Gadget: Tofu Cutter

Cut a block of tofu into dices quickly and neatly

The price of the cutter is 424 yen (plus tax) in Japan.

Chicken Dumplings with Cilantro-Za’atar Sauce

Ingredients

8 ounces ground chicken
1/2 cup finely chopped bok choy (1 small head)
1 scallion, white part only, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin
1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup rice flour
1 (12-ounce) package round wonton wrappers

Sauce

1 garlic clove, mashed
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
1 tablespoon chopped almonds
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 scallion, green part only, finely chopped
1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves and stems
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar

To Finish

2 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Method

  1. Put the chicken, bok choy, scallion, sambal, soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix well.
  2. To make the dumplings, have a small bowl of water with a pastry bush nearby. Lightly dust a baking sheet or platter where you will be placing the filled dumplings with the rice flour. Place 4 wrappers on a clean work surface. Cover unused wrappers with a damp towel or plastic wrap so they will not dry out.
  3. Lightly brush the wrappers with water. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each wrapper. Moisten the edges with a bit of water and fold over to make a half-moon. Using your fingers, carefully crimp the sealed edges in a scalloped pattern. Repeat with the remaining 3 dumpling wrappers. Continue this process until all the dumplings are made.
  4. Place the dumplings on the prepared baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate until ready to cook them.
  5. Place the garlic, sambal, almonds, and sesame seeds in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides as necessary.
  6. Add the scallion, cilantro, and lime juice to the food processor and blend to a puree. Through the feed tube, pour in the olive oil; add the salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons water. Blend until the sauce has the semismooth consistency of pesto. Add the sesame oil and vinegar and blend. Transfer to a bowl and set aside until ready to serve.
  7. To cook the dumplings, place a steamer in the bottom of a large pot. Add 1 to 1-1/2 inches water to the pot. Arrange the dumplings on the steamer, cover, and turn on the heat. Steam for 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon and taking care not to burn yourself from the hot steam, transfer the dumplings to a platter flat (bottom) side down.
  8. Heat the canola oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Using tongs, transfer the steamed dumplings to the skillet, flat side down, and cook until they are golden brown on the bottom. Transfer the dumplings to a paper towel-lined platter and continue until all the dumplings are cooked.
  9. Spread the Cilantro-Za’atar Sauce on a platter. Arrange the dumplings on the platter and garnish with the sesame seeds before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: True Food

Walmart’s Domination of the U.S. Grocery Market

Nick Routley wrote . . . . . . . . .

One wouldn’t expect the grocery department of a big box retailer to spark debate, but Walmart’s high market concentration in the grocery space is doing just that.

By now, Walmart’s rise to the top of the retail pyramid is well documented. The Supercenters that dot the American landscape have had a dramatic ripple effect on surrounding communities, often resulting in decreased competition and reduced selection for consumers. Today, in some communities, Walmart takes in a whopping $19 for every $20 spent on groceries.

Today’s map, based on a report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, looks at which places in America are most reliant on Walmart to put food on the table.

The Weight of Walmart

Walmart has an unprecedented amount of control over the food system, now capturing a quarter of every single dollar spent on groceries in the United States.

Walmart isn’t just a major player — in some cases it’s become the only game in town. In a few of the communities listed in the report, Walmart commands a 90% market share and higher.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 20 towns dominated by Walmart in America:

While it’s more likely for a small town to become dominated by a single grocer, Walmart’s clout isn’t exclusive to rural America. Even in Springfield, Missouri — with a regional population of half a million people — the big box retailer still boasts a sizable market share of 66%.

Super Market Concentration

Under guidelines established by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, markets in which one corporation captures more than 50% of revenue are defined as “highly concentrated.” Walmart’s market share meets or exceeds this measure in 43 metropolitan areas and 160 smaller markets around the United States.

In some states, this trend is even more pronounced. In Oklahoma, for example, 86% of the state’s population lives in a region where Walmart has the majority market share in the grocery sector. In Arkansas — the home state of the megaretailer — half the population lives in this “highly concentrated” grocery market situation.

This degree of market concentration means that a retailer could cut certain products or manipulate prices without fear of losing customers. Worse yet, a company could close up shop and leave thousands of people without adequate grocery access.

An Interesting Caveat

There is a flip side to this story, however.

Walmart has shown a willingness to expand their grocery business to areas that were considered “food deserts” (i.e. low-income areas without easy access to a supermarket).

In a 2011 initiative, the retailer committed to open or expand 1,500 supermarkets across America to help give more people access to fresh food.

With the ground game clearly won, America’s largest grocer is now focused on dominating the next frontier of the grocery market – delivery. Stiff competition from companies like Amazon and Instacart will keep Walmart’s online market concentration in check for the time being.

Source: Visual Capitalist

Too Much Ultra-processed Foods Linked to Lower Heart Health

Ultra-processed foods, which account for more than half of an average American’s daily calories, are linked to lower measures of cardiovascular health, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 — November 16-18 in Philadelphia. The Association’s Scientific Sessions is an annual premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that for every 5% increase in calories from ultra-processed foods a person ate, there was a corresponding decrease in overall cardiovascular health. Adults who ate approximately 70% of their calories from ultra-processed foods were half as likely to have “ideal” cardiovascular health, as defined by the American Heart Associations’ Life’s Simple 7®, compared with people who ate 40% or less of their calories from ultra-processed foods.

Foods were categorized into groups by the extent and purpose of industrial processing they undergo. Ultra-processed foods are made entirely or mostly from substances extracted from foods, such as fats, starches, hydrogenated fats, added sugar, modified starch and other compounds and include cosmetic additives such as artificial flavors, colors or emulsifiers. Examples include soft drinks, packaged salty snacks, cookies, cakes, processed meats, chicken nuggets, powdered and packaged instant soups and many items often marketed as “convenience foods.”

“Healthy diets play an important role in maintaining a healthy heart and blood vessels,” said Zefeng Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the CDC. “Eating ultra-processed foods often displaces healthier foods that are rich in nutrients, like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, which are strongly linked to good heart health. In addition, ultra-processed foods are often high in salt, added sugars, saturated fat and other substances associated with increasing the risk of heart disease.”

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected between 2011 and 2016, researchers at the CDC reviewed the results from 13,446 adults, 20 years of age and older, who completed a 24-hour dietary recall and answered questions about their cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular health is defined by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 as measures of healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, avoidance of tobacco products, good nutrition, healthy body weight and adequate physical activity.

“This study underscores the importance of building a healthier diet by eliminating foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages, cookies, cakes and other processed foods,” said Donna Arnett, Ph.D., past-president of the American Heart Association and dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “There are things you can do every day to improve your health just a little bit. For example, instead of grabbing that loaf of white bread, grab a loaf of bread that’s whole grain or wheat bread. Try replacing a hamburger with fish once or twice a week. Making small changes can add up to better heart health.”

Source: American Heart Association

High Levels of Two Hormones in the Blood Raise Prostate Cancer Risk

Men with higher levels of ‘free’ testosterone and a growth hormone in their blood are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to research presented at the 2019 NCRI Cancer Conference.

Other factors such as older age, ethnicity and a family history of the disease are already known to increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

However, the new study of more than 200,000 men is one of the first to show strong evidence of two factors that could possibly be modified to reduce prostate cancer risk.

The research was led by Dr Ruth Travis, an Associate Professor, and Ellie Watts, a Research Fellow, both based at the University of Oxford, UK. Dr Travis said: “Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men worldwide after lung cancer and a leading cause of cancer death. But there is no evidence-based advice that we can give to men to reduce their risk.

“We were interested in studying the levels of two hormones circulating in the blood because previous research suggests they could be linked with prostate cancer and because these are factors that could potentially be altered in an attempt to reduce prostate cancer risk.”

The researchers studied 200,452 men who are part of the UK Biobank project. All were free of cancer when they joined the study and were not taking any hormone therapy.

The men gave blood samples that were tested for their levels of testosterone and a growth hormone called insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). The researchers calculated levels of free testosterone – testosterone that is circulating in the blood and not bound to any other molecule and can therefore have an effect in the body. A subset of 9,000 of men gave a second blood sample at a later date, to help the researchers account for natural fluctuations in hormone levels.

The men were followed for an average of six to seven years to see if they went on to develop prostate cancer. Within the group, there were 5,412 cases and 296 deaths from the disease.

The researchers found that men with higher concentrations of the two hormones in their blood were more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. For every increase of five nanomoles in the concentration of IGF-I per litre of blood (5 nmol/L), men were 9% more likely to develop prostate cancer. For every increase of 50 picomoles of ‘free’ testosterone per litre of blood (50 pmol/L), there was a 10% increase in prostate cancer risk.

Looking at the population as a whole, the researchers say their findings correspond to a 25% greater risk in men who have the highest levels of IGF-I, compared to those with the lowest. Men with the highest ‘free’ testosterone levels face a 18% greater risk of prostate cancer, compared to those with the lowest levels.

The researchers say that because the blood tests were taken some years before the prostate cancer developed, it is likely that the hormone levels are leading to the increased risk of prostate cancer, as opposed to the cancers leading to higher levels of the hormones. Thanks to the large size of the study, the researchers were also able to take account of other factors that can influence cancer risk, including body size, socioeconomic status and diabetes.

Dr Travis said: “This type of study can’t tell us why these factors are linked, but we know that testosterone plays a role in the normal growth and function of the prostate and that IGF-I has a role in stimulating the growth of cells in our bodies.”

“What this research does tell us is that these two hormones could be a mechanism that links things like diet, lifestyle and body size with the risk of prostate cancer. This takes us a step closer to strategies for preventing the disease.”

Dr Travis and Ms Watts will continue examining the data from this study to confirm their findings. In the future, they also plan to home in on risk factors for the most aggressive types of prostate cancer.

Professor Hashim Ahmed, chair of NCRI’s prostate group and Professor of Urology at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the research said: “These results are important because they show that there are at least some factors that influence prostate cancer risk that can potentially be altered. In the longer term, it could mean that we can give men better advice on how to take steps to reduce their own risk.

“This study also shows the importance of carrying out very large studies, which are only possible thanks to the thousands of men who agreed to take part.”

Source: National Cancer Research Institute


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