In Pictures: Character Foods and Drink of Hello Kitty Cafe in Osaka, Japan

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Chinese-style Simmered Pumpkin with Ground Pork and Mung Bean Vermicelli

Ingredients

200 g ground pork
300 g pumpkin
1 bundle (30 g) mung bean vermicelli
2 cups chicken broth
1 stalk green onion, chopped

Method

  1. Mix pork with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground white pepper. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Peel and seed pumpkin. Cut into bite-size pieces.
  3. Soak vermicelli in cold water until softened and cut into short lengths.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok. Add pork and stir-fry until no longer pink. Add pumpkin and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Mix in vermicelli and cook for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle green onion on top. Remove to a hot clay pot and serve.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

16 Things You Might Not Know about Avocados

Joanna Sciarrino

The history of the avocado is a long and storied one: ancient Central and South Americans were eating them twenty-five hundred years ago; Europeans discovered their buttery appeal in the sixteenth century; Americans started growing them commercially in the 1900s. There are more than one thousand varieties (such as Zutano, Choquette, and Bacon, to name just a few) cultivated around the world from Mexico to New Zealand to Israel. But it’s the Hass, first grown in Los Angeles County in 1926 and patented in 1935, that took the avocado from regional specialty to international stardom. Why? Because it was a solid bearer of fruit, people liked its rich taste, and it had a longer shelf life than other varieties. The past twenty years have ushered in an era of unprecedented avocado fanaticism in the United States, with domestic consumption growing from one billion avocados in 2000 to more than four billion in 2014. The Los Angeles market consumes the most avocados in the country, which makes sense, considering the harvest the Golden State produces each year.

“California fruit is the top of the line,” says Paul Romero, a district manager at Calavo Growers, a company that began in 1924 as the California Avocado Growers Exchange. He argues that because “the Hass avocado was developed right here in California, genetically it’s set up for California conditions.” Romero, who’s been in the avocado industry since 1978, told me that California avocado folks don’t really retire from the business, they “get old in it”—even in the face of droughts like the one that has recently plagued Southern California.

We’ve all heard the health claims—avocados are packed with potassium, fiber, and monounsaturated fats—and experienced how they make mediocre things taste more delicious, but what else is there to know about the alligator pear?

1. There’s record of an ancient folk recipe that used the avocado pit in rat poison, but modern health blogs encourage grating it over salads or blending it into smoothies for the added fiber and antioxidant benefits.

2. Avocados are classified into three races: West Indian, Guatemalan, and Mexican; the Hass variety is a Mexican-Guatemalan crossbreed.

3. The first-recorded avocado tree was grown in California in 1848. But it wasn’t until 1911, when budwood from the best avocado trees in Mexico was planted in California, and later still in 1913, with the surviving Fuerte variety, that we saw the rise of the California avocado industry.

4. The Hass avocado accounts for 95 percent of the American avocado market and 80 percent of global demand. Around 90 percent of domestically grown avocados come from California.

5. An avocado is a fruit, more specifically a single-seeded berry.

6. Avocados were known by the Aztecs as ahuacatl, meaning “testicle,” for their shape and supposed aphrodisiacal qualities.

7. Avocados can freeze during a cold snap, which forces the cells in the flesh and stem to collapse and then explode when the temperature warms, killing the fruit.

8. Avocado trees are evergreen and never go dormant, and while different varieties are harvested at different times of the year, Hass avocados are typically harvested from late February to late October and early November.

9. Avocados mature on the tree but only ripen once picked. It can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for an avocado to ripen naturally at room temperature. A ripe avocado will keep in the refrigerator for seven to ten days.

10. A just-ripe avocado should have a little purplish blush to it and a gentle yield when pressed. If it’s pitch black, very shiny, smooth, and soft, it’s overripe.

11. Like humans, avocados can get sunburned, causing the skin in those spots to peel away and rancidity to spoil the outermost flesh.

12. Much like bay leaves, avocado leaves (hojas de aguacate), particularly those of the Mexican race, are used as a seasoning in Mexican cuisine. They’re available fresh or dried and impart a subtle anise-like flavor.

13. The darker green flesh nearest the skin is the most nutritious. Peeling off the skin, rather than scooping out the flesh, will get you the most phytonutrients.

14. The calories of an average Hass avocado are about 82 percent fat, making it one of the fattiest fruits in the world, up there with olives, which have about 80 to 90 percent calories from fat.

15. An avocado seed suspended over a glass of water with toothpicks will sprout a stem and roots in a few weeks. Once sprouted, the seed can be transferred to a pot and left to grow into a small plant. Once the plant is grown, it can be transplanted into the ground to grow into a tree. It may take years (five to thirteen) for the tree to flower or bear fruit, but it’s more likely that it won’t produce recognizable fruit at all without cross-pollination from another tree. Grafting (splicing a scion of a mature tree with the rootstock of a seedling until it forms a new growth) is how professional avocado growers replicate their crop, and it encourages flowering and fruit bearing sooner, usually within three to four years.

16. A well-tended avocado tree will grow to about thirty or forty feet tall, but an unpruned wildling avocado tree can grow up to eighty feet tall.

Source: Lucky Peach

Low-Carb Diets May Dull Brains of Children, But Not Adults

Ross Pomeroy wrote . . . . . .

Low-carbohydrate diets, where carbohydrates constitute anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of total caloric intake (approximately 25 to 150 grams each day), are all the rage right now. For many, they’re a successful impetus to sustained weight loss and improved health. But there could be an unforeseen toll.

Because of the way that the human brain functions, low-carbohydrate diets may adversely impact cognitive ability. Does a low-carb diet really make you duller? To examine this question, let’s first discuss its focus: the brain.

There’s no reason to beat around the bush, your brain is a pig. Though idle enough when observed outside its home cranium — all pink, squishy, and squelchy; kind of cute really — the brain is a charged biological machine. In an unseen electrical storm that would rival even the mightiest lightning display, 86 billion neurons fire — almost nonstop — to create the mosaic of thoughts, emotions, and mental images that we call the mind. The whole operation is an immense power suck, ravenously consuming roughly 250 to 300 calories each day, 20-25% of a human’s base energy expenditure.

As far as food goes, the brain is a fairly picky eater. Like a young candy-craving child, it prefers simple sugar molecules — glucose to be specific — and when the brain doesn’t get glucose, it gets crabby and distracted. Since the body most easily creates glucose by metabolizing carbohydrates, it stands to reason that limiting carbohydrates could dampen cognitive function.

When consuming low-carb diets in the short term, this is certainly true. In a 2008 study, psychologists placed 19 women on either a calorie restricted low-carb diet or a calorie restricted high-carb diet for 28 days. Throughout the study, participants’ memory, reaction time, and vigilance were tested at regular intervals. While those on the low-carb diet enjoyed a slight boost in vigilance, they suffered impaired reaction time and reduced visuospatial memory.

“The brain needs glucose for energy and diets low in carbohydrates can be detrimental to learning, memory, and thinking,” lead investigator Holly A. Taylor, a psychology professor at Tufts University, explained.

But the short-term isn’t the long-term. Though the brain prefers to compute on glucose, after about four days of carbohydrate deprivation it sates about 70% of its hunger on ketone bodies, the byproducts produced when fatty acids are broken down by the liver. And by most accounts, the brain can run pretty efficiently on this fuel once it grows accustomed to it after a few weeks.

In fact, researchers have shown that low-carb diets can bring about improvements in cognitive functioning in both aged humans and rodents compared to traditional diets. Writing at Psychology Today, psychiatrist Emily Deans accounted for how this might happen.

“When we change the main fuel of the brain from glucose to ketones, we change amino acid handling,” she says. This reduces the levels of glutamate in the brain, an amino acid and neurotransmitter that can cause harm in excessive amounts. Less glutamate leads to “a lower seizure risk and a better environment for neuronal recovery and repair.”

In adults, low-carb diets have no adverse cognitive effects in the long-term. A well-executed, year-long study published to the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009 found no difference in cognitive functioning for subjects consuming either a low-carb weight loss diet or a high-carb weight loss diet. Both actually enjoyed improvements to working memory and speed of processing, a result presumably attributed to weight loss.

Older and middle aged adults aren’t dulled by low-carb diets, but what about children and teenagers? With still-developing brains, should they consume such diets? Here — due to a dearth of long-term data — the waters are murkier, but one study published in 2004 discerned some troubling results for low-carb diets. Reporting in Pediatric Research, researchers found that young rats fed a low-carb diet gained less weight than their peers on a regular diet (which isn’t necessarily healthy during development). Moreover, they also had “significantly impaired visual-spatial learning and memory” and — most disturbingly — “significantly impaired brain growth.”

Adults looking to lose weight may have their waistlines thinned and senses sharpened by low-carb diets, but those with still-developing brains should probably steer clear.

Source: RealClear Science


Read more:

130 g Carbs/day RDA . . . . .


Metabolic Effects of the Very-Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Misunderstood “Villains” of Human Metabolism . . . . .


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