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Classic Eggnog

Happy Holidays: Classic eggnog is back

Classic eggnog is pure and simple. Just three main ingredients—eggs, cream, and sugar—magically create the quintessential holiday sip of thick creamy custard with puffs of softly beaten egg whites.

For those of us who have lamented the fact that we could no longer safely enjoy homemade eggnog prepared with raw eggs, there’s good news. Call it a gift for this holiday season and beyond: pasteurized shell eggs. Safest Choice™ pasteurized shell eggs enable us to once again partake of all of those favorites that call for raw or lightly cooked eggs, whether it’s the yolks or the whites or both, without fear of foodborne illness. Think chocolate mousse, meringues, Caesar salad dressing, French silk pie, mayonnaise from scratch, sunny-side up eggs.

The eggs are pasteurized in the shell using a warm water bath. Only water—nothing else added—makes them safe to consume, whether over easy, poached, or in your favorite hollandaise recipe. A red circle “P” stamped on each egg lets you know they’re safe.

So set out the punch bowl, and bring back a tradition. This classic eggnog base can be prepared up to one day in advance and refrigerated, a great timesaver during this busy season. It’s delicious with the addition of rum, brandy, or bourbon or just topped with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg. Flavored spirits such as vanilla-infused vodka, peppermint schnapps, or clear crème de cacao can impart unexpected taste twists to this classic, and for a little whimsy, top each serving with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or dollop of whipped cream.

To learn more about Safest ChoiceTM pasteurized shell eggs, such as where to buy or to find additional recipes and serving suggestions, visit www.safeeggs.com.

Classic Eggnog

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Chilling time: Four hours or overnight

  • 12 pasteurized shell eggs, separated
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 quart (4 cups) heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 to 3 cups dark rum, bourbon, or brandy (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract (optional)
  • Ground nutmeg or cinnamon

Place egg yolks in large bowl. Beat with electric mixer until combined. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in cream and milk, then rum and vanilla, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until chilled or as long as overnight.

Just before serving, beat room temperature egg whites with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Stir custard mixture. Gently fold in beaten egg whites. Pour eggnog into punch bowl. Sprinkle with nutmeg. 

Makes 20 servings.

Nutrition information (1/20 of recipe): 279 calories*; 21g total fat; 12 g saturated fat; 197 mg cholesterol; 68 mg sodium; 18 g total carbohydrates; 5 g protein.

* With alcohol, calories increase to 330/serving; other nutrition information remains the same as above.


Flash in the Pan

The retail therapist

—Ari LeVaux
James Johnson Piett digs retail, specifically food retail. Focusing on things like “operationalizing how consumers move through a store,” as he puts it, might seem prohibitively geeky for most. But Piett makes it seem very cool.

I met Piett in Turin, Italy at the Slow Food convention last week. Explaining his work to a roomful of food advocates, he said, “You know in that movie, Pulp Fiction, how there’s this character named the Wolf who fixes things? That’s who I am. I’m a fixer for grocery stores. I design, build, attract financing, a full suite of services to help them move from point A to point B.”

Piett’s company, Urbane Development, works to bring fresh produce and other healthy foods to small stores in underserved communities like Detroit, Newark, and south Philadelphia. He uses the term “bodegas” to describe the kind of integrated stores he aims to create. Bodegas tend to have more meaningful relationships with their customers, he says, and one of his priorities while traveling in Europe this month is to study what makes European bodegas successful, in hopes of importing applicable models to the U.S.

“In the U.S., bodega owners that have good relationships with their customers will sometimes tape pictures of their customers’ kids to the plexiglass by the cash register. In Europe, this kind of relationship translates into purveyors saving the last of the season’s peaches for their customers who haven’t yet made jam,” Piett says.

Grocers that are connected with their clients are more likely to be invested in their health, and poor diet has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and other complications of obesity. In 2008, the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that people with no supermarket near their homes were up to 46 percent less likely to eat a healthy diet than those with more shopping options. Urbane Development contracts with cities, states, municipalities, public health agencies, and developers to bring healthy food into neighborhood stores that specialize in the likes of chips, soft drinks, and candy. Such stores are often the only options for miles and have become the focus of public health advocates.

But in a business with such low profit margins, convincing small grocers to risk stocking perishable produce with no guarantee that customers will buy it is often a losing proposition,
especially when proven sellers like Twinkies, cigarettes and lottery tickets don’t spoil.

Piett’s business offers technical assistance for product sourcing, merchandising, and handling, as well as financial support programs like lines of credit and grants that provide grocers with the operating capital they need to dabble in risky, healthy offerings.

“It’s easier to finance hard costs, like construction and equipment, rather than perishable inventory or even insurance,” Piett says. “Cash flow is king.”

His first client store, in Philadelphia, added 1,000 square feet to its space and still managed to lower its power bills by 40 percent thanks to strategic use of soy-based insulation, recycled sheet rock, low-E windows, and energy-efficient refrigeration and lights.

Each project is unique and so are the different regions the client stores inhabit. Urban Detroit, Piett says, is not currently home to a single chain supermarket. The only grocers willing to take a chance on the ailing city are independent operators, and there are hundreds of such neighborhood stores. Many are owned by Chaldeans, a group of Iraqi Christians that migrated here en masse in the early 1900s.

“Chaldean storeowners and black customers don’t always play well together,” Piett says wryly. “But at the same time, they need each other.” Changes to retail space, he says, involve a high degree of integration and coordination. “It’s always in totality. If I’m going to change a corner store, I have to deal with the owner, the space, the customers, the suppliers, public health agencies, the occasional real estate developer and local economic development nonprofit, and city, state, or municipal governments.”

But it’s the storeowners with whom he has the most direct and intimate contact. “This one grocer, he had some apples already so I was like, ‘Dude, I’ma play with the apples.’ I got them set up in bushel baskets, and he didn’t like that. Then we fought about the plantains. He won—he felt like his community prefers things that are packaged, so we went with it. You figure out what makes the most sense for a space, for a community.

“My work is like therapy. You tell me what you want to do, and I help you get through the clutter of your own thoughts. I want to help grocers to re-imagine their space to the point they make the most money. My belief is that a lot of those things will be healthy.”

Because of Piett’s brand of retail therapy, corner stores in poor neighborhoods are now becoming the only source of fresh vegetables in areas otherwise known as “food deserts.” He thinks if anyone can bring foliage back to the food deserts, it’s the independent grocers. They already have much of the infrastructure that they need, and they can be more flexible than the chains, which tend to have higher costs for union labor, security, and real estate. President Obama has caught on to the importance of the “Healthy Bodegas” movement, as some people call Piett’s line of work. There’s a program initiative in his budget, yet to be funded, that would increase the healthy options available in urban markets.

Piett can talk for a long time about such intricacies with nary a pause for breath. When I pointed this out, he acknowledged: “Yeah, I guess I do dig retail. But mostly I dig the retailers themselves. You have to be risk tolerant. And I like the egalitarianism of retail. You don’t have to come from an Ivy League education. You don’t have to be big. If I find a really good honest purveyor, I know that I can get them to good food and that I can make good food make money for them.”

Read more about Piett’s work at www.bodegachronicles.com.


What you should know about carbon monoxide

As temperatures cool, the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center (NMPDIC) would like to educate New Mexicans on how to protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning. All fuel-burning equipment and appliances such as, stoves/ovens, fireplaces, water heaters, and generators can produce carbon monoxide gas.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system tissue or can result in death. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, aches, and confusion. Although carbon monoxide does not produce fever or diarrhea, symptoms may be confused with the flu.

Since carbon monoxide gas is undetectable by human senses, and the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are shared with other seasonal illnesses, prevention and early detection of exposure to carbon monoxide gas is crucial. Please take the following precautions to prevent and/or minimize the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Properly install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor and outside of every sleeping area of your home. If the alarm sounds on a detector, turn off all fuel-burning devices, open doors and windows, and vacate the premises immediately until the source can be identified and repaired by a qualified technician. Inexpensive detectors can be found at any hardware store.
  • Have your furnace, fireplace, chimney, wood stoves, flues, and other fuel-burning appliances inspected, adjusted, and repaired, if needed, before every heating season.
  • Do not use charcoal grills indoors (including inside a tent, car, or garage) for either cooking or heating—even if the door(s) are opened.
  • Do not use your oven to heat your home or put foil underneath a gas oven, as this interferes with combustion. Do not use your clothes dryer to heat your home.
  • Do not attempt to warm up your car by letting the engine run in an enclosed or attached garage—even if the door(s) are opened.
  • Do not run a generator in your home, garage, or crawlspace—ventilating the area by opening windows and doors or using fans will not prevent the accumulation of carbon monoxide gas.
  • Contact the New Mexico Gas Company immediately at (888) NM-GAS-CO (888-664-2726) to report a gas-related emergency. Refer to the New Mexico Gas Company’s Web site to learn more about carbon monoxide safety and what to look for when shopping for a carbon monoxide detector. (www.nmgco.com/Safety_and_Emergencies.aspx)
  • If you think that you or someone you know has been exposed to carbon monoxide gas, call the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center immediately at (800) 222-1222.

Strange, but true

—BILL SONES AND RICH SONES, PH.D.

Q. Do you kiss the right way?

A. No judgments are intended here, as there's really no "wrong" way to do it. Rather, "right" pertains to the right or left tilt of the kissing head. Just as most people kick with their right foot, throw with their right arm, or look through a microscope with their right eye, most of us kiss with our head tilted right, said biopsychologist Onur Gunturkun in Nature magazine. He observed 124 kissing couples age 13 to 70 in airports, railway stations, beaches, and parks in the U.S., Germany, and Turkey and found that two-thirds of the participants kiss this way. Even in Rodin's famous masterpiece, The Kiss, the lovers turn their heads to the right.

As Gunturkun summed up, this 2:1 kissing bias means that for every nine couples, four by chance would both have the right bias, ensuring a good initial lip-to-lip contact; one couple would have a left bias, again ensuring successful contact. "However, statistics dictate that four couples would clash noses as they attempted a left/right kiss." 

Q. How do we say "@"? Is it the "at sign" or the "cat sign"?

A. It's the former, of course. We'll get to the cat in a moment. In 1971, American computer engineer Ray Tomlinson sent the world's first e-mail, and he needed a symbol to identify the location of the sender within the e-mail system, says David Crystal in A Little Book of Language. He chose @, called the "at sign" in English today. But some other languages give it other names, as people look at its odd shape and compare it to a worm, an elephant's trunk, a monkey's tail, and so on. It's called a "malpa" in Poland (for "monkey" in Polish), a "sobaka" in Russia (Russian for "dog"), and a "papaka" in Greece (Greek for "duckling"). "My favorite is one of the names it's received in Finland: 'miukumauku'—Finnish for 'miaow—meow.'"

Q. True or False: The mammoth, eight-ton African elephant stands as worry free King of the Beasts.

A. While it's true that East Africa's elephants face few threats in their savanna home, aside from humans and lions, the behemoths are terrified of African bees, says Science magazine. And with good reason: An angry swarm can sting elephants around their eyes and inside their trunks and pierce the skin of young calves that have yet to develop a thick protective hide. Now, a new study has shown that these pachyderms utter a distinctive rumble in response to the sound of bees, the first time that an alarm call to the group has been identified. So skittish are elephants that fences made of beehives wired together can significantly reduce crop raids. Actually, all it takes is a recording of the bees to have the deterrent effect.

Q. Is it all right to be left-handed?

A. Judging by everyday conversation, left-handedness is not all right, says David G. Myers in Psychology: Ninth Edition. To be "coming out of left field" is hardly better than to be "gauche" (from the French word for "left"); on the other hand, right-handedness is "right on," which any righteous right-hand man in his right mind rightly is. Left-handers turn out to be especially numerous among those with reading disabilities, allergies, and migraine headaches. But in Iran, where students taking university entrance exams report which hand they write with, lefties outperform righties in all subjects. Lefties are also more common among musicians, mathematicians, professional baseball and cricket players, architects, and artists (Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Picasso). "Although left-handers must tolerate elbow jostling at the dinner table, right-handed desks, and awkward scissors, the pros and cons of being a lefty seem roughly equal."

Q. Can you imagine how most of us spend most of our leisure time? 

A. No, it's not eating, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, socializing with family or friends, or participating in sports, says psychologist Paul Bloom in How Pleasure Works. Rather, we retreat to the imagination, to worlds created by others—as with books, movies, video games, and TV (over four hours per day on average)—or to worlds we ourselves create in daydreams and fantasies. Two-year-olds pretend to be lions, graduate students stay up all night playing video games, young parents hide from their offspring to read novels, and millions tune into reality-TV shows.  

As one psychologist puts it on her Web site, "I am interested in why individuals might choose to watch television shows like Friends rather than spend time with actual friends?" Perhaps we enjoy imaginative experiences because at some level we don't distinguish them from real ones. We are all of us from little on up great pretenders, tellers of stories, and lovers of others' stories.

"Imagination is Reality Lite," sums up Bloom, "a useful substitute when the real pleasure is inaccessible, too risky, or too much work."

Q. How does carrying a long, heavy bar help a tightrope walker maintain balance, even outdoors in a moderately gusty wind?

A. In 1981, Steven McPeak walked a wire strung peak to peak at the Zugspitze, between Austria and Germany, at times a full kilometer (3,280 feet) above the ground, says Jearl Walker in The Flying Circus of Physics. Balance is maintained by keeping the center of mass generally over the rope. When the performer leans too far in one direction, the body must bend back the other way for correction. A heavy bar helps, since by shoving it right or left the combined center of mass of the performer and the bar stays over the rope. This motion must be executed quickly before the performer leans too far, but a light bar with its smaller mass would have to be shifted too far to be practical.

     

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