liter will have 1/100 as many molecules in it, or 1021 molecules.

Well the “C” in that “200C” designation means that has been diluted by 100. And the 200 means that this has been repeated 200 times!

So lets see what happens after each dilution:

  1. 1021 molecules
  2. 1019 molecules
  3. 1017 molecules

…..

  1. 105 molecules
  2. 103 molecules
  3. 101 molecules

 

After 11 dilutions, you have only 10 molecules of salt left in your solution.  What happens when you dilute it 100:1 another time? If you take 100 10 ml samples of that last liter, 10 of them could have one molecule of salt!

And after that, the chances of there being even one molecule of our “medicine” are vanishingly small. All of the salt (or any other substance) is lost in the dilution process! There isn’t any left after 12 or so dilutions. And by 200 there is absolutely no chance you’ll encounter even one molecule!  It’s gone down the drain, just as the entire homeopathic hypothesis has. There are no active ingredients at all!

Taking homeopathic preparations can act as a placebo, or if they dilute the substance in alcohol instead of water, a quick drunk, but there just can’t be any benefits in the absence of any medicine.

Unfortunately homeopathic preparations are poorly regulated, and some dangerous substances may remain in significant quantities. In some cases, heavy metals have been found.

513minrbq9l._ac_us436_fmwebp_ql65_Studies of the famous quack medicine oscillococcimnum have shown no significant effect. And studies of some 68 treatments have found that they have no effect either.

These are quack medicines that improve the bottom line of unethical pharmacies, but can’t do you any good. Any they may do some harm.

Sifting and measuring flour

Sifting and measuring flour

If you look at nearly any baking recipe, you will see something like “sift together the dry ingredients,” usually flour, baking powder and maybe sure and salt. Why do they do that? Well, because someone clear back to Fanny Merritt Farmer, in her Boston Cooking School Cookbook (you can read a digital copy here) said to. Flour in 1896 was probably much lumpier than today, and she said to sift all ingredients before measuring them.

Nowadays, flour isn’t usually very lumpy and we usually use it right out of the bag.

But we thought we’d try sifting some paprika into flour to see how well it mixes. This is about 1.5 Tb of paprika in 2 cups of flour.

 

 
 

As can see, it doesn’t really mix all that well. In fact, you could do better just using a wire whisk. But, if you are making a batter for baking, the mixing of the dry ingredients with the liquid will distribute them just as well.

Now about that cup

A measuring cup measures 8 fluid ounces: it is really for measuring liquids like milk or water. Flour, not being a liquid can be a little variable about how much fits in a cup. Fanny Farmer said you should scoop out the flour and level off the cup with a knife, and that works for 1 cup of flour. But for 2 ½ cups of flour, it gets messier and it soon becomes easier to weigh out the flour. We have an inexpensive kitchen scale, Ozeri kitchen scale (it cost $15.95), we keep right with our bowls and dishes, and can easily weigh anything we want.  If you don’t have one, ask someone to give it to you for Christmas.

So how do you weigh out flour? We found that 1 cup of King Arthur All Purpose Flour weighs 142 g (see above). We use grams because then there aren’t any pesky decimal pl aces to confuse you.

weighing



But what about sifted flour? The only thing sifting commercial flours does is to aerate them a bit so a cup of sifted flour weighs less. Sifted King Arthur flour weighs 126 grams, or about 8% less.

Cake Flour

Cake flour is made from a mixture of lower protein wheats that will give a light and tender crumb in cakes. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, all purpose flour has about 11-12% protein (mostly gluten) and cake flour about 7-8% protein. And U.S. cake flour is bleached as well, which causes “the starch granules to absorb water and swell more readily in high sugar batters.” Need less to say, cake flours weigh less per cup:

 All purposeCake flour
Scooped142 g120 g
Sifted126 g112 g

These weights are useful when you need some off amount of flour. For example, my waffle recipe requires 2 ¼ cups of sifted cake flour. It’s easiest to just quickly weigh about (2.25 x 112g) or 252g in a dish and mix it into the waffle batter. I keep this table posted inside my cupboard door, and write the weights into any recipes I use frequently.

So, get your scale out and you can do your baking quickly without getting a lot of measuring cups dirty. Happy holiday baking!

Tony Buettner pitches the Blue Zone Project in Wilton

Tony Buettner pitches the Blue Zone Project in Wilton

Tony Buettner, who identified himself as the Senior Vice President of the Blue Zones Project gave a polished pitch and review of the Blue Zones Project. Buettner is the brother of Dan Buettner whose book(s) on five pockets of centenarians around the world and their habits and diet was a best seller. (There is third Buettner brother involved as well.)

He started out by asking if every adult in the room had walked to school as a child, and most had. However, when he asked if their children did, almost no one raised their hand. This may sound damning, but is really rather naïve. Wilton has essentially zero sidewalks outside the downtown area, and no real way to maintain such sidewalks even if they could be built. This is common in New England because of the rocky terrain and old property lines and roadways. He might have looked around the town a bit before starting his canned pitch.

Buettner reviewed some of the remote civilizations where there are more than a usual number of long-lived people, including quite a number of centenarians, and followed that up with Dan’s conclusions that there are nine factors involved in extending your lifespan, (and living happily as the members of these civilizations) in Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Cosa Rica), Ikaria (Greece) and the Adventists of Loma Linda, CA.  He named and trademarked these nine factors as the “Power of Nine,” even though some of them are pretty common and obvious, such as “eat more vegetables.”

He suggested that their success in longevity is 80% environment and life-style and only 20% genetic. This is somewhat in conflict with their science advisor Stuart Jay Olshansky, who believes genetics is far more important than that. However, this was a marketing pitch, not a scientific one as we discovered when one of his slide misspelled “Chi-squared” as “Khi square.”

bitter-gourd-2He also suggested that bitter melon, favored by the Okinawans, “kills cancer.” This is utter nonsense, as no human experiments have been performed to validate this folk remedy. And he refers to the Ikarian wine as having 4 times the polyphenols of other red wines. But, unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that such antioxidants have any health-giving properties. That is mostly a marketing myth.

He also brought up their oft-repeated story about Stamatis Moriatis,  a Greek man from Ikaria who while working in the U.S. “developed terminal lung cancer,” and went back to Ikaria to die, but lived another 30 years, allegedly because of the healthy climate and lifestyle of his home island. Neither his story nor any of the articles I have found provide any validation for this medical fairy tale: no doctors in either the U.S. or Greece are cited. While Buettner, asserted that this story has been validated and published in the New York Times, he is actually referring to a magazine article written by his brother Dan, which contains no references of any kind.

In pitching the services the Blue Zones Project can provide to our town, Buettner continually mentioned “evidence based” and “science backed.” However, at no time did he give examples of such evidence or science. OK, neither Buettner is a scientist. But in describing their work in demonstration city Albert Lea, MN, he talked about replacing candy and junk foods in the supermarket checkout area with 43 “superfoods.” Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “superfood.”

Switching to some of their current projects, he mentioned the Beach Cities project in California, made up of Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach. He claimed great success, with a 50% reduction of childhood obesity. This would be an amazing accomplishment, but if you go and read about the project, this effort was a years-long project by the Beach Cities Health District starting in 2006. According to Eric Garner, Communications Director of the BCHD, childhood obesity has fallen by 68% since that time.  This is indeed a major accomplishment, but the Blue Zones Project came much later, (2010-11) and only added the Walking Schoolbus to the obesity project. I would call this intentionally misleading, to say the least.

When I got to ask some questions, (awkwardly, I’ll admit) I wanted to know why this work had never been published or subjected to peer review, and whether this wasn’t just correlation without causation. Buettner’s rather arrogant answer was that they had been featured on 3 magazine covers and been asked to present at the Davos Economic Forum, and they didn’t need to deal with causation, (which he clearly didn’t understand).

I also mentioned Professor Stuart Jay Olshansky’s objection:

He exaggerates the importance of diet as genetics is critical in these folks, and I was not happy early on that they were selling items from the various locations as longevity boosters, which supposedly they stopped doing…

He immediately interrupted to me to assert that the BZP has never sold anything. This is patently untrue: here is a link to their “store,”   where they sell turmeric from Okinawa, bean soup with beans from almost very Blue Zone region, and even cases of Blue Zones Water. They also have offered “Longevity Tea,” and Caracolillo Coffee from the Nicoyan region, but these are sold out.

He was not interested in discussing the criticism in Eric Carter’s paper, which I enumerated in my previous article, and quickly moved to shut me down.

I found Buettner’s attitude and mendacity very troubling and am not enthusiastic about our working with this group.

What is the Blue Zones Project?

What is the Blue Zones Project?

I first heard about the Blue Zones project when I learned that some “moms” (their term) in Wilton were suggesting that we become a Blue Zones town, and I started to read up on it.

The term “blue zone” was coined by Belgian demographer Michel Poulain when studying the characteristics of centenarians in Sardinia, where he and his coworkers realized there was an unusual cluster of very old people in this region, and they drew a circle around the cluster using a blue marker. Imagine the controversy if he had used a red marker!

bluezonesSoon journalist Dan Buettner had jumped into this study, travelling to this and several other regions to report on the clusters of centenarians in and discuss common characteristics among them. This led to an article he wrote for National Geographic and to a 2008 book, revised in 2012: Blue Zones, 9 lessons fir living longer from people who lived the longest. Note that while Buettner is a very polished writer, he is not a scientist and has no scientific training nor an advanced research degree.  He could just as well have interviewed centenarians near where he lives, and this might had been equally interesting, and would have eliminated some of the cultural differences among the groups he wrote about.

He boiled down his findings to nine basic points (trademarked as The Power of Nine), some obvious and some rather unusual, but never tested his findings using any sort of control groups. Boiled down, these are

  • Move naturally (avoid mechanical aids)
  • Find a sense of purpose
  • Find time to relax and downshift
  • Eat until “80% full,” exclaiming Hara bachi bu, (or maybe Hakuna matata, or perhaps Ai ai Cthulu!)
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Drink wine at 5
  • Belong to a religious group
  • Put your family first
  • Choose a support social circle.

Being a scientist myself, I was surprised to discover that Buettner never published any of his findings in actual peer-reviewed scientific journals, but only in his popular book and magazine articles, so his conclusions have never been subjected to scientific scrutiny or peer review. Instead, Buettner formed a Blue Zones organization to try out his recommendations in a few communities. He then licensed the Blue Zones brand to Healthways of Tennessee who is involved in promoting these findings as a commercial enterprise.

texasFurther, Buettner seems to have committed correlation without causation. Or as one of my colleagues called it, the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, where the target shooter shoots bullets at the side of a barn, and then draws a target around the bullet holes! To put it more clearly, he has not proven that any of these common findings cause longevity. He has not set up any kind of control group or test to prove their efficacy.

Academics respond

I contacted a couple of researchers who have written scientific articles about centenarians, and both responded to me.

Professor Jeremy Yorgason at Brigham Young University said, in part,

“…My understanding is that the “Blue Zones” work is aimed at replicating diet and other trends found in such areas. I agree with the principles put forth by those that encourage blue zone trends among seniors, however I’m not a fan of the commercialism they have introduced. Nutritious diet, exercise, and genetics will all influence our longevity. Environment likely also plays a role. People have some control over some of these factors, and I encourage us to do what we can to live healthy into our later years.  I hope this helps.”

Professor Stuart Jay Olshansky at the University of Illinois, Chicago, said:

“I reviewed their proposal for National Geographic when it was first thought of, and I rejected the Blue Zone idea because Dan was not going to verify the ages of the alleged centenarians — he didn’t know this was important. So, he connected with someone who can do this reliably. That part of the science is now sound. He exaggerates the importance of diet as genetics is critical in these folks, and I was not happy early on that they were selling items from the various locations as longevity boosters, which supposedly they stopped doing.  However, there are also some strong elements to what they do.  I think there’s little doubt that pockets of exceptional longevity exist. Does that help?”

 

Professor Eric D. Carter

Perhaps the most wide-ranging criticism of the project came from Professor Eric Carter of Macalester College, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, titled Making Blue Zones: Neoliberalism and nudges in public health promotion.

Carter notes that the Blue Zones Project (BZP) is a “place-based, community centered and commercial health promotion enterprise, and that it advocates a kind of “deep neoliberalism—neoliberal govermentality.” In social science jargon, “neoliberalism” refers to programs where the individual has to take responsibility for his own health, rather than being provided by a government entity. He calls this “libertarian paternalism” whose purpose is to “nudge” people towards healthy behaviors.

In fact, the BZP is “thoroughly desocialized” and more or less ignores health problems associated with poverty, unemployment, race, ethnicity, education or other social determinants. He cautions about the role of “lifestyle” or “wellness” industry professionals in framing the discussion about healthy places.

Carter notes that some of Buettner’s points, such as “sense of purpose” and “belong to a faith-based community” are unlikely to be cited by health professionals, and while Buettner claims that these can add up to 7 years to your life expectancy, this individualizes findings that are aggregate and probabilistic in nature.

Further, I suggest that the idea that communing with an imaginary Sky-Daddy having an effect on health is probably much too narrow. You might achieve the same group comfort from singing in a community chorus or playing Bingo weekly.

albert leasThe original demonstration community, Albert Lea, MN adopted Buettner’s recommendations for a 10 month trial run, building more sidewalks (but only in the downtown area) and residents agreed to “deconvenience” their lives, walking more and putting aside snowblowers for snow shovels, a recommendation that cardiologists might dispute. At the end of this period using an on-line “Vitality Calculator,” they claimed residents had added 3.1 years to their life expectancy. However, their simple diet and exercise questions have not actually been validated.

And, the BZP has almost nothing to say about the health care sector: doctors, clinics, and hospitals. It concentrates on health-promotion and lifestyle management. Not having medical buy-in to this project seems short-sighted.

NasBeachSmIt also has nothing to say about diseases, other than making the preposterous claim that one Greek man living in the U.S., Stamatis Moriatis, had developed “terminal lung cancer,” but on return to his home in Ikaria, the disease eventually vanished, as if the healthy village lifestyle somehow cured his cancer. Spontaneous remission in cancers do happen, but outlandish claims like this one border on magical thinking. Buettner has spread articles about Moriatis all over the Internet, but that does not make them true. And he presents no medical evidence.

The Iowa Project

Carter notes that the BZP cooperated with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to set up four demonstration sites, and after a competition among Iowa cities, four northern locations were chosen: Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Mason City (home of The Music Man’s con game) and Spencer. Financing for these 4 projects was provided by Iowa’s Wellmark Blue Cross, who paid Healthways $25 million for the five year demonstration. This also means that all Iowans did not have equal access to the potential benefits: another trait of such neoliberal projects.

In Iowa’s case, Branstad wanted to use the BZP to avoid expanding Medicaid for the Affordable Care Act, giving the BZP a political tinge as well.

Iowa outcomes

Recently, we learned that Cedar Rapids and Marion, IA were dropping the Blue Zones project. At the end of the demonstration period, towns had to pay to continue, and

“Cost was a factor as we would have to pay to continue to use the brand and tap into their Blue Zones network,” said Geoff Fruin, Iowa City manager.”

Cedar Rapids was selected as a Blue Zones demonstration site in 2013 and certified in 2016.

Cedar Rapids contributed up to $25,000 a year matched by $30,000 over three years from Linn County, and about $50,000 total in private contributions to pay for four full time staff members and office space, said Assistant City Manager Sandi Fowler.

She said the fee to renew with Blue Zones is considered proprietary information, and therefore was confidential.

Discussion

The BZP, according to Carter, is classic neoliberal governmentality: a commercial venture with a public-private partnership that asks people to take responsibility for and govern themselves. Such a system can only work in a homogeneous community and has no remedy for “persistent structural causes of health inequality.”

The BZP requires community buy-in to such things as “walkability and bike-ability,” that may require substantial investment to achieve. Wilton is a rural New England community, and outside of the diminutive downtown area of a couple of dozen stores, there are basically no sidewalks or bike paths. The town is built on rocky hills, and such construction could run into millions of dollars. It is instructive to note that most of the demonstration communities are in the Midwest, where there are few hills, while towns like Wilton are nearly all hills, making walkability and bike-ability that much harder to achieve.

Much of what BZP proposes amounts to changes in eating habits, which they then proudly trumpet in aggregate weight loss statistics. This is essentially a diet, and research has continually shown that diets do not work. People tend to regress to the mean about the time the demonstration period ends.

Further, the BZP has frequently suggested things like small bowls as glasses in restaurants to keep people from overeating. Unfortunately this is all based on Brian Wansink’s work at Cornell, nearly all of which has been retracted and Wansink dismissed from Cornell for essentially faking his data!

Improving physical activity and eating more vegetables are laudable goals and based on solid science, but Buettner’s insistence on including religion and “sense of purpose” are not. While there is no question that the Wilton organizers have their hearts in the right place,  the BZP is not a science project, but a profit-making entity who plays its cards rather close to the vest. If they were a non-profit, I might consider their proposal, but a profit-making business who won’t disclose their fees does not impress me.

It probably is one we should not get involved in.

Fort Worth

We just learned that in Fort Worth , the project has had little success. After 2 years, reported BMIs are still rising, and given Texan’s steak and pick-up truck habits, this will probably take a very long time. Meanwhile the original Blue Zones are fading away, and demographer Michel Poulain has noted that the eating habits of Okinawa are much like anywhere else, and the obesity much the same. Similar findings are reported for Ikaria.

Oh, and to top it all off, it’s recommend by Doctor Oz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How large are your eggs?

How large are your eggs?

We’ve always wondered whether Extra Large eggs were really much bigger than Large eggs. You sure can’t tell from the above picture! So we did some weighing experiments.

3 eggsYou probably see eggs by the dozen in several sizes in your market, most commonly large, extra large and jumbo. The adjacent picture shows large, extra large and jumbo eggs in their shells. The picture above shows their contents. How different are they? Well, the US standard egg sizes are given in ounces, 2 oz for Large eggs, 2.25 ounces for Extra Large eggs, and 2.5 ounces for Jumbo.  In Canada and most of Europe, the weight standards in grams are just about the same sizes rounded down to the nearest gram.

In New England, we have the choice of brown or white eggs, with brown being culturally preferred. They are nutritionally identical to white eggs, however, and are produced by hens like the popular Rhode Island Red.

Of course, these sizes are the average size: in a given carton there will be some variability, but the total weight of a dozen large eggs will be around 24 ounces. Well, since extra large eggs are 0.25 ounces bigger, that’s sounds like about 12% more egg. That’s pretty substantial. Would you like a 12% raise?  How about a 12% pay cut?  That’s a lot either way, but as we’ll see, it actually isn’t true for the egg contents.

How much do the contents weigh? We decided to find out.

We bought 1 dozen large white eggs (Eggland’s Best, with the Easter Bunny initials on each egg) a dozen large brown eggs (The Farmer’s Cow), a dozen Extra Large (Sunnyland Farms) and a dozen Jumbo (Land of Lakes), and weighed the eggs.

bowl of eggs

Our dozen white large EB eggs weighed 24.63 oz or about 2.05 oz each. Just a little over the expected 2 oz.

Our dozen large brown eggs weighed 24.95 oz, or 2.079 oz each. Just a little bit larger.

Our dozen Extra Large eggs were a little short, over all weighing in at 25.44, or only about 2.12 oz each. However, they were more variable in size, and if you picked the left hand 6, they averaged 2.19 oz each.  And our 1 dozen Jumbo eggs weighed in at 30.07 oz, or just about exactly 2.50 oz each.

Large white 24.63 2.05
Large brown 24.95 2.079
Extra large 25.44 2.12
Jumbo 30.07 2.50

What’s inside the eggs?

But what about what’s inside the egg? Suppose we just weigh the contents. We took three eggs representing their “breed specific” traits: in other words weighing as close to the standard as possible, weighed them and weighed their contents.

Egg type Weight Wgt of contents % bigger than large
Large white 2.08 1.84 0
Large brown 2.04 1.74 -5.4
Extra large white 2.26 1.91 3.6
Jumbo white 2.51 2.15 11

So, the contents of the large brown egg is actually 5.4% smaller than the  large white egg of nearly identical size. This is apparently because the brown egg’s shell is a bit thicker. This may mean that the brown egg may stay fresh a little longer, but you get less egg. We repeated these measurements several times.

Now, if you compare the Extra Large egg with the Large egg, it is indeed bigger, but not 12.5% bigger as you’d expect from the weight requirements. In fact, it is only 3.6% bigger!  Again, more shell and less egg. Bigger eggs have more shell as well as more contents. However, this is only true for large eggs. For extra large and jumbo, the weight measurements are exactly the same for both white and brown eggs.

So, to summarize, Extra Large eggs are not much bigger than Large eggs!

  • if you normally buy Large eggs, you will get more egg in white eggs.
  • If you normally buy Extra Large eggs, brown and white do not differ, but they are actually only 3.6% bigger than large eggs. Check the prices and see which is a better deal that week!
  •  The contents of Jumbo eggs are 11% larger than Large white eggs, and that is significant.

What did we do with all those test eggs?  Scrambled eggs one morning and quiche  a few days later!

Nantucket goes trendy and incoherent

Well, it had to happen. Kale and quinoa have taken over the island’s restaurants.

 

Some of this is caused by the new “restaurant,” Lemon Press, which has taken “Fresh, organic and healthy” to new sweet and lows. Only one of these three adjectives has an actual meaning! They serve a number of incoherent smoothies, my favorite in incoherence is the TB12, with “blueberries, banana, almond milk, almond butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, vegan protein.” Oy. They also offer acai bowls which have no real benefit and the Vegan Brekky, made up of “lentil veggie cake, greens, avocado, tomato, muhammara,” the point at which we realize they are speaking some other language entirely.

Looking through the Nantucket Restaurant Guide, you will find all sorts of menuish obfuscations such as

  • Shrimp Shumai : Asian dumpling with ohitashi, scallion and shoyu (at the late, lamented Atlas)
  • Seared Local Cod: Red quinoa, roasted cauliflower, harissa béarnaise, cucumber raita and cilantro (Black Eyed Susan’s)
  • Blue corn sopes, ancho chili pork, cotija cheese, avocado, radish sprouts, strained kefir (Galley Beach)
  • Organic Coffee and Tea: with raw sugar, agave, organic creamers (dairy and non-dairy) (The Green)
  • Cavendish Quali: Green Freekh Tabbouleh, Aged Balsamic (Le Languedoc)
  • Cali Power Breakfast: Organic egg, cheddar cheese, spinach, avocado, tomato on a 7-grain bag. (Lemon Press)
  • Asian Foot Long Wagyu Dog: wasabi aioli, cucumber, pickled carrot, cilantro, jalapeno, nori, fries (Met on Main. Aw, come on!)
  • Razor Clam Garganeli: choriço and chopped clam Bolognese, sweety drop peppers, stinging nettle pasta, onion cream. (Oran Mor)
  • Quail “Tikka Masala”: Cous cous, honey, cashews, raita. (Proprietors)
  • Wood-grilled softshell crab: asparagus mimosa and sauce gribiche. (Straight Wharf)
  • Caesar: Grilled bread croutons, baby romaines, parmigiano, boquerones. (Summer House)
  • Carnaroli Risotto “Fruits de Mer”: Red rock crab, Judith Point squid, uni, bottarga, brown butter. (Toppers).
  • Spaghetti alle vongole: house spaghetti, littleneck clams, braised allium and house made n’duja. (Ventuno)
  • Acai Bowl: Frozen organic acai puree, fresh mixed berries, banana, granola, coconut flake. (Yummy)

Ok, now all of these are (mostly) credible restaurants serving good to excellent food. But look, people, ”Organic” is a marketing term with no health or nutrition benefits, and there is no evidence that acai berries have any health (or weight loss) benefits.  And confusing diners with trendy terms is funny, but not very evocative. And raw sugar is still sugar! And so is agave.

Photos from some of these restaurants

 

Ocean trout Toppers                        Kimchi, Proprietors

 

Eggs Benedict ..Blackeyed Susans    Scallops…Galley Beach

 

Cod  ..Le Languedoc   Beet rosace..Oran Mor

 

Flounder…  Summer House   Meatballs…Ventuno

 

 

We try Nueske’s Premium Bacon

We try Nueske’s Premium Bacon

We recently received a catalog offering s number of Nueske’s premium pork products, starting with their 5 types of bacon, and going on to offer sausages, ham, smoke pork chops and other products.  The photos and descriptions were so beguiling, we had to try the bacon. We ordered their Gourmet Bacon Assortment, of Applewood Smoked Bacon, Applewood Smoked Peppered Bacon and Cherrywood Smoked Bacon, which is uncured.

AssortmentThe assortment cost $34.99 plus shipping, which made this bacon pretty expensive, probably twice what you pay for supermarket bacon, but this bacon itself was of superior quality and quite delicious. They also have a thick sliced version that you can cook on a grill. We’ll have to try that, too.

Nueske’s is located in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, west of Green Bay, where they have been making their smoked meats since 1933. However, the family has there since 1882, making smoked meats for themselves. Today, they use imported spices and still use the original Nueske recipes. They smoke their bacon for 24 hours over applewood embers, which gives is quite a distinctive, delicious taste. It also is much less fatty than mass-market bacons, although, of course, it does render some fat when you cook it.

Their Applewood Smoked Bacon is cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite, while their Wild Cherrywood smoked bacon is uncured, but treated with sea salt, raw sugar and cultured celery juice (which provides the nitrite preservatives).

We tried all three types, and loved all of them.

The Applewood Smoked bacon has the strongest flavor, but it is in no way objectionable, and the bacon goes very well with traditional bacon and eggs breakfasts. While there is some fat rendered as you cook it, the bacon shrinks much less than commercial bacons, but there is enough fat to fry eggs in.

The Peppered Bacon, is the same type of bacon as the Applewood Smokes, but with coarse pepper along the edges. You might think this would overwhelm the bacon, but it really doesn’t. After cooking, the Peppered Bacon has a mild, peppery taste not unlike what you’d get if you added salt and pepper to your eggs.

Finally, the Wild Cherrywood Smoked Bacon is uncured, and you have to keep it refrigerated (or frozen). The smoky flavor is milder than in the applewood smoked bacon, but it has just as little shrinkage, and we cooked eggs in the fat from 5 slices and had plenty to work with. We really like this one the best.

Yes, it costs more, but this is really excellent bacon, and we’ll probably order some more and try out their smoked pork chops and hams, too.

 

 

Wilton Continuing Ed promotes scams

Wilton Continuing Ed promotes scams

It’s always fun to look through the Wilton Continuing Ed catalog (Wilton, CT) and see if there might be some classes worth taking. The first entry is one that might be helpful for the gullible: Avoiding Scams. Of course you have to pay $15 for consumer information that should be free. Or $25 for non-residents.

  1. Well, right at the top of the list, about 4 entries down from the scam class is one on Digital Astrology. This is a double scam, because they are just going to teach where on the web you can find astrology information. No mention of the fact that astrology is a set of prescientific superstitions with no scientific backing whatever. Or as Phil Plait says in his Bad Astronomy column, “pure bunkum.”
  2. But there is more hooey, to come, starting with “Ancient Grains Meet Modern Palates,” a class on old grains from which most of our current useful grains were developed. But selling these grains is mainly a marketing technique (are you listening, Whole Foods?): they have no special nutritional value.
  3. The next scam is the Fire Cider Infusion Workshop. If you haven’t heard about Fire Cider, it is apple cider vinegar with garlic, horseradish, cayenne pepper and honey added. Apparently this is suppose to treat colds, but there is absolutely no evidence that it does anything at all. This workshops teaches you how to mix these ingredients and sends you home with a quart of spiced vinegar for $55. You can also buy some on Amazon for about $25, but again, there is no evidence it does anything. We wrote about the underlying apple cider vinegar scam a couple of years ago, It doesn’t work, either. And, if that isn’t enough, you can read “I used to be a Holistic Nutritionist.
  4. You can’t get through these sorts of catalogs without finding Benefits of Essential Oils, today’s most popular scam. We wrote about these oils in our old Examiner column:

The idea of essential oils simply means the extraction of scented components from plants, and has been criticized on Quackwatch as having no real value. These scented oils, which are not inexpensive, may make your house smell nice, and may even help you relax, but they are regulated by the FDA as cosmetics and have no established medical uses, for the most part.

All of these essential oils are made by doTerra, a multi-level marketing company (anyone can become a dealer) a company that has been severely criticized for both their claims and their marketing in Science Based Medicine. Specifically, they imply a number of health benefits for these oils, but do not offer any evidence nor cite any clinical studies. Prices for these oils range from $20 to over $90 for 15 ml!

  1. And, right under that is a class in Chakradance. Never heard of it? Well, apparently chakras are 7 “energy centers” within your body, and Chakradance is a “holistic, healing and well-being practice.” Apparently, you should “allow Chakradance, through its intimate guided meditation and varying vibrational tones of its carefully composed music, to provoke spontaneous movement, images, and healing as each of your energy chakras are rebalanced.” If you see all those pseudo-science buzzwords in a single sentence, your scam meter should already be pinned! It’s difficult to imagine anyone taking this hokum seriously.

 

If that’s not enough, the same instructor also teaches similar hokum under the label of Tai Chi.

  1. And, to round out the scam catalog, we can’t help but note they are offering a class in Mindfulness Medtation. “Mindfulness” is the buzzword of last year, and it is difficult to avoid. However, a look at the article in Science-Based Medicine suggests it has little scientific basis, and Newsweek suggested last year that Mindfulness is a meaningless word with shoddy science behind it. Bingo! The scam meter pins again!

 

 

How to hard boil eggs

How to hard boil eggs

Hard boiled (actually hard-cooked) sometimes baffle people who want eggs that are easy to peel. There is so much misinformation out there that making good eggs becomes a huge worry. It’s not.

  • It doesn’t matter whether the eggs are fresh or old.
  • You don’t need to prick the end of the shell.
  • You don’t have to chill them much to make them peel. Just run them under cold water until they aren’t hot any more.

The key trick to making easy-peel eggs is that you start them in or above hot water. We tried all three in this longer article last year. They all work great.

Vegetable steamer

eggs in steamer

For us, the simplest way is to put a vegetable steamer in a pan, and add water till it is just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring the water to a slow boil, and quickly lower the eggs onto the steamer using a slotted spoon.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Then run cold water into the pan, drain it and run cold water in again. Then, refrigerate them until you want to dye them, devil them or eat them.

Instant Pot

eggs in IPYou can make one or two dozen hard cooked eggs at once if you have an Instant Pot or other counter top pressure cooker. Just place a cup of water in the pot, and put your eggs on top of the trivet above the water.  Seal the pot and pressure-cook for 8 minutes.  Do not allow any cool-down time after the 8 minutes as the eggs will continue to cook. Release the pressure immediately, lift out the inner pot and run cold water into it. Rinse and run cold water on them again. They are then ready as above.

Boiling water

You can do this same trick in a pan of slowly boiling water. Bring the water to a boil and then quickly lower the eggs into the water and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and cool as above.

3 cut open

This photo shows eggs cooked in the vegetable steamer, in a pan and in the Instant Pot 

How to fail

boil failYou can fail and get unpeelable eggs by starting them in cold water whether in a pan or on a trivet. You will also find them slightly harder to peel if you overcook them beyond 10 minutes. The yolks will become quite hard, and the eggs will be less flexible when you try to peel them.

Remember: start with boiling water!

That’s it!  Enjoy your holidays!