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Archive for May 7, 2012

Chili-Rubbed Skirt Steak Tacos

This flavorful steak taco recipe from actress Eva Longoria’s book “Eva’s Kitchen” makes an authentic Mexican entree or appetizer.

  • Yield Serves 4 to 6


  • Canola oil, for grilling
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 pounds skirt steak
  • Coarse salt
  • 12 homemade or store-bought Corn Tortillas
  • Chunky Guacamole with Serrano Peppers


  1. Lightly oil a grill pan and preheat over medium-high heat.
  2. Rub chili powder on both sides of steak and season generously with salt. Place steak on grill pan and cook, turning once, about 5 minutes per side for medium rare. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat a comal or cast-iron griddle over medium heat. Heat tortillas on comal, 1 or 2 at a time. Transfer to a plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel to keep warm while you warm remaining tortillas.
  4. Holding a sharp knife at a 45-degree angle, cut steak across the grain into thin strips. Place a warmed tortilla on work surface; top with 2 or 3 strips of steak and a generous spoonful of guacamole. Repeat process with remaining steak, tortillas, and guacamole; serve.



Mussel Risotto


I usually keep a good supply of arborio rice on hand for risotto, but on the day I first decided to make this I had just about run out. So I cooked up some short-grain brown rice and stirred it in toward the end of cooking, and what resulted was a wholesome mixed-grains risotto. You won’t get the creaminess if you use all brown rice (and it will take forever), but if you want some whole grain, use the combination option.

2 pounds black mussels

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

3 cups water

Additional water or chicken stock as needed

1 medium onion, half sliced, half finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed, 2 minced

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig parsley

6 peppercorns

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups arborio rice, or 1 cup arborio rice and 1 1/2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

3/4 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

Generous pinch saffron

1 cup cooked fresh or thawed frozen peas

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Clean the mussels. Inspect each one carefully and discard any that have opened (if some are partly open, tap them with your finger, and if they close back up they are O.K.) or have cracked shells. Place in a large bowl, fill the bowl with cold water and rinse several times, swishing the mussels around in the water, pouring out the water and refilling. Clean the shells, if necessary, with a brush or the end of one of the mussels, and pull out the beards – the hairy attachments emerging from the shells. Do not do this until just before cooking, or the mussels will die and spoil.

2. Combine 1 cup of the wine and the 3 cups of water in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the sliced onion, the crushed garlic cloves, the thyme and parsley sprigs, and the peppercorns and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover the pan and cook until the mussels have opened, about 4 minutes. Stir the mussels halfway through.  Using tongs, transfer the mussels to a bowl, holding them over the pot first so any liquid in the shells will drain into the pot. Discard any that have not opened. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the mussels from their shells.

3. Line a strainer with a double thickness of dampened cheesecloth, place over a saucepan and strain the broth from the mussels.  Add more water or stock to make 6 cups if using 1 1/2 cups arborio rice. (You will have enough if using 1 cup arborio.) Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Taste and season as desired.

4. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy nonstick skillet or a wide, heavy saucepan. Add the finely chopped onion and the celery and a generous pinch of salt, and cook gently until the onion is just tender, about 3 minutes. Do not brown.

5. Stir in the arborio rice and the minced garlic and stir until the grains separate and begin to crackle. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine and stir until it is no longer visible in the pan. Add the tomatoes and saffron and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant, about 5 minutes.

6. Begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice, and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, adding more and stirring when the rice is almost dry. You do not have to stir constantly, but stir often. When the rice is just tender all the way through but still chewy, stir in the mussels and any juice that has accumulated in the bowl, the cooked brown rice, if using, and the peas. Taste now and adjust seasoning. Stir in another ladleful of stock and remove from the heat. The mixture should be creamy (add more stock if it isn’t). Serve right away in wide soup bowls or on plates, spreading the risotto in a thin layer rather than a mound.

Yield: 6 servings.

Advance preparation: You can cook the mussels several hours ahead. Remove from the shells and refrigerate until ready to cook the risotto. Cooked brown rice will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving: 316 calories; 6 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 17 milligrams cholesterol; 45 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 212 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 12 grams protein.


ICSI fertility treatment ‘linked to birth defects’

One in 10 children conceived by fertility treatment ICSI have birth defects, the largest study of its kind shows. ICSI is used in about half of UK fertility treatments.

The risk of a birth defect after natural conception is 5.8 per cent compared with 7.2 per cent following IVF and 9.9 per cent after intracytoplasmic sperm injections, known as ICSI, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

ICSI is primarily used for male fertility problems, however, and its risk significantly decreased when frozen eggs were used, according to the study’s lead author, Associate Professor Michael Davies of the University of Adelaide.

Researchers at the university’s Robson Institute examined 309,000 births in South Australia. Of these, 1,878 involved ICSI, in which sperm is injected into the egg, generally used when men have low sperm counts. In IVF, the sperm and eggs are mixed in a dish and sperm breaks into the egg on its own.

Online drug warning

Researchers looking at a smaller subset in the study also found risk tripled among women who used the drug clomiphene citrate to stimulate ovary production. The drug is available online and is known to cause foetal abnormalities if the woman is already pregnant.

“While confined to a small group in our study, this is of particular concern as clomiphene citrate is now very widely available at low cost, and may easily be used contrary to manufacturers’ very specific instructions, to avoid use if pregnant, as it may cause feotal malformations,” Mr Davies said.

‘Procedure of choice’

Since its introduction in 1992, increasing numbers of fertility clinics have adopted ICSI as their procedure of choice.

“The study suggests that while babies born from IVF are as healthy as their naturally conceived counterparts, there is still some residual risk to babies born through ICSI that currently cannot be explained,” Dr Allan Pacey, chairman of the British Fertility Society, told The Telegraph.

Researchers did not determine whether the risks of abnormalities were a result of the ICSI technique or because men with lower sperm counts were more likely to pass on anomalies.

“It may well be that the families who have to use ICSI have extreme sperm damage, and this may be why there is a higher rate of anomalies in this group,” said Professor Peter Illingworth, an associate professor at the University of Sydney.

Previous research suggested children conceived naturally among couples diagnosed with infertility had a risk of higher abnormalities, which indicates defects were more likely to be tied to infertility than to the treatment used to overcome it.

In 2005, the last year for which data was available, 5,935 babies were born as a result of IVF treatment compared to 5,265 babies born with the help of ICSI.

Channel 4

Massive rise in Asian eye damage

Lijia Zhang, a writer and social commentator in Beijing, told the BBC that high expectations on children were a factor

Up to 90% of school leavers in major Asian cities are suffering from myopia – short-sightedness – a study suggests.

Researchers say the “extraordinary rise” in the problem is being caused by students working very hard in school and missing out on outdoor light.

The scientists told the Lancet that up to one in five of these students could experience severe visual impairment and even blindness.

In the UK, the average level of myopia is between 20% and 30%.

According to Professor Ian Morgan, who led this study and is from the Australian National University, 20-30% was once the average among people in South East Asia as well.

“What we’ve done is written a review of all the evidence which suggests that something extraordinary has happened in east Asia in the last two generations,” he told BBC News.


Children suffer from a double whammy in South East Asia”

Prof Ian Morgan Australian National University

“They’ve gone from something like 20% myopia in the population to well over 80%, heading for 90% in young adults, and as they get adult it will just spread through the population. It certainly poses a major health problem.”

Eye experts say that you are myopic if your vision is blurred beyond 2m (6.6ft). It is often caused by an elongation of the eyeball that happens when people are young.

According to the research, the problem is being caused by a combination of factors – a commitment to education and lack of outdoor light.

Professor Morgan argues that many children in South East Asia spend long hours studying at school and doing their homework. This in itself puts pressure on the eyes, but exposure to between two and three hours of daylight acts as a counterbalance and helps maintain healthy eyes.

The scientists believe that a chemical called dopamine could be playing a significant part. Exposure to light increases the levels of dopamine in the eye and this seems to prevent elongation of the eyeball.

“We’re talking about the need for two to three hours a day of outdoor light – it doesn’t have to be massively sunny, we think the operating range is 10-20,000 lux, we’re not sure about that – but that’s perfectly achievable on a cloudy day in the UK.”

‘Massive pressures’

Cultural factors also seem to play a part. Across many parts of South East Asia, children often have a lunchtime nap. According to Professor Morgan they are missing out on prime light to prevent myopia.

“Children suffer from a double whammy in South East Asia,” says Professor Morgan.

“As a result of massive educational pressures and the construction of a child’s day, the amount of time they spend outside in bright light is minimised.”

A big concern is the numbers of students suffering from “high” myopia. According to Professor Morgan, this affects between 10% and 20% of students in Asian cities. It can lead to vision loss, visual impairment and even blindness.

“These people are at considerable risk – sometimes people are not told about it and are just given more powerful glasses – they need to be warned about the risk and given some self-testing measures so they can get to an ophthalmologist and get some help.”

For decades, researchers believed there was a strong genetic component to the condition. It was believed that people from China, Japan, Korea and other countries were particularly susceptible to developing myopia. But this study strongly suggests an alternative view.

In Singapore, where there are large numbers of people from Chinese, Malay and Indian backgrounds, all three ethnic groups have seen a dramatic rise in short-sightedness.

Professor Morgan says you cannot rule out genetics completely, but for him it’s not the major factor.

“Any type of simple genetic explanation just doesn’t fit with that speed of change; gene pools just don’t change in two generations.

“Whether it’s a purely environmental effect or an environmental effect playing a sensitive genome, it really doesn’t matter, the thing that’s changed is not the gene pool – it’s the environment.”

Further evidence on the impact of light is provided by UK researchers. Kathryn Saunders from the University of Ulster was part of a team which compared short-sightedness in children in Australia and Northern Ireland.

“White UK kids are much more likely to be myopic than white Australian children,” Dr Saunders told BBC News. “We’ve proposed that this might be due to the protective effect in Australia of increased exposure to bright sunlight.

“This requires further exploration and research, but I guess we might want to encourage children to spend more time outside when the sun is shining. It’s unlikely to do them any harm.”


Persistent cough ‘could be lung cancer warning’

Watch one of the Department of Health’s new TV advertisements as part of the lung cancer awareness campaign


The public should be vigilant about persistent coughs as they could be a sign of lung cancer, a new government advertising drive is warning.

The campaign, which is being run in TV, radio, print and online media, recommends people with coughs lasting three weeks visit their GP.

Research has shown the public are much more aware that lumps and bleeding are warning signs of cancer than a cough.

But the ads make clear persistent coughs should also raise alarm bells.

The push is being backed by celebrities including comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, TV star Linda Robson and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

‘Horrible disease’

Cancer tsar Professor Sir Mike Richards said: “It is vital that cancer patients get treated quickly so they have the best chance of surviving.”

It’s devastating when you see someone you love dying from lung cancer”

Ricky Gervais

Lung cancer affects 33,000 people in England every year, with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 55.

But when diagnosed at an early stage, as many as 80% are alive five years after diagnosis – compared with 7% if it is spotted late on.

Ricky Gervais, whose mother died of lung cancer at the age of 74, said: “It’s devastating when you see someone you love dying from lung cancer.

“It’s a horrible, horrible disease. My mother’s death was very sudden and you can’t help wondering if things would have been different had it been spotted earlier.”


Curry’s ability to fight cancer put to the test

Does an ingredient in curry have a role in cancer prevention?

A chemical found in curry is to be tested for its ability to kill bowel cancer tumours in patients.

Curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, has been linked to a range of health benefits.

Studies have already shown that it can beat cancer cells grown in a laboratory and benefits have been suggested in stroke and dementia patients as well.

Now a trial at hospitals in Leicester will investigating giving curcumin alongside chemotherapy drugs.

About 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year.

If the disease spreads around the body, patients are normally given a combination of three chemotherapy drugs, but about half will not respond.

Forty patients at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Leicester General Hospital will take part in the trial, which will compare the effects of giving curcumin pills seven days before starting standard chemotherapy treatment.

‘Difficult to treat’Prof William Steward, who is leading the study, said animal tests combining the two were “100 times better” than either on their own and that had been the “major justification for cracking on” with the trial.

He said: “Once bowel cancer has spread it is very difficult to treat, partly because the side effects of chemotherapy can limit how long patients can have treatment.

“The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment for longer.

“This research is at a very early stage, but investigating the potential of plant chemicals to treat cancer is an intriguing area that we hope could provide clues to developing new drugs in the future.”

Joanna Reynolds, from Cancer Research UK, said: “By doing a clinical trial like this, we will find out more about the potential benefits of taking large amounts of curcumin, as well as any possible side effects this could have for cancer patients.”







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