IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  February 1, 2012

Polish pre-Lenten punchki donuts for any holiday

A traditional pre-Lenten Polish "donut" is puffy, tasty and made with ingredients that are not the usual stuff of donuts. Though the punchki (also named paczki or pounchki) is called a donut, it has no hole.

At fine bakeries across the country, foodies of all extractions wait their turn in long lines to buy their punchkis. While many bakeries offer them for a week, others have them only on Fat Tuesday or Ash Wednesday.

Polish grandmothers often guarded their recipes and wouldn't share, but Lorraine Grochowska-Kiefer surveyed reliable sources and thinks this one is the best (they can also be filled with jelly). She posted it on culture.polishsite.us/articles.

Punchki: Little Pillow Polish Donuts

1 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup warm potato water
2 packs dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks plus 1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
6-7 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon rum (or more)
3/4 cup powder sugar.

Potatoes can be microwaved and put in a blender. Scald milk, stir in butter, sugar and potatoes. Add flavorings.

Sprinkle yeast over 1/2 cup lukewarm potato water. Stir. Mix together with beaten eggs. Gradually stir in the flour mixture to make a soft dough. Knead. Let rise until double in a buttered bowl for 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down and roll out on a floured board to 1/2 inch thick or less.

Cut circles with a glass and place them on waxed paper. Let them rise about 30 minutes. Fry or refrigerate and let them come to room temperature the next morning before frying for breakfast.

Fry in a heavy pan, adding 1 teaspoon water to cold vegetable oil. Turn only once. Drain on absorbent paper and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

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How to avoid 'tourist feet'

1. Wear comfortable shoes.

2. Avoid being on your feet all day. You don't have to see all the museums in one excursion.

3. Don't believe the maps. They make you think you can walk from one attraction to another. Looks are deceiving.

4. Sign up for a tour. You will be driven from one fascinating place to another. That saves time and feet.

5. Take interesting and frequent rest breaks. Eat your hot dog in the park.


Chuckles Corner

Know the risks for heart disease

The leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States is cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke. They kill an estimated 630,000 Americans each year.

Heart disease can be prevented. American Heart Month is a good time to decide what you can do to achieve a heart-healthy life.

The most common type of heart problem is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack. You can reduce your risk through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication, such as a statin.

The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women campaign urges citizens to spread the message that heart disease is not only a man's problem. More women die of cardiovascular disease than from the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. Women once believed breast cancer was their greatest health risk; new data show that while one in 30 women die of breast cancer, one in three women die of heart disease.

Eighty percent of all cardiac events can be prevented if people made the right choices for their hearts. The advice for both men and women is the same:

Watch your weight.
Quit smoking.
Control cholesterol
Control blood pressure.
Drink alcohol in moderation.
Get active and eat healthy.
Manage stress.


Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a major cause of long-term disability.

Stroke and TIA (transient ischemic attack) happen when a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or bursts. The signs of a TIA are like a stroke, but usually last only a few minutes.

Numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body.
Confusion, or trouble speaking.
Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
Trouble walking or loss of balance.
Severe headache with no known cause.

Don't wait more than five minutes before calling 911 for help if you experience any of these signs.

This month, we can rededicate ourselves to reducing the burden of heart disease by taking steps to improve our own heart health and encouraging our families to do the same.

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It affects 2 percent of the population, but most people don't know what it is.

Doctors aren't sure about what causes fibromyalgia (FM), but they do know it's a rheumatic syndrome that can cause widespread pain in muscles, tendons and connective tissues.

Tender points include the neck, shoulders, chest, lower back, hips, shins, elbows and knees. Pain can spread out from these points. It can be minor at times, or it can be serious.

Or pain might not be present at all. This chronic condition may come and go for years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 2 percent of the U.S. population has FM. More women than men have it, and it's most likely to begin at mid life. It's the third most prevalent rheumatic disorder in the United States and can occur along with other rheumatic conditions.

Treatment includes over-the-counter and prescription medications. Workers are still able to do their jobs.

Self-care and a healthy lifestyle are essential in preventing flare-ups: Reduce stress, avoid overexertion, exercise regularly (tai chi and yoga are helpful), get enough sleep and eat wholesome foods.

Massage therapy can relax muscles, improve range of motion and relieve stress and anxiety.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say if you have FM, besides handling pain, you will need to deal with the frustration of having a condition that's often misunderstood. In addition to educating yourself about fibromyalgia, it's helpful to provide your friends and co-workers with information.

It's also helpful to know you're not alone. Organizations such as the National Fibromyalgia Association and the American Chronic Pain Association will put you in contact with people who have had similar experiences.

Recently, the Mayo Clinic provided information on polymyalgia rheumatica, which is similar to fibromyalgia. Both are part of a collection of disorders known as rheumatic diseases.


New program to prevent one million heart attacks

Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years. Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Million Hearts brings together health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight this serious health problem. The program focuses on two goals:

  • Empowering Americans to make healthy choices such as preventing tobacco use and reducing sodium and trans fat consumption. This goal can reduce the number of people who need medical treatment for high blood pressure or cholesterol through medications designed to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
  • Improving care for people who need treatment by encouraging a focus on the "ABC'S:"

    Aspirin for people at risk, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management and Smoking cessation, all of which address the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and strokes.

    The program stresses individual responsibility or making healthy lifestyle choices such as increasing physical activity and eating a healthy diet.


    New emergency service clinics save money, take stress off hospital ers

    Between 1990 and 2009, the increase in patients visiting hospital emergency rooms was 43 percent. At the same time, the number of hospital emergency rooms decreased by 27 percent.

  • Retail medical clinics have taken some pressure off ERs by offering such services as treating colds and strep throat, rash and skin problems, general physical exams and vaccinations. They are often staffed by a nurse practitioner. The typical copay is $10 to $30.
  • At most clinics, patients can call for an appointment. All clinics take walk-in patients.
  • Some hospital systems are taking the clinic plan one step farther.
  • Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolinas HealthCare System, for example, has 21 hospital emergency departments, four free-standing ERs, and 19 urgent care clinics.
  • An urgent-care clinic performs all the tasks of a retail clinic, plus treatment of cuts, sprains and fractures, and they also give blood tests and X-rays. They are staffed by physicians, nurses, and medical technicians. The typical copay is $33 to $50.
  • Free-standing ERs perform all of the functions of the retail clinic and the urgent-care clinic, plus they can stabilize and transfer heart attack victims and treat fevers and broken bones. The typical copay is $125.

    If you are having a serious emergency, staff members from the American College of Emergency Physicians say you should always go to the hospital ER.


    Cholesterol testing recommended for children

    The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute now recommends that children ages 9 and 11 should have their first cholesterol check. The test should be repeated between ages 17 and 21

    The recommendations come as growing biological evidence shows conditions that result in heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases begin in childhood, though they might not be evident until middle age.

    Because one in three children are considered to be overweight, and 17 percent are obese, knowing a child's cholesterol level will be helpful for the child's doctor. The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the recommendations.

    In most cases, high cholesterol is addressed with improving diets and increasing daily exercise. Less than 1 percent of children diagnosed with high cholesterol would take a statin.

    Malaria vaccine breakthrough

    The first ever malaria vaccine is in its second testing phase. The first testing was on 15,460 children. It was found to be 50 percent effective in children 5 to 17 months old. Results of tests in children 6 to 12 weeks old will be released later this year.

    The project was developed among GlaxoSmithKline, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose chair, Bill Gates, announced the results. He says the results represent a huge milestone.

    Malaria is one of the most devastating diseases in the world, causing 225 million cases per year and more than 780,000 deaths. Most deaths are among African children, according to the World Health Organization.

    Vaccine developers say it will be available in Africa by 2015, though not in the U.S. At its present level of effectiveness, the vaccine will save millions of children over time, but researchers plan to make it even more effective.