Posts tagged ‘Food and Drink’

ID is Not Required to Buy Cooking Wine

By Chad Upton

The laws and store policies around the products that require ID and the ones that don’t, are sometimes confusing.

I was in Target a while back and bought a can of compressed air to clean my dusty laptop. I was surprised when they asked for ID at the checkout.

Apparently some people like to get high from the propellant in canned air. It’s unfortunate, these are not recreational drugs, these are asphyxiates that displace the oxygen in the air, reducing the oxygen that reaches your brain and eventually causes death. The solution is to require ID for purchase, although even a 42 year old man died from “huffing” canned air.

Even when you’re using these products as intended, you should avoid inhaling the fumes and ensure adequate ventilation.

I was at Target a few weeks later, looking for ramekins to make Crème brûlée. I also needed a butane blowtorch to caramelize the top of the custard. It turns out that you can buy butane torches and fuel without ID. Thinking back to my teenage years, a blowtorch would have been much more fun than a can of air.

But, cooking wine has the most interesting story.

It ranges from 10%-13% alcohol and anybody can buy cooking wine at the grocery store. They even sell it in grocery stores in “dry” areas, where no alcoholic drinks are sold. In fact, Safeway requires ID to buy cough syrup, but not for cooking wine. Some cough syrup, such as NyQuil, contains alcohol. Other cough and cold medications contain a drug known as Dextromethorphan, which is a dissociative psychedelic drug.

My friend Molly told me about this cooking wine loophole and gave me a sample of the product. If you’ve ever tasted cooking wine on it’s own, you’ll understand why anyone is allowed to buy it. Nobody would ever consume it on its own, it’s simply awful.

Wine that is sold as “cooking wine” is usually grape or rice wine. It is then adulterated with salt, which makes it less suitable for cooking and even more undrinkable. If you’re making a recipe that calls for wine, use wine that you’d actually drink and use a wine that pairs well with the food you’re cooking.

Cooking wine has a lot of salt for coloring and as a preservative. Because cooking wine is consumed very slowly, the salt prevents acedic acid from forming and turning it into wine vinegar.

Oh, and if you’re going to make Crème brûlée, my friend Mike showed me that you should skip the butane and go with propane — it has a wider flame that heats more evenly, which gives much better results and in less time.

Broken Secrets

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Sources: Wikipedia (Cooking Wine, Difluoroethane, Dextromethorphan), MSDS, Cooking Wine Without ID (1, 2), Dry Counties, NyQuil

Photo: anitasarkeesian (cc)

July 20, 2010 at 5:00 am 13 comments

Desktop Snacking Without a Greasy Keyboard

With more work and less help, it’s no surprise that nearly 70% of Americans eat lunch at their desks. At 61% the majority of people also snack at their desk throughout the day.

All that food is one reason keyboards and mice are have more bacteria than most toilet seats. Also, office toilet seats are usually sanitized daily, when was the last time your keyboard or mouse were?

This tip is helpful because your hands never touch your food. This prevents your keyboard from getting dirtier and it keeps your hands from passing bacteria to your mouth.

1. Pour bite-size snacks into a cup or glass.

2. Angle cup into your mouth so bite-size snacks fall into your mouth.

3. Chew, swallow and repeat from step 2.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Home Food Safety Org, ABC News

July 5, 2010 at 5:00 am 9 comments

How to Chop Food Quickly, Safely and Easily

The difference between an amateur and a professional is their technique and practice.

In this case, it’s fairly easy to do it like a pro. You just need to know the right technique.

For a quick tutorial, watch this video from Chef Jacob (if you can’t watch the video, read below).

When you’re slicing, dicing and chopping vegetables, you’ll place one hand on the knife and use your other hand to hold the food and guide the knife. The knuckles on your guide hand will maintain constant contact with the side of the knife. You will curl your fingers under your knuckles to protect them from the cutting edge of the knife. Your thumb will oppose your knuckles and stabilize the food. You can see the correct hand position in the photo below:

For those of us who have never been to culinary school or worked in a restaurant, this is a tip that we can really benefit from.

Thanks to Chef Jacob of FreeCulinarySchool.com.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Source and Photo: @ChefJacob

June 29, 2010 at 5:00 am 1 comment

Cats Cannot Taste Sweetness in Food

My favorite classic science fair exhibit is the taste buds booth.

It’s like going to the electronics department in Costco — you eat free food samples while some kid tells you stuff you’ll never remember because all you’re thinking about is how you can get away from the booth without it looking like you just came over for the free food samples.

Taste has been studied for a long time. In 1901, Harvard professor Edwin G. Boring  published a paper that stated different taste receptors can be found on different parts of the human tongue. His last name was Boring, but his work was not. In fact, his work is slightly controversial since all areas of the tongue are sensitive to all tastes; however, some areas are more sensitive than others.

Some wine and beer glasses are shaped to encourage the liquid to hit certain parts of your tongue first, this is supposed to deliver the ideal taste sensation for that drink.

There are five generally accepted taste sensations:

  • Sweet
  • Bitter
  • Savory
  • Salty
  • Sour

Most mammals can experience all of these sensations. There are some exceptions, particularly with sweetness. New world monkeys do not perceive aspartame as sweet. Humans, apes and old world monkeys do. Cats cannot taste sweetness at all.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Wikipedia (taste buds, sweetness, wine glass), Scientific American

June 17, 2010 at 12:38 am 7 comments

Why Chocolate is Dangerous for Dogs and Not Humans

Whether it was your idea or not, your dog or cat may swallow chocolate at sometime in their life.

You want to avoid that since there are two toxins in chocolate that can have adverse affects on your pets: caffeine and theobromine.

Both of these drugs are very similar, but chocolate contains a lot more theobromine than caffeine. Theobromine does not affect the human nervous system as much as caffeine, nor is it as addictive as caffeine. But, theobromine is still addictive and believed to be the agent that causes Chocolate addiction. It is also believed to be responsible for chocolate’s notoriety as an aphrodisiac.

Although theobromine increases heart rate in humans, it also dilates blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure. In fact, it is superior to codeine at suppressing cough and can be helpful in relaxing muscles to alleviate symptoms of asthma.

Humans are able to consume chocolate in moderation because we can breakdown theobromine fairly quickly. In dogs, cats, rats and other species, they cannot digest it efficiently. This leads to a buildup of this toxin and is known as theogromine poisoning. Actually, this can also happen to elderly people who consume large quantities of chocolate.

For animals, a dangerous quantity of chocolate depends on the type of chocolate. Milk chocolate is not as dangerous as semisweet chocolate and it’s not as dangerous as cocoa powder.

Milk chocolate contains approx 44-64 milligrams of theobromine per ounce. Semi-sweet chocolate is about 150-160 mg/oz. Cocoa powder is 800 mg/oz.

A toxic dose for pets is 100-200 mg/kg of body weight (1 kg = 2.2 pounds). That said, problems can still be evident with smaller doses.

Signs of toxicity include:

  • Excitement, nervousness, trembling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death (usually a result of other problems caused by the toxin)

As much as people like to treat their pets like humans, they are not human and should not be treated like humans when it comes to diet. There are many other human foods that are not recommended and poisonous to pets:

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Coffee
  • Fatty Foods
  • Onions
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Salt
  • Yeast dough
  • Garlic
  • Artificial sweetener

Pet’s digestive systems are very different from humans. Checkout Vetinfo for more details on why some of the above foods should not be fed to your animals.

Thanks to Ryan W for suggesting this secret.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Wikipedia (Theobromine), About.com, Vetinfo

June 16, 2010 at 1:09 am 7 comments

You Can’t Grow Hemp in the US But You Can Import It

Hemp is a plant with a long and interesting history, especially in the United States.

Farmers cannot freely grow hemp in the US, but many companies import hemp products for resale, mostly from Canada and the UK.

The problem is that hemp is from the same plant family (genus) as marijuana. But hemp is not a drug, it is a raw material that is used much like cotton. We all know that cotton is great, we use it for making: t-shirts, socks, denim for blue-jeans, fishnets, coffee filters, paper and many other things. Considering everything we use it for, it’s a miracle plant.

But, cotton has some limitations. It can only be grown in areas that get a lot of sunshine, have consistent rainfall and long frost-free periods. Cotton also requires a lot of pesticides: 50% of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on cotton.

Imagine a plant with all the benefits of cotton, but it has even stronger fibers, could be grown anywhere in the country and doesn’t require pesticides or herbicides.

That plant is called hemp.

At the risk of sounding like a huge hippie, hemp is a perfect plant. Frankly, I am not a hippie — I only own one hemp product: hemp protein powder.

Hemp as a food source is one example of why it’s so perfect. The seeds contain all of the essential fatty acids and essential amino acids required for a human to be healthy. It also contains a lot of fiber, another essential part of the human diet.

When used as a textile, hemp is stronger and more mildew resistant than cotton. For that reason, hemp is an excellent material for making canvas boat sails, and it was used for that exact purpose by Christopher Columbus. (more…)

June 1, 2010 at 5:00 am 11 comments

You Can Stop Your Microwave From Rotating

My friend Neil is pretty healthy, he lived for a few years with no microwave at all. It forced him to eat fresh food, a healthy alternative to frozen foods that are made for the microwave. That said, the microwave can also be your best friend.

It’s great for heating water, making rice and one of my favorites: bacon (use a bacon tray to do it well). I remember the first microwave we got, I think it was 1986. That thing changed out lives. No longer did we have to wait 4 minutes for popcorn on the stove, we could do it in the microwave in 3.5 minutes. It was a magical device.

Some microwaves rotate inside, which is great — that heats food more evenly. Although, it’s not great when a large dish doesn’t fit on the turntable, it sounds like tennis shoes in the dryer.

That’s why they put the turntable on/off button on the microwave. I discovered this about two years ago and everyone I’ve told since has been completely surprised.

Don’t forget my other microwave secret, you can use foil in the microwave.

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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May 27, 2010 at 5:00 am 4 comments

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