Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Caffeine and the Brain

Over at Lifehacker there is a really informative post about what caffeine actually does to your brain. Basically, it prevents your brain from slowing down. It isn't actually a stimulant, but a de-depressant. Also, you get acclimated to it pretty completely, so that it doesn't affect you anymore, except when you don't have it. Sigh. Still, it's a great addiction to indulge in on a rainy New York day like today.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

CSA Box Recipe: Beet Risotto

Well, internet friends, I hope you're enjoying the summertime. Here in NYC where I live, it's approximately one million degrees outside and very humid. We're officially in the midst of a "heat wave," the likes of which NYC has not seen in a decade. Yay. Even though it's hot outside, my CSA keeps giving me tons of veggies (oh, glorious veggies!) to cook, and so I shall. Hopefully with the aid of my trusty air conditioner, I won't melt.

For the past couple weeks, I have gotten a very nice bunch of beets in my CSA share. Beets are really cool veggies, partly because they're brightly colored (in fact, they'll stain your clothes, countertop, etc. if you're not careful). They're also great because you can eat the whole beet - greens, roots, and even stems, if you like, and they're good for you.

 (Betanin, via Wikimedia Commons)

Beets are red (and sometimes yellow) because they contain pigments called "betalains," named after the latin word for beet (beta). These are water soluble red to yellow pigments that occur in plants including beets, Swiss chard, and some cacti, among others. Betanin, one of the betalains derived from beets, is used as an industrial food dye. These dyes are also powerful antioxidants, and may help protect your body from oxidative stress that occurs naturally and causes aging and cancer, but there isn't a lot of scientific evidence to back that up. About 10-15% of the population has a higher level of oxalic acid in their intestines, protecting betalins from being broken down. This allows them to be absorbed by the body and passed as red or pink urine, a condition called Beeturia (it's not harmful, so don't worry if this happens to you). TMI? I think not... it's science!

Anyways, beyond the ubiquitous roasted beet and goat cheese salad (which is admittedly tasty and good for hot weather), my favorite thing to do with beets is make risotto. This dish takes a little while to prepare and it uses the oven more than you might like in summer, but I think it's worth it. It's creamy and delicious and a delicious summertime dinner paired with a glass of dry white wine. Also, bright pink!

Recipe and pic after the fold...