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Banana Oatmeal Muffins with Chocolate Chips

By Barbara Beltrami

I like to think of muffins as healthful cupcakes. Basically individual-sized quick breads, they seem to be synonymous with comfort and warmth and coziness and goodness. According to Wikipedia, the word “muffin” first appeared in 1703 as “moofen,” possibly a derivative of the low German “muffen,” the plural of small cake. That sounds viable. Whatever their derivation, they’ve become a staple of the roster of edibles that Americans have come to think of as the companions for their coffee or tea, the takeout breakfast goodies that make getting up in the morning a worthwhile exercise.

Like many good-for-you foods that I write about, muffins can be adaptable to what you have on hand and what your tastes dictate. Below is a basic recipe for sweet muffins to get you started. I’ve also included a couple of my favorite muffin recipes that are a little different from the basic one. I can pretty much guarantee that when you slip these into the oven on a cold winter morning, the aroma will elicit smiles and maybe even a little conversation from the usual grumps and grouches.

Basic Sweet Muffin Recipe

YIELD: Makes 12 muffins

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

½ cup honey

One egg, well beaten

1/3 cup oil

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Stir together both flours, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix milk, honey, egg and oil. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. Stir until just moistened. Let rest for one minute. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin pans two-thirds full. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with butter, jam, honey or cream cheese.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Banana Oatmeal Muffins with Chocolate Chips

I don’t remember where this recipe came from — I just know I’ve been making it for years and it’s always a hit. Sometimes I add a cup of chopped nuts or chocolate chips; sometimes I don’t.

YIELD: Makes about 14 muffins

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

One egg, well beaten

½ cup milk

1/3 cup oil

2/3 cup mashed ripe banana

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Stir together the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, oil and banana and add to dry mixture. Stir until just moistened. Let sit for one minute. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin pans two-thirds full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with butter, honey, jam, peanut butter or cream cheese.

Pineapple Ginger Almond Muffins

Pineapple Ginger Almond Muffins

With the tang of the pineapple, the zing of the ginger and the crunch of the almonds, these muffins are especially good with tea, but great with coffee too.

YIELD: Makes 16 to 18 muffins

INGREDIENTS:

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¾ teaspoon powdered ginger

One egg, well beaten

1 cup buttermilk

¼ cup oil

½ cup dark molasses

1 cup finely chopped canned pineapple, well drained and patted dry

1 cup toasted crushed sliced almonds

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Mix egg, buttermilk, oil and molasses and add to dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened. Gently fold in pineapple and almonds. Let sit one minute. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin pans two-thirds full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with butter, cream cheese, jam, honey or yogurt.

Suggestions and tips: Add half a cup to one cup of any of the following. (If adding more than one ingredient, adjust amount of each accordingly.)

Chopped walnuts, almonds or pecans

Raisins or other dried fruit(chopped)

Pared, cored and grated apple or pear

Berries

Chocolate chips

For a nice surprise, fill muffin cups with half a cup of batter, add a heaping teaspoon of jam or brown sugar, then top with remaining batter.

By Linda Toga, Esq.

Linda Toga, Esq.

THE FACTS: My mother’s will provides that her house will be sold and the proceeds divided equally between me and my brother. However, because she was concerned about needing long-term care, a few years ago she signed a deed transferring the house to my brother and retaining a life estate in her favor.

THE QUESTION: Am I likely to see any of the proceeds when the house is sold?

THE ANSWER: Unfortunately, if your mother has already passed away, it is unlikely that you will get anything when the house is sold unless your brother is willing to essentially gift you one-half of the proceeds. That is because a will only controls the distribution of assets that are owned by the decedent at the time of her death.

Here, your mother does not have an ownership interest in the house but simply a right to live in the house until her death. When she dies, that right dies with her. As such, the provision in the will pertaining to the division of the proceeds from the sale of the house will be ignored.

If you mother is still alive, competent and sorry that she transferred the house to your brother, she can remedy the situation in a number of ways. She can, of course, revise her will so that you receive a larger portion than your brother of other assets that may be passing under her will. She can also change the beneficiary on her nonprobate assets like IRAs, 401(k)s and/or life insurance. Neither of these strategies require your brother’s cooperation, but they will only work if your mother has assets worth about one-half of the value of the house.

If your brother is cooperative, your mother’ assets are limited and she is not already receiving needs-based government benefits, your mother and brother can sign a new deed either adding you as a co-owner or transferring the house back to your mother. The will would then control. This solution will require the preparation of a new deed and transfer of documents and the filing/recording of the deed but will not require your mother to change her beneficiary forms or her will.

If transferring the house again will put your mother’s benefits at risk, she and your brother can sign a written agreement in which (1) your mother states that it was not her intent in transferring the house to “gift” it to your brother and (2) your brother states that when he sells the house, he will split the net proceeds 50/50 with you.

If the agreement provides that you are an intended beneficiary of the agreement between your mother and your brother, and specifically states that it is binding upon the heirs, successors, assigns and executors of the parties signing the agreement, you will have an enforceable legal right to one-half of the proceeds.

It is important that any agreement that may be signed by your mother and brother pertaining to the house include the “heirs, successors, assigns and executors” language since, without that language, the agreement, like your mother’s life estate, will die with your mother.

Because there are so many issues to consider when deciding if and how to insure that you receive a share of the proceeds from the sale of her house, your mother should discuss this matter with an experienced estate planning attorney. The attorney can explain the pros and cons of each option that may be available to your mother so that she can make an informed decision. Only then can she be sure that her actions will not adversely impact her down the road and that her wishes will be honored.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate planning, probate, estate administration, litigation, wills, trusts, small business services and real estate from her East Setauket office.

A nutrient-dense, plant-based diet that intensively controls blood sugar is likely to decrease the risk of diabetic retinopathy complication. Stock photo
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness.

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

With diabetes, we tend to concentrate on stabilization of the disease as a whole. This is a good thing. However, there is not enough attention spent on microvascular (small vessel disease) complications of diabetes, specifically diabetic retinopathy (negativity affecting blood vessels in the back of the eye), which is an umbrella term.

This disease, a complication of diabetes that is related to sugar control, can lead to blurred vision and blindness. There are at least three different disorders that make up diabetic retinopathy. These are dot and blot hemorrhages, proliferative diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. The latter two are the most likely disorders to cause vision loss. Our focus for this article will be on diabetic retinopathy as a whole and on diabetic macular edema.

Diabetic retinopathy is the No. 1 cause of vision loss in those who are of working age, 25 to 74 years old (1). Risk factors include duration of diabetes, glucose (sugars) that is not well-controlled, smoking, high blood pressure, kidney disease, pregnancy and high cholesterol (2).

What is diabetic macula edema, also referred to as DME? This disorder is edema, or swelling, due to extracellular fluid accumulating in the macula (3). The macula is a yellowish oval spot in the central portion of the retina — in the inner segment of the back of the eye — and it is sensitive to light. The macula is the region with greatest visual acuity. Hence, when fluid builds up from blood vessels leaking, there is potential loss of vision.

Whew! Did you get all that? If not, to summarize: Diabetic macula edema is fluid in the back of the eye that may cause vision loss. The highest risk factor for DME was for those with the longest duration of diabetes (4). Ironically, an oral class of drugs, thiazolidinediones, which includes rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos), used to treat type 2 diabetes may actually increase the risk of DME. However, the results on this are conflicting.

DME is traditionally treated with lasers. But intravitreal (intraocular — within the eye) injections of a medication known as ranibizumab (Lucentis) may be as effective as laser. Studies suggest that injections alone may be as effective as injections plus laser treatments, though the studies are in no way definitive. Unfortunately, many patients are diagnosed with DME after it has already caused vision loss. If not treated after having DME for a year or more, patients can experience permanent loss of vision (5).

In a cross-sectional study (a type of observational study) using NHANES data from 2005-2008, among patients with DME, only 45 percent were told by a physician that the diabetes had affected their eyes (6). Approximately 46 percent of patients reported that they had not been to a diabetic nurse educator, nutritionist or dietician in more than a year — or never.

The problem is that the symptoms of vision loss don’t necessarily occur until the latter stages of the disorder. According to the authors, there needs to be an awareness campaign about the importance of getting your eyes examined on an annual basis if you have diabetes. Many patients are unaware of the association between vision loss and diabetes.

According to a study, there is good news in that the percentage of patients reporting visual impairment from 1997 to 2010 decreased (7). However, the absolute number of patients with vision loss has actually continued to grow, but at a lesser rate than diabetes as a disease has grown.

Treatment options: lasers and injections

There seems to be a potential paradigm shift in the making for the treatment of DME. Traditionally, patients had been treated with lasers. The results from a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of studies, showed that intravitreal (delivery directly into the eye) injections with ranibizumab, whether given prompt laser treatments or treatments delayed for at least 24 weeks, were equally effective in treating DME (8).

In fact, some in the delayed group, 56 patients or about half, never even required laser treatments at all. Unfortunately, intravitreal injections may be used as frequently as every four weeks. Though in practice, ophthalmologists generally are able to inject patients with the drug less frequently. However, the advantage of receiving prompt laser treatments along with the injections was a reduction in the median number of injections.

Increased risk with diabetes drugs

You would think that drugs to treat type 2 diabetes would prevent DME from occurring as well. However, in the THIN trial, a retrospective (backward-looking) study, a class of diabetes drugs, thiazolidinediones, which includes Avandia and Actos, actually increased the occurrence of DME compared to those who did not use these oral medications (9). Those receiving these drugs had a 1.3 percent incidence of DME at year 1, whereas those who did not had a 0.2 percent incidence. This incidence was persistent through the 10 years of follow-up.

To make matters worse, those who received both thiazolidinediones and insulin had an even greater incidence of DME. There were 103,000 diabetes patients reviewed in this trial. It was unclear whether the drugs, because they were second-line treatments, or the severity of the diabetes itself may have caused these findings.

This is in contrast to a previous ACCORD eye substudy, a cross-sectional analysis, which did not show an association between thiazolidinediones and DME (10). This study involved review of 3,473 participants who had photographs taken of the fundus (the back of the eye).

What does this ultimately mean? Both of these studies were not without weaknesses. It was not clear how long the patients had been using the thiazolidinediones in either study or whether their sugars were controlled and to what degree. The researchers were also unable to control for all other possible confounding factors (11). Thus, there needs to be a prospective (forward-looking) trial done to sort out these results.

Diet

The risk of progression of diabetic retinopathy was significantly lower with intensive blood sugar controls using medications, one of the few positive highlights of the ACCORD trial (12). Medication-induced intensive blood sugar control also resulted in more increased mortality and no significant change in cardiovascular events. But an inference can be made: A nutrient-dense, plant-based diet that intensively controls blood sugar is likely to decrease the risk of diabetic retinopathy complications (13, 14).

The best way to avoid diabetic retinopathy is obviously to prevent diabetes. Barring that, it’s to have sugars well controlled. If you or someone you know has diabetes, it is imperative that they get a yearly eye exam from an ophthalmologist so that DME and diabetic retinopathy, in general, is detected as early as possible, before permanent vision loss can occur. It is especially important for those diabetes patients who are taking the oral diabetes class thiazolidinediones, which include rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos).

References: (1) Diabetes Care. 2014;37 (Supplement 1):S14-S80. (2) JAMA. 2010;304:649-656. (3) www.uptodate.com. (4) JAMA Ophthalmol online. 2014 Aug. 14. (5) www.aao.org/ppp. (6) JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014;132:168-173. (7) Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60:1549-1553. (8) ASRS. Presented 2014 Aug. 11. (9) Arch Intern Med. 2012;172:1005-1011. (10) Arch Ophthalmol. 2010 March;128:312-318. (11) Arch Intern Med. 2012;172:1011-1013. (12) www.nei.nih.gov. (13) OJPM. 2012;2:364-371. (14) Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1588S-1596S.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I can’t even recall how many times a feline with a runny nose enters my clinic. A kitten is a little more straightforward as an infection is most likely the cause.But what happens when an adult cat presents? What if this cat is the only cat in the household? What if the cat never goes outside? This is when it gets interesting (and sometimes a touch frustrating).

The most common infection associated with a chronic upper respiratory infection is a combination of a herpes and calicivirus. Feline herpesvirus is similar to the human herpesvirus in that it never leaves the host and becomes active during times of stress and illness. The stress of pregnancy, labor and delivery causes the mother cat to start shedding virus.

The kittens are exposed to the virus either when passing through the birth canal or shortly after birth during grooming by the mother. If infected as a kitten, the cat can be predisposed to infections throughout its lifetime. Not only does the herpesvirus make the cat feel ill, but it also allows opportunistic bacterial infections to set in and then you have a real mess.

In addition, these cats shed the virus, increasing the risk of infecting other cats. Luckily, two of the components of the feline distemper vaccine (FVRCP vaccine) are a feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. The vaccine contains killed or weakened virus and is designed to stimulate the immune system without causing disease or illness. If your cat goes outside or is in contact with a cat that goes outside, make sure to see your veterinarian every year to update this vaccine.

If infected by the virus as a kitten, a cat can be predisposed to infections throughout its lifetime.

Other causes of the feline upper respiratory syndrome include nasal foreign bodies (grass blades or other plant material), fungal infections (more common in cats adopted from the South or Southwest), tumors (benign polyps or cancer of the nasal passages), allergies or tooth root abscesses.

When a feline patient presents with symptoms of an upper respiratory problem the big question is, “how do we veterinarians determine what is causing the symptoms?” The character of the discharge (if there is one) holds significant clues. If the discharge is serous (clear and watery), it is more likely an allergy or early viral. If it is purulent (thick and green), it is more likely some sort of bacterial infection.

As briefly discussed earlier, a bacterial infection is usually secondary to some other primary disease process, which means that we need to keep searching for the primary cause. Sometimes we veterinarians can look in the mouth and actually see a rotten tooth or a mass/tumor, but many times it’s just not that easy. Blood work and X-rays help but are rarely diagnostic. X-rays are usually of other body cavities initially (such as the chest or abdominal cavities) because the skull and sinuses require anesthesia.

If the patient is anesthetized, we will usually look behind the soft palate with special instruments and mirrors and flush the sinuses with saline. This is also helpful but not always diagnostic.

A study at the University of Missouri Veterinary School reviewed the charts of cats with chronic nasal discharge. Results from this study revealed a diagnosis was only achieved 36 percent of the time. The University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center has not only the very best veterinarians available to them but also advanced diagnostics such as CT, MRI, rhinoscopy (a camera you can stick up the sinuses), biopsies etc. Ughhhh!!!

In conclusion, if your cat does develop signs of an upper respiratory infection, hopefully it resolves quickly with medication. If not, don’t get too frustrated with your veterinarian if an exact diagnosis is difficult to come by.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

Claire Belllerjeau presents a lecture at the Setauket Neighborhood House. Photo by Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

“Spies” Nest: Major John André’s Activities at Raynham Hall in Oyster Bay, was the featured program for the Three Village Historical Society’s free lecture series at the Setauket Neighborhood House Feb. 27.

Historian Claire Bellerjeau presented her famed lecture on the British Revolutionary War spymaster John André to an eager audience of historians, history buffs, society members and the general public. Bellerjeau began her dramatic presentation by reminding the audience that there has been a great deal of misinformation written and presented as fact about the people and events of the Revolutionary War over the past two-and-a-half centuries. Many of the stories and tales surrounding the activities of British officers and their relationships with the Townsend family in Oyster Bay have grown with the telling and were perpetuated by writer after writer using the same undocumented sources that became the justification around which a dramatic story was created.

Bellerjeau, presently an historian for the Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay, the ancestral home of General George Washington’s Culper Spy Robert Townsend, traveled to the archives of the New York Historical Society, the William L. Clements Library in Michigan and to Toronto, Canada to research the Revolutionary War era documents that tell a more accurate, and no less dramatic story of the events surrounding the life and death of Major John André, the chief of British intelligence in New York City who worked secretly to assist Continental Army General Benedict Arnold in his effort to turn the American fortress at West Point over to the British.

André visited the British headquarters of British Major John Graves Simcoe at the Townsend home, now Raynham Hall, in Oyster Bay a number of times as the two British officers were friends who corresponded with each other regularly. However, the story of Sally Townsend overhearing a conversation about General Benedict Arnold between the two officers and informing her brother Robert Townsend­­—­alias Samuel Culper Jr. of the Culper Spy Ring­—is just that, a story, as the facts uncovered by Bellerjeau definitely place them in other locations at that critical time.

Bellerjeau’s enthusiastic presentation featured the actual documentary evidence she uncovered which also included material by Long Island historian Benjamin Franklin Thompson of Setauket and other historians, as well as original documentary evidence in the archival collection of the East Hampton Library.

For additional information on the Setauket-based Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring and the role of British spy Major John André, visit the Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay and the SPIES! Exhibit at the Three Village Historical Society History Center on North Country Road in Setauket.

The next Three Village Historical Society lecture series presentation will be a pot luck supper and lecture “The Witchcraft of Goody Garlick” presented by Tata Rider at the Setauket Neighborhood House Monday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. The public is invited to this free program, just bring a covered-dish entree that serves six. A wine and cheese reception at 6:00 p.m. will precede the supper and program. Sponsored jointly by the society and the Setauket Neighborhood House Association.            

Beverly Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Waldo

WHERE’S WALDO?

Waldo

He’s at Kent Animal Shelter, of course! Waldo is a 1½-year-old basset hound mix who would just love to be a part of your family! He likes other dogs and children, loves to go for walks and weighs approximately 34 pounds.

Waldo is neutered, microchipped, dewormed and is up to date on all his vaccines. Come meet him today! Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. For more information on Waldo and other adoptable pets at Kent, please call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

Update: Waldo has been adopted!

A LIGHT FOR ALL SEASONS Huberto Pimentel of East Setauket captured this image of the Old Field Lighthouse on Feb. 17 using his Nikon D7100. Constructed in 1868 for the sum of $12,000, it replaced the original smaller lighthouse that had been there since 1823 to accommodate the increasing shipping traffic of Long Island Sound. Located at the end of Old Field Road between the entrances to Port Jefferson Harbor and Stony Brook Harbor, the lighthouse is constructed in the Victorian-Gothic Revival style, similar to Block Island North Lighthouse in Rhode Island, Morgan Point , Sheffield Island and Great Captain Island lighthouses in Connecticut and Long Island’s Plum Island Lighthouse.

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

Benjamin Martin in his lab at Stony Brook University. Photo courtesy of SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

Last week, the Times Beacon Record Newspapers profiled the work of David Matus, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Matus and Benjamin Martin, who has the same title in the same department, are working together on a new cancer study.

While neither Matus nor Martin are cancer biologists, these researchers have experience in developmental biology with different organisms that could contribute to insights in cancer. Specifically, they are exploring the processes that lead to cell division or invasion. Matus is working with the transparent roundworm, while Martin is focusing on the zebrafish.

The duo recently won the 2017 Damon Runyon–Rachleff Innovation Award, which includes a grant of $300,000. Martin got involved in the research “based on learning more about [Matus’] work and the general hypothesis” about division and invasion, Martin said. The overall perspective is that the cell doesn’t “invade through tissues and divide at the same time.”

Martin has done innovative work with a neuromesodermal progenitor in the zebrafish. These cells are highly plastic and can give rise to numerous other cell types. Martin is focused on trying to understand the basic biology of these cells.

From left, David Matus and Benjamin Martin in the lab where they investigate metastatic cancer. Photo courtesy of SBU

Martin is known for the “very original discovery that a signaling protein called Wnt can regulate the decision between these progenitor cells becoming muscle or neurons,” explained David Kimelman, a professor of Biochemistry at the University of Washington who oversaw Martin’s research when he was a postdoctoral student.

“What is very nice is that [Martin’s] discovery in zebrafish has since been replicated in other organisms such as the mouse and even in human stem cells, showing that this is a fundamental property of vertebrates,” Kimelman explained in an email.

Similar to Matus’ work with the worm, Martin has been working with cells that go through invasive behavior and don’t engage in cell proliferative activities. “We already knew that notochord progenitors are not proliferating when they undergo convergence and extension” from other published works, explained Martin in an email. “Since notochord progenitors exist in the tailbud and we were already studying them, it was a natural jumping off point to address the same question.”

Martin is testing a transcription factor, called brachyury, which drives metasasis-like behavior in human cancer cells. He has studied this transcription factor in the context of early zebrafish development and will see if it helps drive metastasis through inhibition of the cell cycle. At this point, Martin said, there is some “evidence that it does arrest the cell cycle” using human cells in another lab.

So far, the work he has done with brachyury and the cell cycle/invasion in zebrafish is preliminary. Their hypothesis is that halting the cell cycle is a prerequisite for invasive behavior. Like the roundworm, the embryonic zebrafish is transparent, which makes it easier to observe cellular changes.

One of the goals of the project is “to observe the cell cycle of human cancer as it invades through tissues in the fish embryo,” Martin said. In the long term, he hopes to see whether the overexpression of a transcription factor Matus has found in the worm is sufficient to drive metastasis in the zebrafish.

Martin described winning the Damon Runyon–Rachleff Award as “exciting,” and suggested that it “pushes back a little bit of the worry phase” of finding funding for compelling scientific projects. Kimelman said Martin is an “exceptional scientist” and one of the “best I have had the privilege to train.”

Kimelman believes the work Martin and Matus are doing has the potential to provide “important insight into the basic changes that occur during cancer as cells become metastatic,” he explained in an email. “While it doesn’t immediately lead to a therapeutic, understanding the basic biology of cancer is the first step to defining new ways of affecting it.”

Kimelman particularly appreciated the way Matus and Martin combined two different model systems, which offers the potential to provide insight into the basic changes that occur during cancer as cells become metastatic.

Martin learned about science and research during his formative years. His father Presley Martin was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore when the younger Martin was born. Presley Martin recently retired from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he studied the genetics of the fruit fly Drosophila. “At a young age, I was exposed to a lot of the lab and experiments and it was certainly appealing to me,” said Martin.

Benjamin Martin with his son Calvin. Photo by Richard Row

Martin is married to Jin Bae, whom he met at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was studying the molecular control of how muscle precursor cells move to distant parts of the embryo in frogs and fish. Bae is a registered nurse at Stony Brook Hospital. The couple’s son Calvin, who enjoys visiting the lab, will be four in April.

Matus and Martin are collaborating with Scott Powers, a professor in the Department of Pathology at Stony Brook, and Eric Brouzes, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook.

Powers said the work Martin and Matus are doing is a “basic discovery but an important one,” he explained in an email. “Conceivably, further research could lead to translation but as of right now, any thoughts along those lines are speculative.”

Martin appreciates the opportunity to work on these cells that are so important in development and that might lead to insights about cancer. “It seems like in the past few years” these discoveries have “opened up a subfield of developmental biology,” he said. “It’s exciting to see.”

The medium-sized pinecones of a Colorado blue spruce can be used for crafts. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

If you decide to plant one or more conifers this spring, here’s a quick rundown of some interesting plants to consider. If you are growing a particular conifer to gather the cones for crafts, make sure you select the correct tree.

Cryptomeria cones are not really suited for crafts. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Crytomeria japonica (in the cyprus family) has mature cones that are very unusual, being small, green and roundish. The tree can grow to an enormous size. As its name suggests, it is a native of Japan.

The Leyland cypress has been advertised in recent years as a fast-growing privacy hedge or, more accurately, wall. This is a cross between the Monterey cypress and the Nootka cypress. It can reach 100 feet at maturity and can grow as much as three feet a year. If you’re looking for a quick-growing screen, this is one to consider, but they do take up a lot of space.

Arborvitae are also in the cypress family. They, too, are fast growing but not as fast as the Leyland cypress. As with many evergreen, arborvitae are very difficult to prune attractively. Depending on the species, they can grow to great heights, so read the tag carefully before buying and planting them. Then, make sure you give them enough room to spread out.

All three of the above have a feathery appearance, rather than the sharp needles so many of us associate with conifers.

Fir trees are your typical Christmas trees and include Balsam fir and Frasier fir with short, flat needles and typical pine cones. There are approximately 50 different species of fir trees, but they are not fast growers. If you’re looking for a tree that won’t quickly take over, consider a fir. Size and shape vary so research your choice to see if it’s what you want for a particular craft.

The medium-sized pinecones of a Colorado blue spruce can be used for crafts. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Pine trees grow well in acidic soil, so you’ll notice many pine trees on Long Island. There are over 100 species of pine including the eastern white pine. They have longish needles and their cones are round in shape. They don’t have the elegance, to my mind, of firs and spruce but they are quick growers and provide a high privacy screen, many losing their lower limbs as they mature. Be careful where you plant them because of their sticky sap that can get on your car if you park it in their shade.

There are a number of spruce trees you might want to consider for your garden. Dwarf Alberta spruce, a sport of the larger white spruce, is used extensively in landscaping because of its small stature and thick evergreen foliage. It can, however, on rare occasions revert to type. It’s accustomed to the cold and does well in U.S.D.A. hardiness zones 2 through 7 (Long Island is 7). It generally doesn’t produce cones.

Another spruce is the Colorado blue spruce with its beautiful bluish needles. This is an elegant, medium-sized tree and not particularly a rapid grower.

Norway spruce is a magnificent tree. The branches on mature specimens drape down gracefully. The tree, however, is enormous at maturity. One in my neighborhood dwarfed a two-story house and it was planted about 45 years ago. If you have room for this magnificent tree, then go for it, but beware of how large this one can get. It’s cones are slightly curved and about five to six inches long.

Hemlock are beautiful and fast growing evergreens, but they have a major problem. They have been attacked by woolly adelgids (the appearance of white, cottony deposits on the needles are the egg cases), to the point that few have survived without yearly spraying. Even treated they do not always survive. They do make a quick growing and beautiful privacy hedge.

The Norway spruce is an elegant tree that reaches great heights. Its cones are approximately six inches long and slightly curved. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Dawn redwood Metasequoia, is a beautiful and fascinating tree, but unfortunately is not an evergreen. Unlike most conifers, this one is deciduous, that is, it loses its needles in fall. So, during winter you have a tree as bare as your maple or oak. Considered a “living fossil” the dawn redwood was believed extinct until it was found growing in the 1940s in China.

Yews (taxus) are small trees and shrubs with unusual cones, which remind one of red berries, rather than the more typical, woody, brown-layered cones. Many birds enjoy eating the seeds. Various species of yews are native to North America, Europe and Asia. Even mature, specimens are relatively small.

Cedar are beautiful, but very large evergreen conifers. The golden deodar cedar has branches tinged with gold, while the blue Atlas cedar have the same bluish cast as the Colorado blue spruce. Cedar cones tend to be very small, but the tree itself can get quite large. They can easily spread out to 40 feet across at the base at maturity. This can be a problem for gardeners who don’t realize their mature size and plant them right up against their house. There are also weeping versions of blue cedar, which are smaller in height but really spread out to make a great specimen plant as well as living screen.

So, do your homework and select just that perfect tree for next year’s garden as well as your craft projects.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Portuguese Kale Soup

By Barbara Beltrami

Oh, come on! You must have known it was only a matter of time before I, your friendly local recipe writer, zeroed in on that magic new gastronomic and health phenomenon, that newly popular, recently discovered among health-conscious Americans veggie … kale!

Basically a kind of cabbage that doesn’t form a head but produces lots of leaves, some variety of kale is a staple of many European, Asian and African diets. Rich in vitamins, especially vitamin K, which has been found to help blood clotting, this dark green (or sometimes other color) veggie can now be found on supermarket shelves as well as restaurant menus.

Kale is not new to me, however. My mother, who had a knack for finding and cooking what were many decades ago obscure vegetables, made kale regularly. That is, she boiled it. Period. So it wasn’t one of my favorites.

Fast forward several decades and cookbooks, websites and home making magazines are rife with recipes for kale paired with every conceivable as well as some very inconceivable ingredients. Because it is a little bitter and tough by itself, it is best prepared by removing its stems and pairing it with flavors that complement it.

With apologies to my mother, I offer you kale salad,  Portuguese kale soup and kale chips.

Kale, Orange, Avocado and Pignoli Salad

The rough texture of the kale, the tanginess of the orange, the creaminess of the avocado and crunchiness of the pignoli nuts converge on the palate for an interesting taste sensation.

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One 12-ounce bag baby kale, washed, dried and de-stemmed

One large navel orange, peeled and diced

One avocado, peeled and sliced

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons orange juice

1½ tablespoons wine vinegar

One tablespoon honey

One garlic clove

One teaspoon dried tarragon or one tablespoon fresh, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup toasted pignoli nuts

DIRECTIONS: Crush the kale leaves with your hands so that they wilt a little. Place in a large bowl and toss with orange and avocado. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, orange juice, wine vinegar, honey, garlic and tarragon. Remove and discard garlic. Gently toss liquid mixture with kale mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle pignoli nuts on top and serve immediately. Serve with crusty bread and a hard cheese or with any fish, chicken or meat dish.

Portuguese Kale Soup

Hearty as can be, this national comfort food of Portugal has many interpretations by Portuguese immigrants in America, and each one is better than the next. This recipe borrows ingredients from various versions that elaborate upon the basic “caldo verde,” which is potatoes and kale.

Portuguese Kale Soup

YIELD: 6 to 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces linguica or chorizo sausage, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

One large onion, peeled and diced

4 garlic cloves, sliced very thin

One pound kale, washed, de-stemmed and torn into pieces

2 quarts chicken broth

2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and diced

One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

One 28-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Handful fresh flat leaf parsley, rinsed, de-stemmed and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS: In a large pot over medium heat, brown the sausage slices. Add the olive oil and onion; stir over medium heat until onion is soft and slightly opaque. Add garlic, kale, broth and potatoes. Lower heat slightly and continue to cook until kale is wilted, then add remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add water or more broth, if needed. Serve hot or refrigerate until used. Pair with Portuguese bread and olive oil.

Kale Chips

Amazingly easy and surprisingly delicious, these munchies are an excellent way to get kids to eat their veggies. In fact, I know of a certain little boy who became a convert from Pringles and Cheetos to kale chips!

YIELD: 2 to 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

One pound kale, washed, dried and de-stemmed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Toss kale with oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes until crispy. Serve with yogurt dip or hummus.

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