What’s for Dinner?

Chinese Vegan Dinner at Essence in Tokyo, Japan

The Menu

Firm Tofu Strips with Ginger

Assorted Appetizers

Yuba Roll with Chili Sauce

Fried Stewed-tofu with Tomato Sauce

Spring Roll

Hot and Sour Soup

Vegan Pork and Vegetables with Black Vinegar Sauce

Mar Por Tofu with Rice

Dessert: Assorted Beans Sweet Soup

The Restaurant

Vegan Beet Wellington

Ingredients

500 g raw crapaudine beetroot (buy the most cylindrical one you can – this will improve the shape of your Wellington)
200 ml red wine vinegar
Sherry vinegar
200 g caster sugar
20 g star anise
20 g mustard seeds
200 g spinach (to wrap the beetroot in)

Duxcelle

500 g finely chopped chestnut mushrooms
2 cloves of crushed garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
10 ml vegetable oil
150 g blanched and finely chopped chestnuts
Truffle oil to taste

Crepe

250 ml almond milk
50 g flour
Tarragon
Salt and pepper

Pastry

Vegan puff pastry
Chickpea water

Beetroot Gel (Garnish)

400 g red beetroot juice
4 g agar agar
pinch of salt
8 g red wine vinegar

Garnish

Thinly sliced beetroot
Thinly sliced Breakfast radishes
Thinly sliced black truffle
Extra virgin rapeseed oil
Mixed salad cress
Freshly grated horseradish

Vegan Jus

500 g sliced white onion
500 g sliced carrots
500 g beetroot trimmings
500 g leeks chopped into chunks
2 cloves of crushed garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
10 ml vegetable oil
30 g corn flour
100 ml water

Method

  1. Start with the beetroot centre: Remove any leaves from your beetroot, wash gently, and place in a pan of simmering water with all of the other ingredients (but not the spinach). Simmer for around 20-30 minutes, until the beetroot is tender.
  2. Whilst the beetroot is still warm, peel off and discard the outer 2 layers using a new jay cloth – wear protective gloves to do this.
  3. Make the duxcelles: Caramelise the sliced chestnut mushrooms in a heavy based pan with the crushed garlic, thyme, and vegetable oil.
  4. Add the blanched chestnuts and cook until combined.
  5. Season with salt and truffle oil to taste.
  6. Blitz the mixture to a spreadable texture
  7. Make the crepes: Combine the ingredients, and whisk to remove any lumps.
  8. Heat a non stick pan, and cook the crepe until golden brown on both sides. You will need at least two crepes.
  9. To construct the wellington: Lightly blanch the spinach and wrap it around the cooked beetroot ensuring there are no gaps.
  10. On a layer of cling film place 2 of the crepes. Spread a layer of mushroom and chestnut duxcelles on top of the crepe.
  11. Place the beetroot wrapped in spinach on top. Wrap it up tightly in cling film and rest in the fridge for an hour.
  12. Remove cling film and wrap tightly in vegan puff pastry. Rest in the fridge for another hour.
  13. Glaze the wellington in chickpea water and score.
  14. Cook at 210ºC for 18 minutes.
  15. Making the beetroot gel: Bring everything to boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  16. Pass through a muslin cloth and set in a baking tray.
  17. Making the vegan jus: Roast all of the herbs and vegetables, coated with the vegetable oil, in a large tray at 220ºC for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes until deeply caramelised.
  18. Cover the roasted vegetables with water and roast again at 180ºC for 1 hour.
  19. Pass through a fine sieve and reduce by half.
  20. Dissolve the corn flour with the water and add to the reduced sauce. Bring to the boil and allow to thicken. Season to taste.
  21. Plating the Beet Wellington: Smear a dessert spoon full of beetroot gel on one side of the plate.
  22. Garnish the beetroot gel with a few thin slices of beetroot, Breakfast radish, truffle, mixed salad cress, and a little horseradish to taste. Drizzle with oil.
  23. With a sharp knife, cut two slices of Beet Wellington, and position on the other side of the plate.
  24. Serve vegan jus in a sauce jug alongside the dish.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: Chef Gordon Ramsay

A Vegan’s Guide to Ethical Alcohol

Alcohol is something of a vegan’s no-man’s land; a minefield of misinformation and misunderstanding. There remains a distinct lack of knowledge about what goes into the drinks we consume, making vegans and omnivores alike often surprised to learn that their favourite tipple contains animal products.

Drink producers typically incorporate animal derivatives in one of two different ways: 1) as an ingredient in the drink itself; or 2) in the filtering process, and it is through this filtration that most alcoholic drinks cease to be vegan.

The full extent of the amount of animal products in drinks is very difficult to quantify, not least because manufacturers in the UK are not required by law to list their ingredients for alcohol content higher than 1.2%. This lack of transparency regrettably poses problems for those choosing to live cruelty-free. But fear not, keep reading for some much-needed info, plus a few tips and tricks for drinking with a conscience.

What makes alcoholic drinks not vegan?

Some common animal products hidden in alcoholic drinks to look out for:

  • Albumen: which is derived from egg white
  • Albumin: from eggs or dried blood
  • Carmine: crushed scales of a cochineal insect
  • Casein: obtained from milk
  • Charcoal: often derived from animal bone
  • Chitin: derived from the shells of crabs or lobsters
  • Gelatine: from bones and connective tissues of cows or pigs
  • Honey: derived from bees
  • Isinglass: obtained from fish swim bladders
  • Lactose: protein derived from milk
  • Pepsin: a foaming agent in beer sometimes derived from pigs

Beer and cider

Luckily for lager lovers, many of the mainstream brands remain free from animal products. Real ale enthusiasts, however, have an altogether tougher time, mainly because of the dreaded isinglass. As with some white wine as described on the right, isinglass, which as we now know is fish guts, has historically been used to clarify ale, to make the end product visibly clearer. This archaic method continues to be used by most real ale breweries, although there are exceptions. Barnivore.com is great for quickly checking the vegan status of beer and cider, as well as wine.

A general rule of thumb for beer drinkers is therefore to steer clear of draft real ales, and instead opt for lagers known to be vegan or German and Belgian brews. The brewing purity laws in these two countries, known locally as ‘Reinheitsgebot’, decrees that beers can only contain water, hops, malted barley and wheat – and nothing else – meaning that pretty much all their beers are animal-free.

Vegan ale is, however, a fast-growing trend amongst craft beer companies here in the UK, which is very much embracing plant-based brewing: Moor, Marble, BrewDog are three such breweries. As well as the obvious ethical benefits, it is widely accepted that the absence of isinglass significantly improves the flavour and taste of the finished product.

Even Guinness made the decision last November (World Vegan Month) to ditch the fish, and is set to go vegan towards the end of this year. Surprisingly and sadly, the vast majority of ciders are not vegan friendly. The most popular brands incorporate gelatine into their manufacturing, such as Kopparberg, Strongbow and Rekorderlig.

Wine

It would be reasonable to assume that wine, made predominately from grapes, would be plant-based. But no! The final ‘fining’ process often uses animal derivatives to latch onto any impurities in the wine, so that unwanted particles can be easily caught in the filters before bottling. White, rosé and sparkling wines typically use isinglass, derived from fish swim bladders, to make the end product clear and bright. In red wine, to remove any bitter flavours, egg whites and milk protein are also often used. Watch out for fortified wines too, as port and sherry are usually a no-go due to the addition of gelatine.

These fining methods are not essential processes, but do dramatically speed up production, as it would otherwise take a month or more for wine to clear naturally. Some manufacturers do opt to clarify naturally, so look out for ‘not fined/filtered’ on labels. Vegan alternatives do exist in the form of natural rock and clay, which organic wineries tend to go for. Be aware that organic does not mean plant-based, so always seek clarification if unsure. Online databases like barnivore.com are great for some quick and easy reassurance.

Spirits

Spirits are mostly a vegan safe-zone, as the most popular and widely-used spirit brands are suitable. There can, however, be some anomalies, such as some imported vodkas being filtered with charred animal bones as part of the sugar-refining process, but these are the exception rather than the norm. Cream-based liquors are often fairly straightforward to identify, brands like Baileys and Advocaat are well-known to contain dairy products. Milk, cream and even eggs can also make an appearance in cocktails, yet in these instances the ingredients are fairly self-explanatory on bar menus. It is easy to be caught out though, so remain savvy. A Bloody Mary cocktail, for example, is not vegan-friendly as Worcester sauce contains anchovies.

When it comes to mixing your spirits, most soft drinks like Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Schweppes products are vegan. Gelatine can be used to give drinks like Tango its orange colour, so watch out for these. Red beverages also sometimes get their appearance from crushed insect scales, an ingredient often identified as cochineal extract, carmine, crimson lake, or E120. Watch out for this in the aperitif Campari and grapefruit flavoured soft drinks.

Source: Vegan Food and Living

Yoga May Bring a Brain Boost

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

Looking for a way to improve your memory, gain control over your emotions, and boost your ability to multitask?

A new brain scan study may be just the incentive you need to put yoga at the top of your New Years’ to-do list.

The review of 11 published studies found a link between yoga’s movements, meditation and breathing practices and an increase in the size of key brain areas. Those areas are involved in thinking clearly, decision-making, memory and regulating emotions.

“The science is pointing to yoga being beneficial for healthy brain function, but we need more rigorous and well-controlled intervention studies to confirm these initial findings,” study co-author Jessica Damoiseaux said in a news release. She’s an assistant professor of gerontology and psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit.

The review, published in the journal Brain Plasticity, found the brain benefits of yoga are similar to those from aerobic exercise.

Why isn’t yet clear. More study is needed, the authors said.

“Yoga is not aerobic in nature, so there must be other mechanisms leading to these brain changes,” lead author Dr. Neha Gothe said in the news release. “So far, we don’t have the evidence to identify what those mechanisms are.”

Gothe is director of the Exercise Psychology Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Five of the 11 studies used brain imaging before and after newbies followed a regimen of at least one yoga session per week for 10 to 24 weeks. All used a regimen called hatha yoga.

Other studies compared brain scans of yoga practitioners and people who had never tried yoga.

Collectively, the studies pointed to a link between yoga and increased size in the brain’s hippocampus. Involved in memory and learning, the hippocampus shrinks with age and is the first part of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Yoga also appeared to expand the amygdala, a brain area involved in emotions; the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning and making choices; and the cingulate cortex, which plays an important part in regulating emotions, learning and memory.

Yoga practitioners were also found to fare better on mental performance tests, the study team observed.

Dr. Thomas Vidic, a neurologist at Elkhart General Hospital in Elkhart, Ind., who was not involved in the study, said he was not surprised by the findings.

“There have been numerous studies that show that mental and physical activity is useful [and] probably necessary — to maintaining brain function,” said Vidic, who is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

For now, however, “we cannot separate out what it is about yoga that is causing these effects, [but] it would be an easy guess that yoga combines both mind and body, and is thus able to activate numerous pathways,” Vidic added.

So should those who’ve never been drawn to yoga before but might like the potential brain benefits give it a go?

Definitely, Vidic said. But, he added, if you haven’t been active, start slow and join an appropriate group.

“Yoga is not for sissies,” he said. “It is a serious discipline and within this concept is the significant physical and cognitive stimulation.”

And, remember, you won’t become competent overnight. But, Vidic said, you can become an enthusiast on day one.

“I believe that everyone needs to find an activity that is physically and mentally stimulating,” he said. “And for many people yoga is a great activity.”

Source: HealthDay

Proton Therapy Lowers Risk of Side Effects in Cancer Patients Compared to Traditional Radiation

Proton therapy leads to significantly lower risk of side effects severe enough to lead to unplanned hospitalizations for cancer patients when compared with traditional radiation, while cure rates between the two groups are almost identical. The findings come from an expanded analysis of the largest review of its kind, performed by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, to evaluate whether or not patients undergoing radiation therapy at the same time as chemotherapy experienced serious adverse events within 90 days. Researchers found proton therapy reduces the relative risk of these side effects by two-thirds. JAMA Oncology published the findings today.

“This is exciting because it shows that proton therapy offers a way for us to reduce the serious side effects of chemo-radiation and improve patient health and wellbeing without sacrificing the effectiveness of the therapy,” said the study’s lead author Brian Baumann, MD, an adjunct assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at Penn and an assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Proton therapy has a few key differences from traditional photon radiation. Photon radiation typically uses multiple x-ray beams to deliver radiation to the tumor target but unavoidably deposits radiation in the normal tissues beyond the target, potentially damaging those tissues as the beam exits the body. Proton therapy is an FDA-approved alternative radiation treatment that directs positively charged protons at the tumor. They deposit the bulk of the radiation dose to the target with almost no residual radiation delivered beyond the target, reducing damage to surrounding healthy tissue and potentially reducing side effects.

For this study, researchers evaluated side effects including pain or difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, nausea, or diarrhea, among others. Researchers focused on grade-three effects or higher, defined as side effects severe enough for patients to be hospitalized. They evaluated data on 1,483 cancer patients receiving radiation and chemotherapy at the same time. Of these, 391 patients received proton therapy, while 1,092 underwent photon treatment. All patients had non-metastatic cancer and were undergoing treatment intended to be curative. Patients with brain cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, and gynecologic cancer treated with concurrent chemo-radiation were included.

The primary outcome was whether or not patients experienced adverse side effects that were grade-three or higher within 90 days of treatment. In the proton group, only 11.5 percent of patients (45) did, compared to 27.6 percent of patients (301) in the photon group. A weighted analysis of both patient groups, which controlled for other factors that may have led to differences between the patient groups, found that the relative risk of a severe toxicity was two-thirds lower for proton patients compared to photon patients.

“We know from our clinical experience that proton therapy can have this benefit, but even we did not expect the effect to be this sizeable,” said senior author James Metz, MD, chair of Radiation Oncology, leader of the Roberts Proton Therapy Center at Penn, and a member of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.

Importantly, overall survival and disease-free survival were similar between the two groups, suggesting that the reduction in toxicity seen with proton therapy did not come at the cost of reduced effectiveness. Researchers say these results hint at the promise of proton therapy as a way to deliver intensified systemic therapy and/or higher dose radiation therapy more safely, which could improve survival outcomes. In fact, data showed that while older patients with more comorbidities were more likely to receive proton therapy, they experienced fewer side effects.

“This tells us proton therapy may allow older patients to receive the most effective combined treatments, and that older, sicker patients can more safely be included in clinical trials that use proton therapy,” Baumann said.

While researchers say further research is needed, they point out that this study is the best information we have so far as randomized controlled trials continue to prove difficult to complete.

Source: Penn Medicine


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