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27 May 05:25

Cause of pesticide exposure, Parkinson's link

Previous studies have found an association between two commonly used agrochemicals (paraquat and maneb) and Parkinson's disease. Now a professor has determined that low-level exposure to the pesticides disrupts cells in a way that mimics the effects of mutations known to cause Parkinson's disease. Adding the effects of the chemicals to a predisposition for Parkinson's disease drastically increases the risk of disease onset.
11 Apr 02:06

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats

by Lindsay

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats - creamy ricotta, spaghetti squash, garlic kale, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, and a quick simmer tomato sauce. Easy, healthy, and SO delicious! |



You can’t even make this stuff up. These boats consist of spaghetti squash (the stringy-in-a-good-way squash that looks suspiciously similar to spaghetti) tossed around with some sautéed garlic kale, ricotta, lemon juice, salt, and mozzarella, baked right back in its spaghetti squash shell and topped with a super quick-simmer spaghetti sauce with ground turkey, because sometimes we find these things in our freezer and we need to top them with melty cheese to bring them out into the light.

These spaghetti squash lasagna boats are a major weeknight meal win for all the hungry people.

This is all we ate for the last three days before we headed out to the Philippines. Like, five meals in a row because I made them multiple times. You and I know that we don’t play around with serving sizes around here. I have no interest in a plate of three bites of food with some little bubbles of culinary foam on top. My MO is more of the Huge Plate Piled High With Food variety, whether nutritious Winter Bliss Bowls or just a good old burger and fries. But I might have even achieved a new level here – these spaghetti squash lasagna boat miracles were SO HUGE and so filling that even Bjork couldn’t finish one of them. We ended up halving the boats for smaller, more normal-person sized lunches and reserving the full-size boats for only the hangriest of dinner moments.

Here’s how it all came into existence in my mind:

I Want Pasta > How About Spaghetti with Creamy Sauce > Need a Way to Use Frozen Ground Turkey > Maybe Lasagna > Or Healthy Lasagna? > Turkey Lasagna with Creamy Sauce Could Work > I Know – Lasagna with a Butternut Squash Sauce > Google Search Squash Lasagna For Inspiration > Discovery of Cooking Light’s Spaghetti Squash Lasagna > Purchase of All Spaghetti Squashes in a 100-mile Radius > So Many Delicious and Healthy Lunches And Dinners.

That’s all this blog is, really. It’s just me being hungry for pasta all day every day and finding enough variations to keep us afloat for the last 5 years.

Even without any true-carb-pasta, I’ll give this one an honorary position on my favorite pasta list. Spaghetti Squash for the win!

5.0 from 4 reviews
Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats
Author: Pinch of Yum inspired by Spaghetti Squash Lasagna by Cooking Light
Serves: 4 HUGE boats (with extra sauce to freeze)
For the Filling:
  • 2 spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 cups baby kale
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice
For the Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a pinch of Italian seasonings like oregano, parsley, and basil
  • a few glugs of red wine and/or a splash of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  1. Squash: Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut-side up in a baking dish and bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes. Pull the squash strings out with a fork and transfer to a large mixing bowl (be careful since you'll want to preserve the squash shells to use as the "boats"). The squash strings should look like spaghetti.
  2. Sauce: Meanwhile, while the squash is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes until just fragrant (not browned). Add the turkey and cook, stirring frequently and breaking the meat apart into small pieces until fully cooked. Add the tomatoes, salt, seasonings, red wine, and vinegar. Simmer for 20 minutes or so (until the squash is done). Add broth to thin out the sauce if needed.
  3. Filling: Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and kale, stirring until the kale is just wilted. Combine the kale in a small bowl with the ricotta, salt, lemon juice, and ½ cup of the shredded cheese. Add the cooked spaghetti squash and stir to combine.
  4. Arrange: Fill the boats with the spaghetti squash mixture and top with tomato sauce and remaining shredded cheese. Bump the temperature up to about 425 and bake for another 10-15 minutes to get the cheese nice and melty. Top with Parmesan, olive oil, parsley, and salt and pepper.
We were able to reserve about half of the tomato sauce in the freezer for future use, which was awesome.

Nutrition information is for four servings, and it includes half of the sauce.


label-6Thanks for hanging with us during this crazy return-from-travel-abroad-and-work-on-a-few-too-many-big-projects time, even when it means the posts are a little shorter than usual. I have a chalkboard FILLED with recipes inspired by 15+ days of being away from my kitchen and I cannot wait to get back into the regular swing.

The post Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats appeared first on Pinch of Yum.

23 Sep 03:19

Hot Dog!

by LiEr

Okay, this is not the post in which I show you photos of Emily's and Jenna's back-to-school handmade gifts. 

Instead, this is the post in which I show you my newest addition to the fake-F&B entrepreneurship that is a big part of my kids' pretend play. 

In the tradition of our felt pizzeria, we've mass-produced hot dogs to feed the er... masses.

It began last summer (i.e. 2013) when, on a visit to Chicago, we stopped by one of their many hot dog restaurants

and the kids were mesmerized by the assembly-line process of getting their hotdogs from cooker to serving tray.

We've talked about making a hot dog restaurant ever since, but you know how it is with school and chores and those hundreds of other projects, right? The ones scattered liberally along the road to good intentions where, like annoying Lego bits and Barbie bobs, they are trampled painfully underfoot while you're hurrying on your way to Other Greater Things?

All that to say that it took me a whole year to get the hot dogs on the handmade roster. Although, if I consider some of my other WIPs (cough), it is actually quite a quick turnaround. 

It was about a week and a half from draft to finished product which is, again, very fast, especially since I was also concurrently hand-making the kids' first-week-of-school toys and doing all the school prep and back-to-school meetings with teachers and so on. This is not me boasting about my non-procrastinating ability (because we all know how good I am in that area) or my skill at felt-food making, but to prove that it is really a very easy project. We'll get to that later in this post.

Anyway yesterday, the kids got to play hot dog restaurant.

Loads of fun.

Now for the making. 

Four Stages - sausage, bun, grill and toppings. Follow along below, and print out a template at the end of the post. Please be reminded that these are for non-commercial use only - meaning that while your kids can fake-sell them to fake customers in their fake restaurants, you cannot sell them to real customers in your real shops.

Let's get started! 
I used craft felt for this project, because it was cheaper. Feel free to use the pricey 100% wool felt for your hot dog restaurant. Also, uncharacteristically, I included the 1/4" SA in all the dimensions and templates, so you don't need to add your own.

1 Sausages
Cut a 4" x 7" rectangle of brown felt and fold in half lengthwise, RS together.

I will show you two methods to make the sausage, and you pick the one you like more. 

Method I
(For people who want less hand-stitching but don't mind spending a longer time overall)

Sew the long edges together to make a tube.

While still WS out, gather one end (use basting stitches) tightly and secure. Turn RS out through the other open end and stuff.

The end you gathered shut will look like this. Perfect hot dog end.

Gather-and-stitch shut the remaining open end, shoving the SA back into the sausage, to mimic the look of the Perfect Hot Dog End as possible.

Here is my best effort - the one on the left. Not Perfect at all. Compare that to the one on the right, which is the Perfect Hot Dog End sewn from the WS, earlier. 

Method II 
(For people who want it easy but don't mind extra hand-stitching)
I strongly recommend this method.

Sew the long edges together to make a tube, but leave a small section open for turning out.

Gather-and-secure shut BOTH ends. Turn RS out through the middle opening and stuff.

Ladder-stitch the opening shut.

Completed sausage, by either method.

2 Buns
Note: Be prepared for some easing and such while fitting the two parts of the bun together. Some of those darts in the brown piece are skewed. This is deliberate, to shape the round ends of the bun. However, it does mean that the final edge of that brown piece, after all the darts are sewn closed, will be a bit jagged. You'll see what I mean later. If I hadn't made it for the purpose of mass-producing, I'd have drafted the outline of the template to be correspondingly jagged, but it would've been a nightmare to mass-cut. So I went with the lesser of two evils, and it just means that we'll have to use our common sense a bit instead of just blindly following a pattern, when we're doing the actual assembling, okay?

So, first cut out one of each of the bun parts - the brown outside part, and the white/ivory inside part. Mark out all the points from the templates - the numbers as well as the letters. I marked all of my points on the WS of my two pieces, but you might want to follow the instructions on the templates and mark some on the RS. 

First, sew closed all 8 darts. Note that these are all CURVED concave darts. None of these will be straight lines, so for heaven's sake, don't use a ruler to draw any dart legs. I've sketched in a pair of sample curved darts (A D1 A and B D2 B) on the template for a guide, but you should just sew them free-hand/free-eye as best you can.

Now, in each pair of darts, one of them will be symmetrical (A, D, E, H). This means that when you fold it in half to sew it shut, the end points of the dart will meet up quite nicely (see blue arrow).

The other dart in each pair (B, C, F and G) is skewed, meaning that its dart legs are not the same length and the dart will deliberately slant to the side. So when you fold the dart in half with its apex/point along the midline (green arrow), the end points of the dart (red arrow) will not match up. 

Here's a shot below of those two kinds of darts sewn shut. You can see the smooth edge (blue arrow) vs. the uneven edge (red arrow).

This is what I was talking about in the intro note to this section. I should have drafted the template with a jagged outline to compensate, but I didn't, because a smooth-outline template was easier to cut out 20 times for 20 buns than a jagged-outline template. 

I'm drawing your attention to this because I know of people who like following sewing patterns and complaining about seamlines and points and dart legs that don't "match up" to the nearest nanometer. I commiserate with your frustration but I also feel that you should stop griping and just adjust your seams with a little common sense and move on. No pattern will ever match up perfectly AND fit your body exactly without tweaking because the commercial pattern designers did not draft it for you specifically. Get over it. Okay, I'll stop now; this is not a drafting post. We are, after all, just sewing felt food.

So back to the bun and it's weird darts. What this simply means for you is that you should trim the sticky-out bits after sewing the 4 weird darts shut, and smooth the outline as best you can. It won't matter much to the overall shape of the bun. Or, if you are like me, you could just keep sewing the bun with the uneven outline without trimming anything, and ease in the white piece accordingly.

That's the most icky part of the bun, folks. When you're finished with all 8 darts, you'll get a voluptuous roast-chicken-looking thing like this:

WS                                          RS

Now snip the SA at points 1 and 3 of the white piece,

align it so that the its numbers match up with those on the brown piece,

and bring those two pieces together, RS touching.

Leaving an opening for turning out. sew the white piece to the brown piece. The trickiest bits will be points 1 and 3, where you'd have to lift-and-turn your presser foot a fair bit. 

When you're done, snip the SA of the BROWN piece at points 1 and 3 also, turn RS out through the opening and stuff. If you were good and remembered to snip, that weird corner will look smooth like this:

A note about stuffing the bun: do not overstuff it, or it will open flat out and refuse to fold close even a little bit. Localize the (modest) stuffing in the two halves of the bun, leaving the fold area completely unstuffed.

Ladder-stitch the opening shut.

Finished bun!

With sausage.

Make restaurant-ready quantities of both:

For a cheap thrill, pack them as you might see them in supermarkets (the kids got a laugh out of this).

I found some of these hot dog paper trays in JoAnn in their summer clearance section. 

They were perfect for sanitary hot dog handling.

3 Grill
This is the most important part of the restaurant, being cardboard and all.
It took me 5 minutes to make.

Find a cardboard box and tape down the flaps (or just cut them off). Buy a pack of skinny dowels and hot-glue them at regular intervals across the opening of the box. 

Side note about the hot dog colors: those three lighter dogs were my "muslin" hot dogs, which I made from some leftover brown felt sheets. I like their shade of brown more than the darker dogs, but I ran out. Unsurprisingly, the girls noticed immediately that the hot dogs were differently-colored and rather than deducing, "Oh, Mom used random fabric as usual, " they assigned different sausage-species-qualities to them. The light ones were brats, said Jenna, and the dark ones were "regular" (whatever that meant). Funny.

4 Toppings
Let me recommend a faster and less mind-numbing way of making ketchup and mustard. Rather than painstakingly cutting wavy felt shapes, just buy ric rac and snip them to the lengths you want, fray-checking the cut ends if you feel like it.

We used two different sizes for the mustard, so that customers could choose More Mustard vs. Less Mustard.

The ketchup, though, came in one-size-fits-all, because I've never heard of anyone wanting less ketchup.

We kept the other toppings simple: just cheese borrowed from the pizzeria, and brand new relish, which was a variegated green fleece rotary-cut into small bits.

Here they are on the hot dogs,

all ready to serve!

Incidentally, the bun in the middle was my "muslin" bun and, again, I used some random felt that was different from the other buns. The girls similarly picked up on the disparity and labeled it "the whole wheat bun" vs. "the regular". 

If you've never eavesdropped on your kids playing, I highly recommend it. Then save up those nuggets to share with your spouse for late night chortling. 

Here is the template download. 


20 Aug 01:54

Why You Need a Distraction Chair

by Herbert Lui
Sofie Hauge Katan, from The Noun Project

Sofie Hauge Katan, from The Noun Project

Ever notice how we tend to do similar things in the same environments? Wonder why we’re able to focus much more intensely in libraries or in coffee shops? Or why it’s so much more difficult to accomplish that same output of work from the comfort of your recliner?

It’s because our minds have associated certain environments with specific behaviors. Designer and writer Jack Cheng has a theory it’s about what he calls, “Habit Fields.” Each object inherently comes with a habit field, which we continue to reinforce or alter.

This is why Cheng chooses to have a specific chair for procrastinating and getting distracted. He writes on A List Apart:

I do most of my work from home, and in my apartment I have a comfortable chair reserved for email, checking status updates, and leisurely surfing the web. I call it my “distraction chair.” I try to reserve my work desk for actual work—writing, designing, and coding—and when I feel the inclination to read Twitter or check e-mail, I move to the lounge chair. Before I had an iPad, I unplugged my laptop and moved to the chair, and it worked just as well.

At first, it may seem like a nuisance to get up and move every time, but that’s exactly the point. As long as you adhere to the rules you’ve created for yourself, over time you’ll find that the strength of the habit fields keep you in place—the act of getting up, walking over, and getting situated in the chair becomes just tedious enough to keep you at the desk, leading to prolonged work periods.

Likewise, the lounge chair’s habit field turns into a “leisure zone”—one that I know to stay away from if I have a deadline and need to focus. Sometimes when I realize I’ve been spending too much time in the chair, it’s easier to snap out of it: all I have to do is stand up and leave the zone.

By isolating the distraction field, Cheng is able to make it easier for himself to focus when he needs to. Similarly, if you figure out which environments you thrive in and which objects have more distracting habits associated with them, you’ll have a greater control of your output.

20 Aug 01:22

Op-Ed: Success Is Having the Balls to Trust Yourself

by behanceteam
As a commercial designer, a number of things excite me creatively and motivate me to make great work: the opportunity to create for an audience, the novelty of doing a project for the first time and, of course, getting paid. But nothing ruins a perfectly good hard-on for work like having a client who does not trust me. Trust sets the stage and allows good work to happen. In essence TRUST is the lifeblood of my business, possibly of any business.

The first level of trust is having it in yourself—trusting that your opinions matter and are valid. Even believing that your guess is as good as anyone else’s adds a level of personal trust and self-respect. This perspective, allows you the courage to crawl further out on a limb, to take chances and make sure you are not playing safe—or, worse, “giving the people what they want.” It also allows you to listen to your own opinion without the nagging voice of well wishing, but fearful friends (“You’re gonna start a business… in THIS economy?”) whose sincerest wish is to shield you from failure, while only succeeding in protecting you from success. Or, worse, to listen to the tiny critics inside your own head who concoct the wildest scenes possible of failure, carnage and financial ruin. It takes grit to stay on course, to trust yourself, your vision, your calling, and recognize this resistance for what it is: fear.

Their sincerest wish is to shield you from failure, while only succeeding in protecting you from success.

After believing in your own gift, you must strive for a higher level of trust: trusting others. Trusting that people will hear your message, that they will be inspired to your cause, that they will rise to your challenge and, further, act on your call. Of course it’s not possible that not everyone will heed your call, but as the Persian mystic Rumi tells us, “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” We have to believe that when the right ones will come, they are not some generic audience, but your audience.

The opposite of this scenario is when we fail to put our trust in others. What we then win is the standard-issue workplace practice: employees are micro-managed, second guessed, and made to feel replaceable. This Dilbertian attitude tells employees that their work does not matter. It turns the drive to contribute into a week-long waiting game to collect a paycheck. Told what to do and how to do it reduces even creative enterprises into drone factory workers. Real trust in your employees means allowing them the freedom to make mistakes.  Similarly, in parenting there is no better way to crush a child’s spirit and make them feel worthless than not giving them the room to be creative and to make mistakes. When you trust your employees its encouraging, empowering, and breeds loyalty.

Both building personal trust and developing leadership skills requires a courage and letting go of control and loosening the reins. You need to trust that you will reach your goals even though you can not know all the steps the steps or even the outcome. This “not knowing” is the most important part. There is a line from the Talmud that tells us to “Teach your tongue to say ‘I don’t know’ and ye’ shall progress.” This is a request for us to practice being in the state of not knowing, establishing comfort within trust. Heeding this advice we avoid the well-worn path of usual outcomes. We are invited to play and to be open to unexpected results.

When you trust your employees its encouraging, empowering, and breeds loyalty.

In my own work, I recently started a long-term project with a publisher who came to me with little in the way of budget. In lieu of the right price I asked for complete creative freedom—essentially I was asking for their trust. Understandably, they said this idea scared them, but they agreed to our little contract. Their trust inspired me to do my best work. After the project was finished they posted on their blog, “James Victore asked us to trust him, and we are glad we did.” Now, this story may incite such claims as “Well, that’s okay for you, you’re James Victore.” But this in actuality is just an excuse—one of many reasons not to trust yourself or others.

I’d be lying to say that “Trust” is easy, especially in business. But the easy way is always a trap. Trust me.