Stuffed Sponge Cucumber 絲瓜

Ingredients

1/2 sponge cucumber 絲瓜
6 shrimps, heads and shells removed with tail intact

Filling

2 water chestnuts, chopped
150 g minced fish paste
1 stick celery, chopped
2 slices ginger, minced

Seasoning

1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cooking wine
1 tsp sesame oil
dash ground white pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

Sauce

1½ cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chicken broth mix
1 tsp sesame oil

Thickening

1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water

Method

  1. Peel sponge cucumber. Cut into six 6-cm long sections. Hollow out the seeds in the centre.
  2. Cut off front three-quarter portion of the shrimps and retain the tails. Mash flesh into paste. Add filling ingredients. Mix vigorously until the mixture is gluey.
  3. Stuff the filling into the sponge cucumber and insert the tails of the shrimp on top. Steam stuffed sponge cucumber under high heat for 15 minutes.
  4. To make the sauce, add sauce ingredients to a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Mix in thickening solution. Remove from heat when the sauce reboils and thickens.
  5. Pour sauce over stuffed sponge cucumber and serve hot.

Source: Home-cooked Seafood

Gadget: Musical Straw

Wet My Whistle

Wet My Whistle is a reusable drinking straw that also works like a slide whistle.

Source: Fred & Friends

Japanese Sand Fish Fermented Sushi

The Sushi

The Fish – Sand Fish (ハタハタ)

Do Gut Bacteria Rule Our Minds?

The image below illustrates how microbes can “pull our strings,” driving us to crave foods that give them the nutrients they need, including fat and sugar.

It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us – which outnumber our own cells about 100-fold – may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.

In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

A Power Struggle Inside the Gut

Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem – our digestive tracts – they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

While it is unclear exactly how this occurs, the authors believe this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system, those signals could influence our physiologic and behavioral responses.

“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative,” said Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper. “There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not.”

Fortunately, it’s a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberating altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.

“Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut,” Maley said. “It’s a whole ecosystem, and it’s evolving on the time scale of minutes.”

There are even specialized bacteria that digest seaweed, found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.

The Connection Between Digestive Tract and Brain

Research suggests that gut bacteria may be affecting our eating decisions in part by acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.

“Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,” said Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology.

In mice, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. In humans, one clinical trial found that drinking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.

Maley, Aktipis and first author Joe Alcock, MD, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico, proposed further research to test the sway microbes hold over us. For example, would transplantation into the gut of the bacteria requiring a nutrient from seaweed lead the human host to eat more seaweed?

The speed with which the microbiome can change may be encouraging to those who seek to improve health by altering microbial populations. This may be accomplished through food and supplement choices, by ingesting specific bacterial species in the form of probiotics, or by killing targeted species with antibiotics. Optimizing the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives, according to the authors.

“Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating,” the authors wrote.

Implications for Obesity, Diabetes and even Cancer

The authors met and first discussed the ideas in the BioEssays paper at a summer school conference on evolutionary medicine two years ago.

Aktipis, who is an evolutionary biologist and a psychologist, was drawn to the opportunity to investigate the complex interaction of the different fitness interests of microbes and their hosts and how those play out in our daily lives. Maley, a computer scientist and evolutionary biologist, had established a career studying how tumor cells arise from normal cells and evolve over time through natural selection within the body as cancer progresses.

In fact, the evolution of tumors and of bacterial communities are linked, points out Aktipis, who said some of the bacteria that normally live within us cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.

“Targeting the microbiome could open up possibilities for preventing a variety of disease from obesity and diabetes to cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the importance of the microbiome for human health,” she said.

Source: University of California San Francisco


Today’s Comic

Cute Food: Edible Chocolate LEGOs

Illustrator and designer Akihiro Mizuuchi designed a modular system for creating edible chocolate LEGO bricks.

Chocolate is first poured into precisely designed moulds that after cooling can be popped out and used as regular LEGOs.

It’s hard to determine exactly how functional they are, he had successfully build a number of different things using the chocolate lego blocks shown below.

I can only imagine how quickly these blocks might melt in the hands, but I suppose that’s beside the point. This is amazing that two of the greatest things in the world are fused together.

Source: COLOSSAL

Food Art: Pancakes

Creative pancakes made with the help of a pangraph

Watch video at You Tube (0:38 minute) …..

What’s the Best Way to Brush Your Teeth?

Expert advice is ‘unacceptably inconsistent,’ study finds.

If you’re unsure about the best way to brush your teeth, you’re unlikely to get much help from experts.

Dental associations and toothpaste and toothbrush companies don’t agree on the most effective method to brush teeth, and their advice is “unacceptably inconsistent,” a new study says.

Researchers at University College London in England examined the brushing recommendations from dental associations in 10 countries, toothpaste and toothbrush makers, and in dental textbooks.

The investigators found a wide range of recommendations on brushing technique, how often to brush and for how long, according to the study published Aug. 8 in the British Dental Journal. The findings highlight the need for better research on proper brushing, the study authors said.

“The public needs to have sound information on the best method to brush their teeth,” said study senior author Aubrey Sheiham, professor of dental public health.

“If people hear one thing from a dental association, another from a toothbrush company and something else from their dentist, no wonder they are confused about how to brush. In this study we found an unacceptably inconsistent array of advice from different sources,” Sheiham said in a university news release.

“Dental associations need to be consistent about what method to recommend, based on how effective the method is,” Sheiham added. “Most worryingly, the methods recommended by dental associations are not the same as the best ones mentioned in dental textbooks. There is no evidence to suggest that complicated techniques are any better than a simple gentle scrub.”

The study found that the most commonly recommended method is to gently jiggle the toothbrush back and forth in small motions in order to loosen food particles, plaque and bacteria. However, there is no proof that this is any better than basic scrubbing, the researchers said.

“Brush gently with a simple horizontal scrubbing motion, with the brush at a 45-degree angle to get to the dental plaque. To avoid brushing too hard, hold the brush with a pencil grip rather than a fist. This simple method is perfectly effective at keeping your gums healthy,” Sheiham said.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services