Gadget: Cutting Board + Timer + Sanitizer + Scale + Knife Sharpener

Chop Box

Launched on KickStarter, the ChopBox is cutting board that also is a scale, a kitchen timer, a knife sharpener, a sanitizer, and oh-by-the-way, it’s also waterproof and made from organic bamboo.

But wait! There’s more! There’s actually a second cutting board that slides out for an additional cutting surface.

You can place your knife in between the two cutting surfaces and activate the small but powerful 254nm UVC light to sanitize up to 3 knives at once AND both cutting surfaces at the same time! Just one minute of UVC light exposure is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria.

The ChopBox uses USB-C to charge, which is supposed to last for thirty days.

Berries Macerated in Kirsch with Mint


1 cup raspberries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup blueberries
8 large strawberries, stems removed, sliced lengthwise
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
3 tablespoons kirsch
3 sprigs fresh mint


  1. Combine fruit in a small mixing bowl and toss with sugar and kirsch. Refrigerate until needed, at least one hour, tossing occasionally.
  2. To serve, transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with torn mint leaves.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Martha Stewart Living

Hong Kong Mooncake Makeover: from Anti-extradition-bill Delights to KFC Spicy Chicken Bites

Bernice Chan wrote . . . . . . . . .

Mooncakes started selling like hot cakes at a Hong Kong bakery in July. Although they are traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on September 13 this year, these particular mooncakes were in demand for the political messages embossed on them related to anti-government protests that have taken over the city since June.

The slogans, including “no withdrawal, no dispersal” and “be water”, are key rallying cries of protesters who were initially united against a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be transferred to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no extradition treaty, including mainland China. “Be water” was a tenet of martial arts star Bruce Lee’s philosophy to move quickly and fluidly.

“I started making cheeky mooncakes last year, but I usually do quirky designs on my products throughout the year,” explains Naomi Suen, the owner of Wah Yee Tang Cake Shop in the Hong Kong Island neighbourhood of Sai Ying Pun.

“This year, there were some funny phrases [from the protests], so I had the templates made.”

Naomi represents the third generation of her family to run Wah Yee Tang Cake Shop, which was founded by her grandfather in 1984. She runs it with her mother, and sales of the popular, irreverent mooncakes have helped keep the small bakery in business. They are making up to 600 mooncakes a day to keep up with demand, she says.

It’s not the first time mooncakes have been the bearers of political messages. More than 600 years ago, revolutionary notes were stuffed inside the baked goods with the intent to end the Yuan dynasty, when Han Chinese rebels were making plans to overthrow their Mongol overlords.

According to folklore, the idea was conceived by Zhu Yuanzhang, the leader of an insurgent force, together with his military adviser, Liu Bowen. The idea was that everyone who received the cakes would eat them on the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and find the messages with instructions.

If the story is true, it may have helped Zhu establish the Ming dynasty in 1368, when he declared himself the Hongwu Emperor, ruling until his death in 1398.

The last imperial dynasties ended in China in 1911, but that did not stop the tradition of eating mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is at its fullest, roundest and brightest.

Leung Fai-hung, Chinese executive chef at the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong hotel, has fond memories of the Mid-Autumn Festival from when he was a child.

“It was my favourite time of year because we got to eat mooncakes, pomelo and peanuts. We were happy to eat mooncakes with lotus seed and salted egg yolks, and my favourite were the ones with nuts in them, like almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, melon seeds, olive seeds or pumpkin seeds, along with winter melon and Jinhua ham,” he recalls.

“When Mid-Autumn Festival was approaching, all the bakeries around town smelled so nice because of the pork lard used in the mooncakes. We would buy boxes of mooncakes and they were wrapped in butcher’s paper.

“When we came home they smelled so good, and the longer they sat there, the oil seeped out of the mooncakes, out of the tin boxes and onto the paper, making our flat smell so good. But we weren’t allowed to eat them until Mid-Autumn Festival day. I would always watch the mooncakes because I was worried my siblings would steal a piece.”

Mooncakes have also long been tied to the Chinese tradition of giving gifts to the elderly, relatives, friends and clients. However, back in the 1950s and 1960s, many Hongkongers did not have the money to pay for several boxes upfront, recalls chef Tang Chi-keung, Chinese culinary adviser at The Peninsula Hong Kong hotel.

“When I was growing up in the 1960s we would ‘mortgage’ mooncakes, like monthly car payments. Every month we would pay the bakery HK$10 or HK$20 and they would record it in their register. The amount you paid each month depended on how many boxes of mooncakes you ordered ahead of time,” Tang explains, adding that the practice no longer exists in Hong Kong.

These days customers may pay months in advance to order mooncakes, with the ones from The Peninsula Boutique being among the bestselling in Hong Kong. Tang says they are so popular that a few years ago someone was robbed, but the thief did not take the victim’s money. It was the boxes of Peninsula mooncakes he was after.

In 1986, the hotel decided to concoct a different kind of mooncake to the traditional ones that use lotus seed paste and salted egg yolk, or nuts.

Tang says the idea for an egg custard mooncake was inspired by the popular steamed egg custard buns that can be found on dim sum menus. Inside the white, fluffy round bun is a molten-lava-like mixture of salted egg yolk custard.

“So we thought, how can we try to make that into a mooncake? If we used an egg custard filling it could not be too runny, and we did not want to use a traditional mooncake dough, but a cookie one for a more delicious smell,” he says.

After some trial and error, Tang says, the first batch of egg custard mooncakes was given away to guests. They liked them so much that the hotel decided to put them on sale the following year.

“Every year we can’t make enough to satisfy demand,” he says. “At first we made 10,000 mooncakes, but nowadays it’s 60,000. Every year people complain they can’t buy our mooncakes. This is the reality.”

Besides Hong Kong, The Peninsula Boutique also sells the mooncakes in mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Macau. This year the new egg custard flavours are walnut, for a bit of a crunch, and the subtle tastes of dried longan (or dragon eye) fruit.

Around the time The Peninsula developed its egg custard mooncakes, Hong Kong’s Taipan Bakery came out with its snowy mooncakes, with fillings such as bean paste and fruits covered in a glutinous rice dough of flavours including mochi. These are not baked but need to be refrigerated.

Since then other hotels and restaurants have jumped on the bandwagon, producing ever more new fillings, and this year is no different.

Riffing off a nostalgic pastry featuring century eggs and pickled ginger, Shang Palace in the Kowloon Shangri-La hotel has made a mooncake using savoury preserved duck eggs encased in a mooncake pastry crust with a lingering hint of pickled ginger.

For durian fans, Dynasty in the Renaissance Harbour View hotel has developed mooncakes filled with highly prized musang king durians from Malaysia. It has more of a pungent smell, though the texture of the filling is stringy and creamy, like cheese.

Chef Leung at the InterContinental Grand Stanford has made his signature dessert, almond cream with egg white, into a mooncake this year, and it is light with a subtle almond flavour.

And for the curious, American fast food chain KFC has delved into the mooncake craze with one featuring spicy chicken and nuts. It takes an adventurous palate to try them – chicken floss is intermingled with nuts such as almonds and sunflower seeds for a savoury and sweet taste followed by a subtle spicy aftertaste. It’s not for everyone.

Meanwhile, making mooncakes by hand isn’t something many families do these days, but I had a chance to try my hand at it back in June when The Peninsula Hong Kong invited members of the media to test their skills.

Though the fillings and dough were pre-made and perfectly portioned out, we had to assemble them into mooncakes using traditional wooden moulds that resemble paddles with a round design cut into them.

As instructed by chef Tang, we flattened the dough in between our hands, then placed the round filling in the middle of it and covered it in the dough. We rolled them into a cylindrical shape before pushing them into the mould.

The fun part was turning the paddle on one side and hitting it against the edge of the table, then repeating the action on the other side. To get the mooncake out, the paddle is placed face down and hit against the edge of the table one more time, with your other hand waiting below to catch the mooncake.

The mooncakes were baked for 12 to 15 minutes and came out of the oven with a slightly browned top. Freshly baked mooncakes. Now that is a sweet treat.

Source: SCMP

What’s the Difference Between Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, and Table Salt?

Brette Warshaw wrote . . . . . . . . .

Salt, as we learn in high school, is just NaCl: a compound made from numbers 11 and 17 on the periodic table, a material so simple that it’s treated as the most basic example of how chemistry works. So why, in real life, is salt so complicated? Why is the molar mass of NaCl taught to fidgety teens instead of the differences between the various salts we consume every day? Luckily, What’s the Difference is here to step in where your AP Chem teacher failed you.

Let’s start with table salt. Table salt is made of small, regular, cubic crystals and is usually mined from underground rock-salt deposits (rather than gathered from sea water). As much of 2% of its weight is made up of additives that keep the salt crystals from sticking together—including silicon dioxide, which is used in glass and ceramics—and then more additives to keep those additives from sticking together. It’s also the densest of the salts, which makes it the slowest to dissolve—and when it does dissolve, those additives can make something like a brine look and taste murky.

On the other side of the purity spectrum is kosher salt, which is relatively more pure than the other salts on the market. Kosher salt can come from either salt mines or the sea, and it was originally used in the koshering process of meats; the salt would remove impurities and draw the blood out of whatever animal was meant to be koshered. Lots of cooks now use kosher salt in all kinds of cooking; its coarse, uniform texture makes it easy to grab, and at around $1 per pound, it’s inexpensive.

A note about kosher salt: the two top brands on the market, Diamond Crystal and Morton, behave very differently. Morton is much denser than Diamond Crystal, and therefore a volume measurement (like, say, a tablespoon) will be “saltier” than DC. Morton also takes longer to dissolve, which makes it easier to over-salt a dish with it; if you taste a dish right after salting it, it won’t taste as salty as it will be when all the salt dissolves. When given the choice, then, many cooks typically prefer Diamond Crystal over Morton.

Moving on: sea salts, as their name implies, come from the sea; they’re produced through the evaporation of sea water or water from saltwater lakes. They often contain natural minerals, like magnesium and calcium, as well as teensy bits of natural sediments that can affect their color: think Hawaiian pink salt or French sel gris. Sea salt can come in various coarseness levels—and on the coarser end, the crystals can be irregular, making them better for garnish or texture rather than for workhorse-cooking.

If you’re looking for even fancier crystals, there’s also flake salt and fleur de sel. Flake salt, like Maldon, comes in flat, extended flakes rather than granules; those flakes are made either through evaporation or by rolling out granulated salts by machine. And fleur de sel is specifically made from the crystals that form on the sea-salt beds in central or Western France, when the humidity and breeze are just right; they’re scooped off of the surface just before they have the chance to dunk beneath the water. Sounds like fancy salt production, yes, and like a dream vacation, too.

Source: What’s the Difference

Low Levels of Dietary Vitamins Linked to Frailty in Older Adults

Researchers from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College have shown in the largest study to date that lower levels of specific dietary vitamins and antioxidants are associated with frailty. Their findings have been published in the Journal of American Medical Directors Association.

Frailty is a common chronic syndrome which affects up to 25% of adults over 65 years and over half of adults over 80. Frailty is characterised by an overall decline in physical function and a loss of ability to bounce back after experiencing a stressful event such as infection, a fall or surgery. It is associated with poor health, disability and death. The TILDA study examined the association of vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D, lutein and zeaxanthin levels with frailty.

The B vitamins (B12 and folate) are important for several cellular processes throughout the body including DNA repair and energy metabolism. Vitamin D is essential for bone metabolism, muscle strength and mood. Lutein and zeaxanthin have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties important in eye health and brain health. Low levels of all of these vitamins and antioxidants is common among Irish adults.

In this new research lower levels of lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin D were consistently associated with not only frailty but also earlier stages of ‘pre-frailty’ (a subclinical precursor of frailty). Low levels of B vitamins were associated with pre-frailty. Furthermore, the accumulation of micronutrient insufficiencies – having low levels of more than one micronutrient – was progressively associated with severity stages of frailty.

This data raises the question of the role of dietary supplementation and contributes to the ongoing policy discussions regarding fortification.

Lead author of the study and Senior Research Fellow at TILDA, Dr Aisling O’Halloran said:

“We have presented evidence in the largest study to date that lower levels of specific vitamins and antioxidants – and having low levels of more than one micronutrient – is consistently and progressively associated with the most commonly used methods for measuring frailty. Our data suggest that low micronutrient status may act as an easily modified marker and intervention target for frailty among adults aged 50 years and over”.

Principal Investigator of TILDA, Professor Rose-Anne Kenny said:

“Frailty occurs when a number of systems in the body lose reserve capacity and therefore the ability to ‘bounce back’ after even trivial illnesses. It is an important and challenging state; commonly associated with ageing but also common in patients of any age who have major surgery, cancer treatments and severe infections. The hall mark of frailty is muscle weakness. If it is recognised in its early stages, it can be reversed. However, the longer it is present, the more difficult is it to ‘bounce back’ and generalised weakness and fatigue become progressively worse. This research suggests new potential treatments for a common and important condition.”

Co-author of the study Dr Eamon Laird said: “Again we see that micronutrients (including vitamin D) are associated with better health outcomes in older adults. However we still lack a food fortification policy in Ireland and whilst this continues, we miss the opportunity of a cost-effective strategy to prevent and intervene in the progression of these conditions. As of yet there is no sign that the government or the FSAI (Food Safety Authority Ireland) intend to advise or implement on such a strategy”.

Source : The University of Dublin

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