Rabbit! Rabbit!

Welcome to July

Boat Sculpture

Can you believe the year is halfway over already? Those of us who mark the calendars—school teachers, parents, prisoners, and small children waiting for Christmas—are aware of these things. For others, the first day of July is just an ordinary day. July 1st, the 182nd Day of the Year, marks Second Second Half of the Year Day. This is our chance to step back, evaluate the year so far with our goals and objectives, and to take action to get back on track if necessary. Those New Year’s Resolutions might have gone by the wayside by the first of February. (FYI—I haven’t lost that 5 pounds yet.)

In the bright clarity of the summer sunshine, we might be able to set some more realistic goals. One of the best is to involve the children in our lives with a reading program. We can join in too. Nearly 40% of American high school graduates haven’t read a book of any kind in the past year, compared to 7% of college grads, according to Pew Research. Some 28% of adults ages 50 and older have not read a book in the past year, compared with 20% of adults under 50. The share of non-book readers hit a high point of 27% in 2015.

Independence Day Celebration

One of my fondest memories of summer, besides swimming lessons, library visits, backyard neighborhood cookouts, and art lessons in the city parks under the wide branches of the old oak trees, is the annual July 4th celebration. We usually spent these at home, under careful supervision of my hyper aware daddy, who was always admonishing us, “Never light a firecracker twice! You can lose a hand or an eye!” Of course, we weren’t even allowed to light these weapons of mass destruction until we were safely schooled in the white hot heat of sparklers, the temperature of which can be anywhere from 1800°F to 3000°F. For reference, this is 3X hotter than your kitchen oven and Iron (the metal, not Maiden) melts at 2800°F.

Children Playing Safely with Sparklers

Sparklers are safe enough for small children, provided they don’t stab one other like Jedi’s wielding light sabers, because the sparks are tiny, so they don’t pack the heat very long. The heated wire can cause a burn. Parental supervision is wise for the small rabbits in the family. As an old rabbit, now long in tooth, and hoary of hair, I realize child rearing philosophies have changed since my own experience. As a teacher, I recommend building competence and confidence by stages. If we give our children small tasks to learn and master, they’ll have the self assurance to tackle the next level. They need to crawl before they walk or run.

“The middle path is safest and best,” the ancient philosophers would say, or “Nothing to excess.” Some people look back on the “good old days” as the lost glory days of our country and want to return. Others remember it as a time when the goods were merely promised, but were unfulfilled. If I remember my childhood as a sunlit time, it’s because I’ve made my peace with the things I cannot change about my past. Now I work to bring that same vision to the children of today and tomorrow. If the hopes of the original Declaration of Independence are to come true for all people, then we all must believe the truths of our national founding document

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

May you have a safe and blessed Independence Day,

Joy and Peace,
Cornelia

Betsy Ross Sews the First American Flag

GRILLED CABBAGE SLICES WITH BACON OR PANCETTA
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/cabbage-wedges-with-warm-pancetta-vinaigrette

THE RAGGED OLD FLAG
By Johnny Cash
Video: https://youtu.be/mbbGi3mTjCo

TIPS FOR SUMMER LEARNING
https://www.idtech.com/blog/summer-slide-facts-for-productive-school-break

PEW RESEARCH ON READING
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/23/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

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Mother’s Day Leftovers

For Mother’s Day I had leftover cauliflower egg casserole. Leftovers are a mother thing, I suppose. When I was young, my brothers and I would cook our Mother a breakfast of sorts on Sunday morning. Daddy would have brought her coffee in bed, while we three messed up the kitchen making pancakes or scrambled eggs. Of course, she accepted our tribute with a gracious smile and ate it all, no matter what it actually tasted like.

Cauliflower Egg and Cheese Casserole

I’m not sure our measurements were as exact as hers. If my own young daughter’s use of salt for baking powder in a recipe is an example of thinking “they’re both white so they should act the same,” we might have mixed up our chemistry in the old kitchen back in the day also. At least we didn’t set the stove on fire, but our parents trusted us to cook unattended at an open flame even when I was ten, and my brothers were 8 and 5 years old. We’d been supervised much earlier, and “watched like a hawk” in that apprenticeship time, so if Dad strolled into the kitchen for refills, he could tell at a glance if we were on task or about to burn the house down.

I remember my Mother always ate the heel of the bread and took the last serving of any dish at the table. She let us have the choice of the best parts and took what was leftover. I once asked her about her willingness to be last, when the rest of us were falling all over each other to be first. She said, “This is my calling. This is what I do.” I think she sometimes felt unappreciated for this gift of humbleness, for when she was frayed down to her last strand, she’d swear “I’ll get more than one star in my crown when I get to heaven! I’ll shine so bright, I’ll be a whole constellation!”

We’d laugh and hug her, and Daddy would tell her she was still the best little mama ever, and she’d calm down again. Sometimes we don’t appreciate those who do the most for us, until they can’t do any more. We load up on a few good workers at the job site, but don’t train the rest to grow into those positions of responsibility. When these retire or move on, we are left bereft. Some bosses take on all their workers’ duties and then wonder why their help doesn’t do much. If we want to raise up responsible adults, we have to raise responsible young people. We get responsible young people by letting children learn to take small challenges according to their age and capabilities.

I know THEY say never make an untested dish for a party. That just takes the adventure and excitement out of the equation. This recipe was a little more complicated than my usual because I made it for a potluck at my condo this weekend. I used my imagination and prior experience to visualize the outcome. If you can’t taste and smell the recipe before you cook it, you need to keep looking for a recipe that excites and activates your senses.

Cauliflower Cake—cheese, egg, veggies casserole
Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients
• 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 1/4-inch florets (about 4 cups)
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
• 1 medium red onion
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
• Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
• 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
• 1 teaspoon nigella (also known as black caraway), cumin, or black sesame seeds
• 7 large eggs
• 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped (1/4 C dried basil)
• 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan or aged cheese
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
• Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Meanwhile, prepare the cake.
2. PAN BOILED CAULIFLOWER—Place the cauliflower florets and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and simmer over medium-high heat until the florets are quite soft, about 15 minutes. They should break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
3. ALTERNATIVE COOKING PROCESS—cut cauliflower into 1 inch pieces. Put into baking dish sprayed with Pam. Microwave on high for 3 minutes or until tender.
4. Cut 4 round slices, each 1/4-inch, off one end of the onion and set aside. Dice the rest of the onion and place in a small frying pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
5. Meanwhile, line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and other seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. (If you don’t have this pan, use regular pan lined with parchment paper, pan well sprayed with Pam, or make in muffin pan.)
6. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs and basil and whisk well to combine. Add the cheese, flour, baking powder, turmeric, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until smooth. Add the cauliflower and stir gently, trying not to break up the florets.
7. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Bake until golden brown and set, about 45 minutes. A knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving. It needs to be served just warm, rather than hot, or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes
Turmeric: substitute curry if you don’t have turmeric.

Baking pan options: If you don’t have a springform pan, you can just use a regular 9-inch cake pan or even an 8-inch square pan, but still line with parchment paper first. Or, just spray well with Pam. There’s enough oil in the recipe and cheese to keep the whole from sticking.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

FAST FOOD FAST

Louisiana is still knee deep in Mardi Gras beads and King Cakes, at least until Ash Wednesday, which is the official beginning of Lent. When March 6 comes around, all the feasting turns to fasting, at least for the faithful. When I was a child, we gave up candy or soft drinks for Lent, while our parents gave up alcohol. I’m not sure who had the more difficult task, but the appearance of chocolate Easter bunnies in our straw baskets made us very glad to search for the hidden eggs out in the yard. Our parents were nobly relaxed and convivial while they urged us on. Somehow they always knew where the rabbit had hidden those eggs.

EASTER CANDY BASKET

If we went to the local hamburger joint in the 1950’s, a soda was 7 ounces, the burger was 4 ounces, and the fries were about 2 1/2 ounces. We call these the “child’s menu” now, but this is actually adult servings, rather than the supersize menu items we order.

In the United States, 61% of an adult’s total diet comes from ultraprocessed foods, or foods that contains ingredients such as flavors, colors, sweeteners and hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers and other additives that you wouldn’t cook with at home. This type of processed food is the main source of added sugar in the U.S. diet. Meanwhile, Americans get less than 1% of their daily calories from vegetables.

in Canada, ultraprocessed foods account for 62%, and in the UK, that proportion is 63%. Yet research also indicates that eating ultraprocessed foods can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cancer, the study authors say.

“Ultraprocessed foods are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes,” wrote the authors of the French NutriNet-Santé Study, an ongoing cohort study that launched on May 11, 2009, and performed a follow-up through December 15, 2017 (a median of 7.1 years). It was published recently in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. “Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals,” and their consumption “has largely increased during the past several decades.”

This trend may drive an increase of early deaths due to chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, they say. The quick and easy comfort foods and snacks you love are chipping away at your mortality, one nibble at a time, according to new research from France: We face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat.

FRESH VEGGIES

PARAMETERS OF STUDY

To understand the relationship between ultraprocessed foods and the risk of an earlier-than-expected death, the researchers enlisted the help of 44,551 French adults 45 and older for two years. Their average age was 57, and nearly 73% of the participants were women. All provided 24-hour dietary records every six months in addition to completing questionnaires about their health (including body-mass index and other measurements), physical activities and sociodemographics.

The researchers calculated each participant’s overall dietary intake and consumption of ultraprocessed foods.

Ultraprocessed foods accounted for more than 14% of the weight of total food consumed and about 29% of total calories, they found. Ultraprocessed food consumption was associated with younger age, lower income, lower educational level, living alone, higher BMI and lower physical activity level.

Over the study period, 602 participants died. After adjusting for factors such as smoking, the researchers calculated an associated 14% higher risk of early death for each 10% increase in the proportion of ultraprocessed foods consumed.

Further studies are needed to confirm these results, the authors say. Still, they speculate that the additives, the packaging (chemicals leech into the food during storage) and the processing itself, including high-temperature processing (frying), may be the factors that negatively affect health.

However, “ultraprocessed” is a huge category of foods, and by lumping so many things together, the researchers lost sensitivity in their results and cannot pinpoint what exactly is causing the effect seen in the study. Sugar may be implicated also, not just fried foods.

People who said they ate the most processed foods, which the surveys defined as soft drinks, salty snacks, cakes, pizza and frozen meals, also showed the highest intake of added sugars based on the sugar content of these foods. Nearly 90% of the average source of added sugars, in fact, came from processed foods.

Overall, processed foods contained eight times more sugar than less processed foods such as breads, cheese and canned foods, and five times more sugar than unprocessed or minimally processed choices such as meats, fresh fruits or vegetables, grains and milk.

WHY DO PEOPLE EAT MORE PROCESSED FOOD TODAY?

First of all, we live in urban areas, and garden plots are scarce, unlike our rural ancestors, who had room to grow their own food. We live in a fast world, and people are looking for convenient solutions. We’re always stretched for time. Many people today have long commutes, so the time for preparing an evening meal isn’t there. People look for quick solutions and a quickly made meal.

When selecting food, taste may be the No. 1 factor for most consumers, but price and convenience are also important. With ultraprocessed foods, that convenience factor is probably top of the list: grab and go, ready to eat. In food deserts, convenience food outlets prevail and grocery store foods are either overpriced or nonexistent. Some residential properties have rooms, but no cooking facilities. Fast food becomes an economic necessity for impoverished families and this not only aggravates their health, but depreciates their ability to move up in society.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

We should look not only at the front of a package when we buy ready-made meals, but also at the back. Look at the ingredients list. Do we understand all those ingredients that go into our foods? Buy only those products with the least number of ingredients and with ingredients we understand.

Reduce the amount of fast food we eat, if possible, and eat more “plain food” made at home. Rice, baked potatoes, salads and oil and vinegar dressing are easy to prepare, along with a baked chicken or pot roast in a crock pot.

If we can’t buy fresh foods, fresh frozen foods without seasonings are also good. Read the ingredients to avoid salt and added sugar. The same goes for canned foods. Many low or no sodium vegetables are available, which can be used for nutritious soups and stews.

Moreover, if we’re responsible for the donations to food pantries, we should consider the quality and types of food we provide to our people: more protein and fewer carbohydrates would be a start toward healing poverty induced diseases, rather than the need to fulfill as many calories as possible. This latter only leads to more disease and a greater burden on the person and the health care system.

Easter Sunday is April 21—we have six weeks or 40 days in Lent, not counting the Sundays, to practice a FAST FOOD FAST. Do you think you could do this? How would it change your life? Would you have to put a priority on your and your family’s health or would you let work and activities be more important? Is food for the body a last minute decision or is it foundational for life? What is our spiritual understanding of the body?

Think on this as you consider the questions above:

He will transform our humble bodies, so that they may be conformed to his glorious body, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. ~~ Philippians 3:21

Read the French Study in JAMA—https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2723626

Americans and Processed Food—http://time.com/4252515/calories-processed-food/

Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix

Cold and grey weather in December makes me want to bake in the kitchen. I must have my mother’s DNA for sure, since some of my fondest memories are of her up to her elbows into a giant mixing bowl as she stirred together the various candied fruits and nuts for the fruit cake cookies and loaves she produced in mass quantities every Christmas.

This recipe also had a significant amount of cheap whiskey in it, so when I was preaching in small towns in Arkansas, I usually let one of the ladies of the church know of my need. “Don’t you worry,” they’d tell me, “we’ll make sure this gets covered.”

A few days later I’d be invited over to this kind lady’s home for lunch. She’d have a Christmas gift for me. Inside the colorful bag would be a small flagon, double wrapped in a brown paper bag. “You don’t have to tell anyone where you got it. That’s a secret, just between you and me.”

I’d nod and smile. Christmas has always been time for secrets. My parents would hide presents up in the attic until we got big enough to pull the rope for the hidden stairs. Then they hid the gifts in the trunk of my daddy’s black Pontiac. I never knew why we weren’t able to find the keys. When we were truly old, my folks managed to keep the Christmas secrets by gift wrapping the presents at the store before we came home from school.

One of the mysteries of Christmas I discovered along the way was Santa could write as elegantly as my daddy, but I never told anyone else. After all, I had two younger siblings and I wouldn’t want to spoil his visits for them! This recipe makes a Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix for snacks. You can vary it infinitely and even use it as a base for a Chocolate Bark recipe. It’s great for a share party.

Fresh out of the oven!

Ingredients

4 cups unsalted, roasted whole nuts (almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts)

1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin, quinoa, and sunflower)

1/4 cup agave

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 Tbs brandy

227 grams chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Red pepper flakes from three chili peppers

Step 1

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the nuts and seeds.

Step 2

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine agave, butter, red-pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon salt. Microwave until the butter has melted, about 30-40 seconds. (Alternatively, you can melt the mixture in a small saucepan on the stove.)

Step 3

Pour the butter mix over the nuts and seeds, and stir until well coated. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. You want the nut mix spread out as much as possible.

Step 4

Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are tacky and look and smell toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and all of the turbinado or dark brown sugar. Let cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a bowl and serve (or transfer to an airtight container, where they’ll keep for up to 4 days).

Nutrition information for 1 serving (24 total servings)

EGG NOG RECIPE FROM SCRATCH

Before the first frost is on the Halloween pumpkin, my local grocery store stocks the milk case with flavored egg nogs. While I think they might be rushing the season of good cheer a bit, and the rest of the world is going Gaga over the PSL, I’m not yet ready for this rich holiday beverage just yet.

Christmas in my corner of the world

I like to mark the seasons and the holidays as they come, and give each one proper due and respect. These have become like old friends, with whom I can share my memories of the way things used to be, as well as our hopes for the future to come. Once Thanksgiving’s interminable meals of turkey variations had ceased, we couldn’t bear to face another bowl of turkey soup, turkey casserole, turkey and dumplings, or chipped turkey with gravy on toast. My daddy had an uncouth expression for this recipe, so mother only served it once and last of all.

When it finally appeared on the dinner table, it was a sign of rejoicing for us, for Christmas was just around the corner! We knew soon we’d be making fruit cake, cookies, candies, and other seasonal specialties in mother’s kitchen. The grownups usually had a party at our home, so we’d get a taste of that wonderful concoction, homemade eggnog with a bit of spirits added for the celebration. We got the cup without the spirits for the early party, but I remember tasting my parents’ cup to experience the grownup beverage.

As I’ve aged, I have lost my taste for these exceptionally rich foods. I’m more like the babies in their high chairs: I want my flavors and textures distinct and discernible. One day I may need a divided plate to keep my foods from touching, but not yet. Of course, the idea of a milky, alcoholic drink with eggs in it dates back to a medieval British drink called “posset,” writes Elizabeth Dias for Time. “By the 13th century,” she writes, “monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.”

The dead of winter was good time to celebrate survival and to lubricate the social bonds to bring about continued prosperity of the community. The wealthy could afford those expensive ingredients to make eggnog in Britain, but in America it became a common drink due to the number of farms. Rum became the alcohol of choice, since rum from the Caribbean wasn’t taxed as heavily as European spirits like brandy.

George Washington’s recipe for eggnog suggests the founding father had a strong stomach. He forgot to specify how many eggs should be used in it, but cooks of the era thought a dozen or so would be good. Washington’s recipe includes the usual ingredients—sugar, milk, cream, eggs—but adds one pint of brandy, half a pint of rye, half a pint of rum and a quarter pint of sherry to the mix. Raise one to the father of the country!

FAMILY EGGNOG RECIPE

My aunt gave me a handwritten book of over one hundred recipes when I got my first apartment in art school. One was for Christmas Eggnog, which isn’t “just something to drink, but a traditional Christmas ceremony in Dixie, when friends and family gather together to enjoy Yuletide festivities.”

Her recipe served 12 and had 12 of nearly everything:

12 eggs separated

12 Tbs sugar

12 Tbs whiskey

12 Tbs Jamaican rum

1 quart whipping cream

Nutmeg

For Auntie ‘s recipe, separate the yolks and whites. Beat the yolks till light, then add sugar slowly, and beat again till light. Add the liquor very slowly; don’t dump it in all at once! Keep beating while adding the liquor. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks in separate bowl and fold into yolk mixture. Whip the cream till it expands to double in size. Fold this into the mix of eggs and whites. Tradition serves this drink in small cups with grated nutmeg topping and a silver spoon. A thin slice of rum soaked fruit cake accompanies it on a plate. My understanding is with fruit cake, the more rum it has, the better it is, or that may be the eggnog talking.

TRADITIONAL EGGNOG RECIPE

I put a traditional egg nog recipe through my recipe program. I didn’t care for what I saw! This drink wouldn’t be on my healthy eating plan. Then I decided to adjust the recipe. I decided not to use the full sugar or whole milk, but opted for the lesser caloric bombs. I kept the full fat whipping cream, since it’s there to give body and thickness to the drink. This texture is important. Save the 2 egg whites for adding to an omelet for a meal. Don’t waste them.

Nutritional Values

Ingredients—

1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbs real vanilla extract)

4 cups milk 2%

2/3 cup sugar (2/3 cup or 32 tsp Splenda for diabetics)

4 whole large eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Scotch whisky, bourbon, or rum (optional)

Cinnamon or allspice for topping

Servings–Makes 12 servings of about 1/2 cup each (before adding 1 oz. alcohol)

Directions–

Split the vanilla bean in half by holding one end down on a cutting board and running a knife away from your hand and down the length of the bean. Open up the bean, and then use the back side of the knife to scrape out the black seeds. Place the seeds and the husk (or the 1 Tbs real vanilla) in a small saucepan along with the milk and sugar or Splenda.

Heat over medium low heat, stirring regularly to prevent burning until the surface is foamy and the milk is steaming hot.

In a large bowl, add the whole eggs and egg yolks and whisk until pale yellow and foamy. Place the bowl on a wet towel so it doesn’t slip, and then pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (it may be easier to have someone help you). It’s important to keep the egg moving as you add the hot milk, otherwise it will clump.

If you’re concerned about Salmonella, measure the temperature of your mixture with a candy thermometer and if it has not hit 160 degrees F, pour it all back into the pot and cook over low heat while stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. If you heat it anymore, the egg will curdle.

Whisk in the cream and serve warm, or chill in the fridge. I like to serve the alcohol on the side, so people can add as much or as little as they like. This respects the designated drivers, as well as those who don’t drink alcohol for personal reasons. Remember adding alcohol adds calories and carbohydrates. One ounce of alcohol per hour is the most the average person can metabolize. Consuming more than four (4) drinks on a single night is considered binge drinking, an unhealthy lifestyle activity. Consider drinking every other nog beverage without spirits to slow your imbibing down, or choose water instead.

HOLIDAY GREETINGS

I hope you have a safe and blessed holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, or Hanukkah, and may the joy of life and the promise of hope be always in your hearts and minds. Let’s all pledge to choose one better action for our health in 2019 and keep after this one thing! We can do it!

Love, Joy, and Peace,

Cornie

OF ORDINARY MIRACLES

Greek yogurt with cocoa, fruit and nuts

“Fabulous Fermented Foods” have been part of my family’s history for generations back. In the rural antebellum South, folks made cornbread with buttermilk and bacon grease. They didn’t waste soured milk in those unrefrigerated days, just as they used every bit of the pig but its squeal. “Waste not, want not,” was an adage my forebears took to heart, even to my embarrassment of their saving balls of string or aluminum foil for reuse. The latter I thought unsanitary, in my modern worldview, but I’d never experienced great want of any kind as they had.

I enjoyed helping my nanny can food by pickling peaches and cucumbers, but that was a different process than fermentation. My mother did ferment a fruit compote with alcohol, which we all devoured with gusto over ice cream during the holidays. “Is it ready yet?” was as frequent a question as “When can we open a present?”

Of course we ate pimento cheese sandwiches, especially during those long lazy days of summer, but none of us ever connected the cheese making process to fermentation by good bacteria or yeasts. We ate, enjoyed, and never gave it a second thought as we sought the shade or a cool dip in refreshing water. Like many people of our day, we were incurious of the many ordinary miracles which surrounded all of us.

Now I’m well into my seventh decade and understand these trendy (but ancient) foods have potential health benefits. Fermenting foods changes their taste and texture, along with their chemical and biological properties.

Fermented foods may be the oldest “new” food trend around. The process is as old as civilization itself, and fermented foods are consumed in nearly every culture in the world. While researchers attempt to tease out how the changes caused by fermentation actually impact health, many not-fully-substantiated health claims are being made. Let’s take a look at what we know, and don’t know, about these promising (and tasty) foods.

FERMENTATION PROCESS

What is Fermentation? Fermentation occurs when microorganisms (certain species of bacteria, yeast, or mold) feed on starch, sugar, and other food components. This ancient process was originally used for preserving foods, but it fell out of favor in the age of refrigeration and pasteurization.

Many foods and beverages that are commonplace in the U.S. are a result of fermentation. Grains are fermented to make beer and bread; wine is made by fermenting grape juice; and yogurt and cheese are popular forms of fermented milk. Any foods can be fermented, and there are many examples of fermented foods around the world, such as Korean kimchi and the Swedish fermented fish Surströmming.

HEALTH BENEFIT CLAIMS

Behind the Health Benefit Claims. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the fermentation process changes the health-promoting characteristics of foods,” says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, professor emeritus at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

For example, large studies have suggested an association between consumption of fermented dairy foods and weight maintenance that is not seen with unfermented dairy products, and frequent yogurt consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.

Some data show kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish ubiquitous in Korean cooking, is associated with anti-diabetic and anti-obesity benefits not seen with unfermented cabbage. Some of these suspected health benefits may result from the presence of the microorganisms themselves, but emerging research indicates that changes those organisms make to the food constituents, and new constituents they create, might have health benefits in their own.

HEALTH BENEFITS INCLUDE

Some of the potentially health-promoting effects of fermentation include:

1. Adding to our gut microbiota. Probiotics are live bacteria that some evidence indicates can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate numbers.

Some bacteria used in fermentation are known probiotics (or are similar to probiotic species). If fermented foods and beverages contain live microorganisms when consumed, a relatively large number of these organisms apparently make it through the human digestive system alive. “During the last decade, the number of studies has exploded regarding gut microbiota and their impact on the health of not only the gut but also the brain, heart, and immune system,” says Blumberg.

2. Changing existing compounds. In fermentation, the microorganisms break down food constituents. This process may have health benefits. For example, in fermented vegetables certain bacteria help convert health-promoting flavonoids into a more readily-absorbed form.

In dairy products, the bacteria break down lactose, making yogurt and cheese easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest.

3. Creating new compounds. Fermentation may create new compounds that have health-promoting actions in the body.

For example, one common result of bacterial fermentation is lactic acid (lactate), which recent research indicates is involved in anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant processes.

Other strains of microorganisms actually synthesize B vitamins or vitamin K; discourage “bad” bacteria from taking hold in the gut; or produce molecules not found in the original form of the food that play a variety of potentially health-promoting roles in the body.

4. Deactivating undesirable compounds. In addition to creating (mostly) desirable compounds in foods, fermentation can also remove undesirable compounds. In some plant foods, so-called anti-nutrients like phytic acid bind to nutrients like iron and calcium, decreasing the amount of these nutrients available to be absorbed by the body.

Fermentation can reduce phytic acid levels, which frees up more nutrients for absorption. Additionally, some food components are typically fermented in the gut by gut bacteria. This can create gas and trigger digestive problems. Fermenting foods before consumption leaves less work for gut microbes, and may help ease digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.

5. So far, there is not a lot of clinical data backing up the potential health benefits discussed above, or the health claims often attributed to fermented foods.

But tasty foods like yogurt, hard cheese, the fermented yogurt drink kefir, cabbage-based sauerkraut and kimchi, or the increasingly popular fermented tea kombucha are delicious ways to add nutritional variety to your overall dietary pattern.

Of course when we say “yogurt,” we mean the plain, unsweetened product, to which you control the additional fruits and sugar content. The presugared/fruit purée style is not a healthy choice. Look for a yogurt with more grams of protein than in carbohydrates (Greek usually fits the healthier choice).

The same goes for other milk products, or any prepared food or drink. If it has added sugars, leaving it on the shelf is the best way to keep it from showing up on your own body. If you have a body like mine, these sugar bombs explode in one perturbing place, every single time, as if there were a hidden sugar magnet inside my body! Every. Single. Time.

Yet we can do this! I keep weighing my food, keep a food diary, and exercise. I realize 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem to be enough to lose weight, but it is enough to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure in check. I either have to work less and workout more, or accept 2/3 of my efforts are good enough for someone in the later years of her life.

I’ll probably be working on the last 1/3, just because I can’t rest until I get it ALL. This means I need to cut back on some of my “working.” I’m going to post more monthly on this blog than every two weeks from now on. My Facebook Cornie’s Kitchen page will get more frequent posts.

Joy and peace, Cornie.

Tufts Nutrition Letter, Articles, November 2018 Issue

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/14_11/current-articles/Fabulous-Fermented-Foods_2487-1.html

HALLOWEEN SPECTERS

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
Have you readied your costume for the annual Trick or Treat event? I saw folks shopping for costumes as early as mid September, for both adults and children. Most of these garbs aren’t scary at all, unlike the one worn by the ghosts and ghouls of ancient lore, by which I mean my neighborhood companions and I.

19th Century Spookiness

We protect children today from such horrors, but back in the 1950’s, ritual exposure under adult protection was considered part of growing up. A very small child dressed as a ghost with a pillowcase over her entire body. Only the eyes and mouth holes were cut out, plus a slit in the front for holding the basket of treats. The shifting nature of the pillowcase was part of the plan—the child couldn’t race to the next house in the dark or the eyeholes would slip and then they’d slip too. I never realized how cunning my parents were.

1950’s Neighborhood Ghost Costume

LET THE HARVEST FESTIVALS BEGIN
Halloween is the official beginning of the harvest festival season in America.
First is the Chocolate Candy season, also known as Trunk or Treat in the church. Then 22 days later is Thanksgiving, a day given over to cooking and eating, with leftovers for a week afterwards. For the next month until Christmas, cookies and homemade treats roll out of our kitchens as if we were our grandparents. Once the New Year arrives, even if we make a resolution to stop this madness, we get an invite to a Super Bowl party on February 3rd, 2019. This is all happening in less than one hundred days (95).

We do this in addition to our regular lives, of course, for we don’t let anything go. No, we merely pile stuff higher and the wonder why it collapses. It’s called the Western Life Style.

TEEN COSTUMES

LIFESTYLE POSTER CHILD
The main negative features of this lifestyle include stress (long-term and continuous, psychological), positive energy balance (excessive energy intake and low physical activity), low-quality food (both high fat and energy dense, and at the same time poor in micronutrients), and disruption of chronobiology(insufficient sleep). What toe have I not stepped on yet? As my old congregations used to say, “At first you were preaching, but now you’ve done gone to meddling!”

WESTERN LIFESTYLE DEADLY
As countries around the world adopt the Western Lifestyle, rates of metabolic syndrome and diabetes are also increasing. For 2017, the International Diabetes Foundation estimated there were 451 million (age 18-99 years) people with diabetes worldwide. These figures were expected to increase to 693 million by 2045. Almost half of all people (49.7%) living with diabetes are undiagnosed. Moreover, an estimated 374 million people are likely living with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and almost 21.3 million live births to women were affected by some form of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy.

In 2017, approximately 5 million deaths worldwide were attributable to diabetes in the 20-99 years age range. The global healthcare expenditure on people with diabetes was estimated to be USD $850 billion in 2017.

DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE
“An acute disturbance in any of the physiological regulatory systems evokes reactions that tend to reestablish equilibrium. When the stimuli, even of moderate magnitude, tend to be repetitive or chronic, change and allostasis in one system impact on the other, and vicious cycles are created and reinforced.” The plain language translation is our bodies tend to seek equilibrium. If we lose weight, our bodies try to regain it. The vicious cycle many of us are most familiar with is losing the same amount weight over and over again.

Homemade Pizza Costume

THE FOOD WE EAT
Does what we eat make a difference? Every day a new diet fad comes down the pike, or at least a new packaging of an old one trots out for us to ride it for a while. Then we fall off that horse and look for another, with more appeal (cookie diet, anyone?).

Our food choices interact with our genetic, metabolic, and environmental factors. In obesity and metabolic syndrome, often dietary patterns are considered of central importance. In these, attention has been focused over calories, amounts, and proportions of macronutrients, and their effects on the energetic balance by themselves, and through metabolic regulators. You recognize this in the shorthand “calories in/calories out” slogan.

However, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes are way more complex operations than mere subtraction. A calorie isn’t just a calorie. That is, not all calories are created equal, although all whole foods have nutrients. Only recently have the acute effects of food ingestion, taking into consideration the type of food, and the specific effects of some nutrients, namely, fatty acids, began to be studied in relation with obesity and inflammation.

INFLAMMATORY ROLE OF FATS
Total dietary fat and saturated fat are associated with insulin resistance and high blood pressure as well as obesity-related inflammation. An immediate postprandial increase in plasma inflammatory markers after a high-fat meal had been shown in abdominally obese men. Consumption of a saturated fatty acid-rich diet resulted in a proinflammatory “obesity-linked” gene expression profile, whereas consumption of a monounsaturated fatty acid-rich diet caused a more anti-inflammatory profile. This means carnivores eating well marbled steaks every day aren’t doing their bodies long term good, but of course they’re too busy being important to have a real doctor test their blood. And they “feel fine.”

MUFA’s are foods and oils with higher amounts of monounsaturated fats, such as Nuts, Avocado, Canola oil, Olive oil, Safflower oil (high oleic), Sunflower oil, Peanut oil and butter, and Sesame oil. Everyone needs some fat in their diet, for it keeps our skin smooth, our hair lustrous, and our appetite satisfied. We don’t need fried foods or animal fats on a daily basis.

LIVER AND FAT STORAGE
The liver has two functions that directly impact the formation of excess fat: metabolism of carbohydrates (sugars) and digestion of lipids (fats). When we consume carbohydrates, our blood sugar rises, triggering a rise in insulin. That rise in insulin signals our liver to begin storing the excess glucose within its own cells. When the liver is full, it begins storing the excess carbohydrates as fat in our body fat. Sometimes that fat begins to accumulate in the liver cells, and the liver becomes fat.

Similarly, when we consume more lipids that the body can use for energy, the liver stores the excess lipids in body fat, and this excess of lipids can begin to accumulate within the liver as well. Whether the excess of food is made up of carbohydrates (sugars) or fat (lipids) —the liver stores the excess energy for future use. Often this results in excess fat accumulating in the liver itself. This is known as Fatty Liver, the first stage of NAFLD and should be viewed as a warning to change unhealthy lifestyle habits and adopt a low carbohydrate and low fat diet that is high in fresh vegetables and lean proteins.

TAKE OUT BOX
We need to eat enough quality nutrients to lose weight. Starving ourselves won’t do it, since this messes up our metabolism. Eating the good food, complex carbohydrates with fiber, for instance, and lots of vegetables full of water (spinach, zucchini, mushrooms) will help us meet our nutritional goals. Foregoing fried foods, highly processed foods, and fast foods will also improve our health. Exercise every day, if just to walk around the block. I sometimes fail on this. But I find a way to move more around the house or do big muscle chores.

Cornie’s Batgirl Costume

Time—we all have the same amount of it. What we do with it is the important thing. If I add an event to my schedule, something else has to go away. I’m not Wonder Woman. I’m not God. I might be Batgirl. I can’t do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me, but I can do all the IMPORTANT things Christ calls me to do in his power.

MORE SCIENCE
Below I’ve made some notes on the role of obesity, free fatty acids, and insulin resistance if you want more information. The link below has an excellent paper if you want to dig deeper. Low grade inflammation and free fatty acids are both implicated in NAFLD, non alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when fat is deposited in the liver.

OBESITY AND INSULIN RESISTANCE
The reason why obesity is associated with insulin resistance is not well understood. Obesity is a condition characterized by an increase of body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirements, as the result of excessive accumulation of body fat.

NOT A ROCK BAND
Free fatty acids (FFA) cause both insulin resistance and inflammation in the major insulin target tissues (skeletal muscle, liver and endothelial cells) and thus are an important link between obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation and the development of T2DM, hypertension, dyslipidemia, disorders of coagulation and ASVD.

FAT TISSUE: FACTORY AND WAREHOUSE
Adipose tissue not only stores and releases fatty acids but also synthesizes and releases a large number of other active compounds. According to this concept, an expanding fat mass releases increasing amounts of compounds such as FFA, angiotensin 2, resistin, TNF-α, interleukin 6, interleukin 1-β and others. Some of these compounds, when infused in large amounts, can produce insulin resistance.

However, any substance, in order to qualify as a physiological link between obesity and insulin resistance, should meet at least the following 3 criteria:
0. the substance should be elevated in the blood of obese people;
0. raising its blood level (within physiologic limits) should increase insulin resistance and
0. lowering its blood level should decrease insulin resistance.

So far, only FFA can meet these 3 criteria in human subjects.

Plasma FFA levels are usually elevated in obesity because
0. the enlarged adipose tissue mass releases more FFA and
0. FFA clearance may be reduced

Moreover, once plasma FFA levels are elevated, they’ll inhibit insulin’s anti-lipolytic action, which will further increase the rate of FFA release into the circulation.

The liver is more insulin sensitive than skeletal muscle.

FAT PILLS ARE REAL
Nevertheless, there is convincing evidence that physiological elevations of FFA, such as seen after a fat rich meal, inhibit insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production (HGP) resulting in an increase in HGP (1).

Acutely this rise in HGP is due to FFA mediated inhibition of insulin suppression of glycogenolysis or releasing glucose from carbohydrates.
Longer lasting elevations of FFA, however, are likely to also increase gluconeogenesis, or making glucose from non carbohydrate substances.

Chronically elevated plasma FFA levels, as commonly seen in obese diabetic and non-diabetic individuals, also cause insulin resistance.

GENES AREN’T OUR DESTINY
We know there’s a genetic component linked to the UCP3_HUMAN or mitochondrial uncoupling protein 3 and 2. Healthy pancreatic β-cells are poised to respond rapidly and efficiently to acute changes in circulating nutrient availability to maintain metabolic homeostasis.

CHRONIC EXPOSURE TO OVERNUTRITION
However, it is well recognized that chronic exposure to overnutrition, such as what occurs in obesity, results in a blunting of the insulin response to an acute stimulus.

INFLAMMATION
Whatever its origin, be it or not obesity the main initiator, the chronic low-grade inflammatory condition that accompanies the metabolic syndrome has been implicated as a major player in both the installation of the syndrome and its associated pathophysiological consequences.

WEIGHT LOSS HELPS INFLAMMATION
In good agreement with this interpretation of things, weight loss of obese patients is repeatedly verified to be associated with a decrease of inflammation biomarkers accompanied by improvement of metabolic parameters, namely, insulin sensitivity.

Monteiro, Rosário, and Isabel Azevedo. “Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome.” Mediators of Inflammation 2010 (2010): 289645. PMC. Web. 11 Oct. 2018
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913796/

Diabetes Impact on World
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29496507