Can you use eggs past the expiration date on the carton?

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According to the Julian calendar, these eggs were packed February 21, 2014 (the 52nd day of the year) and must be sold by March 22nd. After that, I’d give them about a week.

Yes.

The date on the egg carton is usually a sell by date (if it says EXP, that’s an expiration date.  Don’t use them after that).  A “sell by” date means that the eggs are good past that date.  How long?  Well, they are good for 3-5 weeks from the date of purchase according to the USDA (if stored correctly, and if kept at proper temperatures before storing).

However, I go by the Julian date, which is the 3 numbers that come before the sell by date.  How can you tell what date that was?  Go here and download the Julian calendar for 2014.  I use eggs 3-5 weeks from that date, because eggs degrade over time.  The egg whites become looser, for one.  Though eggs will usually bake all right when you’re making cookies and such, it’s best to use fresher eggs for omelettes, scrambles, and souffles as well as cakes like angel food, which rely on a structure produced by fresh egg whites.

How can you tell if an egg is still okay, aside from the date?  Put the egg into cold water at the bottom of a saucepan.  A fresh egg will lay on its side at the bottom.  Less fresh, but still all right, it will begin to sit up a bit.  If it floats, it’s compost.  Toss it.

Still need more information about eggs?  Check this out.

Is capitalism making you fat?

I wouldn't eat it, but I get it.

I wouldn’t eat it, but I get it.

Is capitalism making you fat, or are you making you fat?  The degree to which you believe the former or the latter determines how you feel about legislative reforms directed at your health, and more specifically, at obesity.

While adults can freely choose what they eat, it’s more than hunger that drives us.  Appetite as well as hunger, boredom, anxiety and visual stimuli direct us toward foods we consume.  Brian Wansink, at the Cornell Brand Lab, experiments with this sort of thing.  In his book Mindless Eating, he details an experiment during which secretaries are gifted candy dishes to place on their desk.  They are the only candy consumers during the experiment.  The subjects consumed more candy from a clear dish than an opaque one.  They consumed even less when the dish experimenters placed the dish three feet away.  The secretaries consumed the least candy when it was placed into a drawer.

Which of these accounts for breakfast sales soaring to about $47 billion in 2013 (up from 25.5 b. in 2011)?  Continue reading

FDA proposes sweeping changes for food labels

Well, I can’t wait to see the fighting on this one, because this is one of the best pieces of information-based legislation consumers have if they want to make good decisions regarding their food choices.  So far that’s not been saying much, since the Nutrition Facts label has been so difficult for most people to interpret that they largely ignore it.  These changes would be mighty helpful.  Here’s what the FDA is proposing:

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When you see what half that pint will cost you, they'll need smelling salts in the aisle.  *sigh*

When you see what half that pint will cost you, they’ll need smelling salts in the aisle. *sigh*

The press release may be found here.

The comment period, which will last for 90 days, will begin Monday.  Anyone can comment, and I highly suggest you do.  My first-read has me poised to ask the FDA to include calories from added sugar, not just grams (but in case you were wondering, it’s a teaspoon for every 4 grams  Currently, though, sugars from fruit and sugars from added sugar are included under the same category).  The Daily Values have not been updated in so long that the upper limit for salt (2300 mg) is LESS than the current daily value listed (<2400 mg — which to most people means 2400 mg.  The current recommendation for sodium is generally 1500 mg).  It’s way past time. Look for a food fight here, but Ms. Obama is building a serious legacy with this one.

Get your fingers on the keyboard if you like the idea of having quick reference to what is in your food.

How to be your own partner in crime

Yesterday at the mall I saw a man passing along a questionable legacy to his children, and it freaked me out.

He walked into a See’s Candy store with his three sons.  All four of them were overweight.  The children carried bags with food from Wetzel’s Pretzels, which all but the youngest quickly polished off while they waited in line.  The older two kids began consuming their candy as they left the store.  The youngest exchanged the remains of his Wetzel’s for the candy.

Sitting at the tables outside (with my giant tea and a single See’s candy freshly plucked from my own bag), I fixated on them. I wondered how anyone could intervene without offending the father or the children.  Continue reading

Emergency food

This building fell on the cars below.  A nice new building has replaced it, but it took years.  Luckily, no one died here.

This building in nearby Sherman Oaks fell on the cars below. A nice new building has replaced it, but it took years. Luckily, no one died here.

We’re just around the corner from the 20th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake.  During the horrible jolt and subsequent shaking, my husband threw himself over me while saying over and over, “It’s okay.” When the second round of violent shaking  began, he changed his tune to, “We’re going to die!”

We made it, though everything in our kitchen except one dish didn’t.  Even the bread maker and the microwave took it in the shorts.

Now we have a little stash of earthquake supplies, including backpacks we bought on sale after the school-time crush was over, bits of medicine and gauze, an emergency bucket-toilet that the kid thought was the greatest purchase we ever made, and emergency food and water.

Yesterday I made a trip to S.O.S. Survival Products — a great place for this stuff — and discovered something odd: There are NO emergency bars without gluten.  For the past three years, our emergency food has included only food I cannot eat. (For the rest of you, I heartily recommend the 2400 calorie bars and other smaller bars they sell.  They have a 5-year shelf life and taste great).

The solution for us will be food with a long shelf life that we will change out more often.  Costco has nut bars, peanut butter, and other grain-based cereals and bars that we can store for up to a year.  They also have gluten-free soups by the case that are inexpensive.  However, here are some links with more options:

Be sure to check ingredients and expiration dates.  Program your phone to let you know when it’s time to buy new supplies.

If you do nothing else, put together a few cans of food, a gallon of water or more per person, a small first aid kit and a plan.  What you really want is to get out alive, shut off the gas and have something to eat on hand — for three days or more.  Don’t forget medications, and don’t forget your pets too (we even had a fish bowl for our aquarium fish!).  Just in case, here is my most popular post: it’s about how long refrigerated/frozen food stays at a safe temperature without electricity.

I hope it never happens, but we’re told we’re in for a big earthquake at some point, and while I’m not an Armageddon-level prepper, I’m inclined to believe it.  If it does, for a good bit of time we’ll have no one around to help us except each other.  Plan accordingly.

Japanese cooking shows are BOSS!

By the time 6:30 am rolls around, I’m tiring of both working out and all of the morning news shows.  The news generally runs out within ten minutes of the start of the broadcast, and the broadcast never covers world news.  Channel surfing landed me on NHK World, where there is both world news and the weather everywhere — everywhere! — in Celsius.  I know 37 degrees = 98 degrees F, but for the rest, I have to guess.

Then at 6:30 am, NHK airs cooking shows.  I absolutely love Lunch ON!, which features not only lunch, but the lives of the people making and eating it.  Top it off with a overly eager narrator who really piles on the flourishes and you’ve got the beginnings of a great day.  Not that I wouldn’t watch it ALL day, because I would.

This morning the listing for NHK said, Viewers’ Choice, so I saw Seasoning the Seasons instead.  This episode showed Ekiben — bento boxes one eats while traveling — from around Japan.  The cuisines differ based on region and history within the prefectures.  In the process, the show also visited artisans making koji, cooking sake, and the bento boxes themselves.

Koji is the base for soy sauce and miso, made by fermenting soy beans and cracked wheat in a place where the air is rich with wild yeasts and microbes, or by inoculating the mixture with them.  I never forget koji because I missed a question about it on a test once.  Cooking sake is fermented sushi rice.

This had me wondering about avoiding gluten in Japan, and I came across an interesting post about how deceptively difficult it can be to avoid it here and here.  Though I really wish I could enjoy more of the food, and would search long and hard for a good mochi, I would endure rice and SoyJoy bars for a long while if I could visit Japan.

How changing your diet is like the winter solstice

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The sunset on 12/20/13.

Today is the winter solstice — the start of the shortest day of the year.  According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, today we’ll see just 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.  In contrast, the summer solstice gave us 14 hours and 26 minutes of daylight.

That’s a lot of difference, right?

The amount of daylight we receive changes minute by minute, day by day.  Except during the period surrounding each solstice, and for periods of a couple of days where the amount of daylight remains the same, we either gain a minute of daylight a day, or lose one.  From today until June 21st of 2014, we will slowly, very slowly, gain daylight until we have amassed more than four extra hours of daylight a day!

What does that have to do with changing your diet?

Day by day and hour by hour, what we eat can change us, even if it’s by only a tiny change from what we normally consume.  If today you decide to eat one cookie instead of two, or take one piece of bread out of the restaurant basket instead of two or decide after overdoing it at a get-together not to keep overdoing it today out of self-loathing and a sense of defeat, you’ve inched a bit closer to success.  Eating better, exercising and taking care of ourselves are not about the big, dramatic moves, but about the little tiny ones that are less painful and therefore are read as less important.

Minute by minute and day by day, how will you be when the next solstice arrives?