Tag Archives: food

Friday Linkage 4/21/2017

Jason Chaffetz chooses not to run in 2018.  John Ossoff almost pulled it off in deep red Georgia.  Damn. Things might actually be looking up.

Oh wait, Trump is talking tough about North Korea.  Mike Pence is talking tough about North Korea.  Is it time for the tail to wag the dog and our lunatic politicians to wrap themselves in the flag before starting a war.  Worked for W.  Too bad it did not work out for the country.

On to the links…

The United States of Work—Read this entire article before commenting or dashing off a response email.  Think about its implications.  Our private employers have become a de facto parallel state to the federal government.

7 Reasons Why Today’s Left Should be Optimistic—I have hope because when you actually ask people if they support things like single payer healthcare, social security, worker protections, etc. the support is overwhelming.  We just need to translate that support into votes.  Ahh, the easy stuff.

6 Ways Trump’s Administration Could Literally Make America More Toxic—Our vigilance is required more than ever.  Plus, we have the opportunity to hit members of Congress with the reality that they have supported an administration that has made the air and water we depend on for life more toxic.  Defend that in front of the people.

6 Times Trump’s EPA Head did Exactly what Industry Told Him To—Scott Pruitt is the fossil fuel industry’s meat puppet.  He does what they want and that has allowed him to rise to his current position.  He is not an original thinker or a policy professional.  He is a shill for fossil fuels.

The 3 Stages of a Country Embracing Renewable Energy—I’ve got a number thing going on this week.  It’s a little bit too much like Harvard writing, but the idea is important.  What the world will look like as countries enter into the third stage of renewable energy development will be critical to our future on this planet.

Climate’s New Best Friend—Get used to the term “stranded assets.”  Basically, oil companies made plans to develop fossil fuel sources when prices were high.  Now that oil is under $60 a barrel these projects are no longer cost competitive.  Hence, stranded assets.

Europe’s Coal Power Is Going up in Smoke – Fast—The death spiral is real in Europe.

Ice Energy & NRG Announce World’s Largest Ice Bear Energy Storage Deployment—Shifting peak electricity demand is a huge component of making our grid greener as the prime hours of solar production are just short of the peak demand from residential users.  Plus, the wind blows hard at night when no one is using electricity.  This is a low tech, established solution to shift demand to other times of the day.

Walmart Secures 40 MWh of Energy Storage for Southern California Stores—Big box stores are a prime location for energy storage.  Why?  Land, lots of land, parking lots, and a need to make sure that the freezers stay cold so they do not lose thousands of dollars’ worth of frozen pizzas in a power outage.  Helping to balance the demand load is a nice little side benefit.

Here’s What Our Food Might Look Like in a Climate Change-Induced Dystopia—Top Chef Hunger Games this is not.

Tokyo’s Skyline Set to See 45 New Skyscrapers by 2020 Olympics—When people tell me that we cannot quickly add buildings to our urban landscape for housing I wonder what they would say about Tokyo?

One Key Way Soggy California Could Save Water for the Next Dry Spell—California may be out of the worst of its recent drought, but the state is essentially on a roller coaster of moisture and has been for thousands of years.  Preparing the landscape for the next cycle is critical.

Why Shopping Should be a Last Resort—We should all have a copy of this taped to the door of our refrigerators at home:

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You Must Read—American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

We are what we eat, we are told. But we Americans do not eat what we truly are. We are an ocean nation, a country that controls more sea than land and more fishing grounds than any other nation on earth. And yet we have systematically reengineered our landscapes , our economy, and our society away from the sea’s influence. As of 2012, Americans ate a little less than 15 pounds of seafood per person per year, well below half the global per capita average and miniscule in comparison with the 202 pounds of red meat and poultry we consume. [Page 233]

Paul Greenberg is familiar to readers of this blog because I was a big fan of his prior book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. The author is back with a take on seafood that is closer to home, which is appropriate given the rapid rise in local food movements across the United States.

51dbCQm3YhLAmerican Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood is about the relative dearth of seafood eaten by American diners that is sourced from American waters. Through the lens of three types of seafood—oysters, shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaskan salmon—Greenberg illustrates the odd market forces at work with respect to American sourced seafood.

Nothing illustrates his point better than the juxtaposition of Alaskan salmon and imported tilapia:

It was then and there that it hit me—the bizarre devil’s bargain that Americans have entered into with their seafood supply. Americans now harvest our best , most nutritious fish in our best-managed Alaskan fisheries and send those fish over to Asia. In exchange, we are importing fish farmed in Asia, with little of the brain-building compounds fish eaters are seeking when they eat fish. [Page 190]

Yes, we basically trade Alaskan salmon for fish that is barely fish. Tilapia is fish with training wheels. It is fish for people who find the flavor of cod, haddock, or Pollock not quite bland enough. My father, who slurped oysters with the best of them, referred to it as “Chinese junk fish” because it offered none of the benefits of fish while serving up a host of economic and environmental concerns.

We, as a whole, do not really consider the bounty of the sea. Cattle and the steaks that are cut from their carcasses are the apex foodstuff that comes from American land followed closely by the legions of swine and chickens processed into McRibs and nuggets of various odd shapes:

We need to understand that the marshes of Louisiana are not just an idyll to observe egrets and alligators; they are a food system, one that provides a large portion of the catch in the continental United States. If we choose to , we can support the environment that is home to shrimp, redfish, bluefish, blue crabs, oysters, flounder, sea trout, and others. Yes, there is a small risk of contamination from eating wild seafood from the Gulf. But that risk, when compared to all the other food risks we take as a nation, is infinitesimal. [Page 155]

It’s about consumer behavior and realizing the bounty that is present on our shores. If we could just get out of the whole bland white shrimp, slightly pink salmon, and piles of tilapia complex their could be a huge outpouring of economic support for American seafood. The challenge lies in getting people to accept something that is outside of their comfort zone. Ironically, this has been done already with more familiar land based foods. A few years ago odd cuts of beef like flank or skirt were sold for a fraction of the price of more mainstream cuts, but now those flavorful cuts command a premium. Heritage breeds of pork and poultry populate our palates in increasing numbers every year. Why can’t we do the same with food that swims?

But the future of the American catch depends not only on American governance , but also on the behavior of American consumers. There is no more intimate relationship we can have with our environment than to eat from it. [Page 16]

Take a weekend, read Greenberg’s American Catch, and think about the next type of seafood that you order at a restaurant or buy at the supermarket. Make it Alaskan salmon or Gulf shrimp or an odd filet that the fishmonger at the co-op is all excited about that week. America depends on it.

Friday Linkage 9/11/2015

Winter is coming. At least that is what my daughter thinks now that the air conditioning is off for the summer and the night time temperature is dropping into the 40s. She is constantly asking how many days it is until ski resorts in Colorado open. We might have created a monster here.

On to the links…

US Solar Capacity Now Exceeds 20 GW—Believe it. I am hoping to add my own little bit to this number before the close of the year with an approximately 5 kWh system on a west facing roof. Permits be damned.

Why Solar PV is Unstoppable – and Renewable Targets will Cost Little—Fossil fuels are looking over their shoulder at the ultimate killer app in solar. Once deployed it is cheap because the fuel is free and the lifespan is long because the technology is solid state.

The Default Move For US Oil Is Downward. Here’s Why—An interesting technical analysis of the recent drop in oil prices and why we may be looking at a new normal. I think this price drop is a temporary reprieve that gives our economy some breathing room to start making a real transition away from fossil fuels.

Kauai Utility Signs Deal with SolarCity on Energy System to Provide Power at Night—Hawaii has mad renewable energy potential, but the problem is that peak demand continues after the period of peak production crests. This pilot project aims to level out some of that disparity and pump clean power back into the grid after the sun goes down.

Colorado Invests $1.2M In Low-Income Community Solar Projects—One of the biggest and most poignant critiques of solar is that it is something reserved for people with a large degree of discretionary income. Community solar that is subsidized by some degree may be an answer to this critique.

India’s Installed Solar Power Capacity Tops 4 GW—I am kind of a solar junkie when it comes to news stories. I love hearing/reading about new milestones.

Delhi Eyes 2 GW Rooftop Solar Power Capacity By 2022—Remember, this is rooftop solar so it is going on top of existing buildings instead of taking up ground in greenfield or brownfield sites. What is the potential across the world for such an endeavor.

India’s Wind Energy Potential Upgraded To 302 GW—The interesting thing about this number is that slightly more than half is available in what is considered waste land.

How Australia’s Electricity Demand Is Slashed By Solar PV—Simply put when solar panels are producing the most power is when there is a spike in demand. Point of use solar power generation is knocking down the peak of demand.

From Icky Bugs to Good Grub: Why More People are Eating Insects—I think that I read one or two of these stories each year that claims the boom in eating insects is a year or so away. It feels a lot like nuclear fusion. It’s a ten years away and that was true ten years ago.

In Praise of Cheap Knives—I am always reminded of a woodworker I knew who collected beautiful tools in a manicured shop, but no one could ever recall him actually building anything.

Winners and Losers in the Search for Lactose Free Living, So Far

It’s been an interesting month or so since my wife and I discovered that our daughter was lactose intolerant. The most unfortunate side effect of finding out this fact is that a seven year old has developed some attachments to certain foodstuffs that she can no longer eat. Parmesan cheese anyone?

Many trips to the New Pioneer Food Coop have turned into treasure hunts for dairy-free or, at the very least, lactose free versions of foods you normally associate with the dairy aisle. Naturally, there have been some winners and losers sitting on the shelf.

Winners:

Vegan American Cheese—We do not really eat American cheese on anything other than grilled burgers and grilled cheese. It’s kind of a one-off menu item, but those grilled cheeses are damn important when it is six o’clock on a weekday and you do not have anything in the refrigerator for dinner. Granted, American cheese of the dairy variety seems to defy logic as a dairy product given its highly processed nature.

Soy Ice Cream—There was nothing quite like the look on my daughter’s face when she realized that she was not going to be relegated to fruit pops and those bizarre ice pouches. I think that we probably spent more than $20 picking up a sampler pack of different soy based frozen treats. It’s the little things that can really make a difference.

Vegan Carrot Cake—This is a New Pioneer Food Coop bakery item, so your availability may be limited. My daughter went nuts for this slice of carrot heaven. She is requesting this as her birthday cake in December.

Need Pizzeria’s Vegan Cheese Option—I do not know if it is soy or rice or nut based, but my daughter devoured a personal size pizza the other day at this new establishment. Located in downtown Cedar Rapids, Need Pizzeria will be getting my business due to the cheese option and a great selection of local beers.

Losers:

Vegan Cream Cheese—My daughter loves cream cheese and bagels. Instead of a sandwich in her school lunch she would like a bagel with cream cheese. The vegan substitute was just not working.

Still Looking:

Parmesan Cheese Alternative—Please, tell me there is something that I can use to replace the Parmesan cheese in my daughter’s diet. She may actually choose to endure the upset stomach in order to enjoy her yummy cheese.

Making Tomato Sauce the Easy Way

When high summer rolls around in Iowa we are blessed with few things more glorious than heaping mounds of sweet corn and baskets full of tomatoes. The sweet corn usually ends up being eaten about as quick as it is picked leaving behind piles of husks and cobs that get dumped into the Yardy cart. Tomatoes are a little more problematic because it seems like the plants start to produce so much for such a short period of time you are left wondering how you will eat any more caprese salad.

My solution is to turn the baskets full of odd shaped red orbs into a basic tomato sauce that can be turned into pasta sauce or pizza sauce or the tomato base for just about anything you heart desires when the temperature drops below freezing.

A lot of people will tell you to go down the score and skin method of preparing your tomatoes. Not this guy. I opt for a much simpler method using the oven and a food mill.

First, I cut the stems off the tomatoes and slice the fruit in half. A lot of tomatoes fit on a full-size pan:

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Put the pan into an oven at 325 degrees. Sometimes they tomatoes are ready in little more than an hour and sometimes it takes closer to two hours. Unlike some other internet recipe gurus I do not like to roast the tomatoes until they are blackened. I like them to look something like this:

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With the food mill you do not need to worry about the skins or seeds. Just scoop the roasted tomatoes into the food mill, set up with a medium die, and turn. In less than ten minutes you will have a bowl full of basic tomato sauce:

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After letting it cool to room temperature I bag the sauce in quart freezer bags and freeze the sauce for use later on. It cannot get much simpler than that.

For my basic sauce I do not oil or season the tomatoes in any way. This way I can use the sauce in any number of ways. For pasta sauce in the winter I combine a measure of the sauce with some sautéed onions, garlic, and reduced white wine. It becomes the Swiss Army sauce out of my freezer.

Is that Salsa Safe to Eat?

You know the tyranny of the sell by date, right? You find a jar of peanut butter, salsa, frosting, etc. in the back of the pantry where it languished for several months or more and the magic date printed in barely legible writing has passed. Into the garbage, right?

Well, if you were a college student who did not subsidize a lavish lifestyle with student loans you are too familiar with eating something “past its date” and wondering the next morning if gastrointestinal distress is going to be your companion for the weekend. Does ramen ever really go bad?

EatByDate is you new handy resource to tell you how much past that expiration date the food in your pantry can be without posing a risk your stomach’s health. Remember, most of the dates on food are “sell by” or “best by” dates, which do not necessarily correlate to a date at which the food is no longer safe to eat. A lot of these dates are figured by the manufacturer for various reasons not related to food safety. Just because that bag of Doritos is stale does not mean that those Doritos are unsafe to consume.

For example, take peanut butter. In my house we buy peanut butter at a warehouse store because my two children sometimes go on binges where peanut butter seems like the only menu item. However, children’s taste buds are fickle and that second jar in a monster size two pack sits for a little bit too long or we somehow doubled up buying peanut butter. If you enter peanut butter into the search tool and clock on the first result a chart like this appears:

EatByDate Peanut Butter

A lot of other information is contained on the page relating to telling if the particular food item in question has spoiled and how long an ingredient can be in a recipe before going rogue.

This seems like a tool for the cost conscious among us, but it is also an important eco-tool considering just how much food we waste in the western world. Estimates vary, but in the middle of the spectrum it is estimated that between a quarter to a third of food is wasted. When you think about the estimates for the increased in food production required to feed a growing human population this inefficiency cannot be ignored.

What is this Stuff: IKEA Brödmix Flerkorn

I am sucker for the IKEA market section that is present in every store I have visited immediately after the minor hell that is checking out of the housewares portion of the store. Seriously, could people act any stranger than they do during checkout at IKEA?

Usually, I pick up a handful of chocolate bars for the trip home, peruse the oddities, and maybe score a jar of lingonberry jam. This time I grabbed a package of this stuff:

Brodmix Box

What exactly is Brödmix Flerkorn.  You can take IKEA’s description—A full-bodied multi-grain bread kit – just add water! Serve with butter and optional toppings—but that seemed like a sales pitch at its best.

Brödmix Flerkorn is Swedish for multi-grain bread mix. The ingredients bear out that description containing wheat flour, wheat flakes, rye flakes, coarse rye flour, sunflower kernels, wheat starch, linseed, malt, sourdough powder, salt, and dried yeast. As the description says, you just add water:

Brodmix Dough

It’s not a very appealing loaf pan of dough. Apparently, this is a fair facsimile of a rye bread that is popular in northern Europe and Scandinavia. The finished product does not appear much different:

Brodmix Loaf

As there is not much gluten in the wet mix—not gluten free mind you—the bread does not rise very much and is very dense. Also, because it is multi-grain it is quite crumbly. If you could make a loaf of bread out of a pan of wet Grape Nuts you kind of get the idea of what this bread is like.

Slathered with sour cherry preserves it is edible, but that is about the most charitable adjective I can apply to this particular recipe. I am not about to trade in my bread from New Pi with a box from IKEA.