Saturday, January 15, 2011

Show Notes: Somebody's Buttermilk Biscuits

Luzetta Davis made these biscuits in a wood-burning stove, sitting atop teetering planks just over the drafty frozen ground of a one-room house in northern Kentucky.

She had 7 children to tend and feed, and a husband who was a part time bricklayer – when he wasn’t drinking, shooting his shotgun at his wife and kids, or stuffing the mattress and my mom’s shoes into the fireplace for heat. 

You think I’m kidding.

Luzetta was my grandmother. I didn’t know her well while she was alive, but I love to hear the stories her kids tell of their life that seems to me a bit on the edge. It’s funny too, that they didn’t think it was all that unusual. It was just the way things were. My mom, for example, was born on Veterans Day on a bed with snow (still) on it because the roof (still) wasn’t patched. But what everyone did agree on was that the food was good, especially the biscuits.

And nobody cooked from recipe books. My mom learned to make these biscuits at 13 years old from her mom, and her mom got them from her mom. I don’t know how far this recipe trails into our Kentucky heritage because the scent of our ancestors gets lost in the woods. That’s why I call them “Somebody’s Buttermilk Biscuits” because it was told and told but never written down, so we don’t know who to credit beyond Luzetta. You can try this on a snowy November morning when you’re far too close to the frigid elements, but they’ll taste just as good coming out of your fancy Amana oven.

You’ll Need
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 pinch baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon oil
1¼ cups buttermilk
About 2 tablespoons butter

In a large mixing bowl
Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder). Then mix in the wet ingredients (olive oil, buttermilk) into the dry ingredients. You can either stir these around with a wooden spoon, in a food processor, or just put your hands in there until the dough is nice and smooth. If your hands get a bit sticky from the wet dough, just dust a bit of flour on them.

On a cutting board
Sprinkle with flour and lay the dough on it. Kneed this a few times to increase the fluffiness you can expect from the biscuits when they come out of the oven. As the dough incorporates the flour on the board, make sure it takes on just enough to be soft and barely NOT sticky.

Form the dough into a round that’s about ½-inch-thick. Use the open end of a small glass to cut the biscuits. My mom used a small cleaned out tin can, in which one end was completely open and the other end had holes cut into it. This way air wouldn’t poof flour out of the sides when it was pressed onto the biscuits. If you’re not all that poof-sensitive, just use the glass.

Dab your cutter in the flour periodically or it’ll get sticky from the wetter flour on the inside of the dough. The biscuit cutouts you make don’t have to be perfectly round, and you can mold it into any shape you want (it’s only flour). Put them in a 9-inch baking pan or large iron skillet, and snug each biscuit in there, one next to the other. Once everyone’s sardined in, cut a sliver of butter to place over the top of each.

Bake at 475°F for 14ish minutes. When you smell them and the tops are golden take them out and enjoy.

Play With Your Food!
Remember that these biscuits go with everything – the culinary equivalent of a universal blood type. Butter is an obvious first choice, followed closely by milk gravy, sausage gravy and, hail, even tomato gravy!  But the one we’re hooked on now is a mixture of butter and molasses – just dollop a good pat of butter onto a plate and sludge on a bit of that rich black yummy gooze. Don’t worry about measuring, this is something you have to play with to get the proportions right. Practice, practice, practice.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Show Notes: Do We Eat Too Much Meat?

I am responding to an article (link below), written by Neil Barnard, who is the founder and President of the Physician's Committee For Responsible Medicine. 

This is the organization that tried to use Dr Robert Atkins' death as an opportunity to push their agenda regarding the consumption of meat. They put out a press release calling him obese at the time of his death (He took on fluid after his tragic fall on the ice outside of his home. PCRM knew that. They were just being opportunistic, and I have zero respect for that.). 

In any case, this article written by Dr Barnard doesn't really say much, although it asks a provocative question? "Do we eat too much meat?"

The implication is that, if we are eating too much meat, we need to stop. Dr Barnard, for example, advocates eating a Vegan diet with NO meat or even eggs. Zero. If we are eating too much meat, we need to stop!

But couldn't we re-phrase his question, though? 
Couldn't we just as easily ask, "Are we eating too much food?" If we are eating too much food, the right solution is NOT to give up all food -- why, that would be crazy, right? The logical answer would be to pull back and have it, but just have less. 

Regarding meat, are we eating too much? 
Probably. But we're also eating too many potatoes and corn dogs and deep fried Oreos. If we ate less meat, we would be healthier, and then meat would not be the Dietary Darth Vader that Barnard and the Physicians Committee for "Responsible" Medicine make it out to be. 

A Curious Omission
In fact, fish happens to be just as much of a meat as a cow or pig or sheep. And the consumption of fish is associated with improved heart health. However, that distinction is not found anywhere with Dr Barnard because it doesn't conform to the Vegan talking points. Nor will you hear him say anything about high egg consumption in Japan (of the heart healthiest of countries!), because it strays from the narrative. 

Look. The truth is always in the middle. If you want to eat meat, do it, but lean on fish and chicken. Stay away from hormone-laced animal products, and for those with preservatives in them (nitrates in preserved meats like bologna, salami, etc.), you should have them sparingly. If you want to be vegan, do that ... just don't be militant about it. 

Neal Barnard, M.D.: Do We Eat Too Much Meat?

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Special Report: How Did Giffords Survive The Brain Injury

The tragedy in Tucson Arizona over the weekend has shocked our nation. Our thoughts and prayers go our to Congresswoman Giffords and her family. It seems like a complete miracle that she survived at all, given that this warped individual shot her through the head at point blank range.

How can it be that she could survive at all?

I believe it comes down to the fact that there is a remarkable amount of redundancy in your brain. In other words, many areas of your brain multi-task in many ways. Functions like speaking, reading, walking, or eating don't happen in a single area.

It's not like a computer, with computer chips that perform specific functions. The functions of the brain are distributed over many regions, and even single brain cells can perform many different types of tasks in different situations.

This is key, because it means that if you lose one area of your brain, the other "backup" regions can take over.

In the case of the horrific shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, her chance of improving is increased by the fact that the bullet did not cross brain hemispheres, and did not slice open any major cerebral arteries. Even better news is that she seems to be responsive, and able to respond to "commands".

Even with the redundancy and "parallel processing" capability of the brain, I think we all expect there to be some functions that are compromised, given the extent of the insult. That said, I hope and pray the miracle of her recovery will continue throughout a long and productive life.

Mental Health, Jane Goodall, and Perspective On Tragedy

This is the portrait of a disordered mind. And now there are photos. 

According to this article in the New York Times: The photos in question were turned over to the police by Walgreens, where Mr. Loughner had taken them to be developed. 

In some of the photos he is holding the gun near his crotch, and in others, presumably shot in a mirror, he is holding the gun next to his buttocks, the police said.

When does mental health tip over from, "Boy, you so crazy!!" to "Man, you are seriously messed up!!"

How can we recognize the mental derangement that can lead to these outbursts? How can we stop them? And how do we as a people make sense of the heinous actions?

Why this is so hard
Part of our struggle to understand and make sense of this tragedy is the fact that mental health is a mystery to us. Some behaviors can seem crazy but aren't, and some people who are completely insane may not display any outward appearance of their insanity. 

Plus, it's not like we have some answer to the problem. We can't just say, well, if we did x, y, or z; if we all breast fed our babies or sent kids to Kum Bay Yah camp then pathological psychosis would not arise. 

But none of that would solve the problem, because the inherent variability in humanity, in the genetic expression of the human animal is absolute. You can't run from that, you can't hide from it, and it will never not be there. We will always have some who are exceptional in a good way, most that are average, and some who are exceptional in a bad way. 

When Jane Goodall observed chimps, she saw the same occasional pathology, in which a mother chimp systematically sought out and murdered the children of the group. Just as she observed in these primates, this pathology is a statistical inevitability of our biology. 

Listen. There is no cure. There is only treatment. Treatment for the rouge behavior pattern (if you can catch it beforehand), and treatment for the rest of us after a tragedy like this happens. 

What I Want You To Remember
It's important to remember that this kind of event is the vast exception to the rule. There are 10,000 acts of kindness and decency and love that happen every second of every day. You don't see it because there's so much goodness in the world that it doesn't stand out from the background. In fact, the very fact that you never hear CNN reporting on one person returning a lost wallet, or driving with courtesy, or giving a complete stranger in the grocery line in front of you two dollars because their purchase wasn't large enough to use their credit card and they didn't have any cash on them (this happened to me, actually). 

You never see that. But it's there, and this is the perspective that we must remember. We are by and large a good people, decent and well intentioned. That our steady stream of civility is gashed open by the gunshot of inevitable insanity is less an indictment of our world than a call to remember what is important, and rededicate ourselves of common purpose. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Friday, January 14, 2011

China, Milk, and Melamine

Chinese products have gotten a bad reputation. It seems like every time you turn around there is some new issue about products that are sourced from China: everything from our toys, to our milk, to our baby food.
Americans fuss and fume over the possibility that some independent agency needs to safeguard our food supply. But in China, it seems like we have a petri dish in which the lack of any adult supervision produces products that end up killing people. 
And, yes, individuals responsible are jailed or even executed on the back end ... but that does nothing for the families who were hurt by the unsafe products on the front end!  

As early as last July, samples of milk powder found in northwest China's Gansu and Qinghai provinces had levels of melamine up to 500 times the permitted limit, underscoring the lax enforcement of food safety in the country.
Melamine is the same chemical that killed several babies in a milk powder scandal in 2008.

Thirty-eight people were awaiting trial, the report said, adding that Chinese authorities have seized 2,132 tons of melamine-tainted milk powder. "They were found to have used melamine-tainted milk powder as raw material to produce dairy products or sell such dairy products," Xinhua cited the commission as saying. The latest crackdown identified "loopholes in the quality control system of dairy products", Xinhua said, citing the statement.

The exposure of tainted milk products in poor and remote parts of China's northwest has underscored the persistence of food safety problems that have alarmed consumers and sparked criminal scandals that led to executions and official sackings.

A total of 191 officials were punished, with 26 fired, Xinhua said.

In 2008, at least six children died and nearly 300,000 children fell ill from drinking powdered milk laced with melamine, an industrial compound added to fool inspectors by giving misleadingly high results in protein tests.

China executed two people in November 2009 for their role in the scandal, but has also kept a tight lid on public discontent over the case, jailing a man who organized a website for parents of children who became ill.

Melamine can cause kidney stones, and is used to make plastics, fertilizers and concrete. Its high nitrogen content allows protein levels to appear higher when added to milk or animal feed, allowing traders to disguise substandard products.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Need A Solution For Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Get The Runs!

I love this result.

For those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there is a non-drug solution ... it's called running/walking.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS or spastic colon) is a pain in the ... you know where. In fact, it can include intense stomach pain, bloating, and either too much movement (diarrhea) or too little (constipation). 
There is no cure, but there are things that can alleviate your symptoms or prevent it from happening in the first place. That's where this study result comes in. 

Here's what they did
Researchers had told participants of this study to get 20 to 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise -- like brisk walking or biking -- on three to five days out of the week.

102 adults with the disorder found that those who were told to get more exercise had better odds of seeing improvements in problems like cramps, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Even better, after three months, a full 43 percent of the exercisers showed a "clinically significant" improvement in their symptoms -- meaning it was making a difference in their daily lives. That compared with a quarter of the participants who maintained their normal lifestyle. This even helps when you add moderate increases in exercise: it can help curb irritable bowel symptoms, according to senior researcher Dr. Riadh Sadik, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
So go move!! It helps everything from your heart to your mind to your guts!! 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buyer Beware: 13 "Health Foods" That Just Aren't

This is a great article that lists 13 "Health Foods" that just aren't (the link is below). 

Face it ... everything looks good on the shelf, so how are YOU supposed to know what is really a food that's good for you and what is not. 

What to watch for: 

  1. First of all, don't believe the ads. And the front of the box is not a description ... it's an ad.
  2. Flip the product over and look at the ingredients list on the back -- sometimes its written in micro-fiche.
  3. Check the additive sugars and salt content. If they're adding salt and sugar, put it back. 
  4. Look for unpronounceable ingredients. These are typically synthetics that have no business in your body. 

I know, I know, it shouldn't be this hard, but welcome to our Culture of Health. That said, once you identify the brand names that are "clean", you don't have to search and search any more. You go straight to that brand. 

Check out this article and let me know your thoughts. 

The Sweet Beet: 13 "Health Foods" That Aren't

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Got Statins? If So, You May Up Your Risk of a Brain Bleed by 50%

Don't get me wrong, there are mixed data out there. 

For example, we're told that Statins reduce your risk of stroke and that there's scientific research behind that assertion, and the barrage of advertisements you watch on TV, hear on the radio, and see in print. 

But now, another study shows that these same "stroke-preventing" meds increase the risks of a second stroke in some patients, far outweighing any other heart benefits from the drugs.

"Our analysis indicates that in settings of high recurrent intracerebral hemorrhage risk, avoiding statin therapy may be preferred," Dr. Brandon Westover of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Neurology.

Increase the Risk by 50%
Here are the numbers. This doctor said patients who've already had one stroke have a 22 percent risk of a second stroke when they take statins, compared with a 14 percent risk in people who are not taking a statin. 

The researchers have no idea how statins increase the risk that these patients will have a bleeder in their brains. All they know is that it happens.  

Don't Expect Statins To Go Away
Statins are the biggest cash cow on earth (literally) for drug makers: Pfizer's Lipitor or atorvastatin has global sales of $11 billion a year while AstraZeneca's Crestor has global sales of more than $5 billion. 

Statins may raise stroke risk in some: study | Reuters

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Recording of Saturday's Radio Program

For those of you who were unable to make the Saturday radio program, I am going to post it here:

Autism Fraud Revealed

How Science Can Undermine Our Culture of Health

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Does a Doctor's Religious Beliefs Impact Patient Care?

According to the doctors themselves, the answer is, "more likely than not."

(please share this with anyone of faith)
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Check out these survey results, given to 2,000 docs in the United States about physician attitudes and beliefs:
  • 55 percent believe that their religious beliefs influence their practice of medicine.
  • 76 percent believe in God as opposed to 83 percent of the general population (not a significant difference)
  • 59 percent believe in life after death
  • 58 percent state they carry their religious beliefs in all dealings of their life
  • They attend religious services as frequently as non-physicians

We are taught that doctors are empirical, making decisions about our health based on "nothing but the facts, ma'am." We think about them as if they were mechanics, just for our bodies. 

But doctors are people and their biases can show through. This article (link below) is, admittedly, a bit inane in that it really doesn't answer the question it raises -- other than to show the interesting statistics above.  

So, here's my take. Of course doctors have as many biases as everyone else. That said, the chances that it impacts the care they provide is probably small. That's not to say that it doesn't happen -- of course it does. So for me and you and my mom, we need to know that if we're going to a doc that COULD have a sensitivity around gender, race, or religion, then we need to get a second opinion. 

Richard C. Senelick, M.D.: Does a Physician's Religious Beliefs Impact Patient Care?

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

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