Category Archives: Uncategorized

>Unboxing adventures

>The new trend for online merchants seems to be including little gifts with your shipments. My order of Mediterranean pine nuts from Nuts Online came with a gift of pistachios and my order of coffee stirrers (long story) came with a gift of oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Well, yum!

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>This isn’t gelato

>Suddenly Seattle is overrun with cloying, semi-frozen butterfat that calls itself “gelato.” Folks, this is high-fat premium ice cream stored at slightly warmer temperatures.

I was starting to wonder if my memories of gelato from Italy — delicious frozen fresh milk — were flawed. Fortunately, there are at least two places in Seattle making authentic gelato (Royal Grinders in Fremont, next to the statue of Lenin and D’Ambrosio Gelateria Artigianale in Ballard). While D’Ambrosio provides an authentic Italian gelateria experience (you can have multiple flavors in one scoop) I prefer Royal Grinder’s stracciatella (chocolate chip) by a wide margin. (Stracciatella is the benchmark I use for evaluating gelato; another good one to use is pistacchio.)

There are some folks in California who share my concern about preserving the identity and reputation of real, delicious, low-fat gelato. They’re petitioning the state food authorities to set standards for products calling themselves “gelato.”

Meanwhile, I’m going to have to avoid reading Yelp, where people are trashing the authentic gelaterias for selling gelato that isn’t rich and creamy enough. Folks, if you want ice cream, go to Molly Moon’s.

>Exercise can’t counter the effects of sitting at your desk

>The New York Times reports that a recent study correlated long hours spend sitting down—at a desk, in a car, and on the couch—with the increased risk of heart disease in men.

Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. 

Hey, no big surprise.

But what was truly disturbing was that some of the men who spent long hours sitting also engaged in a regular exercise program. But it didn’t reduce their risk of heart disease.

The problem, researchers suspect, may be our bodies are built to spent our days engaged in light exercise—strolling around, doing household chores, even standing up and walking around in the course of sales work. It appears that we weren’t built to sit, and sit, and sit.

At a biological level, the problem seems to be that lack of muscle contractions causes our bodies to become insulin resistant and to accumulate higher levels of fatty acids.

“Your muscles, unused for hours at a time, change in subtle fashion, and as a result, your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other diseases can rise,” the study concludes.

I’d be curious to see these data parsed by factors like BMI, muscle/fat ratios, cholesterol levels, etc. Were the regular exercisers healthier by those criteria and still equally likely to have heart disease?

>Now we’re cooking

> A year or so ago I decided I wanted to make a Southern-style coconut cake, like the one my friend Roger’s aunt made when we visited Norfolk many years ago.
I discovered that the ultimate recipe for coconut cake is in a book called Cookwise, which was not particularly easy to obtain at the time. I eventually got the book, looked up the recipe, and nearly went into shock when I read the recipe. It is not a low-calorie, or even moderate-calorie, cake.

The book is about making food wonderful, from selecting the right ingredients to using the right techniques. I used it this week to make ice cream and learned several things that elevated a decent ice cream recipe to an amazing ice cream recipe, including:

• Why you heat milk or half-and-half for ice cream (but not the cream itself).

• Why all ice cream recipes need a little bit of salt.

• Why your ice cream mix needs to cure in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before you put it into the ice cream maker.

Cookwise was written by Shirley O. Corriher, an expert on the chemistry of cooking. I’m now using it on a regular basis. I think there are several types of cooks it would appeal to, among them beginners who are curious about why things work and experienced, confident cooks who want to tackle trickier dishes that rely on technique.

This is not a book to choose for the recipes (many of them are high-calorie). And it’s not a good cookbook for someone who wants to blindly follow detailed, step-by-step instructions. It’s more advice on which to base your cooking decisions.

Cookwise is a marvelous antidote to the dumbed-down, “anybody can cook this!” cookbooks that direct you to over cook meats (so you won’t under cook them) and omit interesting ingredients and flavorings because they might be intimidating.

>Not-so-hot yoga

>I just spent four weeks taking the introductory series of classes at a yoga studio that does semi-hot (88 degree) yoga. I liked the yoga routines, but I didn’t like the heat.

How hot was it? The room was not just hot, it was humid. Sweat poured off me and formed puddles around my mat. You have to put a special thin towel ($90) on your mat to keep from sliding around like a tobogganing penguin. (Fortunately, I found one of the towels at a yard sale.)

I’m used to leaving a Vinyasa or Ashtanga workout feeling energized. Leaving these classes I felt wrung out and dazed. By the time I’d gotten home and pealed off my sodden clothing and taken a bath, I didn’t have energy for anything — except crawling into bed. (By the way, I was careful to get myself well hydrated before going to the classes.)

This is all is too bad, because I liked the people, the studio is near my house, and the early evening class times worked well for me. I suspect there isn’t anything wrong with hot yoga for most folks, but it just wasn’t a good match for me.

Oh well. There are mid-day yoga classes at the Ballard Health club — not as good a fit with my schedule, but the best choice for this summer.

>Survival in the blogosphere

>I just checked the links on the the blogroll (at right) and was horrified to see how many quite substantive blogs have gone dark. One was a health blog that tried to make money selling ads; one was a personal blog that a young woman worked on as she lost weight, got fit, got married, and became a regional fashion authority on plus-size clothing and crafts. Two food blogs vanished, and so did the Pike/Pine fashion site.

I miss you all! I think I’m feeling “survivor guilt.”

>A healthy dose of reality

>The Independent has the best commentary I’ve seen yet on the healthcare debate. Excerpts:

The political climate around healthcare:

It has best been summarised by the comedian Bill Maher: “The Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved to a mental hospital.”

Right-wing cluelessness:

Last week, one of the Republicans sent to disrupt a healthcare town hall started a fight and was injured – and then complained he had no health insurance. I didn’t laugh; I wanted to weep.

Liberal conciliation:

As Arianna Huffington put it, “It is as though, at the height of the civil rights movement, you thought you had to bring together Martin Luther King and George Wallace and make them agree. It’s not how change happens.”