My Recipe

Braised Tofu with Mushroom and Vegetables


one 360 g pack home-style fried tofu
1/2 of 170 g pack veggie chicken strips
5 (1-1/2-inch cap) Chinese dried mushroom
2 oz carrot
1/2 of 8 fluid oz can canned sliced bamboo shoot
3 oz peapod
2 tsp garlic (minced)
2 tsp ginger (minced)


1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp mushroom seasoning
1-1/3 Tbsp vegetarian stir-fry sauce
dash white ground pepper
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 cup water

Thickening solution:

2-1/4 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water


  1. Rinse and soak dried mushroom in a covered bowl in cold water for at least 1½ hour or until softened depending on the thickness of the caps (for thick cap soak overnight). Rinse cap between gills to remove dirt and grit. Squeeze out water. Cut each cap into thin slices.
  2. Cut each tofu triangle into 4 small triangles, resulting in 32 small triangles.
  3. Cut each peapod into halves. Rinse thoroughly and drain.
  4. Slice carrot into 1/8-inch thick rounds.
  5. Rinse and drain bamboo shoot.
  6. Mix seasoning ingredients and thickening solution in separate bowls.
  7. Boil 4 to 6 cups of water in a wok. Add carrot and peapod. Blanch for 1 minute without covering wok. Remove and drain.
  8. Pour away water in wok. Dry, reheat wok and add 1/2 Tbsp oil. Stir-fry bamboo shoot for 30 seconds. Add carrot and peapod, toss for 30 seconds. Remove.
  9. Reheat wok and add 1 Tbsp oil. Sauté ginger and garlic until fragrant. Add mushroom. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add veggie tenders, toss for 30 seconds. Add 1 tsp wine and toss for 30 seconds. Add tofu and seasoning ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and braise on high heat for about 3 minutes. Add thickening solution, keep tossing until sauce reboils and thickens. Return vegetables in Step 8 to wok. Toss for another minute. Remove and serve hot.

Nutrition value for 1/6 portion of recipe:

Calorie 202, Fat 10.8 g, Carbohydrate 13 g, Fibre 3 g, Sugar 5 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 605 mg, Protein 14 g.

Know Your Bugs – A Closer Look at Viruses, Bacteria, and Parasites

“Stop the spread of superbugs,” “15 superbugs and other scary diseases” and “Superbug bacteria found in tested hotel rooms” are headlines we often read or hear about. But what do we mean when we say “bugs”?

The term is used to describe viruses, bacteria and parasites. While they can all make us sick, they do it in different ways. So what is the difference between these pathogens, and how dangerous are they?

Let’s start with viruses, the smallest of the three.

Viruses – from the common cold to Ebola

Viruses have been around for a really, really long time. They predate us and could even be our oldest ancestors.

Viruses have helped build genomes of all species, including humans. Our genome is made up of 50 percent retroelements – the DNA from retroviruses. And viruses might have paved the way for several DNA replication enzymes, which are essential for a cell to divide and grow.

Viruses are capable of causing infections in humans and animals – and some viruses can even jump from one to the other.

Viruses have two phases of life. Outside a cell, they are nonliving and are called virion particles. Once inside a cell they use the cellular machinery to their advantage to replicate and multiply. Some scientists may argue that viruses are alive when inside a cell.

Some viruses, like the common cold, can make us sick, but don’t do lasting harm. But others are known to cause lethal disease in humans and animals. A pandemic strain of influenza can severely infect a large number of people in a very short time. There were an estimated 201, 200 respiratory deaths with an additional 83,300 cardiovascular deaths globally during the 2009 influenza (H1N1) pandemic.

While we are exposed to virus particles every day, we don’t always fall sick because the immune system can handle most of them. We get sick when we encounter a new virus for the first time or in sufficient quantity. This is why it is recommended to get a flu shot every year. The circulating strain of influenza may vary each year, and immunity from a previous infection or vaccine might not protect us in the event of exposure to a different strain.

The ability to spread quickly and replicate rapidly makes some of these viruses dreaded entries on the list of pathogens, to an extent that some are even considered as potential weapons of mass destruction. There are also viruses that kill slowly over time. A classic example is the rabies virus. It has a long incubation period (1-3 months) and is vaccine-preventable, but once the symptoms set in, the individual is almost certain to die.

Vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves from viruses. Vaccines prime the immune response, allowing our bodies to respond to an actual infection more efficiently. Vaccines have reduced the disease burden for several otherwise lethal viruses such as measles, rubella, influenza and smallpox. Beyond that, washing hands and covering noses while sneezing are practices that can keep some of these viruses at bay.

Bacteria – toxin-producing invaders

Some bacteria are good for you, offering protection against pathogens and aiding with digestion in the gut. But some aren’t so beneficial or benign.

Some are specialized to cause disease such as Staphylococcal infection (Staphylococcus aureus), botulism (Clostridium botulinum), gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), gastric ulcer (Helicobacter pylori), diphtheria (Corynebacterium diptheriae) and bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis).

They can produce toxins, invade cells or the bloodstream, or compete with the host for shared nutrients – all of which can lead to illness. The right course of treatment can depend on how the bacteria is causing illness.

Take botulism, for instance. People get it when they eat food contaminated with toxins or bacterial spores from C. botulinum. If a person ingests the toxin, he or she can develop symptoms within six to 36 hours. If the spore is ingested, it can take up to a week.

Supportive care is the primary therapeutic method, to prevent or relieve other possible complications and to maintain the health and breathing of the patient. Antibiotics treat infections by destroying the bacterium, but with botulism, the destruction of the bacterium can lead to the release of more toxins, causing severe illness. Doctors treat toxins by administering antitoxins or inducing vomiting.

Today, thanks to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, resistant bacteria is on the rise, and as of 2013, there were about 480,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Cycling between different antibiotics can reduce the risk of resistance. Alternatives, such as bacteriophages (bacteria killing viruses) or enzymes that destroy the genome of resistant bacteria, are being developed. In fact, bacteriophages are widely used in Eastern Europe but haven’t been approved in North America.

There are vaccines available for some bacteria, like the DPT vaccine against Diphtheria, Bordetella pertussis and Clostridium tetani. And there are plenty of simple solutions to prevent bacteria from making us sick, such as proper hand washing, disinfection of surfaces, use of clean water and cooking to appropriate temperatures to eliminate bacteria.

Parasites – benefiting at our expense

The third group in our trio of pathogens – parasites – have inspired many horror stories and many of us find them kind of gross.

Parasites are a diverse group of organisms that live in or on a host (like us) and benefit at the host’s expense. Parasites can be microscopic single cellular organisms called protozoa, or bigger organisms like worms or ticks. Protozoan parasites are actually more closely related to the cells in our body than to bacteria.

Parasites are everywhere, and they can play a complex and important role in ecosystems.

But parasites can also cause horrendous diseases, especially in the developing world. In many cases, infection with parasites goes hand in hand with bad sanitary conditions and poverty. Even though much progress has been made, malaria, which kills one child every 30 seconds with 90 percent of the cases in Africa, is still the most deadly disease caused by parasites. But it is by far not the only one.

Other parasitic diseases common in many – mostly tropical – parts of the world are Leishmaniasis, River Blindness and Elephantiasis.

Many parasites are transmitted by mosquitoes and other insects, and with the effects of climate change intensifying, many parasitic diseases are likely to move farther north.

Parasitic diseases are on the rise in developed countries, including the U.S. Chagas disease, for example, is caused by a single cellular parasite and cases are increasing in North America, possibly aided by climate change.

There are no vaccines available so far against any major parasitic diseases in humans, but there is plenty of research on that front. Luckily, there are many drugs available to combat parasites.

For instance, the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to scientists who developed antiparasitic drugs (one drug, Ivermectin, treats worms; the other, Artemisinin, treats malaria).

These two drugs have helped whole countries to manage scourges caused by parasitic worms and malaria.

The latest success was in September 2015, when Mexico eliminated River Blindness, which is caused by Onchocerca volvulus, with the help of ivermectin donated by Merck.

Stay clean

Getting a harmful virus, bacterial infection or parasite disease isn’t good news. Fortunately we have effective treatments for some of them, and vaccines that can prevent us from getting sick as well, even if some of these bugs can evade the best medicines we have.

And keep in mind that even if these bugs can make us very, very sick, you still need to be exposed to them to become infected. While bigger strategies, like sanitation and infection control can keep us and others safe, so can simple strategies, like washing our hands, staying home when we are sick and covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze.

Source: The Conversation

Video: The Drinkable Book – Water is Life

One of the biggest problems in the developing world is access to safe, reliable drinking water. The charity organisation Water is Life dedicates its energies to providing this most basic of necessities. Its latest project — developed in concert with creative agency DDB North America – seeks to combine education with actual resources.

Called The Drinkable Book, it combines a variety of technologies to achieve this goal. On each of its tear-out pages, water safety tips are written in various languages — the first print run, intended for Kenya, is printed in English and Swahili — in food-grade ink, providing much-needed information to people in areas where access to education about such matters may be low.

Each book comes packaged in a 3D printed box, which converts into a filtration tray. When you tear out one of the pages and slip it into the tray, you can use it to filter water.

Each page is impregnated with silver nanoparticles (which gives the paper its distinctive orange colouring). The nanoparticles don’t quite work like a traditional filter. Rather than providing a barrier, they actually kill the bacteria as they pass through the paper. As the water runs through, the bacteria absorb the silver ions, which kill the bacteria. The paper kills over 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria, which puts the resulting water on a par with tap water in the US. It has proven effective at destroying bacteria that cause diseases such as cholera, E.coli and typhoid.

It’s not a perfect solution — the paper can’t remove dissolved solids or chemicals from contaminated water supplies — but it’s a lot better than many people have access to.

Each page contains two filters, and each filter can be used to safely treat around 100 litres of water — up to four years’ worth, depending on usage. The team will be conducting field tests later this year, hoping to raise funds for a full print run, and aim for a commercial release in 2015.

Watch video at You Tube (2:00 minutes) . . . .

In Pictures: Foods of Momofuku Nishi Restaurant, New York City

Italian-inspired dishes fortified with Asian ingredients

The Restaurant

Study Finds Higher Fat Variation of DASH Diet Beneficial

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) dietary pattern, which is high in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, significantly lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. In a study published in the February issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco Benioff’s Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) found that a higher fat DASH diet not only lowered blood pressure to the same extent as the DASH diet but also reduced triglycerides and didn’t significantly raise LDL cholesterol.

The study tested the effects of substituting full-fat for low-fat dairy foods in the DASH diet on blood pressure and plasma lipids and lipoproteins. The DASH diet was originally developed as a means for lowering blood pressure, and was designed to include low-fat and nonfat dairy foods. When substituted for carbohydrates or unsaturated fats, saturated fats have been consistently shown to increase LDL cholesterol. The DASH diet was developed with research originally sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Since that time, a number of studies have shown the health benefits of the DASH diet, and it has many of the same characteristics as the Healthy US-Style Eating Pattern, one of three recommended dietary patterns in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In this study, researchers led by Ronald Krauss, MD; Sally Chiu, PhD; and Nathalie Bergeron, PhD, tested whether the blood pressure benefit, as well as a favorable lipid and lipoprotein profile of the DASH diet, could be maintained with a modification of the DASH diet that included full-fat dairy foods. Compared with the DASH diet, the higher fat DASH diet has more total and saturated fat and less carbohydrate, the latter achieved primarily by reducing fruit juices and other sugars.

The researchers used a randomized crossover trial of healthy individuals who ate a control diet, a standard DASH diet, and a higher fat, lower carbohydrate modification of the DASH diet for three weeks each. The control diet contained less fiber, fruits, and vegetables and more red meat than either of the DASH diets. Each diet period was separated by two-week washout periods, and participants maintained a constant weight during the study periods.

Thirty-six adult participants completed all three diet periods. Blood pressure was reduced similarly in the DASH and higher fat DASH diet compared with the control diet. The higher fat DASH diet significantly reduced triglycerides and large- and medium-sized LDL particles in comparison with the DASH diet, and there was no significant difference in LDL cholesterol response between these diets. The modified higher fat DASH diet presents a possibly effective alternative to the widely recommended DASH diet, with less stringent dietary fat constraints that may promote even broader implementation.

Source: UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland

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