Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cantaloupe, the affordable superfood

Hey there! Hot enough for you? It was about 31 here yesterday and promises to be the same today. The newsfolk keep talking about Ottawa or Toronto being hotter than New Delhi or somewhere else. Maybe so but Bangkok is the hottest city on Earth day in and day out. It was 36C there yesterday! Pour yourself an Icespresso, why don’t’cha and help yourself to a virtual supermuffin while you’re about it. Speaking of super...

When we talk about superfoods, we tend to focus on expensive, exotic things like goji berries or aronia berries. But there are plenty of incredibly healthy foods that are within reach on a tighter budget. You can add cantaloupe to your growing list of affordable superfoods!

Superfood can be a confusing term, because it’s one that marketers often use to tout a food’s real or inflated health benefits. The meaning of the word superfood has been a bit altered by marketing efforts, and I think it’s time for us to co-opt it again. Can we just use superfood to mean food with proven health benefits? Isn’t that what we expect when we see “superfood” in the news or on food packaging?

We know that foods like quinoa, kale and collard greens are nutrient-dense, but there are lots of more humble fruits and veggies that deserve space on our plates. Cantaloupe is one of those unsung nutritional heroes, but not in the way that you might expect.

Cantaloupe’s Health Benefits: Just the Facts

A cup of cantaloupe has only 60 calories and is a good source of antioxidants. It delivers 120 percent of your daily vitamin A along with 108 percent of your daily vitamin C and 14 percent of your daily potassium requirements. It’s a good source of fiber, niacin, vitamin B6 and folic acid.

Cantaloupe is also an incredibly hydrating food, which is good news during this scorcher of a summer. A 177 gram serving of cantaloupe contains 160 grams of water, making it more than 90 percent water.

All of that is good, but overall it’s nothing to write home about. Lots of fruits and veggies provide these nutrients. What makes cantaloupe so special is its price point.

World’s Healthiest Foods explains that cantaloupe’s biggest benefit is that we tend to eat more of it than other fruits because it’s more affordable. I know that at my house we ration out the fresh berries, because a tiny pint-sized container costs a fortune.  A cup of cantaloupe costs 40 cents on average, while a cup of blueberries costs four times as much.

Consuming more fruits—including cantaloupe—is associated with a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, according to a 2006 study. Metabolic syndrome is actually a blanket term for conditions that increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes. It refers to symptoms like high blood pressure, a high waist to hip ratio, and high cholesterol.

When 20 to 25 percent of North Americans are suffering from metabolic syndrome, we need to promote healthy foods that are within reach, even on a budget. There’s a perception that eating healthy food has to cost a lot of money, and the way companies market pricey superfoods is part of what builds that false idea.

Cantaloupe seeds—which most people discard—are incredibly healthy, too. They’re a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. An analysis of a cantaloupe seed drink found that it was a good source of iron and magnesium, as well. There’s not a ton of research on the benefits of cantaloupe seeds, but what’s out there is definitely promising.

Cantaloupe gets a bad rap as the boring part of fruit salad, but there are more ways to eat it than just chopped up in a bowl without any fanfare. My favourite cantaloupe preparation is as a whole-fruit juice. Just throw some cubes into the blender, puree until smooth, and chill until you’re ready to drink or serve it up over ice. If you want a thinner drink, just add water until you reach the consistency you’re going for. Since cantaloupe is so high in water, you can drink chilled cantaloupe puree without straining out its healthy fiber. It has the consistency of tomato juice, and it’s super refreshing on a hot day.

You can also try chopping it up into a cucumber salad, baking it into muffins, freezing into a sorbet, or blending into your next smoothie. If you want to tap into the benefit of the seeds, try roasting them, like this recipe from The Kitchn:
To roast melon seeds, rinse, drain, and pat them dry. Toss the seeds with olive oil, salt, or other seasonings and toast them in a skillet until crispy and golden. You can also use the oven; spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 325°F for 20-40 minutes. Some people also brine the seeds first.

Hey...there are lots of things you can do with a cantaloupe without getting arrested. Let me know if you try any of the above, okay?

See ya, eh!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A 'Breaking Bad'Themed Cafe in Istanbul

G’day to you! Nice to see you spiralling down from cyberspace. I had the landing lights adjusted so they focus on the red carpet right next to the coffeepot. Better, eh! How’re you doing? Fill your coffee mug and snag a virtual doughnut while I fill your ears with the news of a badass coffeehouse you’ll want to try next time you find yourself in Istanbul...

If Breaking Bad’s Walter White ever decided to go into the coffee business and open his own cafe, it would probably look a lot like the awesome ‘Walter’s Coffee Roastery’, in Istanbul.

Inspired by the popular TV show Breaking Bad, Deniz Kosan, a young Turkish entrepreneur, has opened the “world’s first Coffee Super Lab.” 

Everything inside this unique cafe, right from the roasting equipment to the beaker-like espresso cups or the giant periodic table covering one of the walls reminds you of Walter White and his meth lab. 

Kosan, a big fan of Breaking Bad, and his cousin – who actually looks a lot like the chemistry professor turned criminal mastermind and even goes by the name Heisenberg- realized that there was a dearth of originality in the food industry, so they decided to open a coffee shop themed like a chemical lab.

Walter’s Coffee Roastery is not an officially licensed Breaking Bad venue – no actual names, terms, or logos from the TV series are used, but step into the and you’ll spot the many references in a heartbeat.

Looks like a place I’d like to visit although at the moment, Turkey is a little too close to the ISIS firing lines, methinks. Mind you, Turkish Airlines does sometimes have a good Toronto-Turkey-Bangkok airfare so who knows...

See ya, eh!


Monday, July 27, 2015

Helping Consumers and Heart Patients?

Pharmaceutical companies justify huge drug price markups on the ground that the research to develop the drug was, itself, hugely expensive. 

In February, a Canadian company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International*, decided to raise the price of two heart-saving drugs (Nitropress, Isuprel) by 212 percent and 525 percent, respectively, even though it had conducted no research on the drugs. 

That was because, reported The Wall Street Journal, all Valeant did was buy the rights to the already-approved drugs from another company (which, of course, had thought the drugs -- research and all -- had been fairly priced at the lower amounts). 

Said a Valeant spokesperson, "Our duty is to our shareholders and to maximize the value" of our products (even, apparently, if it owned the product for less than a day before jacking up the price as much as five-fold). 

Source: Wall Street Journal, 4-26-2015

*Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. is a publicly traded pharmaceutical company based in Montreal, Quebec. The company focuses on neurology, dermatology and infectious disease with several drugs in late-stage clinical trials and several currently on the market. In addition, Valeant has a portfolio of more than 500 products from its prior history as a group of specialty chemical and radiochemical research, development and supply companies with a history stretching back to the 1960s.

Valeant sells a wide range of drugs, including over-the counter medications and medical devices, as well as prescription drugs such as antidepressant Wellbutrin XL.[4] Kinerase, which uses kinetin as active ingredient, is one of the most popular products of Valeant.

An important part of the growth strategy for Valeant has been acquisitions, sometimes in the multi-billion dollar range, of medical and pharmaceutical companies. As of July 2015, the company was valued at over $116 billion by market capitalization, making it the largest public company in Canada and the largest pharmaceutical company in the nation.


$116 billion? No wonder, eh, with price hikes like the above. I mean, look at the way golf and country club membership fees have risen! 

See ya, eh!



Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kepler Telescope Finds Earth-like Planet

Hey there! Glad you could take a few minutes to spiral down from the cyber sky and join me for a mug of coffee and a virtual muffin or doughnut. Glad you could make it. Some interesting news from outer space, huh? You may have seen this on the news this week...

The Kepler Telescope, launched in 2009, orbits the earth in search of similar planets. Scientists are interested in planets with earth-like aspects because they might contain life. The telescope has discovered thousands of habitable planets since it has been launched six years ago.

Kepler 425b is its latest and most promising discovery. The planet is just slightly larger and hotter than our own. It is estimated to be 4% more massive and 10% hotter than Earth. A year on Kepler-425b is 385 days long, which is 5% longer than the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun. The only slightly more significant difference between Kepler-425b and Earth is the difference in circumference; Kepler-425b is 60% larger than Earth.

Kepler-425b is just one of twelve new planets to have been discovered that orbit their stars in the habitable zone. The habitable zone is just the right distance – not to close but not too far – that a planet has to be from a star in order for water to exist on it in liquid form. Current data cannot confirm the composition 425b’s surface. If the surface is indeed rocky, as the data suggest it is, then Kepler 425b is a serious candidate for potential life.

Even if no life at all will be discovered, the exciting discovery might reveal important information. Kepler 425-b is roughly 1.5 billion years older than Earth. Similarly, the star it orbits is also much older than our sun. A star exerts significantly more heat towards the end of its life. Therefore, Kepler 425b is possibly much hotter today than it was in the past. With this in mind, 425b may possibly forecast Earth’s conditions 1.5 billion years from now.

Okay...okay...but let's get down to the nitty gritty. Where do we line up for a Tim Hortons franchise? Does a Burger King store come with it?

See ya, eh!


(Photo By Shutterstock)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

One of Life's Fleeting Moments

Hiya! How’re you doing today? Got time for a coffee and a VT? Why not, eh? Say...I want to tell you about someone Nong and I met recently...

A couple weekends ago, we were out for our daily walk. It was a bright, sunny day and we were walking down Pitt St on our way to Cornwall Square. We happened to see a sign about an antique store just around the corner on 4th St.   

Always interested in odd stuff, we decided to stop in for a quick look. We met the owner and we chatted with him for 20-30 minutes about this, that and the other (such as the mandolin he had on the wall, e.g.). He seemed like a cheerful fellow. There were a couple of things I was interested in and promised I’d come back. Then we left and went on our way.

The fellow we met was John James Earle and he died less than a week later as a result of a scuba diving accident.

Life is strange, isn’t it? Sometimes people come into your life, even fleetingly, and now that I know more about him from the obits in the local papers - Standard Freeholder and Cornwall Seaway News, and despite his being 30 years younger than I am, I wish I had known him. Don’t know what will happen to his antique shop Earle’s Vintage (which was in his garage) but even if it remains open, I doubt it will be the same.

Born in 1972, John was a well-known fellow in town... an artist; ran for MPP; movie maker; sang and played in several bands including Rapunzel’s Tower, co-creator of a board game, always a new project on the go or thinking about (kind of like yours truly). Despite never smoking, John developed and survived tongue cancer... as a result of which, his singing ability was curtailed.  He loved to hunt and fish and from what I hear just loved life. Rest in peace, John.

20-30 minutes is not long enough to know someone...

See ya, eh.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Thai-Style Wide Noodles In Thick Sauce, 'Kuaytiao Lad Na'

Sawatdee from Cornwall! Thanks for dropping in today for a mug of Northern Thailand Hill Tribe coffee and a delicious virtual treat or two. Glad you could make it. Here is one of my favourite (I have many) Thai noodle dishes...Nong made this yesterday and it was delicious.She said not only was it the first time she had made it in Canada, it was the first time she had EVER made it. 

Lad Na is served all over Thailand, so it can be considered a national Thai dish. Nong used a recipe from the Net - a sidewalk version that's over 40 years old. It's typically served not spicy, with Thai condiments on the side to "fix the taste" and make it spicier to your own palate. Nong used the first of our very own balcony pot Thai chillies. They are good...fiery! 

In Thailand the broccoli floret as well as the stems are used, and if you'd rather use asparagus than broccoli that's fine too. Thais use another stemmed vegetable called ka-na. 

Here’s the lad-na recipe Nong used if you care to try it.

10 oz wide rice noodles *
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon black soy sauce
1/2 lb chicken, cut into thin slices (Nong used 1/2 lb thinly-sliced pork tenderloin instead of chicken)
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 tablespoon Maggi Seasoning
1 1/2 cups broccoli
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon yellow bean sauce (Didn’t have any - still tasty without it)
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (or a bit less if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon Thai pepper powder (black or white pepper)

* You'll probably have to go to an Asian market to find these.

Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes then rinse in cold water. Add noodles to a pot of boiling water and boil for 1 minute, then rinse in cold water again, and set aside.

Toss chicken/pork with 1 tablespoon tapioca flour & the Maggi Seasoning. Marinate for 10 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, separate the noodles and toss thoroughly with 1 tablespoon oil and the black soy sauce. Fry this in a nonstick pan (noodles will stick to a wok so you should use a nonstick pan if possible) until golden brown. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Saute garlic in oil over medium heat until golden color, then add yellow bean sauce, stir well until fragrant. Add the chicken and saute until cooked. Add 2 1/2 cups chicken stock. 

When stock starts to boil, add broccoli and season with fish sauce, oyster sauce and sugar. Stir well and let cook a bit longer. 

Mix remaining tapioca flour separately with the remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock, then stir in with the chicken/pork & broccoli until it thickens. Remove from heat.

Arrange the fried noodles on a serving plate, spoon the gravy over the noodles. 

Sprinkle with Thai pepper powder, and serve with prik dong. Prik dong is thinly-sliced Thai chillies in vinegar... easy and spicy! Not many chillies left in the bowl as we had already sprinkled most of them on the lad-na!
Yum! Enjoy! (Nong can make lad-na again anytime she wants to!)

See ya, eh!