Character Sweets

Hello Kitty Pudding à la Mode

Panda Cake


Indonesian-style Wrap with Glutinous Rice and Chicken


2/3 lb glutinous rice
1 cup fresh coconut milk, divided
1-1/3 lb frozen chicken thighs
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 slice galangal, crushed
1 stick lemongrass, crushed
banana leaves in oblong shape

Chicken Seasoning

dash of ground white pepper
2 cloves candle nut, crushed


1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp sa keung powder (沙薑粉)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar


  1. Steam chicken thighs for 20 minutes until cooked. Cool and shred meat finely. Mix with chicken seasoning.
  2. Saute shallot, garlic, galangal and chicken with 2 Tbsp oil. Add seasoning and 1/2 cup coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Remove and set aside.
  3. Soak glutinous rice for 3 hours. Drain off excess water and place on a heat-proof platter. Steam with 1/2 cup coconut milk, lemongrass and 1 cup water for about 30 minutes. Turn chicken over to get even cooking during steaming.
  4. Put a portion of glutinous rice and chicken mixture on a piece of banana leaf. Roll up and seal with tooth pick. Serve hot by steaming or roasting.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

Mon Dieu! Burgundy Snails Aren’t French Anymore

Gregoire Molle wrote . . . . . . .

In a large, sparsely furnished room at a food processing plant in the town of Migennes, in France’s Burgundy region, three employees prepare large snails for packaging. They take the snails’ flesh, which is cooked separately, and put them into shells of the right size. They reconstitute about a thousand snails an hour, says Romain Chapron, the director of Croque Bourgogne, the company that owns this plant and sells a couple million snails each year. These cooked snails are shipped to grocery stores and restaurants, mostly in northeastern France, says Chapron.

These buttery and garlicky Burgundy snails, or escargots de Bourgogne, are a classic French delicacy; yet they aren’t French any more. Every snail prepared by the employees at Croque Bourgogne comes from Hungary. In fact, all companies that sell this shelled delicacy in France import it from elsewhere in Europe. “One hundred percent of Burgundy snails you buy in France are picked in Central Europe,” Chapron says.

Sometimes, companies go all the way to Ukraine to get these much wanted snails, says Pierre Commère, a general director at the Association Des Entreprises de Produits Alimentaires Elaborés (ADEPALE), an association representing 10 industrial scale food businesses that import Burgundy snails into France. And this is no sluggish business, bringing in 75 million euros (about 87 million dollars) annually to these 10 companies.

But the popularity of this imported delicacy has spurred the ire of French snail farmers, who are pushing to convince consumers to eat their locally raised, but less popular snails.

Escargots de Bourgogne is a snail species (Helix pomatia) that was once abundant in the region of Burgundy. A tourism book published this year suggests that the snails prepared in Bassou, a town in Burgundy, were sold to wine sellers in Paris, who helped make the dish popular back in the early 19th century.

But France’s wild snail populations have declined in the past century. Excessive harvesting of Burgundy snails in the early 20th century contributed to this, as did destruction of snail habitat due to agriculture, roads and railroads. A 1979 law tried to protect snails by restricting the collecting of wild species for commercial purposes. All this led to growing imports of this prized delicacy in recent decades.

Customers love the Burgundy snail – it’s delicious and cheap. But snail farmers want to promote French snails. Riding the wave of interest in local production and consumption, they are demanding large snail importing businesses to specify the origin of their snails in labels. The law currently does not require these businesses to disclose this information.

“The French are well-known for being consumers of snails, so they might as well eat a snail from their own country”, says Carole Milan, a snail farmer and the president of ASPERSA, an organization representing more than sixty gastropod farmers.

There are around 300 snail farmers in France and they represent only five percent of the market. They mostly farm lesser known species because the Burgundy snail is impossible to farm. They mostly raise the “petit gris” and the “gros gris,” meaning “little grey” and “big grey” respectively. In the world of snail business, these two are underdogs.

In 2013, a group of snail farmers petitioned for legislation to make it compulsory for companies to indicate where their snails come from.

“It’s a topic that upsets me, because it’s almost anti-European racism”, says Chapron, “We import [Burgundy snails] from Europe, because it’s in Europe that we find them.”

To him, the attack on Burgundy imports is a”cry of hunger” from snail farmers. He thinks that when some farmers “couldn’t make ends meet,” they needed to find someone to blame “People who prepare Burgundy snails, who import raw material from abroad,” were convenient culprits, he says.

Milan insists that the issue is “about transparency for consumers,” but admits that snail farmers would like to be bigger players in the snail game.

The issue gained enough traction back in 2013 that a few lawmakers voiced the snail farmers’ concerns in the French parliament. But it didn’t achieve what farmers like Milan had hoped for. Disclosing snails’ origins remains optional, although some companies, like Croque Bourgogne, do indicate this information on their packaging.

Snail farmers seem to be coming to terms with their defeat in the fight. While the big food companies supply Burgundy snails to grocery stores, farmers rely on “direct selling,” which gives them an opportunity to give “an explanation of our savoir-faire,” says Milan.

Denis Petit, who raises about four tons of “big grey” snails a year on his farm, is all for teaching his clients about what he does. A couple of months ago, he started traveling across France and Belgium in a food truck, where he cooks snails from his farm with butter, garlic, parsley, shallot, salt and pepper. He carries with him educational material explaining snail farming. The clients “drink a bit of Chablis wine, they eat snails,” he says. At the same time, they watch a fifteen-minute film explaining how he runs his farm and how the snails are raised, killed and prepared.

Petit isn’t concerned about the competition from large snail importers. His business is mostly local – he sells to individual customers and restaurants. “Short food supply chains are fashionable these days,” Petit says.

Carole Milan admits that there is space for both farmers and bigger producers. “Given the amount French people eat, there is no other option but to go and find [snails] elsewhere,” she says.

Besides, even the farmers’ snails aren’t necessarily native. For example, the “big grey” species that some of them breed, originated in North Africa.

Source: npr

Why Cod is Back on the Menu in U.K. and Wild Salmon is Best Avoided

Tomé Morrissy-Swan wrote . . . . . .

Cod has been classified as sustainable by leading global fishing standards body the Marine Stewardship Council in news that will delight fish and chips lovers across the country.

It marks the first time in the organisation’s 20-year history that North Sea cod has been approved, and shoppers will now see the council’s blue label on packets of the fish.

Stocks in the North Sea were as low as 36,000 tonnes in 2006, after which there was a concerted drive by chefs and the MSC to steer shoppers away from cod. Though there are now 167,711 tonnes, the number remains far lower than the 270,000 tonnes recorded in the 1970s.

The MSC states that approved fish is “caught at levels that allow fish populations and the ecosystems on which they depend to remain healthy and productive for the future.”

The reclassification comes after a number of measures were introduced to encourage the growth of the North Sea’s cod stocks. Nets with bigger holes were introduced to allow younger fish to escape, and spawning areas were closed to fishing. Other steps included allocating fishing periods to boats and powers to close fishing areas at short notice.

The MSC’s Tony Middleton said: “Thanks to a collaborative, cross-industry effort, one of our most iconic fish has been brought back from the brink.”

The news comes just months after another fish and chips favourite, haddock, was classed as unsustainable.

With two of Britain’s other ‘big five’ fish, salmon and tuna (the other three are prawns, cod and haddock), also going through a tough time, it can be hard to keep track of which fish to eat and which to avoid.

Wild Atlantic salmon have been struck by outbreaks of disease and parasites off Scotland’s west coast this year. Sea lice, which feed on the blood of fish, can kill their host if present in large numbers, and prices have increased as a result.

Thankfully, the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide provides detailed information on what’s safe to eat and what isn’t. Five popular fish to avoid are:

  • Wild Atlantic Salmon
  • Wild Atlantic Halibut
  • Sea bass (North sea, Irish sea, English and Bristol Channels, Celtic Sea)
  • Tuna (bluefin and yellowfin, ring or gill net)
  • Whitebait

Source: The Telegraph

Aspirin Safe for Heart Failure Patients, Study Finds

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . .

Some research has raised concerns about the safety of aspirin for heart failure patients. But a new study appears to offer some reassurance.

The study, of over 2,300 patients, found that those on daily aspirin were not at heightened risk of being hospitalized for, or dying from, heart failure.

That has been a concern because, in theory, aspirin could interfere with the benefits of certain heart failure drugs, explained Dr. Shunichi Homma, the senior researcher on the study.

Plus, two past studies have linked aspirin use to an increased risk of heart failure complications.

But the new study, which compared aspirin to warfarin, a blood thinner, was larger and longer-term — following patients in 168 centers in 11 countries over 10 years.

“I think this should allay fears that there might be a detrimental effect of prescribing aspirin,” said Homma. He is deputy chief of cardiology at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.

Homma and his colleagues reported the findings in the July 31 online issue of JACC: Heart Failure.

Dr. Christopher O’Connor is a cardiologist and editor-in-chief of the journal.

He agreed that the findings are reassuring. Compared with the earlier, smaller studies, O’Connor said, “this one is probably closer to the truth.”

O’Connor said he thinks the results have “immediate implications” for heart failure care.

Close to 6 million Americans have heart failure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s a chronic condition in which the heart muscle can no longer pump blood efficiently enough to meet the body’s needs. That causes symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness and swelling in the limbs.

Often, heart failure is caused by damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack or coronary artery disease. And, in general, those patients should be on aspirin to limit the risk of a first-time or repeat heart attack, O’Connor said.

The trouble is, there have been concerns that aspirin could interfere with ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) — two drug classes that are key in managing heart failure. Those drugs boost compounds called prostaglandins in the blood, whereas aspirin reduces them.

For the new study, Homma’s team analyzed data from a clinical trial in which heart failure patients were randomly assigned to take either aspirin or warfarin, which is used to prevent blood clots.

Patients in the aspirin group took 325 milligrams per day.

Over 10 years, just over 19 percent of aspirin patients were hospitalized for heart failure, or died of the disease. That compared with just under 23 percent of warfarin users, the findings showed.

Homma’s team also accounted for other factors, including patients’ age and heart disease severity. In the end, there was no statistical difference between the two groups in their risk of heart failure complications.

To O’Connor, the bottom line for heart failure patients is straightforward: “If you’re on aspirin for a guideline-recommended indication,” he said, “keep taking it.”

Of course, aspirin is not without risks. It can cause bleeding in the digestive tract, or even contribute to a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke.

So patients should never take aspirin on their own, without a doctor’s guidance, Homma said.

Dr. Susan Graham, a cardiologist who also worked on the study, made a broader point: Heart patients — and older adults, in general — are often taking many prescription drugs at any given time.

“That speaks to the importance of studying potential drug interactions,” said Graham, a professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo, in New York.

“We have to stay on our toes to make sure that we’re doing the right thing,” she said.

Homma and some of his colleagues on the study reported receiving research funding or fees from the pharmaceutical industry.

Source: HealthDay

Before Using Aspirin to Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke, What You Should Know

Only a health care provider can determine whether regular use of aspirin will help to prevent a heart attack or stroke in your particular case. Aspirin can prevent these problems in some people but not in everyone, and it has important side effects. You should use daily aspirin therapy only after first talking to your health care provider, who can weigh the benefits and the risks.

Aspirin is often thought of as a harmless over-the-counter (OTC) drug that’s been relied on for years to treat pain and fever. Now you’re hearing that it can also lower your risk of a heart attack and some kinds of strokes. Aspirin may seem like a quick-and-easy way to decrease these risks, but it’s not as simple as you think.

What Studies Show

Since aspirin was discovered more than a century ago, it has played a major role in treating headaches, fevers, and minor aches and pains for millions of people. Now studies show that because aspirin thins the blood, it can also help to lower the chances of a heart attack or a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain. But research has found it works only in certain people, specifically those who had a previous heart attack or stroke, or have disease of the blood vessels in the heart. It does not seem to work in people with healthier hearts and blood vessels.

Most health professionals agree that long-term aspirin use to prevent a heart attack or stroke in healthy people is unnecessary. If you are using aspirin to lower these risks and have not talked with a health professional about it, you may be putting your health at risk. You should ONLY use daily aspirin therapy under the guidance of a health care provider.

Not Without Risks

Aspirin has been known to help people living with some diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It can help prevent a heart attack or clot-related stroke by interfering with how the blood clots. But the same properties that make aspirin work as a blood thinner to stop it from clotting may also cause unwanted side effects, including bleeding into the brain or stomach.

Aspirin also can mix badly with prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs. People already using a prescription medicine that thins the blood such as warfarin, dabigatran (Pradaxa) and rivaroxaban (Xarelto) should always talk to a health professional before using aspirin, even occasionally.

Discuss the use of all medicines, vitamins, and dietary supplements with your health professional before taking aspirin daily. He or she will decide if the benefits of taking daily aspirin outweigh the risks in your particular case and can provide medical knowledge and guidance to help prevent unwanted side effects.

Dose Matters

Whatever purpose you are using daily aspirin for, how much you take matters. It’s important to your health and safety that the dose you use and how often you take it is right for you. Your health professional can tell you the dosing and directions that will provide the greatest benefit with the least side effects.

Not all over-the-counter pain relievers contain aspirin. If your health care provider prescribes daily aspirin to lower the risk of a heart attack and clot-related stroke, read the labels carefully to make sure you have the right product. Some drugs combine aspirin with other pain relievers or other ingredients and should not be used for long-term aspirin therapy. If you have questions talk to a health professional.

Before you use aspirin to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, talk to a health professional. It could save your life.

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

Today’s Comic