Pulses for The Mass

During the 2013 Sixty-eight annual meet of the United Nations General Assembly, the year 2016 was designated as the International Year of Pulses (IYP).

What is so import about pulses that the United Nations General Assembly compelled to declare 2016 as the Year of Pulses? Other than the familiar meaning of heart rhythmical throbbing or wave pulsation, pulses are the collective name for the dried seeds of the legume family including lentils, various types of beans, chickpeas and dried peas.

Green beans are a type of pulses.

UN hopes the declaration of IYP is able to increase public awareness of the health benefits of pulses as part of the sustainable food production plan to secure food supply and nutrient needed. IYP 2016 aims to foster connections throughout the food supply chain for a better utilization of plant-based proteins, increase production of pulses globally, to better employ suitable crop rotations and to tackle issues associated with the crop trading.

The role of legumes in the advancement of civilization is undeniably important although they are often taken for granted. Since prehistoric, legumes have provided the human with vegetable, grains and pulses, forage and winter silage for the livestock, and green manure for soil enrichment. Their root nodules hosting nitrogen-fixing ground bacteria are particularly beneficial in fertilizing the land and facilitating crop rotation.

Pulses of legumes are rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, essential minerals but low in fat. Chickpeas and lentils, widely consumed pulses in India continent, are often promoted as very affordable super foods for very good reasons. Of Daily Value requirement, a 100g serving of chickpeas provides 38% of protein, 68% of dietary fiber, 34% of Iron, 28% of Magnesium, 25% of Potassium, 0% cholesterol and 9% total fat. A 100g serving of chicken breast, on the other hand, provide 62% of protein, 0% dietary fiber, 30% VitaminB-6, 7% Magnesium, 28% cholesterol and 5% total fat.

Cultivated legume plants are used for many purposes, as grain, forage, medicine, blooms, green manure/fertilizer, and even as timber sources.

Grounded beans can be used to replace other expensive ingredient without sacrificing on nutrient, taste or texture. For example, carob flour can be used to replace cocoa flour in chocolate cookies. Flour grounded from other beans can also be used to replace common flour in making cakes and bread.

There is another notable advantage of pulses. As they are dried produces with long shelf-live, they can be easily and economically stored and transported throughout the world when needed. Transported pulses are versatile enough they can be used as food or as seeds for future generation. The variety of legume plants is so numerous that there are species suitable to be grown in practically any region with human inhabitant, be it tropical area, temperate regions, savannah or deserts.

As the weather becoming increasingly unpredictable, soil natural nutrient depleting and agriculture land limited, legume plants are an important factor in ensuring sufficient and quality food source for the projected 9 billion people in 2050.

National Escargot Day – May 24

This may come as a surprise to unsuspecting Americans that May 24th is listed on the National Day Calendar as the day honoring a French dish involving cooked land snails- The National Escargot Day.

Cluster of escargots on a tree branch.The word escargot {es.kar.go} simply means snails in French.

Although snail eating is not something desirable to most American families, it is commonly served as an appetizer or starter meal throughout the old world of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

In fact, piles of snail shells of numerous species have been found in various archaeological digs in Mediterranean regions. The Romans especially had a taste for the juicy fresh of snails and introduced snail cultivation far and wide.

In the middle ages, snails were commonly reared at monasteries and Christian households as snails being neither meat nor fish, were allowed to be eaten during the month of Lent. They were every man meat before gaining the reputation as the highly priced delicacy in French restaurants.

It is an excellence alternate food source as snails can be found practically anywhere and do not require huge space or investment to farm them.


Nutritional value of snail

Edible snails are a desirable source of protein as they are composed of 80% water, 2.4% fat and 15% protein.

Edible snail species

The most commonly eaten snail species are the Roman snail Helix pomatia, the small “petit-gris” garden snail Cornu aspersa , and the Helix lucorum. The Roman snails are highly valued larger edible mollusk but are harder to reared commercially. There are other species of edible snails but they are either too small or simply not palatable enough to worth the effort.

Escargot Preparation

If the snails are free range, it is advisable to fast them for 3-4 days in an airy container, follow by at least another 1-2 days of feeding of suitable herbs or cereal to fatten them up. This is called the process of purging to allow the snails to excrete any harmful material from their guts.

To prepare the French Escargot, the snails are dropped into a pail of boiling water briefly to kill them. The meat is then removed from the shells, sautéed with butter or olive oil with wine, garlic, and herbs. The meat is then slotted back into the shells with the sauce for serving. The dish is often served on a specially designed plate with accompanying special tong and fork for the ease of diners.

In Asia, where the consumption of various mollusks is fairly common, the snails are cooked in a variety of ways with the shells intact and presented intact usually. The diners extract the meat with toothpicks or forks just before consumption and usually dipped the flesh in hot sauce or soy source.

Besides Europe, snail farming is slowly but surely expanding in popularity across the globe. As more people are exposed to escargot eating, the sooner it can be accepted as another common table food.

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Jicama and Chinese Water Chestnut

Jicama and Chinese Water Chestnut– Ingredients missing from your salad all this while.

The Jicama and Chinese water chestnut are root systems of plants. They have been taken by Asians for centuries with extensive recipes developed around them whether taken raw, stewed, sautéed, stir-fried, steamed, in broth or as a desert. If you have not been acquainted with them, you probably should seek them out soon.  They are usually available in Asian food stores if you can’t find them at your usual grocery store. Both are refreshingly tasty eaten raw on its own, in salads, juiced or in your sandwich. They are excellent alternate food for carrot or lettuce in any meal. The broader our range of food is, the better off in the food chain supply.

Chinese water Chestnut

Chinese water chestnut

The chestnut is not a nut but the corm of an aquatic grass-like plant grown on paddy fields, marshes, or edges of rivers. A corm is a bulb-looking underground storage organ of a plant to ensure the survival of the plant in times of harsher conditions. You can be assured of all the goodness of the plant has to offer is in the corm.

Water chestnut has a thin layer of black skin which needs to be peel or slice away. The fresh is white, crunchy, juicy with an earthy nutty taste. You can pop the peeled corm into your mouth immediately after rinsing or put aside for other culinary uses.  It is best to rinse the water chestnut before and after skin removal to remove dirt. It is mildly sweet eaten raw.

Water Chestnut is high in starchy carbohydrates, rich in vitamin B+ and minerals especially manganese and potassium. Westerners most likely have their first encounter with water chestnut in Chinese restaurant chap suey dish. You can easily incorporate them in your salad, juice, dessert immediately. Try baking water chestnut wrapped with bacon.

Jicama (Mexican yam bean)

Jicama strips

Jicama is a plant native to Mexico. It is a vine capable of growing up to 15 feet with sufficient support and long sunny weather. The Spaniards introduced the jicama turnip to the Philippines and from there it spreads to the whole of Asia. It is so common in Asia now that it is often thought as ingenious to Asia.

Jicama turnips come in various sizes, as small as palm-size to weight as much as 23kg. It has a uniform light brown bark-light skin that needs to be peeled or sliced away.  The turnip may look intimidating especially the bigger one, but trust me, what is hidden inside the skin is truly delightful. The fibrous skin can be easily peeled off in section once you can get hold of a small top section of the skin.

The fresh is pure white, refreshingly crunchy, juicy and sweet. Some described it as apple-like but personally I think it stands on its own. But you certainly can eat it like an apple once the skin is removed.

Jicama is nearly pure dietary fiber with 90% water. A good supplement for vitamin C and potassium. Jicama is rich in oligofructose inulin. This compound not only gives the sweet taste to jicama but it is prebiotic that nurture beneficial organism in our guts.  Due to its slow conversion to glucose, jicama is suitable for moderate consumption by diabetics.

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Worms for Meals

Many people are squeamish at the sight of a worm, to ask them to put a worm into their mouths is in tandem of handling a severe physical and psychological punishment to them. However, we have been unknowingly tucking in worms as additives in flour, source, salad dressing, or jelly for decades.

A cup of roasted worms.

In colloquial daily language, the word worm is generally referring to various small living creatures including insect larvae, insects, earthworms, centipedes, millipedes and other crawlies. This article only focuses on edible insect larvae and caterpillar, including milk worm and silk worm.

Similar to many other ancient foods that have fallen out of favor from the mass, worm eating is not something new. The earliest finding of worm eating can be traced back to Bronze age. Many cultures around the world continue to enjoy taking worm as part of their staple food.

Think milk worm-laced Mexican tequila, or the extra savory tacos with meocuiles (butterfly caterpillar) or chinicuiles (moth caterpillar). In Asia, street vendors specialize in serving up bags of roasted, fried, steamed larvae or caterpillars are fairly common. In Africa, the Mopani worm of the Emperor moth is highly valued by the ingenious people of southern Africa. When in the season, collecting Mopani worms from the wild mopane trees is a community activity. In South America, beetle larvae, especially those of scarab or longhorn beetles are much appreciated on a plate. Similarly, bamboo larvae and sago larvae are as highly valued in Thailand and neighboring countries.

Why should we eat worms?
First of all, worms can taste heavenly. There are many varieties of larvae, pupae, caterpillars that are recommended as food. The Canadian night crawler is said to taste like bacon. A plate of sweet and sour roasted silkworms tastes just like a plate of sweet and sour roasted chicken. A bag of fried milkworms is as crunchy and savory as a bag of chips minus the guilt.

Secondly, they are protein-packed. From a pound to pound, larvae of some species can yield as high as 8 times more protein than beef.  They are also loaded with minerals such as iron, calcium, sodium, magnesium and vitamin B-complex.

Thirdly, we are giving a helping hand to Mother Nature. Livestock farming for meat is exhausting the environment in lands, feeds, and fresh water. In addition, livestock farming, especially cattle farming is found to be a major contributor to environmental pollution. A study carried out by the University of Oxford concluded that a daily 100g meat-loaded diets produced 7.2kg of the undesirable carbon dioxide compare to 3.8kg of CO2 emission by vegetarian or fish-heavy diets. The less red meat we eat, the better it is for the environment. Juicy, tasty, buttery worms can fill in some of the gap craved by meat eaters as the alternate food choice.

Fourthly, worms are inexpensive super foods. Insects tend to be prolific breeder producing hundreds of eggs with incubation periods of mere weeks and cost little to feed. As a result, they are very affordable nutrient-packed foods that are currently mostly fed to your favorite pets or garden birds.

Jumping on the worm wagon

The only thing that is preventing the urban folks from eating more worms is the psychological “ew” factor and the only way to overcome that is to start eating. For beginners, mealworms are a good choice. They tasted mildly nutty and they are easily available alive or in dried form. Most fish bait shops or pet shops carry them. If not, plenty of online stores are selling them. And you can easily keep them alive in a plastic container with cornmeal, oatmeal, apple, or suitable leaves until you are ready to cook them.

If gourmet food is your style, a search online may just list a restaurant not far from your neighborhood featuring worms and other critters on the menu.  It is not advisable to just go out and randomly pick up any critter or worm and pop it into your mouth as some are poisonous, pesticide-contaminated, or may trigger an allergic reaction. It is up to the due diligence of the readers to research and source for reliable edible worms.

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Buy Less Food, Waste Less Food

Have you ever wonder why certain communities are flooded with endless food choice while others are not sure where their next meals will come from? Why is that?

Wouldn't it be nice some of the wasted food reached this poor man?

Dana Gunders, the Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found every sixth American is not warranted a secure food supply. Yet, 40% of edible food is thrown away annually. Similar scenarios are played out worldwide. At the global level, one in every nine persons lack sufficient food to lead a healthy active life, yet one-third of global food goes to waste. As Dana put it, if total food wastage is counted as a nation, it is the third largest carbon footprint contributor after America and China.

While we can blame the incompetent politicians in managing food distribution; the greedy food producers and retailer in jacking up food prices; the bad weather in poor harvest and many other reasons; which by and large are not within our daily control.

So what can we do?

While the scientists and government agencies can search high and low for alternate food sources, we can help by managing our daily diet and grocery list better. What does that mean?

Dana pointed out in her website that Americans are literally throwing away every 4th bag of grocery at a cost of $30 monthly with uneaten food.

It is clear one of the sources of the problem is right in our homes. If every household consciously made an effort to minimize food waste, not only we are doing ourselves a favor with extra money saved, we are extending a much needed helping hand to mother nature by reducing landfill piled up and green gas emission. In addition, fewer demands for food may just drive the food price lower to the benefit of the deprived households.

One of her findings is that people are wasting food due to lack of knowledge and awareness of how detrimental the way we view food as disposable at will. Therefore, the barely eaten sandwich ended up in the dustbin, strawberries left rotten at the back of the fridge, aesthetically imperfect apples are being askew.

In September 2015, Obama administration established the nation’s unprecedented food-waste reduction campaign with a target of halving food waste by 2030. The United Nations announced a similar target a few days later.

Responding to the call to curb wastage, shelf space for less appealing fruits and greens are appearing in grocery stores, appliances are being designed for better food storage, edible food packaging is being actively developed, well-coordinated food donation marketplace is being championed.

However, grocers, farmers, and all other parties involved in the food distribution response according to the demands and attitude of consumers. Without an all-encompassing cultural awareness of treating food as precious life-giving essentials, all the registrations, guidelines, enticements, and technology advancements will not be sufficient to solve the inequality in food distribution.

With better grocery and meal planning, awareness in every man’s responsibility and ability to curb food waste and world hunger, we might just be on the right path.

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Grasshoppers, Alternate Food Source

The Bible recorded John the Baptist ate grasshoppers. Eating locusts or grasshoppers may have fallen off the edible food spectrum of modern societies but it is certainly not new. Many societies around the world continue to have the insect as part of their diet. In fact, once you can get over the “ew” factor, they are down right tasty.

a grasshopper resting on a person fingers.

Roasted grasshopper skewers can be bought at Beijing and Bangkok easily; fried critters in Yogjakarta, Indonesia; boiled, salted and sun-dried snacks in Arab world. The Ohlone people of native American are expert herder of grasshoppers to collect them as food; Mexicans have chapulines in their tortillas and so forth.

Weight by weight, grasshoppers offer more protein than beef and it is definitely on the alternate food source list of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FOA).

Roasted or deep-fried, grasshoppers are crunchy and have a fragrant nutty flavor. Once you are accustomed to the idea of eating grasshoppers, popping them into your mouth like chips are likely to occur.

You can catch grasshopper from the garden in warmer area but it is not advisable as they may have been pesticide-contaminated. They can be easily bought from pet stores. Freeze-dried, ready to cook versions are already available for online purchases.

To prepare them for cooking, live grasshoppers are first dropped into boiling water briefly to kill them, then taken out, allow to drain and cool off. For later consumption, either oven-dried, sun-dried or freeze-dried are recommended. For immediate preparation, the legs and heads are sometimes removed just prior to further cooking, some people prefer to leave them on and let the diners decide whether to eat the whole critters or just the torsos.

If you have purchased grasshopper flour, incorporate them into your favorite smoothies or your cake recipe is a great way to start.

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Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie with Cricket Flours

Let jump into the kitchen and bake up this marvelous chocolate chip butter cookie with extra goodies- cricket flours! Come on, you know it is good for you!

A couple of chocolate chip butter cookies baked with cricket flours.

• 1/4 cup cricket flours, preferably with chocolate or peanut flavor
• 2 1/4 cup baking flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 3/4 cup brown sugar
• 2 sticks softened unsalted butter, softened
• 1 tsp extract of almond
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup peanut butter chips
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Mix together the cricket flour, baking flour, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.
In a kitchen mixing bowl, whip together the sugar, brown sugar, butter, and extract of almond. Next, add in the eggs and lastly add in the flour mixture slowly until fully blended.
Next, manually fold in the peanut butter chips and chocolate morsels. When ready, spoon out the cookie dough into a cookie baking sheet and set in the middle shelf of a preheated oven for 9-10 minutes. When cookies are fully baked, let it rest on the table top for a couple of minutes before tucking in!
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Oh Offal! But Waste Not

The ingenious people of America made full use of the buffalo and other game they hunted, from head to tail, nothing is not completely utilized. In today’s world, we purchase only the part we want and rarely give a second thought to the rest of the animal, especially the offal.

Offal of animal
Stomach, intestine and other offal parts of an animal.

Unless you are a hunter or living off the grid, there is probably very little chance that you need to somehow make full use of a whole animal.
Nevertheless, we can choose to consume other parts of a livestock that are mostly thrown away now in search of alternate food source.

Here are some examples that how we can minimize the waste.

Blood – Blood is the life source of the animal, it is iron and nutrient rich. Chucking it away is really a shame. Making blood pudding or blood soup is an ideal option. Don’t worry, the color changed to dark brown after cooking.

Bones, tendons, and cartilage – Rich in anti-aging collagen and other good stuff, they made excellent soup stocks and it is so easy to make. Chopped up a little if the piece is too big, put in a big pot, throw in some herbs with some seasoning of your choice, fill up with water, boiled away and simmer a little. Voila, you have your homemade bone stocks that can last for a while. In East Asia, chicken feet are considered delicacies and consumed in a variety of ways.

Offal – Scottish haggis made full use of an animal offal and then some more. Haggis may be a little off-putting at sight, it is tasty with a desirable nutty flavor. If you have had a bad experience with the kidney, liver or other offal parts, perhaps it was not prepared to your liking. I often find oriental restaurants have mastered the use of offal in their culinary as they have a long history of taking them.

Due to the social environment and upbringing, all of us are guilty of shunning certain things without ever trying it first. Once we are proven wrong or overcome the mental block, we may actually enjoy it. Consider this, all the body parts listed above are considered delicacies in some cultures.


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American Bullfrogs as Alternate Food Source

By the time an American kid graduated from a high school, the kid would have dissected quite a few American bullfrogs. Perhaps a few may have some vague idea of frogs being edible, but most kids are more likely to associate frogs with science classes or even as pets for the rest of their lives. Yet in certain parts of the world or even in parts of America, frog legs are a culinary delicacy.

American bullfrogs resting on lily pads.

Why should we consider taking them as an alternate food source?

Bullfrogs are near everywhere
American bullfrogs are indigenous to North America, covering a wide section of the landscape from Wisconsin to the East coast, from central Florida to Nova Scotia, and across the flat Great Plains to the mountainous Rockies. In the 1900’s, the species have also been introduced to the west coast and Mexico. Whether deliberately or unintentionally imported, American bullfrogs can now be found in South America, Asia, and southern Europe as well.
American bullfrogs thrive in wet habitat with a permanent water source. Ponds, lakes, rivers, or swampy bogs are their favorite places. Watery habitats that have been one way or another altered by human activities are usually suitable for the species as warmer water temperature and abundance of aqua plants are all they need for their survival and reproduction.

Bullfrogs are mighty predators
Contrary to our mental images of the species sitting peacefully on lily pads, ducting out their tongues every now and then to take in insects flying by, American bullfrogs are known to take on other species that are bigger than them. The frogs are able predators. Worms, snakes, insects, aquatic eggs, crustaceans, tadpoles, fish, or even bats are part of their diet. The species are cannibalistic too and will swallow their own kind. The diet prowess of American bullfrog is a concern to the new habitats they have been introduced to. Due to their size, not only they out-compete native frogs and other aquatic animals in the department of food source, they eat up the natives too. One of the easiest ways to keep in check of an invading species is to eat them, especially one taste as good as the bullfrogs.

Bullfrog legs are lean and tasty
You might feel squeamish about consuming the limps of a slimy amphibian, but trust me, a cooked frog leg is anything but slimy. Don’t believe me? You can check out Anthony Bourdin’s opinion. A plate of stir-fried Kung Pao frog legs with dried chilies is a must have if you visit Southeast Asia of Malaysia or Singapore. When served on a plate, frog legs closely resembled thighs of a bird.
In addition, a plate of 100gram frog legs stir-fried with the spicy capsicum only yields 70 calories, compare to a 280- calories similar size serving of grilled chicken thigh or chicken breast.

At 16 gram of protein and 0.3 gram of fat, frog leg is a nutritional powerhouse. It shouldn’t come as a surprise as it is nearly a pure muscle that enables frog jumping and hoping. It is also an excellence source of potassium, vitamin-A, and omega-3 fatty acids. Fitness enthusiasts take note!
The taste of bullfrog legs is mild, milder than chicken in fact, with a firm but silky texture. The meat is just as delicious whether steamed, stewed or prepared in a broth. Frog legs require a shorter time to cook than chicken due to their smaller individual sizes.

Weighing close to 1 pound and 1.5 feet in length, bullfrog legs are a fine alternative to poultry meat. Seek them out from reliable sources, fresh or frozen, free range or farmed, you will not be disappointed.

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