Summer Treat: Italian Sweets

Seven-fruits White Peach and Dragon Fruit Dolce Granita

Limited-time offer by Massimo Zanetti Espresso in Japan for 580 Yen each.

Vietnamese-style Stewed Beef in Tomato Sauce


1-1/3 lb beef, cut in chunks
3 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp tomato paste
2/3 lb total carrots and turnips, cut in pieces
1/2 tbsp lime juice


2 tbsp total minced garlic and chili pepper
1-1/2 cup cut onion pieces
14 galangal slices


6 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
4 kaffir leaves (or bay leaves)


  1. Blanch beef in boiling water. Remove and drain. Marinate in fish sauce for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp oil and stir-fry seasoning ingredients until fragrant. Add beef and marinade. Cook until meat changes color.
  3. Add tomato paste, stir-fry briefly. Add sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and cook 1-1/2 hours over low heat. Add carrot and turnip, cook 30 minutes until vegetables and meat are tender.
  4. Turn off heat and mix in lime juice. Serve with bread or steamed rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Vietnamese Cuisine

Local vs. Organic: How to Know What You’re Getting at the Farmers Market

Sally Wadyka wrote . . . . .

Faster than you can say “kale salad” it seems like yet another farmers market pops up. In fact, there are currently more than 8,600 farmers markets registered in the USDA’s Farmers Market Directory. It’s easy to understand why they’re popular—fresh, local produce, plus a chance to meet the farmers who grow your food, all wrapped up in a fun, festive atmosphere. But you may also be a bit confused by what’s on offer at the market. What does all the hype about local really mean? Is it organic? And should you care?

First off, “local” is definitely not synonymous with “organic.” “In order to call your produce organic, you have to be certified by the USDA,” explains Joe Masabni, Ph.D., extension small-acreage vegetable specialist, Texas A & M Research & Extension Center, in Overton, Texas. “There is paperwork to fill out, processes to follow, and you have to be approved.”

When you buy certified organic produce you know that the growers have followed these best practices, avoided synthetic pesticides, and that their farming methods are sustainable and better for the environment.

But while not every farmer at your local market will bother with the formalities of certification, that doesn’t mean their produce is necessarily slathered in pesticides. They may follow some or all of the same guidelines that the USDA requires without taking the extra steps to make it official. “I’ve seen farmers who post signs saying ‘as organic as I can be’ or ‘following organic practices,’” says Masabni. And since the person selling the food is often the same one who grew it, you can also ask them directly about their farming methods.

But even if local produce isn’t organic, there are many advantages to buying what’s grown in your area. “On average, produce travels about 1,500 miles from farm to store, and because of that, it’s picked still unripe,” says Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of nutrition, University of South Florida, College of Public Health. “The produce at the farmers market is more often picked ripe and sold within a day.”

That translates into fresher, better tasting food that’s also more nutritious since the vitamins and other nutrients have not had time to break down. And if you’re worried about the environmental impact, local produce has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than fruit and veggies that have been trucked hundreds of miles to the supermarket.

More and more supermarkets are now also selling produce that’s advertised as “local,” sometimes at prices that are lower than the farmers market. That can sound like a good deal, but it’s worth asking just how “local” it really is. “Local can be a relative term—for instance, it may be trucked in from a farm 10 hours away,” Masabni says. “But it would be rare for a farmer to drive that far to bring his own produce to a farmers market.”

And while most farmers markets are strict about people selling only what they’ve grown, there are reports of some markets that allow vendors to sell produce they’ve purchased from a wholesaler. To find out, talk to the people selling the food, ask where their farm is, how they grow their food, and did they, in fact, grow it all themselves. And look for obvious tip-offs, like produce being sold way out of season or that’s not indigenous to your area.

Farmers markets often get a bad rap for being too expensive, but Wright says that’s not always the case. “They’re selling what’s in season and plentiful, so often they’re able to sell it a great prices,” she says. “Plus, that fresh produce that hasn’t been sitting in a truck for days will last longer, and that can save you money by reducing food waste.”

Source: Consumer Reports

In Pictures: Vietnamese Dishes in Restaurants in Japan

Study Suggests ‘Use It or Lose It’ to Defend Against Memory Loss

Iowa State University researchers have identified a protein essential for building memories that appears to predict the progression of memory loss and brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s patients.

Auriel Willette, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition; and Ashley Swanson, a graduate research assistant, say the findings also suggest there is a link between brain activity and the presence of the protein neuronal pentraxin-2, or NPTX2. The research, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, found a correlation between higher levels of NPTX2 and better memory and more brain volume. Lower levels of the protein were associated with diminished memory and less volume.

“NPTX2 seems to exert a protective effect,” Swanson said. “The more you have, the less brain atrophy and better memory you have over time.”

The discovery is encouraging as it offers an avenue to track the progression of Alzheimer’s disease over time, but it also generates a lot of questions. Researchers want to know how best to boost NPTX2 levels and if there is an added benefit. They were struck by a trend in the data that points to a possible answer. Study participants with more years of education showed higher levels of the protein. Willette says people with complex jobs or who stay mentally and socially active could see similar benefits, supporting the notion of “use it or lose it.”

“You’re keeping the machinery going,” Willette said. “It makes sense that the more time spent intensely focused on learning, the more your brain is trained to process information and that doesn’t go away. That intense kind of learning seems to make your brain stronger.”

Good vs. bad proteins

Willette and Swanson used data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative to assess which aspects of the immune system were most relevant to tracking Alzheimer’s disease progression. They consistently found two proteins (NPTX2 and Chitinase-3-like-protein-1, or C3LP1) that predicted aspects of the disease. Among 285 older adults, they examined memory performance at baseline, six months, one year and two years. At the beginning of the study, 86 participants had normal brain function, 135 expressed mild cognitive impairment (the precursor to Alzheimer’s), and 64 had Alzheimer’s disease.

ISU researchers also focused their attention on the medial temporal lobe, an area of the brain that shows the first signs of memory loss or cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. While C3LP1 modestly predicted atrophy in the medial temporal lobe, it did not track memory decline over time, researchers said. After two years, the presence of NPTX2 explained 56 percent of the fluctuation in memory loss and 29 percent of medial temporal lobe volume.

Willette and Swanson say they were somewhat surprised by the comparative results. They expected C3LP1, which causes brain inflammation and is thought to degrade the brain and memory, to be a stronger indicator. However, the memory forming benefits of NPTX2 proved to be consistently significant during the two years that researchers tracked memory decline and medial temporal lobe atrophy.

“We see this as a promising biomarker that affects a lot of key aspects of Alzheimer’s disease,” Swanson said. “It’s a revolutionary approach and we’re looking at it in a more holistic way, rather than a reductionist viewpoint, to understand how the immune system and brain are connected.”

Willette added, “With this disease you have to be comprehensive. There are so many aspects of our environment, our lifestyle, our immune system that influence the degree to which you’re at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Source: Iowa State University

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