Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Bitter

Cortez proceeded to pillage their country and take over their lands, which included the cacao plant.

Back in Spain, Cortez had no idea what he had stumbled upon until some enterprising chemists added sugar and honey to the bitter beverage and happily introduced a drink which became the forerunner of hot chocolate, ushering in the world’s love affair with chocolate. By the 17th century, Europe’s elite was happily guzzling the newly prized beverage (were waistbands expanding concurrently, one wonders). And with the promise of aphrodisiac, as well as medicinal powers, small wonder that it took off.

But, alas, until it was mass produced in the latter part of that century, the masses could only dream about it, as the cost was too high and the Easter bunny only a far off fantasy. In the early 1800’s, the Dutch discovered a process to make powdered beans less bitter and paved the way for our present day cocoa, still called “Dutch chocolate.” Soon, solid chocolate was created, and Katy bar the door, Europe developed an insatiable sweet tooth. Mid-1800’s. a resourceful gentleman by the name of Joseph Fry took chocolate paste and a few other ingredients and pressed it into a mold, which hardened and became the first chocolate bar. A few decades later, the Cadbury company began selling boxes of this glorious treat in their native country of England.

The Swiss, a country synonymous with chocolate, had a hand in creating milk chocolate and became the brainchild of the Nestle company. Sound familiar?

Not to be left out of the mix, American soldiers carried chocolate during the Revolutionary War, and it would sometimes be used as wages, when money was short (works for me). Once again, the value of the cacao bean was put into service.

Present day chocolate manufacturing in the U.S. alone is a staggering 4 billion dollar industry, with the average American eating over half a pound per month. Which might translate easily into that much in body weight gain!

Chocolate is synonymous with the name Hershey. Founded by Milton Hershey in rural Pennsylvania in 1886, it first started out as a caramel company. Soon Mr. Hershey branched out into chocolate production and introduced the first Hershey bar eight years later, with the express purpose of making chocolate available to the common man as an affordable treat. Not satisfied with just a factory, he built an entire town for his workers, and Hersheytown, PA came to life. Hershey kisses made their appearance in 1907 and were originally wrapped by hand, which required long assembly lines of women wrapping all day long, but the end result was worth it. In 1926, Hershey’s syrup hit the market, and children of all ages could add it to their milk or pour it over ice cream. Not only a businessman but a philanthropist, Hershey created jobs for people during the Depression and provided for orphans at Hersheytown.

The Benefits of Eating Fresh Oysters

The best way to preserve them is to place them on a bed of ice or in a perforated box with damped clothe wrapped around them. Ensure that the oysters will not suffocate in the melted ice or submerge under water in a case or cooler-remember that oysters are living creatures that will deplete the quantity of oxygen present in a small volume of water very quickly.

For the last 700 years edible oysters have been a part of the human diet but may have been eaten in a raw or cooked form for a longer time. The meat inside the oyster is the edible part; once the shell has been cracked open, the meat can be cooked in various ways.

Oysters contain lots of vitamins, minerals and organic compounds. Other components of nutritional value include Selenium, iron, manganese, copper, vitamin B12, vitamin D and high levels of protein. They are also a huge source of water, omega-3 fatty acid, antioxidants and cholesterol. They also contain sodium, potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

These elements make oysters a very healthy food that can greatly increase the health and overall functions of the body.

Eating oysters can help in boosting the immune system. The vitamin C and E content, together with other minerals, contain anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that protect the body against free radicals produced by cellular metabolism. These radicals can mutate the DNA of healthy cells into cancerous cells. Wherever they are lodged, they can also cause premature aging, heart disease and general body disrepair. These free radicals can be obliterated by anti-oxidants and vitamins found in oysters.

Oysters can also can help in increase libido in men. It contains incredible zinc content and over 1,500% of daily dosage in a single serving. Zinc deficiency has been closely linked with erectile dysfunction and impotency. Oysters can give back sexual energy to men and increase their feeling of masculinity.

Oysters also have a huge store of iron, it contains more than 90% of what the body requires per day. Iron is a major component in the production of red blood cells in the human body and help in preventing anemia which is a deficiency of iron, which results in stomach disorders, cognitive malfunction, fatigue and overall weakness of muscles.

Again, when the circulatory system is supplied with fresh and healthy blood cells, organs will have a high level of oxygenated blood to support their activities, this makes them function effectively.

To Shroom or Not to Shroom

Although you love their culinary value, don’t run out after the next rainfall and pluck those little toadstools sprouting on the lawn for your morning omelet. Many are highly poisonous, and it takes knowledgeable pickers to differentiate. The more popular types around the world are shitake, morel, oyster, chanterelle and cremini, which are flavorful, more costly and of course favored over the white variety by discriminating chefs. (Frenchmen wouldn’t dream of using our bourgeois white button variety.) Many species require cooking and should never be eaten raw, such as the morel. Tasty large portobello make an ideal meat replacement and a popular choice among vegetarians. The prized ruffle tops the list in its native France, and other countries pay through the nose to import them. (Those French. Nothing but the best for their discriminating palettes.)

While mushrooms presumably date back to the cavemen, the earliest documented usage goes back to ancient China, where mushrooms were consumed for medicinal as well as culinary purposes. (Long before explorer Marco Polo trekked over to China.) Always on top of the latest food discoveries, Romans enjoyed them as a food, but since all mushrooms are not edible, those inventive emperors employed food tasters to determine which might be poisonous. (Certainly not an enviable job. You never knew which meal might be your last.) Throughout history, mushrooms have been dried and then eaten all winter, which placed them highly in demand.

Asians in particular value mushrooms as a medicine, like the reishi, maitake and turkey tail, and they ingest them frequently for health issues, either cooked or as a tea. With over 65% of the world’s production, China tops the list, followed by Italy and Poland. At 5%, the U.S. is no slouch, cranking out 390,000 tons a year. (That’s a lot of soup.)

Among many ethnic cultures, mushrooming or foraging is a popular pastime. Not only can you find some tasty varieties, but you get fresh air and exercise at the same time. Just make sure you recognize the ones to pick and the ones to pass up. (And if you’re in wooded areas, make sure you also recognize poison ivy when you see it.) Charming drawings and stories throughout history depict fairies and other small creatures sitting under or on top of toadstools, hence the name’s origin. Were they edible or just furniture? No one knows for sure. Probably both.

So unless you want to hire a food tester, it’s best to stick to the grocer or farmers’ market rather than plucking toadstools out in nature. You want to enjoy that homemade mushroom soup rather than land in the emergency room. And don’t even think about noshing “magical mushrooms.” The psychedelic trip might not be worth the trip.

Foxtail Millets Are Beneficial to Health

Foxtails are cheaper to acquire and easy to cultivate having a crop cycle of about 60-90 days. Its early maturity and efficient consumption of water make it suitable for cultivation in the dry area. A warm season crop, typically planted in late spring, it has the longest history of cultivation among millets.

In China, foxtail millet is the most common millet and one of the main food crops, especially among the poor. In Europe and North America, it is planted at a moderate level for hay and silage and birdseed. However, in South India, especially in rural Andhra it has been a regular diet among people. It belongs to the old culture of Tamil. In old Tamil texts, it has been associated with Lord Muruga and Valli.

This easily cultivable crop is highly rich in fibre, protein and low in Glycemic Index. Foxtail is ideal for reducing cholesterol of body, controls blood sugar and aids in metabolism rate. As an antioxidant, it removes all acidic elements from the body.

Use in Diabetics:

Regular use of foxtail is a good guard against coronary diseases and reduces chances of cardiac arrest and fatalities. Being a diabetic friendly food, it contains a fair amount of phenolic (a strong anti-oxidant) used to get rid of toxins in the body. Rice is usually devoid of essential minerals and vitamins, but foxtail millet has enough amounts of both besides being rich in all amino acids, making it a desirable food for diabetics. Studies have shown that carbohydrates and fibre in foxtail millet are beneficial for diabetics, reducing blood sugar levels by about 70%

A Gluten Free Diet:

Many people are getting diagnosed with gluten sensitivity ( also called the Celiac disease), a substance found commonly in wheat. People who cannot consume wheat are left with very few options as most of the products in the market like biscuits, bakery items like bread, etc are made from Wheat. As a gluten free diet, foxtal millet is a perfect food for people suffering from Celiac, promoting digestion, increases energy levels and helping in maintaining cholesterol levels. In fact, they provide higher nutrition than wheat. A unique benefit of foxtail is that it helps in eradicating viruses and germs.

Preparations of Foxtail:

An easy to cook food, foxtail is an ideal substitute for rice or other grains that could cause blood sugar. It can be easily eaten with all side dishes that you eat along with rice, e.g., sambar, rasam, curds, dal, etc.

You can even make pulao, khichdi, pongal, upma and other such dishes. These millets can be beautifully served as a fibre rich salad or added to soups, burgers, muffins, pancakes and an endless list of such dishes.