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Bon Appétit: GRILLED SAUSAGES WITH POTATOES AND SUN-DRIED TOMATOES

The Gilmer Free Press

Ingredients:

Servings: 4

1 pound sweet or hot Italian pork sausages, each link halved
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch rings
2 green or red bell peppers, cored and cut into rings
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
7-ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, mostly drained
Ground black pepper
1 pound new potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Grated cheddar cheese, to serve


Directions:

Heat one side of the grill to medium, the other side to low.

In a 9-by-13-inch disposable foil pan, combine the sausages, onion, peppers, garlic cloves and sun-dried tomatoes (with about 1 tablespoon of the oil from the jar). Sprinkle lightly with pepper, then toss well. Set the pan over the warmer side of the grill and cook, turning the ingredients regularly, until the vegetables are tender and the sausage is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the potatoes and olive oil, tossing to coat evenly. Sprinkle liberally with salt, tossing again to coat. Use tongs to place the potatoes directly on the grill grates on the cooler side of the grill. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, turning often for evening browning, or until the skin is lightly browned and crisp and the flesh is tender.

To serve, set several potatoes on each plate and lightly smash with the back of a fork. Spoon the sausage mixture over them, then sprinkle with a bit of cheddar cheese.


Nutrition information per serving: 810 calories; 510 calories from fat (63 percent of total calories); 57 g fat (16 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 1,040 mg sodium; 48 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 25 g protein.

Access to Sugar in Childhood Was Shown to Have Little Effect on Sensitivity to Sweetness

Perception of Sweetness in Food Determined by Genetics
The Gilmer Free Press

A single set of genes determines a person’s sensitivity to sweetness, and access to sugar in childhood has little or no effect on sensitivity, according to a new study.

The study also showed no difference in perception of sweetness between natural sugar and non-caloric chemical substitutes.

“Eating too much sugar is often seen as a personal weakness. However, our work suggests that part of what determines our perception of sweetness is inborn in our genetic makeup,“ Dr. Danielle Reed, a behavioral geneticist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, said in a press release. “Just as people born with a poor sense of hearing may need to turn up the volume to hear the radio, people born with weak sweet taste may need an extra teaspoon of sugar in their coffee to get the same sweet punch.“

Researchers studied the difference in sweetness perception among 243 pairs of monozygotic, or identical, twins, 452 pairs of dizygotic, or fraternal, twins, and 511 unpaired individuals. Identical twins have nearly the same genetic make-up, while fraternal twins have about half, so researchers could see how much of a role genes play in detecting sweetness.

Participants were given four types of sweetener—fructose, glucose, aspartame and neohesperidine dihydrochalcone—the first two of which are natural types of sugar and the other two are synthetic.

The results of the study showed that people who perceive natural sugars weakly, perceive the synthetic ones weakly as well. The study also showed that childhood access to sugary or sweet foods and communal meals, as at least some portion of the pairs of twins regularly engaged in during childhood, did not affect their perception of sweetness as adults.

“Even though almost everyone—consumers, physicians and public health officials—wants to decrease the amount of sugar in our diets, right now we have no tool that has the sensory equivalence of sugar,“ said Reed. “However, if we can understand why some people have weaker sweetness perception, we might be able to adjust this attribute so we could reduce the amount of sugar in foods.“

Researchers said they plan to identify the genetic regions responsible for weak sweetness detection to better understand how and why it works.

The study is published in Twin Research and Human Genetics.

Bon Appétit: TOSSED SALAD 101

The Gilmer Free Press

Summer time is salad time. When it’s hot out and the garden is bountiful, everyone’s in the mood for a light and refreshing entree salad.

And what could be easier? You just toss together a bunch of lettuce with some cooked protein, add an excellent dressing, and boom! You’re done. Or not. Turns out that if you pay a little more attention to the components of the salad, you won’t need to rely quite so much on the dressing to provide all the flavor. In fact, it’s easy to make something wonderful.

Here’s the basic formula per serving of salad: 2 cups of lettuce, a heaping 1/3 cup of halved cherry tomatoes, 1/3 cup of sliced cucumbers, a quarter of an avocado (cubed), and 1 tablespoon of dressing. The key, though, is to season each and every part one at a time, and to do so at just the right moment.

It’s also important to deal with the water. Vegetables contain a high percentage of water. If you remove some of that water, you concentrate and amplify the vegetable’s flavor.

Let’s start with the cherry tomatoes. You’ll be amazed at how much more tomato-y they’ll taste after they’ve been salted and drained, preferably for 30 minutes. Cucumbers, likewise, become more cucumber-y with salting, though the salt also tenderizes them. If you care more about a cuke’s crunch than its flavor, skip the salting of them.

By the way, here’s a little tip I learned from Rachael Ray about how to slice a raft of cherry tomatoes all at once rather than one-by-one. Put a whole bunch of them on a small plastic lid, then place another lid on top of them. Stabilize the tomatoes by gently pressing the lids together. Insert a serrated knife into the gap between the lids and slice all of the tomatoes in half at one time.

While the tomatoes and the cucumbers are draining, you should cut up the avocado, put it in the bottom of the salad bowl, season it, and toss it with the dressing. This last step prevents it from oxidizing and turning color. Pile on the additional ingredients as they become ready. Note: To remove the pit from an avocado safely, cut it into quarters. As tempting as it might be to imitate the TV chefs ‚Äî who cut the avocado in half, slam a huge knife into the pit, and twist out the pit ‚Äî it’s a technique that has landed many a home cook in the emergency room.

After rinsing the lettuce, spin it dry or gently pat it dry with paper towels. Dressing will slide right off of wet greens. Keep in mind that a variety of lettuces is more enticing than just one kind, and mixing in whole herb leaves with the greens makes a salad extra special.

Finally, after all of the components have been prepped and added to the bowl, sprinkle the greens with a little salt and pepper and toss the salad with your hands. Lettuce bruises easily. Your hands are exactly the right tool for this delicate job. Now that your basic salad is dressed and ready to go, top it off with grilled chicken, shrimp, beef, pork or tofu to turn it into a substantial summertime entree.


Ingredients:

Servings: 4

1½ cups cherry or grape tomatoes
Kosher salt
6 ounces English cucumber
1 firm ripe avocado
8 cups lightly packed torn lettuce
Ground black pepper
¼ cup dressing


Directions:

Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and arrange cut side up on the wire rack. Sprinkle the cut sides liberally with salt, then turn the tomatoes so the cut sides are down. Let stand for 30 minutes. Peel the cucumber if it has a thick skin. Halve it lengthwise, then slice it thinly crosswise. Toss the sliced cucumber with some salt and let drain in a colander set in the sink for 30 minutes.

Quarter the avocado, remove the pit and lay the avocado, skin side down on the counter. Using a paring knife, make a crisscross pattern in the flesh in ½-inch cubes, cutting down to the skin. Use a spoon to lift out the cubes and transfer them to a salad bowl. Sprinkle the avocado lightly with salt and toss gently with a fork. Add the dressing and toss again.

When the tomatoes and cucumber have sat for 30 minutes, pat them dry with paper towels and add them to the bowl with the avocado. Add the lettuce, sprinkle with salt and pepper and use your hands to toss the salad very gently just until the leaves are coated. Serve right away.

Families on Medicaid Make More Incorrect Assumptions about Antibiotics

The Gilmer Free Press

Parents of children insured by Medicaid, the U.S. health program for the poor, are more likely to incorrectly assume antibiotics can treat colds and flu and seek these drugs when kids don’t actually need them, a study suggests.

Parents surveyed in Massachusetts reported using antibiotics for their kids on average less than once a year, the study found. But when asked if antibiotics should be used for colds of flu, only 44% of the Medicaid parents correctly said “no,” compared with 78% of parents with private coverage.

“Understanding the nuances about what is treatable with an antibiotic (a bacterial infection) versus what requires time and supportive care to let your body take care of it (colds and other viruses) can be challenging for parents,” lead study author Dr. Louise Vaz of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland said by email.

Health officials around the world have worked in recent years to curb unnecessary use of antibiotics because overuse helps breed superbugs that are harder to treat, particularly for common problems such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia and bloodstream infections.

Each year in the U.S. alone, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaz and colleagues surveyed 345 Medicaid-insured parents and 353 commercially insured parents in 2013 to see how well they understood the role of antibiotics in pediatric care. They compared those results to a separate survey done in 2000.

In the 2013 survey, roughly one quarter of parents with private insurance and half of those with Medicaid incorrectly thought their child would be sick with a cold for longer if they didn’t receive antibiotics.

Most parents that year, regardless of insurance type, also incorrectly thought antibiotics should be regularly used for a deep cough or bronchitis, and many also wrongly assumed antibiotics might remedy a runny nose or green nasal discharge.

The 2013 survey did show some improvements compared to the 2000 results, however. The proportion of parents who rightly thought antibiotics didn’t work for nasal discharge increased from 23% to 49% among the commercially insured, and from 22% to 32% among Medicaid parents. Those who realize antibiotics rarely work for bronchitis rose from 9% to 14% among privately insured and from 5% to 12% for Medicaid families.

Part of the knowledge gap by insurance type may be due to the fact that families with Medicaid may be poorer and less educated, Dr. Sharon Meropol, an investigator at the Center for Child Health and Policy at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, noted in an editorial published with the study in Pediatrics.

“Often pubic insurance status is used as a proxy for the risk of decreased socioeconomic status and poor educational opportunities,” Meropol said by email. “Parents of disadvantaged children are at risk of decreased health literacy.”

Beyond spawning superbugs that are harder to treat, greater use of antibiotics may also be linked to an increased risk of a common form of juvenile arthritis, another study in Pediatrics suggests.

Researchers in the U.K. compared children ages 1 to 15 who were newly diagnosed with so-called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) to another group of similar kids without the condition.

Any exposure to antibiotics was associated with a doubled risk of developing JIA, and the risk was tripled for children who had more than five previous courses of antibiotics, the study found.

While the study can’t show that antibiotics cause JIA, it joins a growing body of research exploring the connection between antibiotic use and the development of chronic disease – research that offers an added incentive for overuse to be curbed, Dr. Jennifer Goldman, an infectious disease researcher at Children’s Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City, wrote in an editorial.

It’s possible that antibiotics may contribute to changes in healthy bacteria in the gut, known as the microbiome, which could potentially lead to JIA and other diseases, said Dr. Daniel Horton, a researcher at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and lead author of the JIA study.

“We can’t say with certainty that it is the antibiotics that cause arthritis,” Horton said by email. “That said, we need to acknowledge that antibiotics have a long – and growing – list of potential downsides, both short-term side effects including fever and allergic reactions and long-term risks such as drug resistance and the development of chronic diseases.”

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online July 20, 2015 and Pediatrics, online July 20, 2015.

~~  Lisa Rapaport ~~

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