Spicy Molasses Cookies- revisited

Sometimes it is fun to just try substitutions in recipes to see if it will work. I had most of the ingredients I would need for a batch of my Spicy Molasses Cookies-, see recipe here, towards the end of the page, section G8.4.2, https://effectivecare.info/g8-cookies-%26-bean-soup  but not everything. I was also curious with how pomegranate extract would effect the taste or texture. I had extra almond meal and coconut flour but no coconut oil so the experiment is also a trial run on an oil free version. The coconut flour and almond meal are oil/fat containing ingredients but they are dry so extra moisture was needed – quite a bit extra it turned out but it also turned into a double batch.

They are tangy with a slight fruit taste along with the strong molasses and spicy ginger and cardamom flavors. Blackstrap molasses is a good source of iron which makes the cookies more nutritious than typical cookies but can also make it better not to overeat – a half dozen is better than a dozen. Cookies are good and now I know that Gumbo File will work as an egg substitute if necessary. The cookies aren’t crumbly which is the risk if eggs are forgotten altogether but the Golden Flax Meal may have helped more with the leavening- supporting air bubbles but so many changes were made that more trial vetsions would be needed to see how the Gumbo File works in baking. It does have a little flavor and greenish color (ground Sassafras Leaves) which is not noticeable with the molasses. It might not be noticeable in a chocolate recipe either. Sassafras Leaves may have helpful phytonutrients in addition to the intestinal health friendly emulsifying mucilaginous fiber content. I used the ratio I’ve been using with Golden Flax Meal, but I only used as much as I would have put in a single batch so maybe doubling it would have helped them leaven better they stayed the same size as they were when I shaped the dough:

Roughly, meaning not exact measurements, this is a first draft batch, I included:

Dry ingredients, mix in a large bowl:

  • 2 cups Brown Rice Flour
  • 2 cups Coconut Flour
  • 2 cups Almond Meal
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Cardamom Powder

Wet ingredients, heat gently stir in emulsifier and stir until thickened and then add molasses and brown sugar.

  • 1  1/2 cup Pomegranate Extract
  • 3 tablespoons Gumbo File Powder (traditionally used in Creole cooking, initially used by Native Americans, also known as Choctaw spice, link, it is an emulsifier though and I was out of ground golden flax meal which I’ve been using as an egg replacer. See below for more health information about Sassafras Leaves.)
  • 1 cup Blackstrap Molasses
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 4 rounded tablespoons minced Candied Ginger
  1. When mixing the emulsified sugar solution into the dry ingredients I wasn’t sure how much additional liquid would be needed without the coconut oil ingredient. I eventually mixed in about 2 cups of Pomegranate Juice plus one more 1/2 cup of plain water. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky rather than crumble.  The cookies took a little longer to bake and didn’t rise much/expand into a larger dome shape.

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Gumbo File is the Acadian name for a powdered preparation of dried Sassafras Leaves that was used by Native Americans and was commonly known as the Choctaw Spice. It was widely used for a portion of the U.S. history and became the second largest export with tobacco being the largest export crop in the 17th century. It became less popular in the 20th century when it was discovered that a chemical, safrole in the essential oil of the tree bark and sassafras root was cancerogenic. Gumbo File is still healthy though because it does not contain as much of the chemical. Beneficial nutrients include the terpenes, myrcene and linalool, which both have anti-inflammatory benefits and sedative (sleep inducing) effects and myracene may also help reduce pain (analgesic). It has been traditionally thought to be helpful to prevent kidney stones from forming, and it may be due to a diuretic effect. It also is thought to help reduce high blood pressure and relieve arthritis pain. [link]

The amount typically used in a soup or stew is far less than the amount I used in this cookie recipe as an egg replacer. Only a half teaspoon to a teaspoon tends to be added to a batch of soup, best added at the end of the cooking time, it thickens the broth slightly to a creamier texture but can become more gelatinous (slimy/shiny/sticky) if overcooked. The three tablespoons dissolved in a cup and a half of liquid made a gelatinous thickened mixture that was more of a thick gravy texture with a shiny, thicker in places texture. It mixed into the cookie dough easily though.

Tapioca starch also produces a shiny gelatinous effect in gravy or fruit sauces compared to corn starch. Once chilled it makes a ‘resistant starch’ [resistant starch, definitive guide] that is turned into other beneficial nutrients in our digestive system by some types of beneficial bacteria. I’m not sure if the Gumbo File starch is similar to tapioca starch in ‘resistant starch’ content.

Root beer is named after the sassafras root which was the traditional way the beverage was made. Now Root Beer that is still made with actual Sassafras Root uses root that has the safrole oil extracted. Sassafras root tea tastes like Root Beer. The ground dried leaves are described as tasting like the herbs thyme or savory, or slightly like Root Beer or eucalyptus. [link] I can confirm that the root makes a Root Beer flavor as I’ve tried a tea made with actual dug up in the forest Sassafras root. It was a tree commonly found in my backyard and surrounding woods as a child. The tree leaves are interesting as they have different shapes – a right and left mitten shape and a mitten with two thumbs and as a plain oval shape (Sassafras Leaves, images).

So cookies with an anti-inflammatory benefit – I did feel sleepy this afternoon after making them however and only added this interesting section on the health benefits of Gumbo File after waking up. – Note to self – do not eat these cookies while driving. Bedtime cookies – yum!

They may also have anti-cancer benefits due to the Sassafras plant being part of the cinnamomum/camphor plant family. Cinnamon phytonutrients include aldehydes which in addition to terpenes an other types of phytonutrients can promote the production of the NRF2 gene and protein which has many roles in the immune system including anti-cancer benefits. (“Cinnamomum – camphor plants (including cinnamon, Cinnamomum Kennedy, hairy leaves camphor, linalyl burmannii, sassafras) “” [0056] sassafras aboveground 5kg, pulverized and extracted…to obtain cinnamon plant extracts 412g, a yield of 8.24%” –  https://patents.google.com/patent/CN103520279B/en)

Disclosure: This information is being provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health care guidance. Please see an individual  health care professional for individualized health care guidance.

Pomegranate extract – Master Chef Challenge update

For anyone following along with the pomegranate peel experiments  (previous post)- update, I had a lot of pomegranate extract thawed at the same time and for a dietitian that means reheat to steaming to assure food safety. So it was an opportunity to experiment some more with trying to adjust the acidity again. When baking soda is added to a hot acidic liquid there is an obvious bubbling reaction and change in color of the liquid. I have pH strips to check acidity and did manage to adjust the acidity of the extract. The taste is still not great but chronic illness and mood issues are not great either. After three cups of experimental attempts my mood is awesome *(see additional note) and I have some recipe details:

6 cups of pomegranate extract  (previous post)

2 Tablespoons Cardamom powdered spice

1 teaspoon Gumbo File powdered spice (Sassafras Leaves, powdered and used in Gumbo’s in Creole style cooking)

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

  1. Add the Cardamom and Gumbo File to the Pomegranate Extract and stir well to break apart any dry lumps of the powdered spices. The Gumbo File acts as an emulsifier and is a digestive aid and the Cardamom adds flavor, phytonutrients and would help alkalize the mixture in addition to the alkalizing power of the Baking Soda.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Add the Baking Soda and stir. Remove the mixture from the heat and keep stirring. It will froth up and stirring helps keep it from frothing over the top of the pan. The color changes from pinkish to brown from the Cardamom spice.
  4. To drink as a beverage dilute with equal parts water to Pomegranate Extract.

This would be an acquired taste – aka “not good” until you get used to it, or not good at all but the mood and health benefits are worth for me at least. It is also a diuretic which means it is like beer or coffee in the way it increases kidney activity and urine production so it is best to have it earlier in the day followed by plenty of glasses of water early in the day so that you aren’t waking up in the middle of the night as much. Overly acidic, dehydrated body fluids can increase work for the kidneys and result in a frequent feeling of needing to go urgently but then not producing much quantity – drink plenty of water early  in the day and produce plenty of dilute quantity early in the day and a diuretic can help cleanse toxins from the body instead of being a middle of the night problem.

Since pomegranate growing season is limited the powdered spice made from Sumac might be a health substitute. It has been shown to have a range of health benefits, and is also a diuretic. Its phytonutrients are similarly colored suggesting there might be some similar antioxidant content as well. The gallotannin group of phytonutrients are in common and would likely promote Nrf2. (More about Sumac in this post) (a series of posts on Nrf2)

To put a financial perspective on this – for my health needs the pomegranate extract or pomegranate seeds and cardamom powder and a few other good sources of phospholipids are adequate replacements for my medical marijuana which cost me around $1000-1200 per month. The medical effects are slightly different and not quite as good for pain killing properties but the negative psychological effects that can occur with withdrawal for some people are also not present.

To review – cannabinoids are a group of chemicals that are made within the cells of most species and are similar to the group of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plants commonly known as marijuana or hemp. Medical marijuana has a euphoria producing one known by the chemical initials THC while hemp has only non-euphoria producing cannabinoids. Both types can have medical or other basic health benefits. Cannabinoids are found throughout membranes and add to cell wall flexibility and help with messenger chemical type activities that can help reduce inflammation and fight infection. Some people such as myself can have genetic differences that make it impossible to make the chemicals internally as in average health. I have had minor health problems since infancy and having external dietary sources of phospholipids or cannabinoids helps my body and mood and immune system. More information about the topic is available in the post/article Is it Addiction or Starvation?

People with problems with binge eating disorders, alcohol abuse tendencies, meth or heroin/opioid abuse tendencies, or seem to have an excess use of marijuana, and nicotine to a lesser extent all may actually have underlying genetic differences that leave them in need of increased dietary sources of phospholipids/cannabinoids. The article Is It Addiction or Starvation? has some legal food sources in addition to pomegranate seeds and cardamom spice. It doesn’t mention the Middle Eastern spice Sumac but it might help also.

*Additional note – three cups was likely to large of a serving, an awesome mood for someone with unstable mood issues was too much of a good thing – Newton’s Law of Gravity may apply metaphorically, “What goes up must come down.” I had a worse mood problem later in the evening. Today (the next morning) I’ve enjoyed a few spoonfuls of the spicy, creamy slightly thickened mixture in my coffee and it is good to my “acquired taste.” The thing about having acquired an acquired taste for something is that you then want to acquire more – pun intended.  The pomegranate season in Australia turns out to also be November to March so that isn’t much help. Processing pomegranate peel during the growing season would be necessary if I hope to continue to be able to acquire pomegranate extract all year long. It has medicinal benefits according to the research that is available, (see links in earlier posts on this site).

New Zealand isn’t ideal for pomegranate either as the summer length may be too short some years, however their harvest season is February-April: “Pomegranates grow best in areas with cold Winters and long hot, dry Summers.” (Pomegranate Wonderful)

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Make the mission more important than the leader or followers

When is a goal more important than the personal success of a leader or teammates? When it is about long term success. Current business practice has become more focused on quarterly profits to please shareholders and board members and it has cut into spending for employee development and retention and for research and development in too many industries.

The simple message (paraphrased) “Make the mission more important than the leader or followers” was a main take home point in a book I just read. when a book is important I like to read it in one sitting as my memory works kind of like an e-book reader, I want to upload the entire file in one batch.

I recently saw a one-liner question along the lines of if you were on a deserted island what is the one book that you would want to have with you (also paraphrased). I thought at the time, tough question, and I didn’t have an answer. All the books that I’ve read across my lifetime are all still sloshing around somewhat in my memory bank so I’m never deserted. They are like good friends I can browse whenever I want. After uploading this latest one into my memory bank I came up with an answer – it wouldn’t be the one to have on the island, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations would be. I have a copy but I also have it bookmarked on my laptop. It gives favorite quotes or passages from many great works from earlier eras which can be memory triggers for the larger work or just set the imagination to work filling in whatever may be generated by the words of wisdom.

The latest book is slightly dated for a business world type book as its references are to the 90’s. The concept of faxing is included. Having also recently read some more dated books and long papers about economics written by economic theorists from the 1800s, (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English), and 1950s, 60s and 70s (fee.org)  I will just point out that it is very interesting to see social differences change across time. Women weren’t really mentioned much at all in relation to the business world in the older economic papers and the mention of female workers in the book from the 90s would likely no longer be included if the book was edited for today’s market. Women are mentioned as bosses occasionally but secretaries and receptionist references are always female throughout the book. A section on empathy offers the example that if your receptionist seems in a bad mood find out why before sharing the fisher-person and mer-person joke that you had in mind.  – My point – times have changed a lot and for the better overall.

Back to the main point – this book I just read is the most valuable I’ve ever read. I might not pack it for a deserted island but I will never forget it and it made me feel like I should finally right that Last Will and Testament that I’ve never bothered writing, just so that I can leave the book to someone. Now you, my dear reader, do not have to wait until I kick the bucket in order to find out if I left the book to you. You can just go to a resale shop and look for a used copy of your own. It includes a lot of quotations too including many I was not familiar with along with a discussion of humor and how to improve your own ability to tell a joke. The tone is kind and gentle, self deprecating humor or persuasion tactics are more powerful is also a take home point that we all might benefit from in our business or personal lives.

Secrets of Power Persuasion; Everything You’ll Ever Need to Get Anything You’ll Ever Want, by Roger Dawson, 1992, Prentice Hall. It has also been reissued in paperback or can be picked up used online barnesandnoble.com. The author gained his business experience in the real estate industry but went on to become a popular speaker and author on the topic of sales and negotiating. The book is written fairly open ended though rather than being directed only to salespeople or business executives. Examples include common parenting and relationship issues as well as sales and other negotiating issues a business person might run into and the tactics are useful for the buyer as well as the seller. No one wants to walk off the car lot with a car they didn’t want or a timeshare week in a vacation resort that they couldn’t afford.

The ideas for helping to learn other’s motivations can also be helpful for learning to recognize your own. One example has fast-forwarded into modern news –  “a Donald Trump” type person is paired opposite of “a Mother Theresa” type person as examples of people at the extremes of “self-centered versus externally centered” motivations. Recognize what motivates someone to help identify what might motivated them to make a purchase or other decision. The self-centered motivated individual looks at how things benefit themselves versus the externally motivated person looks at how things would benefit others:- “The self versus external sorting continuum” “Narcissists – Persuaded by how it affects them+ and  “Martyrs – Persuaded by how it affects others“. (page 154, Secrets of Power Persuasion)

Tips for working for a narcissist boss: (How to Work for a Narcissistic Boss, hbr.org)

It can be difficult to recognize that extreme narcissism is not typical behavior if you grew up with it in the family (Toxic Parents or Emotionally Immature parents) and for an empathy- external oriented person, it can lead to adult relationships that are at risk for not recognizing the need for safe boundaries against the self-oriented demands of a narcissist. (The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath and a Narcissist, elephantjournal)

The techniques in the book include many strategies that I’ve read about in psychology and other business books, as well as many personal strategies of the author’s that may have been developed from other business strategists that I’m not familiar with or are clearly his own tips learned from his experiences. The style of teaching the material is easy to follow and has helpful summary point lists.

A sales pitch for the book, or self-deprecating humor example from the author’s past, is from the section on how-to-tips for remembering people’s names:

‘Similarly, there is no easy way to remember names. As my high school teacher used to say, “Don’t waste any time looking for an easier way to do this. If there were an easier way, Roger would’ve found it years ago.”‘ – Secrets of Power Persuasion, page 217.

Why would a dietitian care about power persuasion techniques? Because it is actually fairly difficult to try to encourage change in personal habits. The author includes as an example in one area his own weight loss plan which was effective for him. It is valid but time and additional research has modified one dietary point – focusing exclusively on cutting fat calories may not be as helpful as working to reduce simple carbohydrate calories as well, either from sugar or refined grains and white potato products. The more processed a food the quicker it can turn into blood sugar which can increase insulin which can increase fat storage which can be made from calories from fat, carbohydrates or alcohol, and as a double whammy, increased insulin levels can cause an increase in appetite leading to more eating.

Regarding something I saw recently regarding a weight loss fad – gluten free products as currently marketed are often based on very refined starches and are often lower in fiber and nutrients than a whole grain item. I do not recommend gluten free diets for anyone who is not gluten intolerant or for weight loss purposes. It is not an easy diet to follow for those who truly need to stringently exclude all gluten for autoimmune reasons and it is not a joke for them either. The problem can be life threatening and cause long term symptoms in digestion and in other areas of life. People with thyroid problems might benefit from trying gluten free diets as the protein chemically is similar in shape to the thyroid hormone and autoimmune thyroid problems may have something to due with autoimmune gluten reactions for some people. If interested seek a qualified nutritionist or Registered Dietitian to help create a balanced diet. I personally use whole grain rice, quinoa and amaranth and other gluten free whole grains rather than buy many commercially available gluten free products. In addition to being low fiber they often include corn which I have found also affects my own autoimmune symptoms.

So why would a dietitian care about persuasion tactics – because pomegranate peel is not on anyone’s menu plan – yet, that I know of, except for my own and I find it amazing. The blueberry juice did make it more palatable as a diluted beverage but adding a chaser of fennel seeds as a follow up snack helped even more. I tend to eat about a teaspoon of them after most meals now as they seem to help with digestion. After trying the pomegranate extract as a beverage when I made a fresh batch (I had stopped trying it in quantity as it is very acidic) I had a couple teaspoons worth of the fennel seeds after trying the blueberry/pomegranate mixture and it helped. Why would I bother trying it in quantity – because it has an amazing mood boosting effect and helps the numbness in my fingertips problem more when I use more of it rather than only a few spoonfuls added to my bowl of soup.

Pomegranate seeds and the fennel seeds are quite crunchy. I’ve had a couple people mention they can’t chew such crunchy things without pain – that may be a sign of inflammation throughout the body rather than tooth or jaw trouble. During the worst of my inflammatory years I also developed pain with chewing my favorite crunchy things like raw carrots, apples, and my favorite whole grain rice cakes which are more dense then the more commonly available type.

One learns by trying – a motto of mine from my childhood. I don’t know where I heard it or if I just made it my own slogan. Maybe it is a modification of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That is one my mother would say.

The idea of making a Last Will and Testament to leave the book to someone is kind of a joke – the book cost me ten cents. The pomegranate peel extract probably cost me even less figuring people buy the fruit for the juicy seeds, but information has more value than dollars alone. In the recipe post I included a lot of detailed measurements about yield for food industry and dietitian type people to show the percentage that is currently being thrown away when instead it might be able to be made into a valuable health boosting product.

So what is the mission that is more important than the leader or followers – to me – effective health care that supports a more sustainable population. Whether you believe the Earth is 6000 years old or millions, the more important question currently seems to me whether we want humans and other species to still be around 6000 years from now.

The paraphrase I used in the title of this post is from the last chapter in the book (pp 276-289) and the example given is a story about a team that reached the top of Mount Everest – one team  member that is but the team rejoiced together via audio and the team got the credit – no one person is going to reach the top of most any mountain all by themselves. I haven’t climbed a mountain or seen Mount Everest but I have seen Mount McKinley and met a wonderful Japanese couple at the base. My family were camping near their camp and one night they invited us all to join them and my main memory from this childhood adventure was the dried seaweed they shared with us. It was like paper but you could eat it – I was enchanted. And all of us enjoyed the wild berries we could pick in the wilderness area. Our planet is a treasure worth far more than dollars.

A sustainable vision of a future Hawaii is described in an article suggesting we need more imagination to help guide us towards a peaceful and sustainable future: We Need Radical Imagination, Wake Up World.

Imagination is a critical part of creativity and innovation for any new product development whether in the area of healthcare and diet or sustainable agriculture and infrastructure.

A discussion of how leadership can help foster creativity in a team – a main point is to give it space to grow naturally rather than demands and time limits: How to Nourish Your Team’s Creativity. hbr.org

A book I mentioned in a recent post reinforces some of the concepts in Roger Dawson’s book but with more recent business examples:

For more information on thinking creatively and effectively working towards a better solution to difficult decisions rather than feeling forced to choose one of two less preferred choices I recommend the book Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking, by Jennifer Riel and Roger L. Martin (2017, HBR) (hbr.org/Creating Great Choices)

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.