Daily Archive: 11/09/2013

Nov 09 2013

What’s Cooking: Pumpkin Soup

Republished from October 17, 2012

Pumpkin SoupYes, I’m on a pumpkin kick but the the sweet, small “pie” pumpkins have been plentiful in the market this year and I found an easy way to roast them. But, is your lacking time, canned pumpkin works just as well. My favorite is Libby’s which can be found in most grocery stores year round and you cannot beat the pie recipe in the label.

So let’s start with picking the pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are small, about 8 inches in diameter and yield about two to three cups of puree per pumpkin. Like picking any squash, look for one that is firm, no bruises or soft spots, and a good orange color.

To bake the pumpkin: This method from The Pioneer Woman works amazingly well, except don’t cut up the pumpkin. I found it easier to clean the “guts” out after the pumpkin was cooked.

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the washed and dried whole pumpkin on a cookie sheet. No need to cut the top off of cut it into chunks.
  • Place in the oven for about an hour. Remove and let cool.
  • Cut the cooled pumpkins into quarters and with a spoon, gently separate the pulp and seeds from the flesh. If there’s a little of the stringy pulp left, don’t worry, it won’t hurt.
  • Gently scrape the flesh from the skin with a spoon or a knife.
  • Place the gooey flesh in a food processor and pulse until smooth. A potato masher, food mill, hand-held immersion blender or a ricer work well, too.
  • As I said, you should have about 2 to 3 cups of puree per pumpkin.

    Now you’re ready to make soup. I’ve tried various recipes and ended up with my own version.


  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 4 cup unsalted vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup light cream, or half and half
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • In a large sauce pan, heat 1/4 cup of vegetable broth over medium heat. Add the chop onion, and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add more broth if needed, do not let the onion dry out.

    Add the remaining broth, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook until hot. Don’t boil.

    Ladle into warmed individual bowls and garnish with black pepper. Serve immediately.

    I serve the soup garnished with parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds, shredded Gruyere, croutons, chopped green onions and sour cream on the side.

    Nov 09 2013

    Health and Fitness News

    Welcome to the Health and Fitness NewsWelcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

    Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

    You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

    Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

    Wholesome Biscotti (Some Even Gluten-Free)

    Wholesome Biscotti photo recipehealthpromo-tmagArticle_zps899d0aa4.jpg

    Some pastries lend themselves to interpretation and adaptation to whole grain variations; others are best left alone in their white flour and sugar splendor. Biscotti, the dry Italian cookies that are twice baked (which is what the name means), is one of the pastries that does. It is supposed to be hard, and doesn’t have to be too sweet, though most of the biscotti you find in coffee shops are – too sweet, that is.

    I had a lot of fun working with different whole grain biscotti variations this week. I began with a straight all whole wheat and almond flour cookie filled with toasted almonds, made with Community Grains whole wheat flour, which I never hesitate to substitute for white flour in baked goods because it is so finely ground. I used no more than two-thirds of the amount of sugar called for in virtually all of the biscotti recipes I looked at, and the sugar I used was either organic brown sugar or organic white sugar (which is really more of a beige color) and coarsely ground. One of this week’s recipes, a hazelnut orange biscotti, is sweetened with honey only.

    ~Martha Rose Shulman~

    Whole Wheat Almond Biscotti

    A less sweet version of the classic biscotti de Prato.

    Gluten-Free Chocolate Buckwheat Biscotti

    Buckwheat flour provides a great backdrop for the chocolate in these cookies.

    Gluten-Free Raisin Pistachio Biscotti

    Using a bit of butter results in a delicate cookie that is irresistible.

    Hazelnut, Orange and Honey Biscotti

    A wonderful combination of flavors results in a cookie that tastes great when dipped in tea.

    Cornmeal Coconut Biscotti

    Coconut oil provides great flavor a sweet smell to these cookies.

    Nov 09 2013

    Punting the Pundits

    “Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

    Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

    Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

    New York Times Editorial Board: Equal Coverage for the Mentally Ill

    A struggle over decades to force insurers to cover mental health and addiction services on the same basis as medical and surgical costs is headed for success under new rules issued on Friday by the Obama administration. The rules will cover most Americans with health insurance, including those in many employer-sponsored plans, in other group plans, in some but not all Medicaid plans, and in policies bought on the individual markets.

    The rules strengthen a 2008 law that required parity in coverage – but only when an insurer actually offered mental health and addiction benefits. It did not require such benefits. The new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, does require coverage for mental health and substance abuse as 1 of 10 essential benefits in any new health plans. Combined, the two complete the job of offering both parity and coverage.

    Gail Collins: Missing the Bad Old Days

    It’s been a tough week. Let’s take a break and discuss the catfish inspection program.

    There was a time when I had no strong feelings about this subject, but that was before the 2012 election, when we learned that Representative Paul Ryan’s favorite sport was “noodling,” which involves walking along the river and grabbing catfish by their throats. “You get your hand inside the fish, so they kind of, they come up on your hand,” the soon-to-be-vice-presidential candidate told The Times. “Then you just squeeze wherever you are on that fish and pull it out. I know it sounds a little crazy, but it’s really exhilarating.” [..]

    Anyway, catfish have seemed a lot more interesting since then. And they’re currently a big issue in Congress, where the House and Senate are trying to put together a joint farm bill. It is very important that they get this done, because otherwise, at the end of the year, the country will revert to Depression-era agriculture laws and we all fall over the dairy cliff. I am not saying another word about this because I know you’re suffering from cliff fatigue. Just don’t plan for any events in early 2014 that involve purchasing a lot of ice cream.

    One of the differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill involves a special catfish inspection office in the Agriculture Department, which Congress created in 2008. The office, which is supposed to check imported catfish to make sure they’re safe to eat, has yet to start up, although it’s already cost us $20 million.

    Joe Conason: Are Politicians Who Cut Food Stamps and Deny Health Access Truly ‘Pro-Life’?

    When Wendy Davis proclaimed that she is “pro-life”-a description long since appropriated by conservatives opposed to abortion rights-the right-wing media practically exploded with indignation. How could she dare to say that? But having won national fame when she filibustered nearly 12 hours against a law designed to shutter Lone Star State abortion clinics, the Texas state senator with the pink shoes doesn’t hesitate to provoke outrage among the righteous.

    Speaking to a crowd at the University of Texas in Brownsville last Tuesday, Davis, now running for governor as a Democrat, made a deceptively simple but profound declaration: “I am pro-life. I care about the life of every child: every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream, every woman and man who worry their children’s future and their ability to provide for that.”

    Her argument directly pierced to the contradiction within the right’s “pro-life” sloganeering. So far the feeble answer from the right is that Davis must be “lying” because nobody who supports a woman’s right to choose is pro-life.

    E. J. Dionne, Jr.: What’s the Matter With Motherhood?

    If you’re a conservative strongly opposed to abortion, shouldn’t you want to give all the help you can to women who want to bring their children into the world? In particular, wouldn’t you hope they’d get the proper medical attention during and after their pregnancy?

    This would seem a safe assumption, which is why it ought to be astonishing that conservatives are positively obsessed with trashing the Affordable Care Act’s regulation requiring insurance policies to include maternity coverage.

    Never mind that all of us lucky enough to have health insurance end up paying to cover conditions we may never suffer from ourselves. We all want to avoid cancer, but don’t begrudge those who do get it when the premiums we pay into our shared insurance pools help them receive care.

    David Sirota: The Connection Between Poverty and Education

    Google the phrase “education crisis” and you’ll be hit with a glut of articles, blog posts and think tank reports claiming the entire American school system is facing an emergency. Much of this agitprop additionally asserts that teachers unions are the primary cause of the alleged problem. Not surprisingly, the fabulists pushing these narratives are often backed by anti-public school conservatives and anti-union plutocrats. But a little-noticed study released last week provides yet more confirmation that neither the “education crisis” meme or the “evil teachers union” narrative is accurate.

    Before looking at that study, consider some of the ways we already know that the dominant storyline about education is, indeed, baseless propaganda.

    Jacob Swenson and Jamie Merchant: Shooting Ourselves: Mass Killings, Austerity, and the Breakdown of American Society

    Sandy Hook. Columbine. Aurora. Tucson. Fort Hood. These names ring out in popular memory as the sites of seemingly random, horrific atrocities.

    Mass violence and how we can address it has become a hot-button issue and for good reason. Last week, between October 26thand November 1st, there were five mass killings in the United States. And Monday, a gunman opened fire in a New Jersey shopping mall, firing several shots, but killing only himself.

    Our nation leads wealthy democracies in allowing the market to disseminate, nearly unchecked, huge numbers of guns into the hands of a society riddled by extreme economic inequality, widening social polarization, and deep racism. In this context, advocating gun control is the only sane thing to do. Yet, to jump from mass violence to the conclusion that there are just too many guns – and that the solution is simply to reduce them – is to fatally misdiagnose the problem.

    Nov 09 2013

    On This Day In History November 9

    This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

    Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

    November 9 is the 313th day of the year (314th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 52 days remaining until the end of the year.

    On this day in 1872, fire rips through Boston. The Great Boston Fire was Boston’s largest urban fire and still one of the most costly fire-related property losses in American history. The conflagration began at 7:20 p.m. on November 9, 1872, in the basement of a commercial warehouse at 83-87 Summer Street in Boston, Massachusetts. The fire was finally contained twelve hours later, after it had consumed about 65 acres of Boston’s downtown, 776 buildings, and much of the financial district and caused $73.5 million in damage. At least twenty people are known to have died in the fire.

    In the aftermath, the city established an entirely new system of firefighting and prevention. The fire also led to the creation of Boston’s financial district.

    The fire began in the basement of a warehouse at the corner of Kingston and Summer streets. At the time, this area of the city contained a mix of residences and light industry. Its buildings and most area roofs were made mainly of wood, allowing the blaze to spread quickly as the wind blew red hot embers from rooftop to rooftop. In addition, as Boston streets were narrow, large flames from one structure could literally leap across them to nearby buildings.

    Firefighting units from Maine to New Haven, Connecticut, arrived to help, but efforts to fight the fire were plagued by difficulties. There was not enough water on hand to get the fire under control; the hydrant system did not work well because much of the equipment was not standardized; and even when firefighters got their hands on an adequate supply of water, the height of the buildings and the narrowness of the streets made it difficult to direct the water at the blaze from the optimum angle. Because a local equine epidemic had struck the city fire department’s horses, it was difficult to get the fire engines to the correct locations at the right times. In addition, some of the efforts were counter-productive. Explosions were used to attempt fire breaks, but this high-risk strategy was not executed with enough precision and served only to further spread the fire.

    The fire was finally stopped at the doors of Fanueil Hall the following morning, but it had already destroyed much of the downtown area. Boston’s officials realized that their fire-prevention efforts had been ineffective and, in the aftermath of the disaster, began to revise and strengthen all of the city’s fire laws and regulations. An inspection system was instituted and the local fire departments began to coordinate their efforts.

    Nov 09 2013

    Seeking Justice for Miners with Black Lung

    Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), or black lung disease, is a preventable, occupational lung disease caused by long exposure to coal dust. In a recent series of investigative reports by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity, a prestigious medical hospital in Maryland was exposed for covering up thousands of cases of miners who had contracted the disease and who were ultimately denied benefits.

    Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions received millions of dollars from coal companies for reading chest X-rays yet rarely confirming that miners are suffering from black lung disease. This famed teaching hospital has been the subject of an investigation for the past year by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity after miners were told they didn’t have black lung and therefore could not collect benefits.

    At the center of the controversy is Dr. Paul Wheeler, age 78, who is the leader of the medical unit that reads the miners’ chest X-rays and CT scans on behalf of the coal companies. Dr. Wheeler and his team of radiologists issue reports based on what they determine the X-rays show. Those reports are then used to confirm or deny whether the miner has black lung disease.

    Coal companies have relied on the expertise and stellar reputation of Johns Hopkins for the past 40 years. Even though the doctors read the chest films as part of their regular duties, the university charges the coal companies up to 10 times more than what the miners pay their personal physicians. According to past judicial opinions on file with the U.S. Department of Labor, Dr. Wheeler often testifies that the findings of other doctors who had previously determined the X-rays showed black lung disease were, in fact, indications of something else such as cancer, tuberculosis and other lung diseases. As a result, the miner’s claim is denied.

    Johns Hopkins has now suspended the program and Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) are working to right legislation to correct the wrong and strengthen protection of miners.

    Nov 09 2013

    Friday Night at the Movies