An easy way to spice up your spring salads

From Bryan Miller over at NPR, Stop the Madness: Make Your Own Salad Dressing.

Making your own salad dressing is embarrassingly easy — and cheaper than buying it in the store. Of course, preparing vinaigrette every day could become a nuisance, especially, if, like me, you often forget to make it until the last minute when hot food is already on the table. My solution: Make big batches of the stuff and store it in wine bottles or mason jars.

I always make my own dressing, and like Bryan I often wait until nearly the last minute. Lately I've been better and whip it up while I've got a down minute during dinner prep, like right after I put something in the oven. Then it's ready to go and all I need to do is pour it over the salad when the time comes. I heartily recommend making your own dressings, it's so simple and so much tastier!

A rise in sickness due to oysters

Because nothing good can last and all my joys must be squashed forever, I read this article from The Washing Times, Oyster-related infections on rise. And just as I've been sharpening my oyster knife and readying myself to begin a little experiment to find the best oysters (not in a restaurant) in New York City! According to the article:

Oysters on the half-shell, long a treat for seafood lovers, have become an enemy of public health officials, who point to a continuing rise in human infections traced to the mollusks.

There has been a "sustained increase in incidence of [vibrio]," a bacteria primarily transmitted to humans who consume oysters that have not been thoroughly cooked, according to a report published in the current issue of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The culprit? A sneaky bacterium by the name of Vibrio vulnificus. From the CDC's Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases listing on Vibrio vulnificus, "Although oysters can be harvested legally only from waters free from fecal contamination, even legally harvested oysters can be contaminated with V. vulnificus because the bacterium is naturally present in marine environments. V. vulnificus does not alter the appearance, taste, or odor of oysters."

Yikes! One hope, at least for those of us up north: it likes warm seawater, so until it gets warm up here (and I don't know how warm is "warm" for V. vulnificus) we should be safe. I mean, as safe as one ever is eating raw seafood. [via del.icio.us/sautewednesday]

Apparently no one gets fat in Europe

We already know that French Women Don't Get Fat, and now look who's rubbing it in as well? Italians! I spotted this article, Why Italian Women Don't Get Fat in May's Food & Wine. It was a little promotion for a new book Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too. "Sure, it all sounds great," you're saying to yourself, "But I'm American! What can I do?"

No worries, as a fellow American, I'm here to help you! Buoyed by the success of these "BLAH BLAH Women Don't Get Fat" books, I'm going to launch my own. But you don't have to wait to order a book from Amazon, because I'm going to do it right now here on the blog! Presenting, "Why Megnut Doesn't Get Fat Either."

First of all, I try to eat pretty healthily, and I eat very little processed food. I eat small portions, and I try to get some greens every day and some fruits and vegetables. But some days french fries have to count as vegetables. I try to just follow an "everything in moderation" approach. For me though, the bigger secret is exercise. I go to the gym or get some kind of physical activity (like a jog, hike, bike ride) nearly every day, which leads to my "Don't get fat" secret formula: don't consume more calories than you burn.

In all seriousness, weight is not a joking matter and I know it's a big struggle for a lot of people. But these books are killing me — everyone gains weight if they consume more than they burn, even if they're French or Italian! Related, see Slate's Junk-Food Jihad: Should we regulate French fries like cigarettes? which talks about all the soda and fast food sold in public schools, among other things. While I think kids should be getting healthy foods in school, and shouldn't get soda, there's only so far I'd be willing to let health food regulations go. You can have my french fries when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers!

Using Google Base for Google cooking

I haven't really played around much with Google Base yet, but after hearing about that it's got a recipe search, I checked it out. The Google Base recipe search seems pretty cool. I haven't tried a full-on compare to regular Google cooking yet, so I don't know which is better. But the Base search is certainly more targeted. For example on Google Base I can enter "scallops" and get back all recipes, whereas Google cooking (entering "scallops" on the main Google page) yields lots of info about scallops, not just recipes. Anyway, good to know and perhaps I'll try using it more often. [via Lifehacker]

Driving in Mexico

Everyone tells you (by which I mean "everyone" who is writing guidebooks and "telling" me by my reading of their guidebooks) how hairy it is to drive in Mexico. But in general the Yucatán isn't as bad as some other areas I've driven around in the country. Everywhere you drive you need to be on the lookout for a tope (pronounced "tow-pay"), or speed bump. In general you find them on the outskirts of towns and on the main drags through them. They come in various shapes and sizes, some consisting of little round metal dots, others raised platforms of concrete. Some times they're quite wide if they're doubling as a sort of pedestrian walk-way. But my favorite were some homemade-looking ones we spotted, especially along the Boca Paila Road south of Tulum. They were just several thick pieces of rope laying across the road in a clump. Whenever we spotted one, I could not resist referring to them as ropes ("row-pay") because, see, they were topes made of rope. Ha ha, get it? Good times like these were numerous on our honeymoon.

Investigating the Bush presidency

Carl Bernstein (who forever is linked to Dustin Hoffman in my mind) has an essay on the Vanity Fair site calling for, Senate Hearings on Bush, Now.

After Nixon's resignation, it was often said that the system had worked. Confronted by an aberrant president, the checks and balances on the executive by the legislative and judicial branches of government, and by a free press, had functioned as the founders had envisioned.

The system has thus far failed during the presidency of George W. Bush—at incalculable cost in human lives, to the American political system, to undertaking an intelligent and effective war against terror, and to the standing of the United States in parts of the world where it previously had been held in the highest regard.

There was understandable reluctance in the Congress to begin a serious investigation of the Nixon presidency. Then there came a time when it was unavoidable. That time in the Bush presidency has arrived.

He makes a pretty compelling case, and I hope Congress wakes up one of these days and decides to take some action.

Some photos from Mexico

Self-portrait in new sombreroUnlike other trips (e.g. Ireland and Asia) I have stopped obsessing over my photos and decided to just go ahead and throw some up on Flickr so that others can actually see them! Honeymoon photo set on Flickr is now available for your viewing pleasure. I don't feel like the photos turned out as well as I'd hoped, and I also didn't take as many as I wanted to. One thing that's missing is some sense of the small town of Tulum, near where we stayed. But every time we were there it was either a) night or b) too hot to walk around and take pictures. So the collection is lacking a lot of what our daily experience was, and a sense of that general Mexican town. Perhaps with another trip, I'll be able to capture more of that.

Back to reality

Ghosts in Mexico

We're back from our honeymoon in Mexico and it was totally excellent. Though this photo is a bit weird, I kind of like it so it's the first one I've posted from the trip. I took a bunch of long exposure night shots, just for fun. This is a portrait I took of us on the deck of our cabaña. Those specks of white are stars. More details about the picture at Flickr, just click on it to see. Now that I'm back, there's lots to do. Mostly though I just feel like looking through my photos and remembering the great time we had.