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Home Before Dark

In Silent Graves

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Tools for Wandering Writers – how to stay productive on the road
Is the publisher just a middleman? – things to consider before you try self-publishing
Finding or creating a writer's workshop group – the title says it all
Using Profanity in Fiction – when cursing works, and when it doesn't
How To Make A Living Writing Short Fiction – can it be done? Yes.
Book Review: Lord of the Flies – all about Ralph and Piggy and Roger
Who Moved My Cheese? – a short review of this short book
How to comfort someone whose mother or father has died – advice for handling this difficult situation
Coping with unemployment – more practical advice for a difficult situation


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

NEW! GUNDARK ENERGY DRINK!

DO YOU ENJOY THE KICK OF ENERGY DRINKS?

BUT DOES THE POPULARITY OF RED BULL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A SHEEP?

DOES THE PRICE OF ROCKSTAR MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A CHUMP?

DO YOU WORRY THAT YOU'VE BECOME A MINDLESS, TWITCHING SLAVE TO CORPORATE CAFFEINE PEDDLERS?

THERE'S A BETTER WAY!

MY NAME IS LUCY, AND I'M HERE TO TELL YOU ABOUT THIS GREAT NEW ENERGY DRINK I'VE DISCOVERED CALLED GUNDARK!

YOU WON'T FIND IT IN ANY STORES -- YOU MAKE IT YOURSELF WITH INEXPENSIVE INGREDIENTS YOU PROBABLY ALREADY HAVE RIGHT THERE IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN! BEST OF ALL, NO ACTUAL COOKING OR MATHEMATICAL SKILLS ARE NECESSARY!

I WAS GOING TO KEEP GUNDARK ALL TO MYSELF, BUT THE GHOST OF BILLY MAYS VISITED ME LAST NIGHT AND HE CONVINCED ME TO SHARE THE SECRET WITH ALL OF YOU! HE MIGHT HAVE JUST BEEN A HALLUCINATION CAUSED BY SLEEP DEPRIVATION, BUT HE WAS VERY VERY CONVINCING AND ALSO A COMPLETE GENTLEMAN!

SO KEEP READING AND SOON YOU WILL BE FILLED WITH ENERGY JUST LIKE ME IN NO TIME AT ALL!

FIRST, GET SOME LEFTOVER COFFEE!

USE ANY REAL ACTUAL CAFFEINATED COFFEE, BUT IT MUST BE:
- BLACK AS NIGHT!
- COLD AS DEATH!
- BITTER AS THE REGRET OF REALIZING THAT NONE OF YOUR IN-LAWS DRANK ANY OF THAT POT OF EXPENSIVE KONA YOU BREWED FOR THEM LAST NIGHT AND IT ALL JUST SAT THERE GETTING STALE! YOU COULD HAVE MADE INSTANT FOLGERS INSTEAD AND NONE OF THOSE FUCKERS WOULD HAVE KNOWN THE DIFFERENCE! BILLY MAYS WOULD NEVER SWEAR BECAUSE HE IS A REAL GENTLEMAN BUT HE SAID IT WAS OKAY IF I DO BECAUSE HE SAYS I'M KINDA CUTE.

NEXT, GET SOME DARK CONCORD GRAPE JUICE!

USE 100% REAL ACTUAL JUICE, NOT THAT COCKTAIL CRAP THAT'S MOSTLY WATER AND CHEAP-ASS HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP! THAT SHIT'S TOO WEAK FOR GUNDARK! REAL DARK GRAPE JUICE IS LOADED WITH ANTIOXIDANTS LIKE RESVERATROL THAT SHOTGUN THROUGH YOUR VEINS ANNIHILATING CHOLESTEROL! BILLY MAYS SAYS THAT IF HE DRANK MORE GRAPE JUICE, HE MIGHT NOT BE A GHOST NOW AND MIGHT STILL BE A REAL ACTUAL LIVE HUNK OF PURE MAN INSTEAD OF SHIMMERING ECTOPLASM!

NOW, GET YOURSELF A GLASS.

MIX THE COFFEE AND THE GRAPE JUICE IN THE GLASS! EASY! USE MOSTLY COFFEE IF YOU'RE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR CARBS OR SOMETHING, USE MOSTLY GRAPE JUICE IF YOU'RE USING CHEAP COFFEE THAT TASTES LIKE LIQUID ROADKILL! GOOD GRAPE JUICE IS A LOT CHEAPER THAN GOOD COFFEE SO IT'S OKAY IF YOU DO!

HOLD THE GLASS UP TO THE LIGHT ... YOU WILL SEE THAT NO LIGHT PASSES THROUGH THE CAFFEINATED ELIXIR! THIS IS ONE BAD-ASS BLACK ENERGY DRINK YOU JUST MADE!

NOW DRINK IT!

DRINK IT!!

DRINK IT!!!

FEEL THE POWER COURSING THROUGH YOUR BODY!

HEAR YOURSELF SAY "DAMN, I FEEL STRONG ENOUGH TO PULL THE EARS OFF A GUNDARK!"

SEE THE GHOST OF BILLY MAYS MATERIALIZE IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN! HE'LL PLAY XBOX LIVE WITH YOU!


THIS IS AN UNLIMITED TIME OFFER, SO MIX IT UP WHEN YOU DAMN WELL FEEL LIKE IT!




Photo credits:
Julius Schorzman - coffee
Mikael Haggstrom
- caffeine
http://www.flickr.com/people/9778240@N07 - Billy Mays

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

How to bless beer

Contrary to what you might believe, the Catholic Church doesn't mind you drinking beer, particularly if it's been properly blessed first. I suggest you try the following blessing on your next six-pack of Blackened Voodoo Beer or Pete's Wicked Ale:

Lord, bless this creature, beer, which by your kindness and power has been produced from kernels of grain, and let it be a healthful drink for mankind. Grant that whoever drinks it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

To complete the prayer, you must sprinkle your beer with holy water.

Please note that, even if properly done by a priest, blessing Creature Beer gives no implied holy warranty against hangovers in the case of overindulgence.


Reference: The Roman Ritual, translated by Philip T. Weller, S.T.D. The Bruce Publishing Company, 1964.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Habanero pepper

I had my first experience with a habanero pepper when I and a friend were trying out a new Mexican restaurant here in Columbus last week. My fajitas came with a little bit of very-mild diced tomato-and-onion salsa that was seasoned only with cilantro ... or so I thought.

Midway through the meal, I speared a small, corn kernel-sized green cube -- which I took to be an unassuming stray bit of bell pepper -- and popped it into my mouth. And bit down.

The first fraction of a second, I got a faint sour-apple taste and a crunchy texture. Just enough for my brain to register that, no, this wasn't bell pepper. This was an entirely alien vegetable I'd just put in my mouth.

And then I got the heat.

Bear in mind that I like spicy food. I put sriracha sauce in practically everything, and I'm a regular wasabi junkie. But this -- oh my. That little cube of pepper made me feel like I'd taken a shot of napalm followed by a Bic chaser. Tears started streaming down my face.

"Are you okay?" my friend asked.

"Oh my God, this is hot," I replied. And then I said it again. Several times. The repetition helped minutely, if for no other reason than it gave my tortured tongue some air.

I took a spoonful of sour cream, hoping the fat would cut the burn. It didn't. I sipped my iced tea, which if anything seemed to make it worse.

"Can I get you a beer?" my friend asked. "Or a glass of milk? I hear milk helps."

"No, I'll be fine." I thought of the scene in Fight Club where Jack's just shot a hole in the side of his own face.

And I was fine, though it was probably fifteen minutes before I could eat anything again. I imagine that only a shot of Strawberry Surprise could be more intense than habanero.

But that's an experiment I'll leave to someone else.

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Eggnog

Homemade Eggnog

Eggnog is my favorite holiday drink. You can make it spiked or nonalcoholic; either is delicious.

Simple Single-Person's Eggnog

Get a big, wide-mouthed glass or plastic tumbler (the 16 oz variety works fine here, but you have to really like eggnog). Fill with the following, in order:

  • One or two tablespoons sugar, depending on the size of your glass or your desire for sweetness
  • A healthy dash of vanilla extract
  • One egg
  • A finger or two of your favorite liquor (rum or Bourbon are recommended); if you are a teetotaler, just skip this step

Mix the above together in your glass with a spoon. Now, fill your glass with plain whole milk. Skim milk won't suit most people's tastes here. If you're using a large glass, you might want to only fill it 2/3 full, or else your drink will lack sufficient egginess. If you are lactose intolerant, you can try substituting unsweetened soy milk.

Thoroughly mix up the 'nog with your spoon or a small wire wisk. Fish out any lingering clumps of egg white. Dust with nutmeg if you have it. Drink and enjoy!

Fancy Whipped Eggnog

Having a party? Then presentation is probably important to you, and the quick in-the-cup preparation method I described above just won't do. Try the following recipe if you're pulling out the stops (and the little glass punch cups!) for your next holiday shindig. You'll need:

  • Four large eggs, separated
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup bourbon, rum, or something similar. Alternately, you can just use 1-2 tablespoons of a good rum flavoring.
  • 2 cups real whipping cream

Mix the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and liquor or flavoring until the mixture is smooth. Whip the whipping cream. Beat the egg whites until they stand up in peaks. Fold the sweet yolky-alcoholic goodness into the whipped cream. Then, fold the egg whites into the yolky cream. Chill the whipped 'nog thoroughly, then dish out into little cups with spoons and dust with nutmeg and/or cinnamon. This recipe should be enough for 12 servings.

Store-Bought Eggnog

I can hear you now: "Gosh, Lucy, those recipes sound yummy, but haven't you heard of a little thing called salmonella? I don't want to spend the holidays sick as a dog over a little cup of 'nog."

Indeed, I have experienced the miseries of salmonella several times, never due to eggnog, but it's enough to put me off any raw egg products. As a result, I haven't made homemade eggnog in a while, instead preferring to buy pasteurized nonalcoholic quarts at the grocery store.

When I was a kid and eggs were considered safe to drink raw, grocery store eggnog seemed close to vile. But today, it seems much better and quite drinkable. I recently got a quart of store brand eggnog at Giant Eagle that has been quite tasty.

Using Eggnog as a Mixer

Store-bought nonalcoholic eggnog works marvelously well as a base for creating all manner of creamy, eggy drinks. Many liquors are used in regional eggnog recipes. Unlike regular milk, eggnog won't curdle in the more acidic liquers. Try citrus or coconut flavored liquers for a tasty sweet drink.

Last night, I experimented with mixing eggnog with clear Italian lemon liquer (limoncello). The result tasted just like lemon pudding with a kick. Got some vanilla vodka? Try it for a vanilla pudding flavor.

You can also try mixing eggnog half-and-half with sodas. Vanilla cream soda works beautifully for this, as does ginger ale, root beer, and colas.

I know the thought of mixing eggnog with something like Pepsi might seem revolting, but it's really quite good (think of how tasty a root beer float with vanilla ice cream is). The carbonation adds a nice subtle bite that can make the eggnog more interesting if you don't want an alcoholic version. After I tried my first Pepsi eggnog, I caught our kitten drinking the dregs out of my glass, so he thought it was pretty yummy, too.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Fragel

A fragel ("FRAY-gul") is a a bagel that, instead of being baked, is deep-fried in light oil and then rolled in sugar and cinnamon.

They are soft and sweet and densely chewy. They taste like a cross between a bagel and a doughnut, and have far more calories than the former but are healthier than the latter. They are probably at least as fattening as boardwalk fries, and they are deeply yummy.

As far as I know fragels are solely a regional Michigan delicacy. I first encountered fragels when I was in East Lansing, MI for the Clarion workshop. East Lansing is evidently an enormous market for all manner of exotic bagels due to the huge college student population. One of the Clarionites, a native Michiganer, came in one morning with a big brown paper grocery bag mottled with telltale grease spots. A delicious aroma filled the room the moment he opened the bag. He passed the fresh-fried goodness around the room, and five pounds of fragels disappeared in about as many minutes.

I have searched the Midwest for bagel shops that offer fragels, but I have been met with nothing but blank looks when I've asked about them. I'm amazed no one else makes them -- it's surely not out of bagel purism, because real water bagels are not what most bagel joints offer.


Estimated Nutritional Information for 4" Fragel*

  • Calories: 325
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Total Fat: 8.5 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sodium: 450 milligrams
  • Total Carbohydrate: 53 grams

* Based on estimates of 6 grams of granulated sugar and 1.5 teaspoons of absorbed oil in addition to average bagel composition from the USDA Nutrient Database athttp://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl. If any of you e2 cooks have other ideas on how much oil a bagel might absorb in light deep-frying, let me know and I'll revise my estimates.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

pickled garlic

I have a new favorite thing: pickled garlic

It might not ever be your favorite thing, but if you are a garlic lover and haven't ever tried pickled garlic, I'm here to tell you that you're missing out.

Pickled garlic, as you might guess, is garlic that's been preserved in vinegar and pickling spices (such as pepper, salt, thyme, etc.) It comes as whole cloves in small (about 5 ounces) tall jars, rather like the sort that cocktail onions come in.

The taste? Quite excellent, if you like garlic. The cloves are crisp, but the overpowering pungency of raw garlic has been muted and enhanced with the tanginess of the vinegar and the other spices.

Pickled garlic isn't good for every garlic purpose; I wouldn't use pickled garlic in cream-based sauces for fear it'd cause unpleasant curdling. But if you mainly use garlic in dishes such as vinegar-based dressings, salads, in tomato sauces, or on pizzas, then keeping a jar around is an excellent way of making sure you'll have whole cloves around all the time without fear of them going bad (though you do have to refrigerate the jar after you've opened it).

Pickled garlic cloves are great as a standalone snack item, particularly if you've been consuming the recommended 1-2 cloves of garlic a day for its health properties. Since pickled garlic is more intact than dried garlic powder, I expect it provides more of the phytochemicals that have beneficial anticoagulant (blood thinning) and cholesterol-lowering properties.(There's some debate on this; the act of cooking garlic breaks down its cell walls and partially destroys the chemicals in garlic, which is why cooked garlic is so much milder than raw garlic. However, some pickling forms use less heat than others, so your mileage may vary with brand on how much health benefit is to be had from pickled garlic versus dried, sliced garlic).

Garlic also has antibacterial properties, which I tested out last night from my new jar of Christopher Ranch brand. For the past couple of days, I'd been having a nagging, worsening one-sided sore throat that was pretty clearly the start of tonsilitis. So, I ate about nine cloves of garlic. And when I woke up this morning, my throat was much, much better. Coincidence? Placebo effect? I can't tell, but the garlic was sure as heck a lot tastier than penicillin.

Be aware, of course, that if you try this at home, you should warn (and apologize in advance to) your significant other ar anyone else you share close space with. Because after eating any large quantity (the serving size is listed as three cloves) you will have extreme dragon breath. No-good, awful, horrible, terrible breath. And the next day, every molecule in your being will stink like garlic.

The only downside to pickled garlic is that it's a bit of a specialty gourmet item (at least in the States), and thus will be a bit hard to find and a bit expensive ($4-$5 US, with some as high as $8 a jar). But, a little does go a long way, so unless you're a garlic-fiending hermit a jar should last you for several months.

And, of course, you can make your own pickled garlic if you're handy in the kitchen. Pickling, when done correctly, is pretty safe for storing garlic. I've seen reports that raw garlic preserved in just olive oil has a high risk of botulism, since the anaerobic bacteria that cause botulism thrive in olive oil and are apparently unaffected by the chemicals in garlic.

m_turner has rightly pointed out that there are recipes in which one can use liquors like vodka (or regular wine) to pickle garlic. The resulting liquid can be used in interesting drinks like the Scicilian martini.

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Okra

Ah, okra!

The vegetable that's fuzzy on the outside and mucilaginously slimy on the inside! You can't have a good gumbo without it. You can't be a true Southerner if you don't like it, but people all over the world love it.

Okra's scientific names are Abelmoschus esculentus or Hibiscus esculentus, depending on the taxonomist you ask. It is a member of the Mallow family (Malvaceae) and is a relative of hollyhock, cotton, and hibiscus.

Okra is also known as Lady's Fingers in English, quibombo in Spanish, bamia in French, bhindi in Hindi, nkuruma in Twi (a Niger-Congo language), gombo in West African dialects, and bamie in Arabic. Okra plants, which are annual herbs, grow up to two meters tall. They grow best in warm, tropical climates. They have heart-shaped leaves and produce flowers that look much like hibiscus blossoms. Its tapered, edible seed pods are usually 8-25 centimeters (or 3-10 inches) long.

While the seed pods are usually green, some varieties produce red or white pods; the uber-phallic red ones sadly turn green during cooking. Okra seed pods are eaten unripe, when they are still tender, and they taste a bit like asparagus and a bit like eggplant. The pods contain a thick, sticky juice that serves at the primary thickener for gumbo soups (and a major source of revulsion for those who don't care for the veggie). Okra's ripe seeds can be roasted and ground for use as a coffee substitute.

Okra is very good for you. In addition to being high in fiber, the seed pods are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, calcium, and iron.

However, the plant has many uses aside from being a vegetable. The seeds can be pressed for oil for cooking and soapmaking. The plant produces fibers that can be used for papermaking. And in some tropical areas, okra has been used for poultices and the juice has been used to treat eye ailments.

Okra originally came from Africa; its precise place of origin is thought to be in or near Ethiopia. The ancient Egyptians discovered it and started cultivating it over 3000 years ago, and from there it spread throughout Africa and the Middle East. It came to the Americas and the Carribean along with West African slaves in the 1700s. It caught on in the Southern U.S., particularly Louisiana, and visiting Europeans developed a taste for the vegetable and took it with them when they went back to Western Europe.

Today, major okra producers include Mexico and several U.S. states, particularly Florida, California, and Georgia. Over 41 million pounds of breaded, frozen okra are processed every year by food manufacturers.

If you're a gardener and you live in a warm climate (or have a greenhouse) you can try your hand at growing okra. Plant your seeds 3 or 4 weeks after the last expected frost. They won't grow properly if the night temperatures fall below 50 degrees.

The plant matures rapidly, and after it flowers (it self-pollenates) you'll be seeing harvestable seed pods in about four days. Okra will produce pods throughout the summer as long as you keep picking the old pods off it. If a pod is too tough to easily cut with a knife, it's not suitable for cooking. Fireants, aphids, and root knot nematodes are the main organisms that trouble okra in the U.S.

If you'd rather get your okra at the grocery store, look for smaller, younger pods, because these tend to be most tender. Their caps should have a light color; a dark color means the pods may be old. Avoid shrivelled or decayed pods. Keep your okra in a plastic bag in a cool place away from ethylene-producing fruits such as apples, pears, and bananas. Also, don't wash your okra until you're ready to prepare it; washing and then storing okra makes it get slimy.

If okra is too fuzzy for your tastes, you can gently rub some of the hairs off with a paper towel or a soft-bristled plastic scrubber.

References

Okra: The Veggie People Love to Hate by Wayne McLaurin (Georgia Extension Service)
http://www.foodreference.com/html/artokra.html
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/vegetables/okra.html
http://www.tonytantillo.com/vegetables/okra.html


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Soy allergy

Soy products have become ubiquitous food additives due to their many health-promoting properties. Sadly, not everyone's health has been improved: soy allergies are on the rise. From 1998 to 1999, there was a 50% increase in the number of people reporting problems with soy.

According to a survey of pediatricians in the U.S., 1.1% of all infants are allergic to soy (as a comparison, 3.4% are allergic to cow's milk). An international survey of otherwise-healthy babies indicated that 0.5% of all infants are allergic to soy. In Sweden, there were four documented deaths due to anaphylactic shock from soy consumption during the mid-90s.

I discovered I was allergic to soy products right after I developed a real taste for miso soup. In my case, the allergy is fairly mild overall, but I get severe sinus headaches and congestion as a result and my overall allergies get worse. My symptoms were subtle enough that it took me about a year to figure out that my frequent "colds" weren't due to Columbus being Plague Central.

Soy proteins are in many types of less-refined soybean oil, and can consequently be in foods like margarine. Unfortunately, you can't tell which oils have been sufficiently purified. If your allergy is mild (as mine is) you probably don't have to worry about the protein content in oil. But you should watch out for whole soybean foods and foods (particularly health-food snacks like Balance Bars and Powerbars) that contain refined or isolated soy proteins as additives. Soy lecithin is in a whole lot of foods.

The bad part about food allergies is that for some folks they tend to get worse over time. And you can suddenly get sensitized to a protein and develop a whole new allergy. People who as children or infants were allergic to cow's milk have an increased risk of developing a soy allergy later on in life (however, overall soy is less likely to provoke an allergy than milk is). Thus, if you are the parent of a milk-allergic child and you give him or her soy products as a dairy substitute, you should watch the child carefully for signs of allergy.

These allergies often have a genetic component. So, if you have a soy allergy, particularly a severe one, you probably shouldn't give soy products to your very young children. Children under the age of 3 months are particularly vulnerable to developing soy allergies; the risk goes down dramatically after they're a year old. Some children who have trouble with soy when they're infants can process it when they're 5 or older.

The main proteins in soy that seem to cause problems are two heat-stable (i.e., they stay intact after cooking) globulins named beta-conglycin and glycinin. These two proteins comprise 90% of the total proteins in soybeans. However, researchers have identified nine other proteins in soybeans that have provoked antibody responses in lab tests; furthermore, these proteins may be broken down during digestion into other proteins that could act as antigens and cause problems in sensitive people.


References: http://www.emedicine.com/ped/topic2128.htm and http://www.tldp.com/issue/11_00/joysoy.htm

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Why I love grapefruit juice

Grapefruit juice is the sour juice of, well, grapefruits. In fact, pure grapefruit juice is very, very sour. Sometimes bitter. But once you acquire (or get past) its taste, you will find that it's a unique, refreshing beverage with lots of uses in promoting one's health.

Nutritional Information

Grapefruit juice, like other citrus juices, is chock-full of Vitamin C and potassium. But that's not all. A cup of fresh, pink grapefruit juice contains:

  • 96 calories
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 22 grams of carbohydrates
  • 22 mg of calcium
  • 30 mg of magnesium
  • a mere 2 mg of sodium
  • 400 mg of potassium
  • 94 mg of Vitamin C
  • 24 micrograms of folate
  • 24 micrograms of lutein
  • 1087 IUs of Vitamin A
  • a negligible amount of fat and no cholesterol

Fresh white grapefruit juice has less Vitamin A due to it having less beta-carotene; white juice has only 81 IUs of the vitamin. Canned unsweetened juice has fewer vitamins all the way around, and sweetened juice cocktails can have quite a lot more calories and quite a lot fewer nutrients, so 100% unsweetened juice is best if you're interested in its healthy attributes.

Cancer Protection

While not as powerful in this area as oranges and tangerines, grapefruit juice contains a variety of flavonoids and glucosides called limonoids that are thought to protect against cancer. Lab tests with rodents showed protection against lung, mouth, breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

Weight Loss

Anyone who was alive during the 70s remembers the fad grapefruit diet; as it turns out, it was not as goofy an idea as we might have thought.

Researchers at Dr. Ken Fujioka's laboratory at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego recently did a study on 100 obese patients. Participants who ate half a grapefruit at each meal lost an average of nearly 4 pounds during the 12-week study; those who drank a glass of grapefruit juice lost on average 3.3 pounds. Some people in the study lost a good deal more weight.

An as-yet-unidentified compound in grapefruit juice appears to reduce and regulate insulin levels in the blood; reduced insulin levels in turn affect hunger and blood sugar levels and improve the body's metabolism. The compound may prove useful for diabetics as well.

Grapefruit Juice and Yeast Infections

Many women are plagued by maddening, uncomfortable yeast infections. For some, drinking a glass of grapefruit juice every day staves off the infections, either by acidifying the woman's system or due to an unknown botanical compound that helps the body fight off fungal infection.

Grapefruit juice is cheaper and less toxic than the antifungal drugs used to treat yeast infections. However, women who want to give the juice a try should watch out for drug interactions and should also avoid sweetened juices and juice cocktails. Sweetened juices are loaded with sugar, and a high-sugar diet is commonly believed to make a person more vulnerable to a yeast infection.

The Dark Side of The Glass of Sunshine

If you drink a lot of grapefruit juice, the acid may cause indigestion or (if you're susceptible to them) canker sores. However, treatment for these side effects are pretty simple: don't drink so much juice. Alternately, try taking a calcium carbonate antacid along with your juice.

A more problematic feature of grapefruit juice is that it causes you to absorb more of certain types of drugs, thus potentially causing accidental overdose. It does this by inhibiting naturally-occuring enzymes in the intestines (specifically, cytochrome P450 isoenzymes) that break down a certain portion of said drugs before they have a chance to enter the person's bloodstream.

If a person knows what he/she is doing, of course, this means that grapefruit juice can potentially allow you to take much less of a medication and get the same beneficial effect from it, thus conserving the medication and saving money on prescriptions. But unless one is working closely with a pharmacist, its best not to try that at home.

The amount of grapefruit juice needed to produce the drug-enhancing effect varies; some studies show that as little as a single glass of juice can do it. Others didn't show an effect unless subjects downed nearly a quart of the juice. However, a 2-hour gap between taking a medication and drinking the juice seems sufficient to avoid interactions.

Several compounds in grapefruit juice have been identified as causing the effect, mainly quercetin, kaempferol, and furanocoumarin compounds such as naringin. There may very well be others.

Drugs that should not be taken with grapefruit juice include:

  • Amiodarone
  • Atorvastatin
  • Benzodiazepines (diazepam, triazolam)
  • Budesonide
  • Busipirone
  • Calcium Channel Blockers (felodipine, nifedipine, nimodipine)
  • Carbamazepine
  • Carvedilol
  • Clomipramine
  • Corticosteroids, including Prednisone
  • Cyclosporine
  • Ergotamine
  • Erythromycin
  • Ethinyl Estradiol
  • Itraconazole
  • Lovastatin
  • Methylprednisolone
  • Nifedipine
  • Nimodipine
  • Pimozide
  • Saquinavir
  • Sertraline
  • Simvastatin
  • Sirolimus
  • Tacrolimus
  • Verapamil

All the above are prescription medications; there's been no evidence so far that grapefruit juice interacts badly with any over-the-counter medications. In many instances, the precise effects haven't been worked out, but all the above medications have the potential for some kind of interaction.

The drugs that you should absolutely avoid taking with grapefruit juice are the calcium channel blockers (which can dangerously lower blood pressure), drugs that can depress the central nervous system such as busipirone and benzodiazepines (an overdose of such drugs can cause accidents or put you in a coma), or drugs used to regulate heart rhythm like amiodarone.

Juicier Juice

However, there's one central nervous system depressant that grapefruit juice goes just dandy with: alcohol! If you're not a teetotaler, try the following potent potables:

  • Sea Breeze - cranberry and grapefruit mingled with vodka

  • Grapefruit Splash (aka a Greyhound): one part vodka to three parts juice, over ice. Put some salt around the rim to turn this into a Salty Dog.

  • Planter's Punch: an ounce each of light rum, orange juice, grapefruit juice, and sour mix, plus a splash of grenadine. Shake it all together with some ice and strain into your favorite glass. Float a little dark rum on top and garnish with a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange.

  • San Sebastian: an ounce of gin, a half-ounce of light rum, half-ounce of triple sec, half-ounce of grapefruit juice, a squirt of lemon juice. Mix and serve.


Sources:

http://scrippshealth.org/scrippsnews_1714.asp
http://www.nal.usda.gov/
http://www.pharmacists.ca/content/hcp/resource_centre/drug_therapeutic_info/
http://www.cancerpage.com/cancernews/cancernews640.htm
http://www.torsades.org/consumers/06-grapefruit-juice.htm


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Saturday, June 28, 2003

sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is a plant-derived chemical that is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower (all members of the genus Brassica). More specifically, it is a sulfur-containing isothiocyanate derivative and is of great interest to medical researchers.

About a quarter of the human population can taste this chemical; for these genetically-endowed "supertasters", it is bitter, sometimes quite unpleasantly so. This accounts for broccoli and Brussels sprouts being unpopular vegetables with young children and former U.S. presidents alike.

Sulphoraphane has been extensively studied since its discovery in 1992 because it has potent anticancer, antioxidant, and antibacterial activity.

Researchers have known for years that, when the chemical is absorbed into the bloodstream, it stimulates detoxifying Phase 2 enzymes that mop up carcinogenic molecules in the body before they cause DNA damage. Other studies indicated that the chemical may stop the growth of and stimulate the death of cancer cells (apoptosis). Many researchers believe that this chemical (and the aforementioned vegetables that contain it) can provide at least some protection against a variety of common cancers, such as breast, lung, prostate, and colon tumors.

Recent research done at Johns Hopkins indicates that sulforaphane may be especially useful for preventing stomach cancer. Laboratory tests show that the chemical kills off most strains of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori; it even killed off bacteria that were hiding in cells. These bacteria cause stomach inflammation and ulcers, and are thought to be responsible for many cases of stomach cancer around the world. Furthermore, mice that were dosed with sulforaphane developed many fewer stomach tumors than did control mice after they were all poisoned with a powerful stomach-specific carcinogen (benzo[a]pyrene).

Broccoli sprouts are particularly rich in this chemical; they contain up to 50 times the amount mature broccoli plants contain.

Some health-food manufacturers have started selling sulforaphane-rich supplements; scientists do not yet know how much of the chemical a person needs to consume to gain a beneficial effect. Furthermore, since the chemical is not fully understood, the long-term effects of consuming it are unknown. However, so far the only bad side effect that has apparently surfaced is its taste.


References:

  • http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/phytochemicals/pages/sulforaphane.html
  • Science News June 1, 2002.
  • http://www.stanford.edu/dept/news/report/news/october3/broccoli.html

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Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Is buying organic food worthwhile?
Setting aside issues of nutrition and environmental consciousness raised elsewhere, there are three reasons why for me (and maybe for you, too) buying organic food is not a waste of money:

  1. Taste -- I have found that in many cases organically produced milk, eggs, meat, and other products simply taste better than the regular mass-produced agricultural goods you find on supermarket shelves. I found the eggs and milk to be fresher and to have a richer flavor. And there's no comparison with rice cakes: regular plain supermarket rice cakes taste like styrofoam. The organic brown rice cakes I've switched to have a crisp texture and a nice flavor. I don't mind eating them by themselves, whereas with regular rice cakes I either have to get a flavored variety or put something on them.

    So, if taste is a concern when you get groceries, you might find that some organic brands please your palate more than non-organic brands. The organic foods will be more expensive, but filet mignon is also more expensive than hamburger. Ultimately, one has to do a cost-benefit analysis on the food one buys; for me, some organic foods are worth it. Nothing I buy at the grocery store will be more expensive than eating out at a decent restaurant.

  2. Special Dietary Concerns -- I'm mildly gluten intolerant, but I love pasta. Regular food manufacturers act like people like me don't exist, but organic pasta makers have been more than happy to provide a wide array of rice, corn, and lentil pastas for my cooking pleasure. Organic food companies also offer gluten-free breads, crackers, you name it. Most anyone with special dietary needs (lactose intolerance, diabetes, soy intolerance, etc.) can get their needs met in the organic foods section, because organic manufacturers specialize in health-promoting foods, and part of that involves catering to those with special-needs diets.

  3. Buying Organic Encourages Organic Production -- In the above writeups, it is argued that one person's buying habits can't affect Big Agrobusiness. I disagree. As the Big Guys see that the little organic farms are doing a booming business with hippies and vegetarians and yuppies and gourmets alike, they'll take notice. And other little family farms who can't compete with the big industrial farms will be more likely to produce organic goods because it's a lucrative niche market.

    If people buy organic, the end result will be the increasing availability of organic goods, more goods to chose from, and lower costs overall as more producers (large and small) start competing in the market. (And maybe, just maybe, someday I'll be able to buy inexpensive rice pasta from "regular" pastamakers.)

    I've seen this happening in just the past few years here in Columbus, Ohio as the larger supermarkets have picked up on the success that smaller local whole foods supermarkets like Wild Oats have had. Voila! Sushi counters and organic foods sections have popped up all over the place.

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I'm Lucy Snyder. I'm a Worthington, Ohio author and former magazine editor; on this site you'll find my writing as well as features from my husband, novelist Gary A. Braunbeck.

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