Past Articles

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

MIT Nano-Technology Grad Perfects Faster Ketchup Bottle

The MIT Team

TIME article about LiquiGlide

Salt, Not Oil

When cooking meat, particularly beef, you can eliminate the need for cooking oil completely.

Heat the pan. Sprinkle salt evenly through the pan. Add meat to the pan, and you will hear it sizzle and crackle. The salt draws moisture from the meat, and enough fats to take the place of the cooking oil you might have used.

I've been told this does not change the flavor of the meat, although common sense dictates that it must. I must say, I have used this method for many years and never experienced overly salty meat using this method.

Monday, May 14, 2012

High-Altitude Cooking? No Pressure!

I was kindly invited to spend Christmas Day with friends up in Ft. Collins, Colo., last December, and I offered to bring a Cheesecake made with the world's bar-none best New York-style Cheesecake recipe.  The day prior, I set aside for baking.  This was one of my first attempts at baking since moving to Colorado, and while I'm keen on improvising in cooking, I'm less likely to stray from a baking recipe.  I completely forgot that adjustments needed to be made to my favorite recipe for the change in altitude.

What do you suppose my first clue might be? 

The mellow filling in the spring-form pan rose much more than usual.  I thought nothing of it, because everybody likes a mile-high slice of Cheesecake, right?  Well, clue number two was the baking time.  The cheesecake requires a very high temperature of 500 degrees for (I believe) 90 minutes.  At 30 minutes, the top crust was already golden brown.  At 45 minutes, it was black and charred.  I removed the cheesecake at this point, primarily because I had trouble seeing it through the smoke in the oven.  After cooling the molten monstrosity, inspection showed that the graham cracker crust was slightly overdone, but nowhere near as overcooked as the black helmet my cheesecake was wearing.  As the cake continued to cool, the black shell split and cracked and peeled, like paint off an old, weathered house.  Using a spatula, I removed the “helmet,” and beneath – The charred cheesecake was beautifully golden brown. 

I was able to rescue the charred cheesecake, and my host and other guests exhibited amazing patience and understanding, as fellow transplants to the mountains from Upstate New York.  It was delicious.

The question is, what factors change at high altitude?  Answer:  All of them.  Okay, I exaggerate.  The big ones are atmospheric pressure, humidity and food chemistry.  The result will be highly visible:  Blackened cheesecake tops, cakes that sink in the middle, flat cookies, batters and fillings that overflow the griddle or pie pans. 

Atmospheric pressure:
  The Colorado State University Cooperative Extension reports that the pressure per square inch at sea level is 14.7, while at 5,000 feet, it is just 12.3 ppi.  At 10,000 feet, it is just 10.2 ppi.  For every 500 feet or so, water boils at one degree less than the sea-level standard of 212 degrees Farenheit.  The change in pressure causes the following:

  • faster action by leavening agents
  • faster evaporation of moisture
  • faster boiling points for liquids

Humidity:  Here in the Rockies of Colorado and points south, we enjoy lots of sunshine and an arid/semi-arid desert climate.  Humidity is low.  The dryness alters the chemical properties of some ingredients, which may affect your recipes.  Flour may be drier, requiring more liquid to achieve sea-level/normal humidity results.   I've noticed that pasta is drier and more liquid is necessary for baked pasta dishes.  On a positive note, bread mold is slower to develop, although bread must be wrapped to avoid drying out.

Food chemistry:
  Under the confines of lower pressure and faster evacuation of gases, cellular structure is compromised for many items, especially those containing sugars and fats.  Adding an extra egg to baked goods and pastry recipes can help offset the weakened cell walls.  Decreasing the amount of flour or leavening while increasing the baking temperature may yield better results.  Decreasing cooking and baking times may also help.

It would be helpful if some smart people came up with a formula for all this.  They have.

Rules of thumb at 5,000+ feet:
  • reduce flour and leavening agents by 1/2
  • reduce sugar by 2-1/2 tsp. per cup
  • Increase liquid by 3 tsp. per cup or one egg
  • Increase baking temperature by 15-25 degrees (except with yeasted breads: reduce by 15-25 degrees)
  • While increasing the temperature, decrease the baking time by 20 percent.
  • For muffins and cakes, fill pans only 1/3 or 1/2
Most experts will agree that a degree of trial and error is necessary.

So what actually happened with my cheesecake?  As the liquids evaporated so quickly, it altered the concentrations of sugars and fats.  I should have increased the liquids by at least 10%, reduced the sugar by 25 percent and decreased the baking time to about 60 to 70 minutes.   I'll  report back on the next attempt.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite tweeps, Rise Keller, a.k.a. @VanillaGrrl and her presentation on the subject.









Friday, May 4, 2012

pHarmony for Your Body

Your body is like a barber-shop quartet.  When you are feeling at your peak, everything works in  harmony with everything else.  Sounds great, looks great, feels great.  Diet plays a major part in the orchestration of those harmonies, and when you hear those sour notes prick your ears with more frequency, you may want to check to see if you have a pH-armony problem.  I apologize up front:  This is a rather complex issue and I am giving it  a basic blog overview.  For more details, consult a registered dietician (RD) or a doctor.

For most non-space alien people, the body operates with an average blood pH of 7.35-7.45, which is slightly “alkaline.”  In this range, the body maintains stores of minerals, nutrients and raw materials to maintain its peak performance.  To keep the body in this range, an alkaline diet is helpful.

In today's world, however, many of us thrive on or fall prey to pre-packaged foods, meats, white bread, sugared drinks, alcohol, chips and candy.  All of those are acidic, and it's like replacing members of your barber-shop quartet with all baritones.  Your body won't be able to hit the high notes.  As a result, it pulls from the stores of calcium, potassium and sodium, sending the body's pH spiraling toward Acidopolis – Sin City.

This is a condition known as acidosis.  I call it the slug-ification of America.  To avoid acidosis, increase your intake of the items listed at the end of this article, because acidosis can be checked with proper diet.  But when left to run rampant for long periods of time, it may cause these conditions:

Weight gain, obesity and diabetes.
Cardiovascular damage.
Bladder conditions.
Kidney stones.
Immune deficiency.
Acceleration of free radical damage.
Hormonal problems.
Premature aging.
Osteoporosis and joint pain.
Aching muscles and lactic acid buildup.
Low energy and chronic fatigue.    
Slow digestion and elimination.
Yeast/fungal overgrowth.
Lack of energy and fatigue.
Low body temperature.
Tendency to get infections.
Loss of drive, joy, and enthusiasm.
Depression.
High stress and quick temper.
Pale complexion.
Headaches.
Inflammation of the corneas and eyelids.    
Loose and painful teeth.
Inflamed, sensitive gums.
Mouth ulcers.
Stomach ulcers.
Cracks at the corners of the lips.
Excess stomach acid.
Gastritis.
Nails are thin and split easily.
Hair changes: dulling, split ends, and falling out.
Dry skin.
Skin irritation.
Leg cramps and spasms.

Embellish your diet with these items to leave Sin City and return to a natural, alkaline state:

ALKALIZING VEGETABLES

Alfalfa
Barley Grass
Beet Greens
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrot
Cauliflower
Celery
Chard Greens
Chlorella
Collard Greens
Cucumber
Dandelions
Dulce
Edible Flowers
Eggplant
Fermented Veggies
Garlic
Green Beans
Green Peas
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Mustard Greens
Nightshade Veggies
Onions
Parsnips (high glycemic)
Peas
Peppers
Pumpkin
Radishes
Rutabaga
Sea Veggies
Spinach, green
Spirulina
Sprouts
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Watercress
Wheat Grass
Wild Greens

ALKALIZING ORIENTAL VEGETABLES
Daikon
Dandelion Root
Kombu
Maitake
Nori
Reishi
Shitake
Umeboshi
Wakame

ALKALIZING FRUITS
Apple
Apricot
Avocado
Banana
Berries
Blackberries
Cantaloupe
Cherries, sour
Coconut, fresh
Currants
Dates, dried
Figs, dried
Grapes
Grapefruit
Honeydew Melon
Lemon
Lime
Muskmelons
Nectarine
Orange
Peach
Pear
Pineapple
Raisins
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Strawberries
Tangerine
Tomato
Tropical Fruits
Umeboshi Plums
Watermelon

ALKALIZING PROTEIN

Almonds
Chestnuts
Millet
Tempeh (fermented)
Tofu (fermented)
Whey Protein Powder

ALKALIZING SWEETENERS

Stevia

ALKALIZING SPICES & SEASONINGS
Chili Pepper
Cinnamon
Curry
Ginger
Herbs (all)
Miso
Mustard
Sea Salt
Tamari

ALKALIZING OTHER
Alkaline Antioxidant Water
Apple Cider Vinegar
Bee Pollen
Fresh Fruit Juice
Green Juices
Lecithin Granules
Mineral Water
Molasses, blackstrap
Probiotic Cultures
Soured Dairy Products
Veggie Juices

ALKALIZING MINERALS
Calcium: pH 12
Cesium: pH 14
Magnesium: pH 9
Potassium: pH 14
Sodium: pH 14


Note that a food's acid or alkaline forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself.  Although it might seem that citrus fruits would have an acidifying effect on the body, the citric acid they contain actually has an alkalizing effect in the system.  For example, lemons are very acidic, however the end products they produce after digestion and assimilation are very alkaline so, lemons are alkaline forming in the body. Likewise, meat will test alkaline before digestion, but it leaves very acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is very acid forming.