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Macey J Foronda

9 Hanukkah-Thanksgiving Fusion Dishes

Original image
Macey J Foronda

This Thursday will be the only time in your life that Hanukkah overlaps with Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fit together well, as they are both holidays centered around gratitude that involve eating a lot. What better way to celebrate this confluence than with fusion recipes for tasty things to eat for your “Thanksgivukkah” feast? Note: Some of these recipes are stated as kosher; others are obviously not. I don't know enough about dietary laws to judge those that are not labeled, so you may want to inquire further before cooking.

1. Manischewitz-Brined Roast Turkey

Photograph by Macey J Foronda.

Brining your turkey a full day before roasting it is quite popular these days. It makes the turkey moist and infuses the outer edge with flavors from herbs and spices. You can get an extra flavor kick from wine. Manischewitz-Brined Roast Turkey calls for a brine with fruits and wine in addition to the standard brine ingredients. Your turkey will turn purple from the wine, but will brown as it roasts and appear normal. The instructions call for slathering the turkey with butter, which renders it non-kosher, but you can substitute schmaltz, olive oil, or margarine. There's also a recipe for gravy that calls for Manischewitz, so the flavors will enhance each other.

2. Challah Chestnut Stuffing

Tori Avey at Shiksa in the Kitchen doesn't see why traditional Jewish holiday recipes cannot be incorporated into every Thanksgiving feast. She posted a recipe for Challah Chestnut Stuffing three years ago! The challah is a perfectly absorbent bread, flavored with vegetables sautéed in schmaltz, and traditional roasted chestnuts. If you want to go vegetarian, cook the vegetables in margarine and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. No butter! This is a kosher recipe.

3. Cranberry Challah

Photograph by Carrie Vasios Mullins.

My Thanksgiving menu always contains challah because my sister-in-law makes it. To truly be a fusion recipe, it must contain something traditionally found at most Thanksgiving feasts. Cranberry Challah fills the bill, and provides a sweet alternative for those who can't handle regular cranberry sauce. If you want a challah that's sweeter, maybe for Thanksgiving-Hanukkah breakfast, try Honey Cranberry Challah

4. Sweet Potato Bourbon Noodle Kugel

Photograph by Macey J. Foronda.

Kugel is a casserole made with potatoes or noodles, depending on your grandmother's preference, and can be sweet or savory. Sweet Potato Bourbon Noodle Kugel uses sweet potatoes, brown sugar, pecans, and bourbon to make it sweet, but like many traditional Thanksgiving foods, still appropriate for the main feast. This recipe contains cottage cheese, butter, and eggs.

5. Sweet Potato Latkes

Hanukkah food is all about the latkes, or potato cakes. If you celebrate Hanukkah, you'll probably have them on more than one day, so for Thanksgiving, try something different: American-style Sweet Potato Latkes. This recipe from Cooking with Sugar contains apples in the mix, but you can still put applesauce on them if you prefer that over sour cream.

6. Latke-Crusted Turkey Stuffing Fritters

Kenji at at Serious Eats' Food Lab took cranberry sauce and froze it into balls, then covered them in turkey sausage stuffing and then potato latke mixture, and deep fried the whole recipe to make Latke-Crusted Turkey Stuffing Fritters. The cranberries should stay inside as they liquify. Serve with turkey schmaltz gravy. The sausage stuffing recipe is not kosher as is.

7. Pumpkin Pie Filled Sufganiot

Sufganiot means jelly donut, traditional for Hanukkah. The fusion recipe for Pumpkin Pie Filled Sufganiot is for homemade fried donuts, with the addition of your favorite pumpkin pie filling, cooked, cooled, and injected into the fried donuts with a pastry bag.

8. Pumpkin Pie Rugelach

Photograph by Carrie Vasios Mullins.

Rugelach looks enough like a crescent roll to fit into the common Thanksgiving feast visually, but it is a sweet dessert. Serious Eats offers a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Rugelach that combines the flaky cream cheese pastry with spicy pumpkin pie flavorings: cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg. There is pumpkin in there, too, in the form of pumpkin butter, which is a little like apple butter but spicier.

9. Turkey Matzo Ball Soup

Then there's the many things you can do with Thanksgiving leftovers as you continue to celebrate Hanukkah. How about a delicious Turkey Matzo Ball Soup? Save whatever turkey fat and broth you don't use for gravy, and make more broth by simmering the turkey bones and scraps. Embellish the recipe with bits of leftover turkey as you please.

The Thanksgivukkah Anthem by Six13

Have a wonderful Hanukkah and a marvelous Thanksgiving!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
June 21, 2017
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.