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A Cure For Peanut Allergies?

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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Many medical papers nowadays have such complex statistics that not one in a hundred doctors understands them fully, and the rest have merely to hope or take it on trust that the authors’ conclusions really do follow from their data. I am afraid I hold to the rather crude view that, if results involving large numbers of patients need involved and sophisticated statistical manipulation to yield a positive outcome, they probably are not very important clinically, however statistically significant they may be. Clear-cut results are not very common these days.

I therefore rejoiced to see in a recent edition of the Lancet the report of an experiment so conclusive that it hardly needed statistical confirmation to prove it. The experiment was a double-blind trial of the desensitization of children with an allergy to peanuts by means of oral immunotherapy (OIT).

Ninety-nine children aged between 7 and 12 with proven allergy to peanuts were divided into two groups: those who, unbeknown to them, received small but increasing doses of peanut protein mixed into their food over a period of six months, and those who did not. At the end of that period, 62 percent of the treated group, but none of the untreated, tolerated a challenge of 1400 milligrams of peanut allergy. The children who had had the OIT were 25 times less sensitive than those who had not. When the control group who had not had it were given it, they too became less sensitive.

The authors also demonstrated that the quality of life of the desensitized children improved because they became less anxious that any food might ambush them, as it were, and cause an allergic reaction. Anyone who has seen an allergic reaction to peanuts (or other nuts) will understand this. Since the number of food products that bear the warning “may contain peanuts” is ever-increasing – peanuts seem almost as ubiquitous in our environment as rock music – the world must appear a dangerous place to those with the allergy.

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A Meatloaf Recipe for Meatloaf Skeptics

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 - by Becky Graebner
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The 1770 House in East Hampton, NY

I usually shy away from meatloaf.  A. It is called “Meat-loaf”…it just doesn’t sound appetizing.  B. The shape…it is meat trying to masquerade as banana bread.  C.  Meatloaf seems to be one of those dishes that is either REALLY good or REALLY bad.

Despite my misgivings about meatloaf, I decided to try Ina Garten’s “1770 House Meatloaf” recipe that is featured in her cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. This recipe isn’t a Barefoot Contessa original.  It actually comes from one of Ina’s favorite restaurants, the 1770 House, in East Hampton, New York.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chopped Spanish onion (I used 1 large white onion)

1 ½ cups diced celery

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground veal

1 pound ground pork

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

2/3 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons kosher salt (I used only 1 tablespoon since I had less meat)

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 ½ cups panko

 

I edited this recipe (as usual).  For starters, I only purchased 1 pound of ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork.  (The meatloaf was PLENTY big with only 2/3s the meat).  I also went without chives (a no-go at the store), substituted regular milk for the whole milk, and halved the amount of salt (only 1 tablespoon). If I had had them in my fridge, I would have mixed in carrots and bell peppers too.  (I love veggies).

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How Not to Turn Into The Shining This Winter

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Tonight’s Gardening Music:

It’s just about the time of year I start to get the desperate, painful feeling that I’ll never see a green growing thing again. The Polar Vortex isn’t doing much to help my cabin fever — I used to get through long winters in Vermont by imagining that somewhere in the continental US (a limit that made the place seem more geographically accessible) it was warm. Now I live below the Mason-Dixon line, my postage stamp front yard is covered in snow, and I heard it was freezing in Florida. Get me out of here.

My roommate and fellow contributor Becky Graebner has been tackling her cabin fever by cooking her way through Ina Garten and documenting it here. I thought I’d contribute some fresh herbs to her cause by pursuing one of my favorite hobbies, gardening. I’m fighting the Polar Vortex Blues by getting a head start on my annual kitchen garden. Follow me, step-by-step, in the coming weeks as I provide garden tips and inspiration — and let me know what you’re planning on growing this season!

Day One: No Gear, No Fear

I got my seeds today.

I know that for a lot of people, a big part of the pleasure of a hobby is acquiring all the paraphernalia — just talk to an amateur photographer and you’ll probably spend more time discussing accessories, upgrades, and programs than you will the actual photographs. But my usual approach to new hobbies (or the restart of old ones) is to keep it simple, and let the results guide my acquisition of more gear.

So tonight, I have three glasses of water and three packets of seeds.

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‘The Way God Intended It’

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg
Union Station

I was standing, sleepily, at the counter of a coffeeshop in Union Station, waiting for the barista to remember I’d ordered a drink, when I overheard the woman behind me order hers:

“I’ll have a small latte.”

“What kind of milk?”

“Whole milk.” Pause. Muttered, half to herself: “The way God intended it.”

Maybe I was just cranky — it was my first day heading back to the office after a week out with the flu — but I had to fight the urge to say to her, “Just like God intended that sheep’s wool to be spun, woven, and dyed into your pretty pink plaid coat?”

I had little doubt it was a real wool coat. She looked like someone who would curl her lip at the thought of synthetic fabric touching her skin.

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A Hearty Ina Garten Recipe for Winter Dinners

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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Day 1: I Had a Bad Day, So I Decided to Roast Something

Day 2: How I’ll Make a Brussels Sprouts Believer Outta You!

Day 3: Is that a Geoduck or a Parsnip?

Pasta is HANDS DOWN my favorite food. (runner ups are sour gummy worms, which is hardly a food, and steak.)

I decided to take a break from meat as a main course and serve up some delicious pasta!  Today’s recipe is Ina Garten’s “Straw and Hay with Gorgonzola.”

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces prosciutto, cut crosswise in ½-inch-thick matchsticks

1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 large)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

1 ½ cups heavy cream

4 ounces Italian Gorgonzola dolce, crumbled

1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

8-10 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccine

2 cups frozen peas, defrosted

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup julienned fresh basil leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt

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Fruity Cereal Flavors? Yeah, They’re All The Same

Friday, January 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Froot Loops

My childhood is ruined. Well, not ruined, but I have to admit a little part of me is disappointed at the findings on fruit flavored cereals. The folks at Relevant broke the news:

Your favorite breakfast cereal is nothing but one, big lie. The crushers of childhood dreams over at Foodbeast.com recently conducted a blind taste test to determine if consumers could distinguish the difference between the brightly-colored rings of sweet goodness found in Froot Loops (note: most likely for legal reasons, they can not be referred to as “fruit” loops), and found that each color was actually the same flavor. Not content on just ruining Froot Loops for generations to come, they also used the same methodology to discredit the disguising colors behind Trix and Fruity Pebbles. All of those glorious blues, eye-catching greens and bright-like-the-rising-sun reds are nothing but sugary lies …

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Repurposing a Plethora of Parsley

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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I rediscovered a cookbook in my kitchen (The Top 100 Quick and Easy Sauces) on sauces that has become my “go-to” for using up herbs and extra ingredients from my Ina Garten cooking journey. I thought I would share a few of these easy recipes with you in the coming weeks.  Cooking motto: waste not.

If you are like me and bought a large bundle of parsley for cooking and now find yourself wondering what to do with the excess, look no further.  Here is a easy and versatile recipe for those extra bunches of parsley.

“Parsley Sauce”

(Serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 ¼ cups milk

2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley

freshly ground pepper

salt

TOOLS

Saucepan

Whisk

Spoon

Measuring cups

Measuring spoons

Cutting board

Knife (for chopping)

DIRECTIONS

  • To begin, chop up that parsley!  Set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  • Add the flour and stir for one minute.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk.
  • Return the pan to the stove and bring to a boil.  Continue to stir/whisk the sauce until it is smooth and thick.
  • Lower the temperature and simmer the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Stir continuously.
  • Stir in the parsley and season with the salt and pepper to taste.

This book suggests that you serve this sauce on cod, haddock, baked ham, fava beans, or spinach.  I poured it over a bowl of pasta.  It was light, simple, and delicious.  (I’m going to try it on tilapia tonight!)

Enjoy!

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Is that a Geoduck or a Parsnip?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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Day 1: I Had a Bad Day, So I Decided to Roast Something

Day 2: How I’ll Make a Brussels Sprouts Believer Outta You!

I meandered into the “sides” section of Ina’s cookbook again.  Maybe it was the bright colors in the photograph or the fact that I like the color orange…whatever it was, I chose “orange-braised carrots and parsnips” for today’s recipe.

1 pound carrots with the greens attached

1 pound thin parsnips

1/3 cup small-diced shallots (1 large)

2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 ¼ cups freshly squeezed orange juice (or bottled juice)

1/3 cup good olive oil

6 springs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

kosher salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

My first thought when I began reading this recipe was, do I even know what a parsnip looks like?  Nope. I didn’t.  I only found them at the grocery store after reading all of the tiny labels in the veggie section. Even then, I thought it was mislabeled because it looked like a geoduck!

This was my first time cooking with geoduck, er, I mean parsnips.  Welcome to the club if this is also your first time!  (They turned out to be very tasty.)

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Getting Healthy In 13 Weeks

Saturday, January 18th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
When you start thinking this would be a rest, something's got to give.

When you start thinking this would be a rest, something’s got to give.

Week 1 — Something’s Got To Give

 

As part of my “taking it easier” with my blog, over at According To Hoyt, I’ve been running ‘blasts from the past’ – i.e. posts a year or more old at least a day a week.  (For instance on Tuesday I posted Jean Pierre Squirrel, from February 2011.)

The interesting thing going through the blog is seeing how many days I curtailed posting or posted briefer or weirder because I was ill.

Now I was aware of having been in indifferent health for the last ten years or so.  It’s nothing really bad or spectacularly interesting, which is part of the issue, because if it were, I could take time off and not feel guilty.  I confess I have found myself at various occasions fantasizing about a stay in the hospital.  Which is stupid, because no one rests in the hospital.  (What I need, of course, is a stay in a remote cottage for a few days. Even if I’m writing.)  And I knew that my health got much worse in the last year.  2013 was the pits, at least since August or so.  But it is not unusual for me to spend every third week “down.” – Usually with an ear infection or a throat thingy or some kind of stomach bug.

My friends have said for years that this is because I don’t listen to my body’s signals to slow down or stop, so it has to bring me to a complete stop by making me too sick to work.

This is part of the reason Charlie Martin and I (in collaboration) are doing a series on taming the work monster.  Part of it is that I have way too much to do, and part of it is that it’s really hard to compartmentalize things when you work from home.  Eventually when we sell the house and move, we’d like to get a place where the office is a distinct area.  It was pretty much all of the attic in our last house, which meant if I came downstairs for dinner (which I did) I didn’t go up again.  But now my office is half of the bedroom (and before someone imagines me cramped in a corner, the bedroom runs the full front of the house.  We just couldn’t figure out what to do with a room that size.  We don’t sleep that much.)  This is convenient in terms of my getting up really early to work, or of my going to bed way after my husband, because I’m right there…  It’s also contributing to a 24/7 work schedule, because I can think “Oh, I should write about that” and roll out of bed, and do so.  There is no “I have to be dressed, as the sons might be roaming the house” and there isn’t (as in the other house) “the attic will be cold.”

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How I’ll Make a Brussels Sprouts Believer Outta You!

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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Before I begin my recipes, yes there are two today, I want to mention that it took me five solid days to eat all of that round roast from recipe one. However, I never got bored with it (so please don’t be afraid of Ina’s bigger recipes)!  I used thin slices of beef on sandwiches, sautéed pieces and tossed them with pasta, and even chopped up and sautéed beef with chilies and eggs. But enough with the versatility of beef. Today’s main dish is CHICKEN.

I selected Ina’s “Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken” because it allowed me to use up the older chicken breasts and thighs that were chilling in my freezer.

***

4 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups panko bread flakes

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

2 tablespoons good olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup Dijon mustard

½ cup dry white wine

1 (3/12-4lb) chicken, cut in eights  (Becky used chicken breasts, thighs—all the misc. chicken in the freezer)

 ***

First, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

I really wanted to use my new mixing bowls, so, although the recipe called for the minced garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, bread crumbs (I used 1 cup regular and 1 cup panko), lemon zest, olive oil, and butter to be combined in a bowl and then poured out on a plate, I just threw it all in a medium-sized mixing bowl. (No reason to dirty a bowl and then a plate).

In a separate, smaller bowl, I combined the white wine and mustard.  I used honey Dijon (I know, I finally found it after needing it last week!), oh well.

When breading something (like chicken pieces), usually the ENTIRE piece of meat is covered in the breadcrumb mixture.  Not this recipe—so here’s the twist:

Dip the entire piece of chicken in the mustard-wine mixture, but only cover one side with the breadcrumbs.  Then, lay the chicken breadcrumb-side up on the baking sheet.**

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Then, turn the heat up to 400 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove and cover with foil until ready to eat!

Now, on to the side dish!

**I tried to use of the rest of my breadcrumbs by adding them to any exposed areas on the chicken but I ended up having a lot left over.  Since there was no egg used in the process that could have “tainted” the breadcrumbs during the dipping, I decided to save the remaining breadcrumbs.  (I Tupperwared them up and put them in the refrigerator.)

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13 Weeks: Diets and Black Swans

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan introduced an old term and then, annoyingly, redefined it. For Sir Karl Popper, the black swan was an observation about logical quantification: if you assert “all swans are white” then the observation of a single black swan falsifies the assertion.

Taleb’s observation is different, although related: he’s observing that really unexpected events are unexpected: we have a model of the world that says “The US mainland is secure from attack” that seems perfectly plausible on 10 September 2001; we believe “Islamist terrorism is on the run” and then a bomb blows up in Boston.

(There’s a more sophisticated way to deal with all of these called Bayesian inference. We’ll leave the details for a science column, but in a few words, a Bayesian starts with an assumed a priori estimate of the probability of an event. After observation, they have a new a postieriori estimate that incorporates new experience.)

But there’s yet a third way to think about these that shows us how mathematics and probability can show us surprising things.

(Yes, this is a diet and exercise column, just a little further down.)

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Disney’s Tasty, Controversial Turkey Legs

Thursday, January 9th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

turkeyleg

Of all the food options available at Disney Parks, many guests swear by the Jumbo Turkey Legs. I’ve never had one myself, but according to some guests, the Turkey Legs are a sure bet for a savory treat.

Like other famous Disney Parks snacks – the Dole Whip and the Mickey Ice Cream Bars – the Turkey Legs have spawned a merchandise industry all their own. The Turkey Legs made their debut in the late 1980s and have increased in popularity over the years – so much, in fact, that the New York Times featured the treats in a recent front page article.

Disney parks are about selling memories, and a spokeswoman, Angela Bliss, noted that foods like turkey legs play “an integral part in the storytelling.” For instance, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, they have been sold as “dinosaur bones.”

Disney is also in the business of making money, of course, and a jumbo turkey leg sells for up to $11.79.

Naturally, something that so many guests enjoy is going to generate some controversy. On one side, Disney executives fear that the Jumbo Turkey Legs steer guests away from more healthy snack options. (Because we all spend our vacations seeking out health food.)

Still, some executives at Disney’s corporate offices worry that the craze is starting to obscure their efforts to improve overall food offerings and nudge customers toward healthier items. Of the 12 million children’s meals Disney serves annually, for instance, more than 50 percent now come with milk, juice or water instead of soda. Disney has also sharply reduced salt in its children’s meals.

[...]

Each leg is roughly 720 calories with 36 grams of fat, according to a supplier, Yoakum Packing.

On the other hand (or leg, if you prefer), some poultry industry watchdogs and other assorted killjoys have expressed their concern about the sheer size of the Turkey Legs. In a response to the Times piece, Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns wrote:

Why are these Disney theme park turkey legs so big? Turkeys have been artificially bred to grow so large that their legs, big as they are, cannot support their body weight.

The disability of turkeys bred for the meat industry is well documented in the scientific poultry literature.

Clearly Ms. Davis didn’t read the whole article, because if she had, she would have read that the legs come from tom turkeys, which are much larger than the hens we see around our Thanksgiving tables.

Despite the frenzy, it looks like Jumbo Turkey Legs are here to stay at Disney Parks. Any item that sells in the millions (Disney projected that they would sell two million of them in 2013) is bound to withstand controversy.

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I Had a Bad Day, So I Decided to Roast Something

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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Day 1 of my Ina Garten Cookbook Journey.  I am using Ina’s “foolproof” book (it’s purple if that helps).  Today was a record-breaking, freezing-cold day and I was in the mood for something warm and filling.  This afternoon was a little rough, so I was definitely in the mood to ROAST something.

The recipe of the day ended up being “slow-roasted filet of beef with basil Parmesan mayonnaise.”

***

1 whole filet of beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied (4 ½ pounds)

3 tablespoons good olive oil

4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

10 to 15 branches fresh tarragon

Basil Parmesan mayonnaise (see below)

***

Now, I don’t think I have ever followed a recipe (as written) in my life and I definitely started off this cooking journey that way.

To begin, I switched out the cut of meat Ina asked for… (Bad, Becky!)

Living in a city and having smaller grocery stores, sometimes you can’t always get the ingredients you want—even if they seem really basic.  The store did not have beef tenderloin yesterday (I know, right?) so I got a bottom round roast (2.73 lbs).  I knew the basil Parmesan sauce would still pair well with round roast (beef is still beef!).

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2014: A 20-Something’s Year of Food, Art, Exercise, Nostalgia, and Giving

Monday, January 6th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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I was inspired by some of Dave Swindle’s goals for the New Year (and might steal one or two). Here are a few activities I intend to complete, and write about, in 2014:

1. Read more books on national security.

Hey, I find foreign affairs, history, and war fascinating.  I want to know more. I should read more.

2. Cook through a cookbook.

I’m good at the recipes I already know—time to pull a Julie and Julia and teach this dog some new, culinary tricks.  I am going to choose a cookbook by Ina Garten because her recipes are easy, wholesome, and gorgeous (yes, food can be gorgeous).  Wanna follow along?  This could lead to some mouthwatering posts.

3. Copying Dave Swindle by making it a goal to post more “fun stuff” that is apolitical.

Sometimes, we just need to sit back, relax, and enjoy reading, or viewing, a wholesome post.  I would like to do more of this.

4. Run more.

It has probably become obvious from some of my previous posts that I am a jogger—and that I do so around Washington, D.C.  I would like to make it a goal to get out there and run more.  This will probably lead to some “GET UP AND MOVE” motivational posts for those of you who are looking to “be healthier” this year. Maybe I’ll even cave and get a dog to be my running buddy…maybe you should too.

5. Take more pictures (of my jogging adventures around D.C. and the other resolutions I made above).

I went through my photos from the past year—there were very few to even look at.  This might lead to the creation of an Instagram…

6. Fun fact: I used to paint—a lot.

2014 is going to be the year of the paintbrush and stretched canvas. I would also like to bring some Art talk to PJ Media.  Any interest?

7. Complete Random Acts of Kindness.

I love Christmas and that contagious, happy, “Christmas spirit” that you feel around the holidays.  However, our generosity and “do good” attitude shouldn’t end after a certain date—we should give all year round.  I completed a few “random acts of kindness” around Christmas 2013, but I would like to continue doing these little things in the New Year.

8. Reread books from my childhood and research my favorite children’s book authors/illustrators and their creative process…and maybe write a book of my own.

I bought a stack of my favorite children’s books for my little brother, Julian, this past Christmas. (Where the Wild Things Are, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie—just to name a few). Before I wrapped them, I read all of them over again.  I have always been in awe of writers and how they come up with ideas for books–and then bring them to life through words and pictures. I would like to explore some of the “greats” of children’s literature this year and learn more about the men and women who have written some of my (maybe our) favorites. I am hoping that this will provide some inspiration that will jump start my own creative process for a kid’s book.

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13 Weeks: New Year, New Season, New Experiments

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

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Someone once said that a good epic starts in the middle. (Actually it was Horace, it was in his Ars Poetica around 13BC, and he made the distinction between something that started ab ovo, “from the egg”, or in medias res, “in the middle of things”, but then inserting a lengthy side bar with references to Classical Latin in a diet column might seem erudite but really would be sort of pretentious and silly, don’t you think?)

In any case, we’re starting in the middle of this story. Tomorrow, 5 January 2014, I’m starting the fifth (and sixth, more on this later) of my 13 week experiments in changing and improving my health and my life. The first one started in November 2012, more than a year ago, motivated by the most reasonable of things: I don’t want to die. I most especially don’t want to die young, and I felt like both of my parents had.

I have reasons to be concerned. I’ve had problems with my weight since I was six, and at the time I started this I was around 300 lbs, I was well along into type II diabetes, and I had severe sleep apnea that was manifesting in something close to narcolepsy. I live in a two-story house and I was finding that I was pre-planning trips up and down the stairs because they wore me out.

Now, a year later, I’ve made some significant changes. I’m around 265 lbs, my blood sugar is much improved, and I run up and down the stairs with wild abandon and cups of hot coffee. But I’m not done yet. I want to lose more weight, and I’ve got some new challenges in my life, with a new job and a certain feeling that I have more to do.

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How I Lost 40 Pounds in 4 Months

Friday, January 3rd, 2014 - by Paul Cooper

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I am a regular guy.  I have zero resemblance to the guys you see on the countless weight loss commercials currently running on television.  I still have work to do to become more healthy.  But I did something last year that I’ve never been able to do in a lifetime of weight struggles.  I lost a significant amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time.  Moreover, I did it in a healthy way, and I was able to keep it off.

How did I do it?  Well, first let me tell you the basics. On January 1 of 2013 I weighed in at 283 pounds.  I was significantly overweight.  I was unhealthy, ate poorly, was very inactive, and took blood pressure medicine that I desperately needed. By May 1, 2013, I dropped 40 pounds, was eating much better, exercised 5-6 days a week, and was off blood pressure medicine. And most importantly, I felt great doing it.  Well, what did I do?  I could probably list 20 things, but I narrowed it down to five.  And these are five things that I think can help anyone get healthier if they are ready for a change.

5. Make water your friend.

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Have I lost you already?  Is this too boring for you?  Is this too simple?  I don’t care.  Do it!  Drinking a ton of water was a key to my weight loss and I guarantee it’ll be a key to anyone else’s weight loss.  Get yourself a big bottle that you don’t mind making your friend.  Take it to work, drive with it, work out with it, and have it with you always.  And then take sips all day, every day.

What’s the big deal about water?  It has too many benefits for me to list them all, but here are a few: water suppresses your appetite, has zero bad stuff in it (drink filtered), increases metabolism, helps your body retain nutrients, is what your body is made of, helps maintain normal digestion, and energizes muscles.  There are more, but those are enough reasons for any of us to start diving into some H2O.

Water is your new friend.  Save money by drinking water instead of other beverages.  That’ll free up some income to buy healthier foods.  Drink a full glass of water before a meal and it’ll both speed up your metabolism and make you eat less.  Get at least 64 ounces a day.  And if you think that’s a lot, then check out your biggie cup of soda.  I bet it’s at least 32 ounces.  Put down the soda and pick up a big bottle of water.

You’re going to need to be well-hydrated if you are going to do number 4.

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What Your Booze Says About Your Politics

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

booze

Yes, I know this has been making the rounds and, no, I’m not upset that the Washington Post is totally stealing my schtick. Although I have been getting a lot of questions along “as a vodka drinker, are you offended to be lumped in with all the lefties?”

It’s true that I am a vodka drinker. It’s also true that I’m no lefty. But I also enjoy scotch — a lot. And I’ve spent the last couple years really honing my appreciation for bourbon. Summer afternoons are most often filled with proper gin martinis or gin & tonics. I sip fine tequila on the beach and I make a mean margarita here at Casa Verde on Friday nights. Weekend mornings often involve mimosas. I drink (and cook with) lots of red wines, but most often zins, cabs, and pinots. Colorado is home to many fine beers, which I also drink. Although recently I’ve been on a pilsner kick and so I’ve been buying stuff from Germany and the Czech Republic — new suggestions welcome, please!

So to paraphrase George Thorogood, I really really really really really really like booze.

When I launched VodkaPundit twelve years ago next Friday, the first name I thought of for it was “ScotchPundit” because scotch is what I used to drink more than anything else. But the name sounded too stuffy (or perhaps focused on Scotland), when what I wanted to imply was a certain insouciance.

And to my mind there is no cocktail more insouciant than a vodka martini. It lacks bourbon and scotch’s haughtiness, it doesn’t have gin’s herbal complexities, it won’t leave you naked in a dumpster like tequila. A vodka martini is light and airy, and bright with a twist of lemon. Brighter still with a twist of lime. It goes down easy and might even make you feel a little smarter, if only for a little while.

So, yes, VodkaPundit.

Just don’t try to put it on any chart.

*****

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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To Champagne or To Not Champagne

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 - by C. Blake Powers
Champagne, Sparkling WInes, Oh My!

Champagne, Sparkling Wines, Oh My!

Ah, New Year’s Eve. A time to party, to celebrate the year that was, and a time to raise a toast for a better new year. Tradition calls for champagne, as this drink of royalty is associated with wealth, success, and other positive attributes.

Irony abounds in this, as the original goal for the wine makers of the Champagne region was to get rid of the bubbles that make modern champagne and sparkling wines the toast of the party.  They wanted to be like Burgundy.  Even the celebrated monk Dom Perignon spent his life trying to get rid of the bubbles that plagued his wine. Even as the French worked hard to eradicate them, the English developed a passion for the bubbly wine and it was because of that demand that the French royal courts came to embrace it.

The creation of the modern champagne industry is a study in materials and production science. The glass bottles used for traditional wines were not strong enough to withstand the pressures that built up inside. The idea of making the wine bubble, rather than trying to eliminate it, required a good deal of trial and error in the production process. Eventually, the modern “Methode Champenoise” was developed by Veuve Clicquot and adopted by all champagne producers.

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Drinking For A Good Cause

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Drinks

On the surface, the Original OKRA Charity Saloon may look like a typical bar, with patrons eating, drinking, and enjoying each other’s company. But the Houston bar is remarkably different in that its owners donate all of its profits to charitable organizations. Every month, four charities compete for the funds, and customers choose the winner.

By the end of the year, Original OKRA Charity Saloon will have donated about $300,000 to a dozen different charities – three times the owners’ expectations.

“It was a good year. It’s pretty amazing,” said Mike Criss, the bar’s general manager. “It’s just the community coming together.”

The charity saloon is one of several bars around the country using that business model as a way to give back. There are similar bars or concepts in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore.

[...]

The Oregon Public House, a similar bar in Portland, has also had success — donating more than $15,000 to charities in its first six months of operation.

“I believe in this model, not just for us but for my city, for our state, for our country,” said Ryan Saari, director of The Oregon Public House’s board. “I think there is a lot of good that could be done, stepping outside of the box a little bit in terms of how we support and fund our nonprofits.”

Proceeds from Original OKRA have benefited organizations for the homeless, as well as a group that reaches out to veterans. Owners and customers alike get to see the good they achieve right in their own communities – an idea that may spread to other cities.

Criss and Saari said they believe charity bars will be embraced by other communities. They’ve already received calls from people in Canada, England, France and India interested in the concept.

“We never thought it would be this big, where it is right now,” Criss said. “I’m still amazed.”

Bars that do good for their community? I’m sure plenty of people would drink to that.

*****

This post contains an image from ShutterStock.

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Mulled Wine: Spice Up Your Holiday Table

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

redipocras

Johnson Estate Winery, nestled on the shore of Lake Erie, offers one of the most delectable spiced wines in the northeast: Red Ipocras. Modeled after the spiced wines of the Renaissance, Johnson Estate describes the delicious red brew:

“An Elizabethan recipe using cinnamon, cloves, and secret spices. Nice as a summer sangria with plenty of oranges. On a winter’s evening, it is the perfect pairing for spiced ham, for for dessert: pumpkin pie, spice cookies or cake. May be served slightly warm.”

Or, in our case, serve slightly chilled when among friends with a healthy admiration for all things Dickens and Blackadder. ”Elizabethan” and “Ipocras” shouldn’t be foreign terms to today’s wine drinkers:

“In 16th century England, Ipocras, both white and red, was a drink of the highest nobility. At a time when both sugar and spices were rare and precious, Ipocras was reserved for the use of royalty at the most precious ceremonial occasions. Indeed, Ipocras was the libation presented by the Lord mayor of London to Queen Elizabeth I at her coronation. Ipocras (the name derives from Hippocrates) is very sweet and is generously flavored with several of the spices popular in old England. These include ginger, cinnamon, and clove, and they leave a wonderfully warm and lingering aftertaste. Fortunately, we live in a time where the makings of Ipocras are not so dear, and it may now be partaken of by the lesser nobility as well as you and me.”

By far the most well-rounded spiced wine that has ever crossed my palate, Red Ipocras is rich with flavor, offering a smooth, medium-bodied mouthfeel and lingering accents of spice guaranteed to blend well with everything from appetizers to the most hearty of holiday meals. Add some character to your Christmas with this treat of a mulled wine.

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8 Maids a Milking: A Gift Guide for the Bakers, Bartenders, and Chefs

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Tuesday, December 17, 2013.  The reverse “Twelve Days of Christmas” countdown indicates that we would receive “eight maids a milking” today.

This means that there are only eight days until Christmas!

Today’s gift guide is for the people on your list who are so in love with preparing food and entertaining that their blender has a name.  These gifts are sure to serve up some joy–as well as delicious dishes!

img81oFor The Frequent Baker and/or Adventurous Cook:

Scoop it: Le Creuset Silicone 7-Piece Utensil Set

Besides the ingredients and the will, every good chef needs the proper tools.

Prep it: Joseph Joseph Nest 9-piece Compact Food Prep Set

One can never have enough prep bowls. Joseph Joseph’s design allows all 9 pieces to be nested together for maximum use of space.  The brightly colored bowls are also a fun addition to any kitchen.

Slice it: OXO Good Grips Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer

Slice your ingredients ultra thin without cutting yourself.

(Don’t) Cut it: Cut Resistant Gloves (Level 5 Protection)

Keep your fingers safe while you chop.

Roast it: Stoneware 6-Piece 8oz Mini Cocotte Set with Cookbook

From molten-brownie desserts to mini pot pies, you can’t go wrong with this set of bright, durable stoneware.

Stew it: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-iron Round French Oven

The infamous Le Creuset “dutch oven” is a kitchen classic and cookware essential.

Bake it: Doughmakers Grand Cookie Sheet

No burnt cookies! (I can say by experience that these really are the best.)

cuisinart_griddler_350For the Kitchen-Gadget and Appliance Lover:

Read it: ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer

Pen-sized. Digital. Easy to read

Whip it: Ozeri Deluz Milk Frother and Whisk (with 4 frothing attachments)

Froth milk, beat eggs, and whip dressings and sauces galore!

Grill it: Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler

This compact, counter-top grill has five functions: contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, and half grill/half griddle.  The plates are even dishwasher safe.

cocktailFor The Bartender:

Whiskey: Sipping Stones—Set of Grey Whisky Chilling Rocks

Keep your whisky cold in style!

Martini: Stainless Steel and Pewter Martini Picks

Serve your guests martinis with a side of fun.

Wine: Fred Wine Line Reviews Wine Glass Markers

A quirky way to personalize your glass of wine.

“How to” Cocktails: Architecture of the Cocktail: Constructing the Perfect Cocktail from the Bottom Up

Impress your boss, friends, and family by making cocktails the RIGHT way.

Liquor: Visol “Raven” Stainless Steel Flask and Gift Set

A handsome way to carry your clandestine liquor.

Bottle Opener: Vertical Rabbit Lever Style Corkscrew with Foil Cutter

Opening wine has never been easier.

latte-tableFor the Caffeine Lover:

Espresso: Nespresso Essenza C91 Manual Espresso Maker

This espresso maker is compact and simple to use.  The Nespresso brand also has a great “menu” of espressos to choose from that fit your machine.

Tea: Kikkerland Robot Tea Infuser and Drip Tray

Who can resist this adorable robot?

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The Man Behind “Tips For Jesus” Now Has An Identity

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Tips for Jesus

Just last week I wrote about the mystery tipper who gives generously and posts photos of his receipts under the Instagram account “Tips For Jesus.” It turns out one New York server discovered who he is.

The generous mystery tipper who has been leaving waiters and waitresses across the country thousands of dollars in “Tips for Jesus” — and stamped with the @tipsforjesus handle — was identified by a New York City waiter as Jack Selby, former PayPal vice president.

Aruj Dhawan, a waiter at Bo’s Kitchen, told the New York Post that Selby and two other patrons gave him a $1,000 tip on a $111.05 bill.

“As I was about to drop the check off, one of the men said they would ‘make my night.’ They called me over, gave me the check,” Dhawan told the Post. “I was amazed … I was just really thankful.”

[...]

According to the Post, Bo’s manager, Benjamin Cramer, asked Selby why he tipped so much. “He said, ‘Just because.’ I was told, ‘We tip a hundred times the bill.’”

Bigger tips bearing the “Tips for Jesus” mark were left across Manhattan over the weekend: $3,500 on a $391.95 bill at the Smith near Lincoln Center, and $7,000 on a $2,994.61 check at the NoMad in Midtown.

Selby made millions when eBay bought PayPal, and now he is paying it forward. More power to him. I hope pulling the veil off his identity won’t hurt his efforts to reward hardworking folks in the service industry.

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In-N-Out Burger Joins Five Guys, Battles Local Favorites in Austin’s Rapidly Escalating Burger War

Friday, December 6th, 2013 - by Bryan Preston

Begun, the Austin burger wars have.

So California-based In-N-Out Burger thinks it can invade Texas and push the indigenous and other national burger chains aside? Is that how it works?

World famous California hamburger chain In-N-Out Burger opened a new location in Round Rock Tuesday.

As the first location in Central Texas, the new In-N-Out will allow customers a much easier way to satisfy their addiction. Larry Sherwood said he’s been hooked on In-N-Out since his first bite in the 90s

”Now I don’t have to fly to L.A. or Dallas to get my In-N-Out fix,” he said.

Karen Brewster-Clanton moved here from California and said she’s been not-so-patiently waiting for In-N-Out ever since.

“I’ve been telling my job, my boss and everybody just, ‘Get ready – you’re going to taste the best burger in town,’” Brewster said.

I don’t know about that. It’s a grandiose claim. Can In-N-Out back it up?

The Austin area is home to some of the best local and national burger chains on the planet. We have everything that everyone else has, and which won’t be discussed here — McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, etc. etc. They’re not part of the burger wars and don’t rate an honorable mention here. They exist.

But we also have Mighty Fine, which always lives up to their name. We have P. Terry’s. They’re both local. We have Braum’s with their combination ice creamery-grocery store-burger joint thing. Well, we don’t have them in Austin, but we have them in Texas. We need them in Austin. We have recent entrant Fire Oak Grill. We have Moonie’s Burger House. We have Hat Creeks, though I have to confess that I haven’t visited one of them yet. That situation will be rectified soon. We have Whataburgers everywhere, and Sonics, which are ubiquitous across Texas and stretch out to fortunate states beyond, but they’re not quite national. We have Five Guys with their beautifully messy burgers and their peanut-oil fries. We have the gourment-treated Smash Burger. And now we have In-N-Out. Let burger lovers rejoice!

I’m a burger veteran. I started enjoying Five Guys back when I lived in Baltimore. I sampled In-N-Out on a trip to PJ Media World Headquarters in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. It was the In-N-Out close to LAX, so no one can claim that I didn’t get the authentic In-N-Out experience. I did. Mighty Fine, P. Terry’s, I’ve had ‘em all. I have my opinions on all of them. I have opinions on really obscure local joints like Burger Bros in Towson, MD. Burger Bros flat out rocks, by the way. I’ve had burgers in Tokyo, on the Champs Elysee in Paris, on Guam, in Alaska, too many places to name. I might have had a burger in Baghdad.

This conflagration in Austin is going to be a major war. In-N-Out is coming into one of the most contested theaters of burger battle in the world. Austin is weird, but it’s not stupid. We have it all here. We know what we like. We know what passes muster and what doesn’t. You can’t sell a weak burger here on brand name alone. We won’t stand for it.

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‘Tips for Jesus’ Sets the Bar High for Generosity

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Tips For Jesus

Lately, we’ve heard too many stories of chintzy tippers. There’s the story of the Alabama fan who refused to tip his Auburn-fan server after Auburn’s surprise upset of the Crimson Tide on November 30. A server in New Jersey garnered a ton of media attention when she claimed a family refused to tip her because of her homosexual lifestyle (several people have cast doubt on her claims, and she is now suspended from her job). And of course Christians have earned a reputation for tipping poorly. So, hearing about an anonymous bar and restaurant patron who leaves massive tips all over the country and posts them on his Instagram account under the moniker “Tips for Jesus” encourages me.

Micah Olson learned about the man Tuesday night only after he left the Phoenix restaurant he co-owns. The mysterious man arrived with a woman and asked Olson, who was working behind the bar, whether he had ever heard of Tips for Jesus. Olson hadn’t.

“Oh, you’ll hear about it later tonight,” the man laughed — and then proceeded to order several $70 drinks for himself and his friend.

When the man closed his tab, he bought a round of drinks for Olson and his fellow bartender and left a $2,500 tip on his $530 bill.

[...]

According to his Instagram account, the mysterious man is “doing the Lord’s work, one tip at a time.”

His gratuities have ranged from $500 on a $24 bill in Hollywood, Calif., to several $10,000 tips, all dropped within the last three months at bars and restaurants along the West coast, in the Pacific Northwest and in several Midwest states.

Tips for Jesus has left his mark all over the country, seemingly in conjunction with college football games (some of his messages lead others to believe he’s a fan of the University of Southern California). He has even posted screenshots of his AmEx bill to prove that the huge gratuities are legitimate.

Will Tips for Jesus inspire others to tip better? I know I’ve rethought what I pay to servers since I’ve discovered TFJ, and though I can’t afford three- and four-digit tips, I’m hoping I can show more gratitude to people who serve me. After all, what better way to show the love of Jesus than through generosity?

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