Archive for August, 2017

When Did Politics Become A Religion?

August 10, 2017

 

Politics have become a religion. Wait a minute, hear me out on this one.

If religion is defined as a set of beliefs held with ardor and faith, than today’s political climate is definately religious.

Whether a Democrat or a Republican, people hold so tightly to their beliefs that any challenges to those ideals are completely shut down, often with a vengeance.

Those who defend our current president, will do so without limits. He himself once said that “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” He appears to be right on that account. While currently only 33% of Americans approve of the job he is doing, those people will defend his every move, however outrageous, or treasonous it may be, as they devoutly believe that he is the savior of the American people.

Those who dislike the current administration will not budge on their conviction that he is going to ruin our country, and that everything he, or his advisors say is should be considered egregious.

The two factions hold on to their theories for dear life, not open to even considering that the other side could be correct. They believe what they believe, and like religion, it is not to be questioned or challenged.

The extensive array of news sources provide fuel for our fodder. Where the major networks and newspapers were once the only trusted sources, there are now tens of thousands of papers, websites and opinions out there to choose from. Suddenly, we pick and choose our facts, based on what we want them to be. Lies? “Alternative facts” are what we call them now.

I remember when we were first about to become parents, I concluded that if you read enough baby books, you would find one that agrees with the way you want to raise your child. Co-sleeping or sleep training; time outs or more time together; whatever feels right to you is correct, and you can find a so-called “expert” who wrote a book to tell you that it is the best thing to do for your child’s well-being.  Politics have become the same way.  Whatever you want to believe happened, there is a news organization which will tell you that it is what “really” happened. From the lips of our chief executive, to those of our “trusted” newscasters, we embrace and accredit the reports we choose to believe. You can almost always find a story that will take either point of view, right or wrong,  if you look hard enough. And if you can’t, just read the comments and there will be hundreds of rude attacks condeming the article and anyone who might agree with it, in an often not so eloquent manner. (Tip: You will be perceived as more intelligent if you don’t have spelling and grammatical errors in your rebuttal.)

Oh, and if you can’t find a way to defend someone, just trash their opponent. It’s a great distraction when you don’t have a leg to stand on, but aren’t willing to accept the reality of what is being said. You can even call them cute little names, like Libtard, and Snowflake.

Politics and current events are unfolding before our very eyes. We don’t need to rely on information from a book written thousands of years ago to guide us through it, yet many are not willing to let go of their beliefs, to react and respond to what is happening in realtime. Jews rarely become Christians, and neither group tend to become Muslim or Buddhist. It’s not how they were raised, and it doesn’t conform to their doctrine.

In decades past, politics were black and white. They were factual and explainable, whether or not you agreed with the decisions being made. Now, politics have become a chosen belief system that guides one’s morals and values on somewhat blind faith. Just like… religion.

photo: Glasshouse Images 

 

 

 

 

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Rinsing Rice and Grains

August 8, 2017

When cooking rice and grains, most people just put them in a pot with the requisite liquid and follow the directions for cook time. There is a crucial step that is often over looked, and that is rinsing.

Rinsing grains dates back to a time and place when they weren’t processed and boxed like they are today. While most grains purchased in the USA aren’t considered toxic, they could benefit from a good rinse.

Rice: Giving rice a rinse takes off some of the surface starch, resulting in a less sticky end product. Many also notice debris in the rinse water, especially when the rice came from the bulk bins rather than a box. Imported rices, such as basmati and jasmine may have talc, or powdered glucose on them to make them appear cleaner looking. Looking cleaner, and being cleaner are two very different things, and it is advisable to rinse the talc off before cooking.

Other grains, such as quinoa, farro and barley benefit from a rinse, not only to remove debris, but to remove any saponins that may still linger. While domestically packaged quinoa has been treated to remove the dangerous coating, residual saponins are the source of the unpleasant and bitter flavor that sometimes occurs in cooking quinoa.

Rinse the grains either by running them under water in a fine mesh sieve, or by submerging them in cool water, straining them, and resubmerging them in fresh water until no more debris floats to the surface.

Soaking grains (and legumes) cuts down on the phytic acid, a compound which can make these foods harder to digest. Soaking also jumpstarts the process, cuts down on cooking time and tends to yield a better texture.

Taking the time to rinse grains is akin to taking the time to rinse vegetables. Well worth the extra few minutes for a safer, and better outcome.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

August 1, 2017

They are both white powders whose roles are to help your baked goods rise. They are often in similar packaging, and although they look the same, and have similar end uses, they are very different. I’m talking about baking powder, and baking soda.

Trust me, I have tossed multiple batches of scones because I grabbed the wrong container. While they looked ok, albiet a little more bronzed than usual, the taste of two tablespoons of baking soda is not the same as the required two tablespoons of baking powder.

Baking soda, is a base mineral, which when combined with acids produces carbon dioxide, and in turn, bubbles. Remember those grade school volcanos, where you mixed baking soda and vinegar to create an eruption?
In baking, it is usually something a bit less overtly acidic, like brown sugar, yogurt, buttermilk, lemon, or even pumpkin, that creates the more subtle reaction. The acid also interacts with the gasses to counteract that bitter, almost metallic taste that my scones had. Things baked with soda are usually crisper and more browned that those made with powder.

Baking powder, on the other hand, consists of baking soda, cream of tarter ( or another dry acid), and cornstarch. Most commercial baking powders are double acting. This means that the leavening is activated the first time it comes in contact with liquid, and the second action is heat activated. This allows it to be used without other acidic ingredients, without the nasty aftertaste.

Recipes sometimes call for a mixture of both products. This is usually the case where you don’t want to neutralize all the acidic flavor, such as when making buttermilk pancakes, but don’t want the bitter soapy flavor that comes with it. The delicate balance between the two, create the rise, keep the tang, and reduce the bitterness.

Remember that both of these products have a shelf life. Be sure to check dates to insure that the leavener of choice still has the power to lift your baked goods. To tell if baking powder is still fresh, you can place a 1/2 teaspoon in a bowl and add 1/4 cup boiling water. If it bubbles up, it is still good.  To check the freshness of baking soda, place a spoonful into a bowl, and add a little lemon juice, or vinegar. It should produce bubbles if it is active.

Also note,that batters relying on baking soda should be baked as soon as possible, where baking powder based batters and doughs can usually wait to be baked, as some of the “poof power” is heat activated.

Confused? We hope not, but just in case, the most important take aways here, are that these items are not interchangeable, and must be fresh to do their jobs. Oh, and if you are like me, to always look twice to make sure that you have the right cylander in your hand before you scoop!

 

 

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