Thursday, May 31, 2007
Product Review: Salter Nutri Weigh and Go Scale
But another reason for a scale is if you're dieting and need to keep track of just how many calories and how much fat you're putting into yourself. The Salter Nutri Weigh and Go scale is supposed to help with that. You put the food on the scale, punch in one of the 1440 foods and liquids stored in the device, and you get a nutritional read-out. The company’s PR firm sent one over for me to test.
First step was taking some items and weighing them both on this scale and on the Tanita KD 400 that I reviewed in February. I noticed pretty quickly that the two would generally differ by about 1 or 2 percent of weight. That’s not surprising, because no measurement instruments are completely accurate, but it’s a sobering reminder that even exactitude in the kitchen is so much vapor from a boiling pot of spaghetti. That becomes a bit more critical if you’re measuring for nutritional content, but it’s probably close enough for eating work.
You can dial in a weight of food or a liquid measurement – handy, because you’re more likely to pour a half cup of milk than some number of grams. Of course the scale has a tare setting, so you can remove the weight of the container from the equation and get the values for the food alone. I put an 868 gram/1 lb. 14.5 ounce raw butternut squash on the scale. Next, I used the display keys to spell out the food, and then noted the results:
- 391 calories
- 8.7 grams protein
- 101.5 grams carbohydrates
- 19.1 grams sugar
- .9 grams fat
- .2 grams saturated fat
- 17.4 grams fiber
- 35 milligrams sodium
- 0 milligrams cholesterol
- 84.1 grams net carbohydrates
- low GI value
- 2% calories from fat
- 390.6 calories
- 8.68 grams protein
- 101.68 grams carbohydrates
- 19.22 grams sugar
- .62 grams fat
- 0 grams saturated fat
- 17.36 grams fiber
- 34.72 milligrams sodium
- 0 milligrams cholesterol
- .098 calories from fat, or 2.5%
The scale folds up for more compact storage and comes with a slip cover that shuts with a Velcro closure. Suggested list price of the scale is $59.99. If you can deal with the uncertainty, this is probably going to be faster to use than going to a reference book or web site.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
China's Former Food, Drug Head Sentenced to Death
Before writing this off as Chinese indifference to the individual and having an unbalanced view of justice, realize that this situation with bad products hitting the market has been serious. For all the problems the U.S. has seen with Chinese food imports and deadly pet food, it's nothing compared with the deaths that China has experienced as the result of bad antibiotics and drugs. Then a key ingredient in antifreeze appeared in cough syrup and tooth paste shipped to Central and South America, with 100 dying last year in Panama alone, according to the New York Times account. (However, USA Today puts the number at 51, once again showing the collective objective accuracy that is the United States press.)
Zheng got richer to the tune of $832,000 ($850,000, according to the Times), not that it will do him any good now. China is under huge pressure to reform its safety record. According to USA Today, "Zheng's sentence requires review by a higher court and approval by China's highest judicial panel before he can be executed."
It could be that this is window dressing, as USA Today reports:
Qiu Feng, an independent scholar and columnist for China Newsweek magazine, wrote on the website Southcn.com that Zheng's sentence would do little to end deeply entrenched graft.There's also a problem of counterfeit food that the papers and some other accounts mention in passing. Counterfeiting of products is an enormous problem, and one of the big categories is in food, particularly packaged Asian foods. Those simply won't be touched by improved official inspections because, by definition, counterfeit products are outside the official manufacturing and inspection systems. The deaths and injuries we've seen will likely to continue until counterfeiting itself is reduced, separately from increasing regulation.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Strange News from the Food Front
- Where's the Beef? EwwwThe company that owns Carl's Jr. and Hardee's chains is suing Jack in the Box for suggesting that their Angus burgers come from bovine anus. (Miami Herald)
- WWI - Wheelchairing While Intoxicated A wheelchair-bound German man decided to drive himself home after a party in Pennsylvania - and a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit. No news as to whether the police checked if he could roll a straight line. (Independent Online)
- Think of the Size of the Straw The Coca-Cola Company broke the previous world record for an ice-cream float. Theirs was 10 tons, sitting in a 15-foot high glass. But they didn't let the spectators consumer it ... spoil sports. (RedOrbit)
- McDonald's in a McSniff The Oxford English Dictionary defines a McJob "an unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects." McDonald's is taking offense and launching a petition to change the definition. Next step is redefining the word food to mean "the McStuff they sell at McDonalds." (ABC News Online)
- But It's Just a Go Cup An Atlanta package store gets into trouble for selling cups of ice along with bottles of liquor at the drive-up window. The Georgia Alcohol Dealer's Association thinks it's ok so long as the cups have lids. (KMGC, Channel 7 in Denver)
- Quick, Pass the Fire A Cornish man claims a world record for sleep deprivation for saying awake 11 days and nights. He attributes his ability to a "Stone Age" diet of raw food. No wonder prehistoric people discovered fire - they were desperate for a good nap. (Anova)
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Product Review: Rubbermaid Premier Food Storage Containers
But I find that I just can’t warm to them. They use a type of plastic that is rigid and hard and the company claims that it won’t crack or warp over time, though it will take longer to see if that’s true. I know it’s an issue of psychological perception, but I can’t help getting over the feeling that they are brittle.
The only semi-malleable part is the top. It does provide a secure lock. Nevertheless, there is a feature of being able to attach the lid to the container’s base for convenient storage that I find rather silly. The rationale is that consumers complain about losing lids, and by attaching the lid to the bottom of the container, you can always find it. Maybe the people at Rubbermaid have cabinets with 3 feet of space between shelves, but everyone I know stores containers one inside the other. You can’t do that with the lids attached – and you’re going to need to detach them when washing, and that’s where they often get separated.
Then there is the issue of the type of plastic and whether it’s safe. I know the FDA claims that all rated food grade plastics are safe, and I know that a number of university researchers have stated that there’s nothing wrong with them. And yet I keep seeing reference to studies that many of the plastics can leach chemicals, particularly if heated. Some of the sites claim that it’s only certain types of the plastics, identified by the number on them. (The Premier line is made of type 7 – often on the warning lists.) Other web pages say that there is no safe plastic.
I come down on the side that safe is better than sorry, so heat foods in glass or ceramic that is designed to withstand microwaves. We’ll use the test Premier containers the company sent for review, but I’m not sure that we’ll make the same choice when it comes time to replace them. They also aren’t cheap, compared to other plastic food containers. The sizes range from 1.25 cups to 14 cups, with prices $2.49 to $8.99.
Friday, May 25, 2007
More on China and Food Safety
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Travel Book with Unflattering Look at U.K.
Britons are obsessed with celebrity and addicted to junk food and ready meals, a new travel guide said on Wednesday, shedding a sometimes unflattering light on the country.Ouch. Can't say as I've noticed that the rest of the world has shunned an obsession with celebrity, and real British food is pretty good. (For more on that, take a look at Jane Grigson's British Cookery, a hardback from the 80s that takes an authoritative English stride through regional foodstuffs, cuisines, and recipes.)
The guidebook seems to agree that there is great food in the country, but essentially says that it's not the favorite of all Britons. Oh, and let's not forget a mention of the "problem with alcohol." Is that Lonely, or Unappetizing?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Wal-Mart as a Force for Sustainable Agriculture?
The company is requiring shrimp farms that have been ravaging the coast of Thailand to change their aquaculture practices or lose the retailer's business. Under the company's new rules, the shrimp farms must be certified by Global Aquaculture Alliance or Aquaculture Certification Council as being farmed in environmentally sound ways, he said.Now, part of this may be public relations, but there's no doubt that the company has forced many of its suppliers into changing their business practices. Many of these vendors have even said that the changes helped them enormously in improving their businesses. Wal-Mart literally could single-handedly change the face of world food production, making a far bigger impact than any Whole Foods could.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Chapati, Or Sometimes the Ingredients Are the Thing
Checking Wikipedia, I noticed that the same bread, held in an open flame, puffs up and becomes the Gujrathi or Punjabi phulka. Unfortunately, we're cooking on electric these days, so I'll have to try the microwave variation that can leave the bread a bit soggy. But I'd like to see the puffed version.
Now, if only I had a good recipe for the onion salad the restaurant carries.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Now Shrimp Might Be A Problem
are ubiquitous in the environment and may continue to pose health threat to both wildlife and human beings, due to their persistency, bioaccumulativeGiven that China has become a major seafood exporter and that the US is one of its big collective customers, you might want to put that shrimp in a decontamination chamber before putting them on the barbie.
ability, and potential toxicity.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Mars Uses Animal Products in Chocolate
But forget about them for a moment. So far as I know, chocolate making is by definition supposed to involve cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and sugar. Since when do you add rennet as you do with cheese? Are they trying to create curds from the milk to reduce the amount of cocoa they need? Why are companies always trying to find ways to cut corners? How about doing something well, for heaven's sake? At least the company received 6,000 emails and phone calls after the initial announcement that it would make the change.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
No More Street Food in New Dehli
Critics say New Delhi's policemen would be reluctant to enforce such a ban as extracting bribes from street vendors is seen as a job perk.And maybe they don't have doughnut shops. What's an officer to do?
Friday, May 18, 2007
Technique: Cooking Shrimp a New Way
My wife had picked up a pound that she needed cooked without fat for a recipe. I was going to boil, but tried an experiment. I rinsed the shrimp and put them into a small pot with enough cold water to cover. Then I put the pot onto the burner and turned it to medium. As things were taking a long time, I switched to high. The shrimp cooked gently as the water heated, so that by the time is was short of a simmer, they were cooked through.
Although at first thought it seemed longer than boiling, I was measuring the time badly. In boiling, I had never counted the time it took to get the water up to temperature. When you do that, it's clear that the total cooking time (TCT - ahah!, my own acronym!) is shorter. Yet the shrimp technically does cook over a longer period of time, so there's better control and it's easier to rescue them before they tip over into a vulcanized state.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Happy Meal Becomes Stash
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
PETA to Gordon Ramsay: Have a Tonne of Horse Dung
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Product Review Redux: Pampered Chef Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer
Monday, May 14, 2007
Deep-Fried Animal Testicle Festival
Butch Joubert, 58, likes the parts sandwiched between bread with tartar sauce. They're not so different from regular meatballs also served at the festival, he said.Well, no difference except that afterward you get the urge to drink beer, belch, and watch a football game. It really does take balls to serve some kinds of food.
"After a few beers, you can't really tell the difference," Joubert said.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Recipe: Frozen Hot Chocolate
- 2 TBS. cocoa
- 3 TBS. sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup crushed ice
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Zagat Jumps the Shark on Fast Food
“Not all fast-food restaurants are created equal – nor were they meant to be,” said Zagat Survey Chief Executive Tim Zagat, in a statement.Thanks for the insight and, yes, I will take fries with that.
Adding Comments - Carefully
Friday, May 11, 2007
Product Review: Plink
Update: I had the pricing wrong, so have changed it when I heard back from the PR people. (I can only plead exhaustion from some late nights on a Newsweek Japan assignment.) The person suggested that "your disposal needs a little more help in the beginning" and might need a recommended treatment of twice a week. The only problem is that the citrus smell didn't last past the first day. I have a feeling that some orange or lemon peels might offer another source that's already on hand, assuming you've been purchasing citrus fruit. I'll give it a shot and report back.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Strange News From the Food Front
- Will Watch for Drink Japanese will start getting free drinks from vending machines for the price of watching a 30 second commercial. (Independent Online)
- Eat It, It's Good For You Some Polish Benedictine monks are opening a chain of food stores where you can buy jams with such names as Angelic, Unfaithful, and Prayer Book. (AFP)
- Fast Food Debtor Nation A South Carolina woman went to a Burger King drive through and was charged $8,648.64 for her order, bringing new meaning to the term "super size." (WGAL)
- Eat and Elope An entire Austrian wedding party ate at a restaurant and then skipped out before paying the bill. (Independent Online)
- Food Tops British Most Hated Brands Topping the list of Britain's most hated brands, according to a recent study, are instant noodle product Pot Noodle, McDonald's, and the drink Sunny Delight. (Independent Online)
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Brine Shrimp in Tea?
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Electricity from Beer?
Monday, May 07, 2007
Cookbook Review: Fonda San Miguel: Thirty years of Food and Art
Fonda San Miguel is a well-regarded restaurant in Austin offering Mexican cuisine. Author credits are co-founders Tom Gilliland (runs the front of the house) and Miguel Ravago (the chef) as well as “text by” Virginia B. Wood, whom is an Austin writer. The foreword is by noted Mexican cuisine expert Diana Kennedy, who apparently is a friend of the founders and whose work has inspired some of the dishes.
From first glance, the book is visually sumptuous: all color photography of the recipes and art in the restaurant with attractive design, hardbound. And here comes the first of my few quibbles: even though the publisher, Shearer Publishing, may have bought the rights to the photography, or even done it in-house, it should have given full credit to the people responsible for the actual photographic and food styling work. [UPDATE: I heard from the publisher who notes that there are full credits on page 239 toward the end of the book. My apologies for having missed it.] There also should have been better photo editing; I noticed a few out-of-focus images, one of which seemed planned and appropriate although the others looked like mistakes.
The recipes, though – marvelous. I tried four for a family dinner: guacamole, Sopa de Elote (a smooth corn soup served with roasted chiles and cheese), Adoba Sauce (pork marinade made with ancho chiles, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and black peppercorns), and Comote Y Piña (baked sweet potato puree with pineapple). The results were uniformly excellent. Unlike many cookbook recipes, I found that I could use each of these without modification or even adjusting amounts, which is pretty rare. I do wish that when a recipe referred to a preparation or technique elsewhere in the book that there was a page number associated, but, again, I did say quibbles.
The book originally came out in 2005, which does have me wondering why the PR firm that sent the copy is promoting it now, but it’s nice to see that someone is taking an active interest in promotion this excellent volume.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Martha Stewart to Lend Name to Foods at Costco
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Turkish Coffee and Weird Names
John's? does that mean soon I'll learn that England's premiere supplier of meat pies will be Mustafa's Pasties?
Friday, May 04, 2007
Cookbook Review: A Taste of Challah
There was much good I found in the book. The author is a religious Jew and offers a lot of information on the theological and culture links. There is also more information than I've ever seen in one place on how to handle and shape the dough, including variations like a braided round challah that I've never seen. We'll get to some more good points in a moment.
But calling the volume A Comprehensive Guide to Challah and Bread Baking is overblown and inaccurate. For example, the only "regular" recipe for challah dough is called Always Perfect No-Egg Challah. The title alone suggests what anyone familiar with the bread knows: eggs are a normal component. I wondered whether strict kosher food laws might consider eggs as meat, and so something that could not be served with dairy, but a little research showed that eggs are considered pareve - neither meat nor dairy. Nothing wrong with variations, but I don't see how a book can be "comprehensive" without a version of the most traditional approach.
The basic recipe also called for 16 to 17 cups of flour for what it said were 6 large loaves. Three cups of flour are about a pound, adding the weight of oil, sugar, and sugar, I'm guessing that the "large" loaves would be about a pound each - not so large from my view. I didn't bother making this fundamental recipe because that's also far more bread than my family will go through before it goes stale, though under Jewish law you're supposed to eat three meals on Shabbat and start each with two loaves, so I'm guessing that's where the volume came from. However, those who are not religious Jews are likely to be overwhelmed by the amount.
Back to what I liked: I learned a technique of using a rolling pin to make perfect dough ropes which, in turn, helps create the proper braided shape. The only hint that I thought was missing was doing a double egg wash: once, letting that dry, and then a second time to help achieve the perfect color a good bakery can get. There's also an interesting collection of other recipes, ranging from bagels and pita (though either a long-baked or no-pocket type, again not the traditional one) to some Middle Eastern breads and dips that I've never before seen.
The upshot: some people, like me, will find a lot of good in the $35 book - and you can see that more money than usual went into a nicely crafted hardbound with abundant color photography. But if you're new to bread baking and want a traditional loaf of challah, you'd at least need to supplement this volume with a recipe from another source.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Find Robber, Get Tacos
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Recipe: Herbed Hummus
- 1/3 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
- 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesean cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp. ground pepper
- 1 (15 ounce) can garbonzo beans (also called chick peas), drained
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Put all ingredients other than oil into food processor.
- While processing, pour oil through feed tube. Process until smooth, periodically stopping and scraping down sides.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Success in Baking Pita
- Keep the dough the tiniest bit sticky. You want moisture in it to puff up the pita, which should look like little domes when they're done.
- The steps about letting the dough relax are important.
- The book's instructions say to roll the dough out to about 6-inch diameter circles, but the real trick is keeping it about a quarter-inch thick.
- The baking instructions in the book are a bit off - when you put them onto the hot baking stone or tiles, let them sit for about four minutes and then check on their progress (keeping the oven mostly closed to contain the heat).
- They should be pretty pale. If they get to golden brown, they will be crunchy.