Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Our Son the Doctor: PhD in Physics, April 26, 2015

When I figure out how to flip my favorite cap and three-striped PhD gown photo right-side up instead of sideways, I'll post it somewhere.  In the meantime, I don't want to wait any longer to publish this good news.  The proud parents claim bragging rights.

Now, after all those years of research, comes the other hard part:  job-hunting.  Any leads for a position in software engineering, research and development, technical writing, or other jobs appropriate for a Physics Ph.D. would be appreciated.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rejecting U.S. health care reform because of the almighty dollar :(

While I'm on the subject of good ideas that have almost no chance of being adopted, how about truly providing preventive medical care?  Why is it that American medicine focuses on cure, rather than prevention, or as my cynical spouse says, on treatment rather than either prevention or cure?  His theory is that there's more money to be made by keeping a patient in perpetual treatment than in either preventing illness or curing it.   Personally, I think he may have a point.  Why is it that our insurance covers visits to a gastroenterologist, who can treat digestive problems, but not to a dietitian, who might be able to help prevent them?

I hardly think anyone should be surprised that people with health problems get so much of their information from the Internet because their doctors aren't giving them answers that work and/or that don't give them dreadful, even fatal, side effects.  I refused to take Fosamax, an osteoporosis drug, after reading the warnings (in the enclosed instructions), among which were "irreversible jaw rot."  I thought bisphosphonates were supposed to cure bone loss, not cause it.  Broken hip bone, anyone?  (Yep, happened to someone I know.)  Serious skin damage, anyone?  (Yep, happened to someone else I know.)  And why get on digestion medications that might make you sicker than you already are and/or permanently dependent on drugs, rather than trying a "treatment diet," such as this one?

On a related subject, why is it so difficult to find health insurance that provides good coverage for dental care?  Are we all supposed to survive on baby food?

And why is it relatively easy to find insurance coverage for eyeglasses, but much more difficult to find insurance coverage for hearing aids?  (Medicare doesn't cover them, despite the fact that many seniors lose at least some hearing with increasing age.)  Do the insurance companies and/or the government think that hearing loss is of little consequence?  Or is the real problem that insurance companies and the government don't want to pay for hearing aids because they cost thousands of dollars more than glasses?

Rejecting U.S. political reform because of the almighty dollar :(

Here are two ideas of mine for improving the U.S. that will never be adopted:

~ To eliminate (or at least reduce) corruption in politics, have the Federal Communications Commission require every news media (radio, television, and any other media over which it has authority) to provide free campaign advertising as a condition of acquiring and renewing their license.  This would eliminate the need for politicians to sell their souls just to get (re)elected.

~ To reduce the cost of health care (or at least spread the cost around more evenly through taxes), have the U.S. federal government provide free medical school tuition.  This would eliminate the need for physicians to charge high fees in order to repay the high debt that they incur to pay for medical school.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Civil disobedience: An "only-in-Israel" version

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kosher-for-Passover gluten-free choc-chip cookies

In a rare moment of brilliance, it finally occurred to me to stop looking for gluten-free dessert recipes for Pesach and to start looking for "non-gebrokts" dessert recipes instead.  (It's fortunate for those of us who can't eat wheat and/or any gluten that non-gebrokts foods are becoming more readily available, thanks to some of our right-wing-Orthodox brethren and sistren).  I can't even remember exactly where I clicked to find this recipe, but my husband likes these cookies, so I don't care that they're at least as messy to make as the flourless almond cookies without the chocolate chips.

4 Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 Cup of Creamy Peanut Butter [I used almond butter]
  • 1 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 Cups of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1.   Preheat oven to 350
2.   Combine peanut butter, sugar and eggs until fully blended. Gently mix in the chocolate chips.
3.   Drop heaping tablespoons of cookie dough onto a non stick baking sheet.
4.   Bake for 10-12 minutes [Keep an eye on them--mine took longer, yours may not].
5.   Makes about 16 cookies.


April 20, 2015 update:  Astounding as it may sound, there may be such a thing as too much chocolate.  I think I'll try this recipe with only one and three-quarters cups of chocolate chips, next time.  But if you like a cookie so stuffed full of chocolate that it tastes more like candy than cookie, stick with the two cups.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Safety warning for Yom Tov (a major holiday)


My husband and I jumped out of bed, and he ran to the kitchen.  Seeing nothing there other than the flames of the four burners that we'd left on for Pesach (Passover)--it's permissible to cook on a Yom Tov using a pre-existing flame--he grabbed the nearest chair, brought it over to the safety alarms attached to the ceiling outside our bedroom, and climbed up for a closer look.

"It's not the smoke detector, it's the carbon monoxide detector."

"Open the living room window!"

In the interest of ensuring our survival (pikuach nefesh), not only did my husband open the living room window, he also turned on the kitchen ceiling fan and the fan in the stove hood, which I'd forgotten to turn on before Yom Tov.  (At least I'd remembered to leave the kitchen window open, but we learned the hard way that that wasn't enough.)  Within about a minute, the beeping stopped.  To be extra safe, he also opened the bedroom window by about an inch, and we both went back to bed, quite literally saved by the, er, beep.

If you leave stove lights burning on a Yom Tov, be sure to leave more than one window open, and, if available, leave at least one fan turned on, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, which is deadly!

And don't forget to leave an open box of baking soda and/or a home fire extinguisher within easy reach in the kitchen!

Also, make sure that you have a kosher-for-Passover ice cube tray and know where to find it, so that you can treat minor, but painful, burns!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Pesach food notes

The bakery's are much better, of course
Since Streits macaroons are the only packaged macaroons that we've found in recent years that are made without artificial ingredients or preservatives, we bought several cans.  Then we tasted the macaroons that the shul president bought for our synagogue from a kosher-for-Passover bakery that's in the same neighborhood as the kosher supermarket where we do most of our Passover shopping.  Yum!  Now you know where we're buying all of our macaroons next year.

"Flats" fall flat
Maybe tapioca- and potato-flour "flats" or flatbreads are good for an upset stomach, but they're useless as flatbreads--they're so brittle that they crumble before we can even get them out of the box.  So we're going to add them to soup, instead of trying to make "cracker sandwiches" with them. (They make a decent soup-filler substitute for kosher-for-Passover potato-starch noodles, which tend to be gummy, and which we've decided not to buy again). Just one box per Pesach (or year-round, for tummy trouble) will probably suffice.

Food fight (of sorts)
I switched from peanuts (which are kitniot, according to some opinions) to home-roasted cashews for Pesach, and was considering making the switch year-round, because, according to some, peanuts are fairly high in oxylates and therefore not great for those with kidney stones (though spinach, rhubarb, Swiss chard and beet greens are among the worst offenders, according to some).  Unfortunately, what's good for avoiding kidney stones is not always good for avoiding other digestive problems.  Take a look at this FODMAPS explanation, then check out this food list--note that cashews are not on the list.  That's typical--what I eat or try to minimize eating to avoid one health problem aggravates another one.  My digestive tract is a minor danger zone.  :)

Also of interest regarding Pesach:

~ The Evolving Jew makes a case for Kitniot Minimization, and gives us this year's update.

~ Rabbi Ethan Tucker discusses the Kitniot question.

Chag sameach!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Workin' in a winter wonderland

See the comments here.

Yirviun mi-deshen beitecha???!

Psalm 35, verse 9:

ט  יִרְוְיֻן, מִדֶּשֶׁן בֵּיתֶךָ;    וְנַחַל עֲדָנֶיךָ תַשְׁקֵם. 9 They are abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou makest them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.

Here, the translation of "deshen" is "fatness."  In the Birnbaum siddur (prayerbook), it's "choice food," and, if memory serves me correctly, it's "rich plenty" in the Koren Sacks siddur.

Not for nothin' we've been doing "sacrifice readings" for the past few weeks--doesn't "deshen" actually mean "ashes?"  My Hebrew-English dictionary translates "deshen" as "dust," or even, if you'll pardon the expression, "manure."  What gives?  Why would anyone want to eat HaShem's dust?


Monday, April 06, 2015

Annual reminder: Sign up for the OU's e-mailed Sefirah reminders!

Here's the sign-up spot.  Without this daily reminder, I'd never get through Sefirat HaOmer without missing a day's count.

And quick, before it's dark, remember to count the Omer, if you didn't count it last night or this morning:  Saturday night was the first night of the Omer, so continue from there for last night's/today's count.  Here's a helping hand from Chabad.  Challenge yourself not to miss a day's count!  It can be fun to include (your) kid(s) when counting, too.

Baking bash for Pesach (Passover)

I should have a few spare minutes to post, since I'm the only person working in my office this week.  It's pretty quiet--I'm here to answer the phone, but, thus far, it's rung only three times today.  (It's nice to have a breather in the midst of a major project.)  So let me start with the pre-Pesach fun.

I was so upset about the fact that almost all packaged kasher l'Pesach (kosher for Passover) baked goods contain preservatives, artificial ingredients, and/or the almost-impossible-to-avoid cottonseed oil (a possible health hazard) that I decided to take a few days of vacation last week (since I'm always left "minding the store" during Chol HaMoed Pesach) and bake for Pesach for the first time in years.  I borrowed a cookie recipe from an old friend's cookbook, and, since I promised to make my husband muffins as a condition for not buying any of the junk-filled ones we found in the store, I searched online for gluten-free muffin recipes.  Here's the report, muffins first (all three recipes are pareve/b'li chalav o basar/contain neither meat/poultry nor dairy):

Cranberry Lemon Muffins

·     2 cups blanched almond flour
·     ½ teaspoon celtic sea salt [I used Israeli sea salt]
·     1 teaspoon baking soda
·     1 cup dried cranberries
·     ½ cup grapeseed oil or palm shortening [I used pistachio oil, the only kosher-for-Passover nut oil that I could find]
·     3 large eggs
·     ½ cup agave nectar or honey
·     1 teaspoon lemon zest

1.   In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda and cranberries
2.   In a smaller bowl stir together oil, eggs, agave and lemon zest
3.   Stir wet ingredients into dry
4.   Spoon batter into a paper lined muffin pan
5.   Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes
6.   Cool and serve

Makes 12 muffins

These gluten-free, dairy-free muffins are on the sweeter side and make a nice festive dish for a brunch or a healthy dessert for a potluck. Because they are more “liquidy” than usual they will sink just a tad after you remove them from the oven.

The 1st batch came out slightly burned, so I took the 2nd batch out a few minutes earlier, and it was slightly undercooked.  Oh, well.  These muffins are good, and I'll make them again, with the baking time corrected (I hope).

Dairy- and Gluten-Free Passover Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Prep time
15 mins
Cook time
25 mins
Total time
40 mins

Author: Vicky & Ruth
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: kosher / Passover
Serves: 18 muffins
·     3 egg whites
·     ¼ cup sugar
·     4 tbsp almond butter at room temperature
·     ½ cup almond flour
·     2 tbsp room temperature water
·     ¼ cup dairy free chocolate chips
·     Cooking spray
1.  Preheat oven to 350F. Line a mini muffin tin with foil 18 liners. Spray liners generously with cooking spray [I just coated them with pistachio oil]
2.  Beat egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar and beat at high speed until it starts to form stiff peaks. Set aside
3.  In a large bowl, beat almond butter until soft and creamy. Gradually add almond flour and water and mix until well combined
4.  Carefully fold egg whites into almond butter mixture using a rubber spatula. Fold in chocolate chips
5.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of mixture into each liner. Bake on top rack at 350F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown

These are tasty, but are really best for those who like their muffins light and delicate in texture.  Personally, I prefer muffins that are hearty and substantial, and, consequently, found that this recipe was not worth the effort.  I've learned from this experiment never to bother with a muffin recipe that calls for separating eggs and beating the whites (roughly forever) until they form stiff peaks.

Flourless Almond Cookies

(I'm sorry to say that I forgot to write down the name of the cookbook from which I copied this.)

1 cup sugar
1 cup almond butter
1 egg, lightly beaten

1.  Preheat over to 350 degrees [Fahrenheit].  Beat sugar, almond butter and egg in large bowl with electric mixer until blended and smooth.
2.  Shape dough into 24 balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Flatten slightly with fork.
3.  Bake 10 minutes or until set.  Remove to wire rack [which I don't own--I used paper towels instead]; cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

I wish you good luck getting the almond butter off the spoon, and even more good luck getting the almond butter out of the measuring cup.  I should also give you fair warning that these cookies crumble like crazy--you'll have almost as many crumbs as cookies.  That said, they're delicious, so who cares?  :)  I made 2 batches. 

Does anyone have a good gluten-free and pareve chocolate chip muffin and/or cookie recipe for Pesach?  I'd love to try something with chocolate chips for next Pesach.  [I found one.]

Meanwhile, enjoy!  Moed Tov (happy "intermediate days" of the festival).
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