IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  December 1, 2011

Quick and easy baked French onion soup

A featured dish at fine restaurants, French onion soup in its various forms can be found in neighborhood eateries and in private homes.

If you love French onion soup, but not all the work it takes to make it, this recipe will please you and your family.

The onion has been revered by chefs for its aroma and sweet to hot taste. The onion family ranges from the mild leek to sweet Texas and Vidalias and to the more-fiery reds and Spanish varieties.

The word onion is derived from the Latin word unio, meaning large pearl. Over centuries, the word morphed into “onyon” and later to onion.

As far back at 3200 BC, Egyptians cultivated onions and believed that their concentric patterns represented eternal life. During the Middle Ages, onions were a valuable commodity in Europe.

Explorers in the New World found Native Americans had their own variety, “Chicago,” from which the name of Illinois’ largest city was derived.

Baked French Onion Soup

2 cans of Campbell’s Select Harvest caramelized French onion soup
2 packages garlic and cheddar croutons
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Pernod or Herbisant liqueurs (licorice flavored)

Divide the cans of soup into four portions, half filling four large oven-proof baking bowls. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the Pernod or Herbisant to each dish of soup and stir.

Float 5-6 of the croutons on the top of the soup. Layer 1/2 cup of shredded cheese over the croutons.

In a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees, bake the soup until the cheese has melted and is browning around the edges of the dish.

Other cheeses, either shredded or sliced, may be substituted if desired.
Baked onion soup, accompanied by a salad, can make an entire meal or just be offered as the soup course for a banquet.

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Assembly-line plastic surgery

Many of what have been called "fast-food" surgery clinics are appearing in the United States. In previous times, cosmetic procedures included lengthy consultations with a plastic surgeon, trips to a hospital and follow-up visits.

At new and highly-profitable clinics, patients meet with a salesperson who tells them what work they "need," how little it will cost to do it, and then pressures them to accept a treatment package.

People can pick from a wide menu of options, but the physician who meets with them is usually not the one who does the procedures.

Results are sometimes far from what the patient wanted, costing a great deal of money and pain to correct, most of which is not covered by insurance. One clinic founder states frankly that there are no guarantees in plastic surgery.

People who really need a procedure should see a board certified plastic surgeon in his office, one who will be doing the work and following up with them in future visits.

Holiday dinner know-how

It's a season full of cookies, candies and fancy dishes at Christmas dinner. Here's how to get through the appetizers and the buffet line without gaining a pound or two that could stay with you forever.

The plan begins at home. Eat breakfast and another meal if the dinner is late in the day. Being famished when you arrive makes overeating a near certainty.

  • If appetizers are served before dinner, look for the fruit and protein offerings. Avoid the high-calorie stuff.
  • At a buffet-style dinner, check the foods before getting in line. If there are 10 foods and you only really like three or four, decide to pick only your favorites.
  • The same idea works for a sit-down dinner. Just because a food is passed to you, it doesn't mean you have to put it on your plate.
  • Holiday desserts can be wonderful. It's OK to take a small serving of more than one, just keep them small.

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    Chuckles Corner

  • Eating soluble fiber helps to reduce VAT

    Commonly called belly fat, visceral abdominal tissue (VAT), is the type of fat that becomes packed around vital internal organs.

    Excess visceral fat is also called central obesity, but you don't have to be generally obese to have it. With the exception of their "belly," some people with VAT don't look very fat at all.

    Central obesity is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

    Scientists say there is a way to reduce to VAT. Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., show that moderate activity coupled with a 10-gram-per-day increase in soluble fiber results in a 7.4 percent decrease in VAT over five years.

    While that sounds like slow progress, it's certainly better than letting VAT build up along with its health risks.

    Increasing fiber is easy to do, just eat more fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans. The 10-gram increase can be achieved by eating two small apples or one cup of green peas and a half cup of pinto beans.

    Moderate activity is important to everyone but especially to those who want to decrease belly fat. Moderate activity is defined as exercising for 30 minutes two to four tines a week.

    Study leaders say a few simple changes can have a big health impact.
    Note that VAT is different from SAT, the subcutaneous fat located underneath the skin, which is much less harmful.

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    Optimists have a lower stroke risk

    An American Heart Association study gauged adults over 50 on a 16-point optimism scale. They found that every point increase correlated with a nine percent decrease in stroke risk.

    The association thinks optimistic people may make healthier decisions, such as eating well, exercising and taking vitamins.

    Another explanation could be that positive thinking protects the brain from stress-related chemicals that can cause anxiety or depression.

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    December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving prevention month

    When you think about your health, drunk driving is normally not part of the concern for your body and its ability to function.

    But your plans for a healthy life should include more than taking your blood pressure and following your doctor's instructions. The effects of an accident caused by impaired driving could end your life, shorten your life span or determine whether you will live free from pain and disability for years to come.

    If any disease could have such devastating effects, you would do everything you could to avoid it.

    December is 3-D prevention month. It was chosen because there are many opportunities to drink alcoholic beverages at dinners and parties in December, not even to mention the temptation to take a few puffs from someone's marijuana cigarette if it's offered to you.

    Nearly 600,000 Americans are injured in alcohol-related traffic accidents every year. Someone dies in such a crash every 30 minutes. The toll is probably higher in December.

    People don't usually plan to get drunk, but a party with friends where liquor is being served can sometimes make you forget how many drinks you've had.

    Don't let it "just happen." Here are a few ways to avoid it.

  • Go to a First Night celebration instead. They are booze-free and fun.
  • Remember that family gatherings are not harmless. Many an uncle, brother or dad has been killed while driving home. Sometimes their passengers die with them.
  • Keep count. One or two drinks over an evening may be OK, but drink something else after that.
  • Mix your own. An overly-generous host could pour twice as much booze into a drink if he's not measuring.
  • Protect your friends and family members. If they drink a lot, take their keys.

    Give them a ride home or call a cab.

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    Las Posadas becomes a tradition in U.S.

    For many families in Mexico, Las Posadas has always been part of the celebration of La Navidad, the birth of Christ.

    As some of these families moved north to various parts of the United States, they took their tradition with them.

    Las Posadas originated in the 16th century with St. Ignatius Loyola.
    What started as a novena, nine days of prayer, later moved from the church to the community and was celebrated in people's homes.

    The procession is a reenactment of Joseph and Mary's difficult journey and their search for lodging before the Christ child was born. They went from one house or farm to another asking for shelter.

    The procession is led by children, followed by adults and musicians. When they enter a house, they begin the evening with prayer, then the evening moves on to music, fireworks, food, candy and treats for all.

    The children and adults look forward to the celebration as their processions lead them to a different home each night of Las Posadas.

    From December 16 to 24, there are elegant preparations in homes, religious activities and Posada events that today are both traditional and modern.

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  • Take a break and ... Work out at your desk

    Want to get relaxed, stronger, and take a break at the same time? Exercise experts quoted in Bloomberg Businessweek say this is how to do it without ever leaving your desk:

    For ABS and QUADS:

    Sit half way forward on your chair reach out with palms down. Bend and touch the floor, then sit up.

    Sit back in your chair and hold onto the sides of the seat with both hands. Lift both legs, cross one over the other. Switch and repeat.

    For LATS and SHOULDERS:

    Lean over your desk and extend one arm out to the edge, palm up. Keep your chest down and lift your arm slowly as high as you can. Repeat with the other arm.

    For OBLIQUES and LOWER BACK:

    Sit on the edge of your chair, hands by your sides. With waist straight, lift one arm toward the ceiling and extend the other toward the floor. Repeat with the other arm.

    For QUADS and GLUTES:

    Move your chair to the side. With hands on the desk, heels together with toes pointed out, bend knees, then straighten up and kick one leg over to the seat of the chair. Move your leg down and kick it back up several times. Then move the chair to the other side, bend, then do the same with the other leg.

    Repeat all of the exercises two, three or more times.

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    A hormone for schizophrenia, autism, social disorders

    Research suggests that inhaling puffs of oxytocin through the nose may relieve some symptoms of schizophrenia, autism and social anxiety. A naturally occurring hormone in men and women, it works by helping neurons in the brain talk to each other.

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, oxytocin represents a whole new class of pharmaceuticals. It helps patients build trust. Those with schizophrenia improve functioning and have fewer paranoid thoughts.

    In autism, patients using oxytocin are more able to recognize other people's emotions. They trust people more and behave more appropriately.

    Patients with social anxiety build a better self-image.

    Have adequate vitamin d before bone surgery

    Your body needs vitamin D to form bone tissue, but one study shows that almost half of patients had insufficient vitamin D prior to orthopedic surgery, including hip and knee replacements and fracture repair.

    Study results were published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. Deficiencies can often be corrected in four to six weeks with supplements.

    Disease test for organ donors

    New CDC guidelines recommend that organ donors be screened with the most sensitive test for infections including HIV and hepatitis C and B viruses. The guidelines were recommended in September 2011.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants the nucleic-acid test (NAT) to be used. It detects an infection acquired seven days before testing. The present test measures antibodies that may take months to appear.

    Disease transmission through transplants is relatively rare, but from 2007 to 2010, 200 cases were investigated. Some led to deaths of transplant recipients.

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    Stick with the recommendations on salt reduction

    You might have read about the Cochrane Review, where study authors say salt reduction has few or no benefits.

    It's not so, says the American Heart Association, and the widely publicized Cochrane Review is now discredited.

    The AHA is sticking to its advice that salt intake should be kept at 1,500 milligrams per day or less. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, their conclusions are based on studies of more than 12,000 adults. They show that each 1,000 milligram daily increase in salt intake was linked to a 20 percent greater increase of all-cause mortality.

    The CDC study spotlighted the importance of potassium as a counterweight to sodium. They recommend increased potassium and less salt.

    Foods that include high levels of potassium include sweet potatoes, tomato products, potatoes, white beans, yogurt, halibut, soybeans, tuna, lima beans, winter squash, bananas and spinach. The CDC also recommends cutting back on processed foods, which are a leading source of dietary sodium.

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    Frank Capra Story: It's A Wonderful Life

    Some years ago actor Jimmy Stewart told of the story behind the now-famous Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life. The director, Frank Capra, was the son of Italian immigrants. Neither of his parents could read or write.

    Young Frank took jobs before and after school but still got grades good enough to get into California Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1918 and enlisted in the

    Army where he taught mathematics to artillery officers in San Francisco.

    The end of the war found him with a bad case of influenza and no job. He took his guitar and hopped a freight train to see the country, singing for his supper. Then he saw an ad asking for an experienced movie director. Saying he was "from Hollywood," Frank got the job and later made dozens of successful films. Most reflected two of his strongest beliefs: "Love thy neighbor" and "The meek shall inherit the earth."

    He enlisted in the Army again in 1941 and was asked to make documentary films. His Why We Fight series was so good that he was given the Distinguished Service Medal.

    After the war, Capra was handed a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern. It was, he said, "the story I've been looking for my whole life."

    It's about George Bailey, a businessman living in a small town. Things weren't going well. In addition, he lost a large amount of money. He decided to end it all by jumping off a bridge.

    An angel named Clarence comes down from heaven to save him, but he can't swim. So the despondent George ends up saving himself, and the angel. In the end, George's friends replace the missing money.

    Capra wanted it to be a film that says to those who can't afford an education, or lose their job, or take radiation treatments, "No man is poor who has one friend. Three friends and you're filthy rich!"

    But the film didn't do well at first, which meant the end of Liberty Films, Capra's company. But Capra lived to see the film begin to play on television each year at Christmas.

    It has inspired many, especially the scene in which the angel tells George, "Strange isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

    As Jimmy Stewart said: "It's a message that is needed in an impersonal world. We do count, each one of us.

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