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Archive for April 6, 2012

Simple chocolate button egg

Make your own Easter eggs. It’s much easier than you’d think and you can add personal touch.

Ingredients

FOR THE EGG

200g good-quality dark chocolate , plus a little extra for decorating (we used Green & Black’s 82%)

TO DECORATE

  • 25g bag chocolate buttons
  • 25g bag white chocolate buttons , with speckles
  • ribbon , approx 50 cm long

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

2 chocolate egg moulds, clean flat pastry brush or small paintbrush

Makes 1 egg

Preparation and cooking times

Preparation timePrep 30 mins

Plus drying time

VegetarianVegetarian

Method

  1. Break the chocolate into pieces and gently melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir until smooth, then take off the heat and leave until cool, but still runny. Spoon a quarter of the chocolate into one of the egg moulds and spread thickly over the inside with a flat pastry brush or paintbrush. Be sure to cover the sides well, as this makes it easier to join the edges. Check that the chocolate is even by holding the mould up to the light. Repeat with the other mould. Leave in a cool place to set, then chill for 5 mins. TIP: Putting the egg halves in the fridge once the chocolate has set makes it easier to add another layer of warm chocolate. Don’t be tempted to leave the moulds in the fridge any longer than necessary as condensation could cause the chocolate to discolour.
  2. Re-warm the remaining chocolate and repeat the process for each side of the mould, saving about 1 tbsp of chocolate for later. Use a knife to scrape away any excess around the rim of the mould to give a clean, straight edge. Turn out each half onto a sheet of greaseproof paper, carefully pulling away the mould until it releases itself.
  3. Place one half of the egg on its back (you can create a nest of scrunched greaseproof paper to stop it from rolling about). Warm the reserved chocolate and brush around the edge of the egg. Place the other half on top and press together. You can seal the join further by brushing with a little more chocolate and filling in any jagged edges or holes. Leave in a cool place to set firm.
  4. To decorate, use the paintbrush to dab a little chocolate on the backs of the chocolate buttons. Gently press them onto the egg. For the finishing touch, tie the ribbon around the middle to hide the join

Nutrition per serving:

172 kcalories, protein 2g, carbohydrate 16g, fat 12 g, saturated fat 6g, fibre 2g, sugar 11g, salt 0.01 g

Turkish Spinach with Tomatoes and Rice

Some Sephardic Jews have traditionally allowed rice during Passover, whereas many Ashkenazi Jews do not. There isn’t much of it in this Turkish spinach dish, adapted from a recipe in Clifford A. Wright’s “A Mediterranean Feast,” just enough to add substance to the vegetables.

2 pounds spinach, stemmed and washed in 2 changes water, or 1 pound baby spinach

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 can diced tomatoes in juice or, in season, 1 1/4 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 cup chicken stock, vegetable stock, garlic broth or water

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)

3 tablespoons long grain or basmati rice, rinsed in several changes of water, or 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

Salt to taste

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 to 1 teaspoon sugar (to taste)

1. Wash the spinach and, working in batches if necessary, steam for about 2 minutes above an inch of boiling water, just until wilted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, lidded skillet or casserole and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it begins to sizzle and smell fragrant, about 30 seconds, and stir in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add the stock or water, the lemon juice, rice, salt, paprika, cinnamon, sugar and steamed spinach and bring to a simmer.

3. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until the mixture has the consistency of a thick stew, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot or warm.

Yield: 4 to 6 side-dish servings.

Advance preparation: You can steam the spinach 1 or 2 days ahead. This dish makes a great leftover that I enjoyed for 3 days running.

Nutritional information per serving: 167 calories; 8 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 21 grams carbohydrates; 6 gram dietary fiber; 314 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 7 grams protein

Read More: NYT

Hipmunk’s Mobile Travel Apps Can Now Check Your Calendar

Hipmunk, the clever tool for searching for flights and hotel rooms, just got a little more clever. It’s adding a new feature to its iPhone, iPad and Android apps that sucks in your calendar appointments and visualizes them, so you can avoid flights that conflict with your appointments and find hotels that are convenient to them.

Similar to existing Google Calendar integration in the service’s Web-based version, the new feature works with the calendar — or calendars — stored on your device, and requires no configuration other than turning it on. (You can also choose which calendars do and don’t show up in Hipmunk, which is useful if you care a lot about work appointments and not so much about personal ones.)

In Hipmunk’s travel search — see the above screen shot — your appointments now show up as vertical bars, letting you see which flights fall before, during and after each schedule item. And the hotel search attempts to identify the location of meetings so it can plot it on the map and find lodging options that are nearby. (The more precisely you enter address info, the better this will work, but it figured out “Moscone Center” and showed me hotels near San Francisco’s convention center.)

Hipmunk gave me a sneak peek of the revised apps; the new stuff is nicely done and doesn’t clutter up the visual presentation any more than necessary. Privacy shouldn’t be an issue, since the apps aren’t uploading anything to the cloud — they’re just peeking at the calendar data that’s already stored on your device.

As before, Hipmunk is a joy to use, and the only downside is that it doesn’t offer the array of buying options that its larger rival Kayak does. (It lets you purchase from airlines and from Orbitz, but not from other big travel merchants such as Expedia, Travelocity and CheapTickets.) But even if you end up closing your travel deal elsewhere, Hipmunk is a great place to start your research.

Read more: Time

Diabetes cases spike in China – study


A man eats a Chinese sweet, consisting of beans on a skewer stick coated with toffee, as he waits at a bus stop in central Beijing March 19, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray

REUTERS – The more common type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, is rising sharply in China, growing by 30 percent in just seven years, according to a survey of thousands of Shanghai residents.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, shows that the curse of affluence appears to be affecting China as it has many other developing countries – and it has come on quite rapidly, researchers said.

“Unlike the gradual transition in most Western countries, these changes in China have occurred over a very short time,” wrote lead researcher Rui Li, at the Shanghai Municipal center for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with type 2 diabetes have trouble processing sugar in their blood, but do not generally require insulin to manage the condition. As countries become more wealthy, lifestyle factors associated with type 2 diabetes – such as weight gain, less healthy diets and less physical activity – tend to become more common.

The research team interviewed more than 12,000 people in 2002 and 2003, asking whether they’d been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. They also screened people for diabetes who had not been diagnosed before.

At that time, they found that 9.7 percent of people had diabetes.

In 2009, they surveyed about 7,400 people again and found that 12.6 percent had the disease. The spike was even more dramatic among the rural residents in the study, going from 6.1 percent to 9.8 percent, a 60 percent increase.

“That’s a remarkable increase in seven years,” said Jeffrey Koplan, the vice president for global health at Emory University, who did not take part in the study.

The overall prevalence of diabetes was higher among men and in urban residents in both surveys, but the increase was more noted among rural residents and appeared more rapid in “younger birth cohorts,” the authors wrote.

The study did not pinpoint the causes of the rise in diabetes, and Koplan said he could only speculate on what’s to blame, though it has been well documented that people are getting wealthier and heavier in China. In addition, diets are including more unsaturated fat.

He added that people are also becoming more dependent on cars and less inclined to walk or ride a bike.

“All these factors would help contributed to having an increased prevalence in type 2 diabetes,” Koplan said.

The authors wrote in their study that an aging population in China likely explains some of their findings. Older people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and the researchers noted that 20 percent of Shanghai residents are over 60, with that proportion increasing.

Koplan said that many countries have programs to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent type 2 diabetes, but as of yet there’s “not a proven, documented intervention that can reverse this epidemic of obesity and epidemic of type 2 diabetes.” SOURCE: http://bit.ly/Hh4wij

(Reporting from New York by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

Read More: Yahoo Singapore

Study: Flavonoids May Help Protect Against Parkinson’s

Berries, tea, apples and red wine are all rich in a naturally occurring compound called flavonoids, and a new study finds that men who eat a diet high in these healthy compounds may have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Previous research has shown that regular consumption of flavonoids is linked with reduced blood pressure and inflammation, as well as a lower risk of a variety of diseases, including heart disease, some cancers and dementia. But this is the first study to find that flavonoids may also protect brain cells against Parkinson’s.

Collaborating researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Norwich Medical School looked at 130,000 men and women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study — long-running studies analyzing lifestyle behaviors, including diet, and health outcomes among health care professionals.

More than 800 participants developed Parkinson’s disease over the study’s 20-year follow-up. After adjusting for age and lifestyle, the researchers found that men who ate the most flavonoids were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s than men who ate the least.

The researchers did not find the same link for women, which was unexpected. “We were surprised to only find effects in men as there is no suggestion of endocrine related mechanisms being involved,” says study author Aedin Cassidy, professor of nutrition at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia. “Interestingly, gender differences have also been observed for other factors involved in Parkinson’s, including caffeine intake, which is only protective in men.”

The findings don’t prove that flavonoids prevent Parkinson’s, since the study found only an association. However, based on his previous research on animals, researcher Dr. Xiang Gao of the Harvard School of Public Health speculates that flavonoids’ protective attributes may stem from their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and their interactions with neurosignaling passageways.

In the current study, Gao says that anthocyanins — a subclass of flavonoids found in berries like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries as well as vegetables such as eggplant — appeared to be the real disease fighters. Study participants who consumed the most anthocyanins were 24% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who ate the least.

Both researchers are quick to note that their findings need to be confirmed in further studies. “We cannot exclude the possibility of chance,” says Gao. “We should still be cautious and larger, independent and prospective studies should be done.”

But that doesn’t mean you should hold off on an extra helping of blueberries. “For berries, there are no harmful effects and other studies have found they can help with hypertension and cardiovascular disease,” says Gao. “So why not add berries to our diet? “

Read more: Time

Injectable contraceptives linked to increased breast cancer risk

An injectable form of progestin-only birth control has been found to double the risk of breast cancer in young women after just a year or more of use, a new study suggests.

According to the researchers, this is the first large-scale U.S. study to examine the link between depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) and an increased risk of breast cancer.  DMPA is the main component in the branded progestin-only contraceptive Depo-Prevara.

The contraceptive contains the same type of progestin used in a certain kind of menopausal hormone-therapy regimen that uses both estrogen and progestin to treat the symptoms of menopause.  A clinical study of the regimen by the Women’s Health Initiative revealed an increased breast cancer risk in the postmenopausal women who utilized the therapy.

These findings were what prompted the researchers to study DMPA specifically.

“We know that women who use DMPA – it works by providing a high enough level of progestin that confers contraception for a long period of time,” said Dr. Christopher Li, a breast cancer epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., and the lead author of the study.  “Other studies have implicated progestin as potentially harmful for the body.  Such a sustained incidence of progestin could increase this risk.”

Li and his team conducted a case controlled study of 1,028 women aged 20 to 44 in the Seattle area who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  After gathering information about their birth control methods, the researchers then compared this group to another group of similarly aged women who had no history of breast cancer.

The research spanned over a five-year period and ultimately concluded that the women who had used DMPA for at least 12 months had a 2.2-fold increased risk of breast cancer.  It also found that those who used DMPA for less than a year or who had stopped using it more than a year ago did not have an increased risk – meaning a discontinuation of use could help prevent women from contracting breast cancer.

While studies of this kind have been conducted in other countries around the world – such as Kenya, Thailand, Mexico and Costa Rica – Li said the results were somewhat distinct due to the differences in how women use contraceptives in less-developed nations.

“There have been other studies conducted in other countries, but the way this contraception is used in developing countries is much different,” Li said.  “In the U.S., this contraception is primarily used by women who have never been pregnant, but in other countries it is used by women who have been pregnant to prevent further pregnancy.

“The breast tissue is more susceptible to potential carcinogens before women have their first pregnancy, so that’s why these results are different from what we see in other countries.”

Because of the discrepancy in findings, Li noted that people should put these results into context.  But, he also said it’s important for women to know what they’re putting in their bodies.

“Breast cancer is a rare disease among young women,” Li said.  “This doubling of a risk – it probably has little impact on the disease burden overall.  But the main thing is that women need to have conversations with their doctors to understand what should be the right contraception.”

Read more: FoxNews

Could “pink slime” be rebranded?

Three out of the four US factories making “lean beef trimmings” are to be shut down following a public outcry. Is “pink slime” – as critics call it – finished or could it be relaunched under a new name?

The look on shoppers’ faces as Jamie Oliver sloshed ammonia into a bowl of what he calls “pink slime” said it all.

They were horrified. They appeared to have no idea that the burgers they had been buying all these years contained anything other than prime cuts of beef.

But here was a TV chef showing them, in a 2011 edition of his US show Jamie’s Food Revolution, how their burgers are bulked out by meat that in previous decades would have been used for dog food, and is only made fit for human consumption by being treated with household bleach.

Job losses

The decision by major US supermarkets, fast food restaurants – and some public schools – to stop using food that contains Lean Finely Textured Beef, to give “pink slime” its official name, is a victory for Oliver and online campaigners who railed against it.

Pink slime

  • Lean Finely Textured Beef is made from fatty beef carcass off-cuts
  • It is heated and spun in a centrifuge to remove most of the fat
  • It is then exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella
  • It has been added to burgers and other beef products in the US since the early 1990s to keep costs down
  • The term “pink slime” was coined in 2002 by former US government scientist-turned whistleblower Gerald Zirnstein
  • It was found in 70% of ground beef in US stores
  • The US Department of Agriculture allowed schools to remove products containing “pink slime” after an online petition
  • Supermarkets and fast food outlets also joined in the boycott
  • The beef industry claims it would have to kill an extra 1.5 million cattle a year to make up the “pink slime” shortfall

But the resulting loss of 850 meat processing jobs, at a time when America is suffering high unemployment, has angered many – and turned Jamie Oliver into a hate figure on some message boards.

He probably did more than anybody to bring “pink slime” to mainstream attention in the US, although the social media campaign to kill it off did not take off until last month, when ABC World News with Diane Sawyer ran an expose.

The US Department of Agriculture has now allowed schools to remove products containing “pink slime” from their cafeteria menus after Texan blogger Bettina Elias Siegel gathered more than 200,000 online signatures in nine days.

For the meat processing industry, it has been a bruising lesson in public relations and transparency in the age of social media.

Industry fight-back

It might also be the first example of a food ingredient being withdrawn not because of any safety fears, but because people have decided it sounds disgusting.

Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver first alerted Americans to what was in their burgers

 

Industry chiefs are furious about what they see as a media-led smear campaign against a product that has been used in the US since the early 1990s and meets federal food safety standards.

Earlier this week, they launched a fight back – unveiling a new slogan “Dude, it’s beef” and enlisting the help of Texas governor and former presidential candidate Rick Perry, who dutifully chowed down on a burger containing the stuff on a visit to a processing plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska.

To British eyes, this stunt contains echoes of Conservative government minister John Gummer feeding his young daughter a beefburger, in front of the TV news cameras, at the height of the “mad cow disease” controversy in 1990.

But unlike the BSE outbreak no-one is seriously suggesting “pink slime” is dangerous – or even that burgers containing it are significantly less tasty or nutritious than other beef products.

The industry has launched a website, beefisbeef.com, to emphasise this – although Gary Martin, president of brand-naming consultants Gary Martin Group, believes they are missing the point.

“Who cares whether it’s 100% beef and who cares whether it’s lacking bacteria, if it’s something that you find disgusting?” he says.

Tragedy

He describes what has happened to the company driven out of business by the “pink slime” controversy as a tragedy.

Beef industry T-shirt
The meat processing industry has launched a fight-back

 

But he says it was caused, in part, by the lack of a registered brand name for their main product.

“They didn’t brand themselves so someone else did,” he explains.

Lean beef trimmings have never marketed to the public as a product in their own right so it’s doubtful the companies making them would have thought that they needed a brand name.

But, says Martin, if they had been thinking ahead, they might have called the product something consumer-friendly like “Pro-leana”.

It might not have prevented the media backlash, but it might have helped them deal with it better, he argues.

Consumer anger

But, like most experts, he believes it is far too late to rebrand the product now, as it would be seen as a marketing “ploy”, which would further inflame consumer anger.

Rick Perry
Texas Governor Rick Perry does his bit for the beef processing industry

 

“Pink slime” is, in any case, a far more powerful brand name than anything the industry could come up with.

“It is a powerful image. To try to replace that image with something else might be tough,” says EJ Schultz, a food marketing writer with Advertising Age magazine.

He believes consumer anger has been driven by a lack of transparency.

“People are wondering ‘why didn’t I know about this before? Why wasn’t this labelled?’ People want everything labelled these days.”

Jason Karpf, who teaches public relations and marketing, also believes the food industry has got a lot to learn about modern consumers.

He says: “The heightened nature of consumer awareness means that food manufacturers must look at every component of their end user product and imagine public reaction to it. Predict and prepare for public reaction.”

The next ‘pink slime’?

Meat processors have been adding beef scraps to burgers and other products since the 1970s to keep costs down – but they will now have to come with a replacement “that can withstand lay person scrutiny,” says Mr Karpf.

Butcher shop sign
Butchers across America have spotted a marketing opportunity

 

“They are going to have to think about the product itself before they try to come up with a name, and a campaign, that – dare I say – the public will swallow.”

He sees parallels with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – a substance added to food for more than 30 years, but which recent studies have linked to obesity.

The makers of HFCS, which is derived from a chemical process, rebranded it as “corn sugar” – but they are locked in a legal battle with the sugar industry over the use of the term.

“In decades past, High Fructose Corn Syrup was just an ingredient on the back label if people chose to read it” says Mr Karpf.

“It is under a spotlight. Lean Finely Textured Beef was something the public was unaware of until the great increase in media and social media gave it prominence.”

But while HFCS may yet have a future, “pink slime” does not, he argues.

Others are not so sure. EJ Shultz believes food containing lean beef trimmings could, when properly labelled, become a low-cost alternative for cash-strapped beef lovers.

Branding consultant Denise Lee Yohn believes that for the companies involved, it might just be a case of waiting for the fuss to die down.

Social media is a powerful consumer advocacy tool but the groundswell of anger generated by it can also be short-lived, she argues.

“If they can wait it out, and let the hype die down, about six months from now no-one will think anything of it and they can come back with the product.”

Read More: BBC

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