Friday, March 30, 2012

Iced Tea

Summer is coming and with that the amount of iced tea being drunk will increase. If you make your own iced tea it is a very cheap drink. Tea also has many reported health benefits.

Studies that support the health benefits of tea drinking keep filling the headlines. There’s simply no denying that a daily spot of tea does the body good. Even though researchers can’t quite agree on every aspect, the fact is that a few cups a day will do its best to protect you from heart disease, stroke, cancer, and more.

What Makes Tea Good for the Body?

Tea contains high levels of antioxidants, some of which are called polyphenols, flavonoids, and catechins, and all of which take on the “free radicals” in the body and prevent them from harming the healthy cells on board. In other words, sending in antioxidants is disease prevention in its finest form.

Heart Benefits:

• Study finds tea drinkers have lower blood pressure (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004).

• Tea may lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease (Journal of Nutrition, 2003).

• Black tea may lower “bad” cholesterol (United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, 2003).

• Tea consumption may help heart disease patients (Circulation: The Journal of the American Heart Association, 2001).

Cancer Prevention:

• Green tea could help stem esophageal cancer. (Harvard Medical School, 2004).

• Green and black tea can slow down the spread of prostate cancer (Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, 2004).

• Tea may protect against cancer caused by smoking. (Journal of Nutrition, 2003).

• Green tea and white tea fight colon cancer (Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University study, Carcinogenesis, 2003).

• Hot tea may lower risk of some skin cancers (University of Arizona study, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention (Vol. 9, No. 7), 2001).

• Green tea consumption may lower stomach cancer risk (University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Public Health study, International Journal of Cancer (Vol. 92: 600-604), 2001).

Hypertension-Reducing Benefits:

• Green and oolong teas reduce risk of hypertension (National Cheng Kung University study, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004).

Immunity-Boosting Benefits

• Tea believed to boost the body’s defenses (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2003)

Leukemia-Fighting Benefits:

• A green tea component helps kill leukemia cells (Mayo Clinic, 2004).

Alzheimer’s-Fighting Benefits:

• Drinking tea might delay Alzheimer's Disease (Newcastle University's Medicinal Plant Research Centre study, Phytotherapy Research, 2004).

AIDS-Fighting Benefits:

• Tea may play a role as an AIDS fighter (University of Tokyo, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2003).

Are All Teas Equally Good for the Body?

This is a question researchers are still squabbling over. Does green tea have more antioxidants than black tea? Should I drink instant tea or loose leaf tea for better health benefits? Is hot tea better than iced tea? And here’s what it comes down to:

• Higher quality teas may have more catechin antioxidants than lower quality teas.

• White tea has more antioxidants than any other tea.

• Green tea has more catechin antioxidants than black tea since black tea goes through more processing.

• Unfermented rooibos tea has more polyphenol antioxidants than fermented rooibos.

• Freshly brewed teas have more polyphenol antioxidants than instant or bottled teas.

• More researchers seem to agree that brewed (cold or hot) or caffeinated tea has more antioxidants than instant teas.

There are basically three ways to make tea; Hot brewed, Sun-brewed, and Cold brewed. The tea package should have directions for each method. I much prefer cold-brewed tea. To me, cold-brewed tea has none of the bitterness of hot brewed tea and it is so simple to make. I prefer Lipton Cold-Brewed tea. It just takes two tea bags for a half gallon. I drink a half gallon of tea every three days so my tea stays fresh.

Some rules for brewing tea:

1. Use enough tea bags
When foods are served cold, the flavors become dull. A stronger tea - such as Darjeeling, Jasmine or green teas - is necessary to have a well-flavored tea served cold. Use two tea bags for every 3 cups of water for best results (this is a hot brew recipe; hot brew tea bags are smaller than cold brew bags)
2. Don't oversteep

If you prefer your tea stronger, use more tea bags rather than lengthening the steeping time. Allowing tea to overstep brings out the tannins in the tea and can make it bitter. For weaker tea, reduce the steeping time rather than taking away tea bags for better flavor.

3. Add sugar to hot water
If you sweeten your tea, add the sugar to the hot tea in order to dissolve the grains. If you prefer to sweeten your tea afterwards as per each persons taste, use a simple syrup rather than granulated sugar which will leave sugar grains in your glass.

4. Cool before refrigerating
Putting hot tea into a cold fridge will make your tea cloudy. Allow your tea to cool before you refrigerate.  If you do end up with cloudy tea, try adding a bit of boiling water to it – it will sometimes do the trick!

5. Keep it real
Don't use artificial lemon juice. Only use real fresh squeezed lemon juice from fresh lemons for the very best flavor.   

6. Fresh is best
Iced tea tastes best when it is freshly made. Make only what you will drink in two or three days. It's easy to make, so don't worry about having to mix up another batch!

Iced Tea is a cheap and easy drink with many health benefits.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

2012 Garden - The Start

This past winter was extremely harsh here in The Netherlands. Just two weeks ago it was going down well below freezing every night and the days were cool and cloudy. 

When the cold weather came in the late fall I covered the garden with a heavy sheet of plastic. At this time there were radishes, a few onions, lettuce, and carrots growing. The wind here is terrible so it took several tries to get it weighted down to where it wouldn't blow off. But finally I got it right. It doesn't look "wintery" in this photo but it was a very cold day and below freezing at night. Besides the plastic cover I had a dozen plastic bottles filled with water half buried to absorb and hold heat during the sunny part of the day to keep it warmer at night.

I thought I had a picture of the garden under a couple inches of snow and ice but I can't find it.

Today I pulled off the plastic and turned the soil under. The radishes did not survive and most of the lettuce didn't make it either. There are five lettuce plants left so they will give me an early start with some greens. The carrots were partially burned back from the cold but I cleaned out all the dead foliage. There are also only two onions still growing. If the days stay decent the carrots should start growing again. The very short winter days, less than six hours of sunlight, only allowed the plants to survive the winter but not to grow.

The carrots look like they are doing pretty good. Hopefully now they will start growing. This is the sunniest part of the garden. Now that the garden is uncovered I have to worry about the neighborhood cats and the birds digging up the garden. I'm hoping the fence and wire will at least keep them out of the carrot patch.

Why garden in the first place?

     WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Food-borne disease outbreaks in the United States caused by imports seemed to rise in 2009 and 2010, with fish and spices the most common sources, the Centers for Disease Control said. Almost half of the outbreaks, or localized epidemics, pointed to foods imported from areas that had not been linked to outbreaks before, the CDC said in a statement. "As our food supply becomes more global, people are eating foods from all over the world, potentially exposing them to germs from all corners of the world, too," said CDC epidemiologist Hannah Gould, lead author of a report on the upturn.
     From 2005 to 2010, 39 outbreaks and 2,348 illnesses were linked to imported food from 15 countries. Of those outbreaks, 17 occurred in 2009 and 2010. Overall, fish was the most common source of imported food-borne disease outbreaks at 17, followed by spices with six outbreaks, including five from fresh or dried peppers. Nearly 45 percent of the imported foods causing outbreaks came from Asia, the CDC said. Gould's report was presented on Wednesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta. According to the Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, food imports grew to $86 billion in 2010 from $41 billion in 1999. Much of that growth has occurred in fruit and vegetables, seafood and processed food products.
by Ian Simpson

Grow your own food so that you now what goes in the soil, on the plants, and that they are fresh and healthy.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

General Rules if you want to Eat Cheaply

  1. Never allow leftovers to go bad. I would cook one or two major meals per week. Sometimes this was a full-sized lasagna, sometimes fish that was on sale, sometimes a big pot of homemade spaghetti sauce or soup with lots of fresh vegetables added. It always included a big salad. This big meal would feed me dinners (and some lunches) for five or six days, and I could not afford to throw any of it away. I would eat leftovers almost every day. Every ounce of it was eaten over the course of the week. (J.D.’s note: Here’s an article on how to store your food so that it lasts longer.)
  2. Supplement with inexpensive foods. Many will say this is unhealthy. It would have been if it had been all that I ate, but I definitely ate a lot of Ramen and macaroni and cheese. These were bought when on sale: Ramen 7-for-$1 (a deal I’ve seen as recently as last week) and Mac & Cheese 3-for-$1. I also could get canned tuna 3-for-$1 easily, and once or twice a year as a loss leader for 5-for-$1. Poor man’s tuna casserole was a staple and would feed me for two or three meals: one package of mac & cheese with one can tuna mixed in.
  3. Shop in the produce aisle. This sounds counter-intuitive, because everyone “knows” that produce is expensive. But I would shop for the inexpensive produce (which tended to be seasonal). Potatoes, carrots, celery, lettuce, tomatoes (sometimes), oranges (sometimes), cabbage, etc. These all make great food and provide snacks that generally don’t spike your blood sugar like factory-made snacks do. Also, this may be obvious, but I would eat fruit in season. For example, apples were plentiful in the fall: I could get a bag for about $1 and would get one or two bags for the week. I would have apples with everything (and for snacks). Again, I could not afford to throw out a single apple, so I ate them all. And at that time of year, making an apple pie was in the budget too! (J.D.’s note: there’s an actual fitness regiment based around apples: The 3-Apple-a-Day Plan.)
  4. Never eat out. I couldn’t have bought more than four or five meals for my $15 weekly food budget, and that’s assuming the cheap breakfast place that had meals for $2.95 a plate. I needed to get at least 16 meals out of that $15, so there was no room for the luxury of eating out.
  5. Have substantial cereals for breakfast. Oatmeal and Grapenuts were keys to my success. They both filled me up and kept me filled up for much of the day. A single container of oatmeal — not the flavored packages, which are expensive and insubstantial, but the big boxes of loose Old Fashioned Oatmeal — would last slightly longer than a week, even if I ate it every day. At the time this cost about $1.99 per container. You can get it today easily for $2.99 per container.
  6. Avoid junk food. Not one candy bar, bag of chips, pre-made peanut butter cracker, store-bought cookie, “breakfast bar”, or pack of gum could be afforded. This didn’t mean I didn’t have snacks: a bag of popcorn cost about $1, and if I had the money available I would get one. Also, I had flour, sugar, water, eggs (usually), oil, and oatmeal, so sometimes I would make oatmeal cookies (with raisins if I was splurging). Sometimes saltines were on sale and I would usually have peanut butter on the shelf, so I could make peanut butter crackers if I wanted.
  7. Avoid pre-cooked foods. Frozen dinners, deli-made quiche, store-roasted chicken — all of these cost too much per serving. If I wanted quiche, I had to make it from scratch. The ingredients were in my budget and on my shelves. If I wanted chicken, I waited until it was on sale for $0.39/lb and roasted it myself. I then ate it for 6-8 meals before chucking the bones into a pot to make chicken soup and having that for another 6-8 meals.
  8. Buy a basic paperback cookbook. Because I had to make most things from scratch, I bought a paperback copy of what is often called “The Plaid Cookbook”: the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook. I think it cost $6 at that time, and was not part of my food budget, but it paid itself back many times over. (J.D.’s note: it only costs $8 now.) If I wanted to make lasagna, it told me how. Did I manage to buy a roast beef on sale? The cookbook told me how to avoid ruining it in the oven. Pumpkin pie? apple pie? quiche? roast chicken? all was explained, and often within my budget because I could make it from standard, inexpensive ingredients.
  9. Don’t buy beverages. There’s a reason Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. have been good investments and consistent earners across the years: they are selling you water. During this tough time I did not buy soda, or water, or coffee, or tea, or any beverage other than milk (which was reserved for my breakfasts, and only on weeks when I was having boxed cereal). I think I bought hot cocoa mix during the winter, and that lasted several weeks. If I needed a sugar drink I used a tablespoon or two of lemon juice — which I had on hand as a cooking supply — and a tablespoon or two of sugar in a tall glass of iced water: instant soft drink for possibly $0.10.
  10. Special Bonus Tip. I didn’t do this at the time, but I now know that using dried milk saves at least $1 per gallon. There are two tricks to using dried milk. First, invest in a glass container. I don’t know why, but dried milk tastes terrible when stored in plastic. Second, chill it. If you follow these two suggestions, you’ll be able to serve the milk to guests and they will never know. In fact, they will likely think you buy it from a dairy. (And yes, this is something that my family does now. We have been drinking almost exclusively dried milk for the last 7 years.) Dried milk also saves time and gas money: out of milk? No need to run to the convenience store, just mix it up. In this case we save almost $2.00 a gallon because milk is so much more expensive at the convenience store, and since the family drinks about a gallon a day, we save as much as $7-10 per week just by drinking dried milk.
Credit for this information goes to J. D. Roth, who once wrote for "Get Rich Slowly"