Month: February 2019

Will CBD oil help you?

Will CBD oil help you?

CBD oil is the abbreviated name for cannabadiol, an extract of one of several cannabinoids found both in marijuana plants (cannabis sativa) and in hemp. CBD oil is not psychoactive and won’t get you “high,” but if extracted from marijuana plants, there may be trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active component in marijuana in the extract. Usually, “CBD oil” is made by extracting CBD and then dissolving it in neutral carrier like coconut or hemp seed oil.

It is a popular “natural” remedy, and has been suggested as treatment as a pain reliever, treatment for depression, cancer-related symptoms, acne, neurological disorders, heart health, substance abuse and diabetes protection.

However, there are just about zero studies of CBD oil’s actual effectiveness in the published medical literature. This extensive review of CBD oil and marijuana by David Gorski in Science Based Medicine explains that CBD oil has only been found to be helpful and is approved for treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy. There are no other documented benefits.  Wilkerson and McMahon discuss how CBD oil seems to work in this one case

One problem is, the CBD oil is not a consistent mixture. Depending on how it is extracted, its concentration will vary, as will the number of associated impurities, which may include traces of THC. So possible benefits (if any) are not going to be consistent. Essentially this is herbalism, treatment with herbs where the exact concentration of possibly beneficial components are unknown.

The summary in WebMD says that other than as treatment for some forms of epilepsy, the benefits are “largely unproven.” And Christie Aschwanden’s article in fivethrityeight.com says much the same thing.

An interesting article by Richard Freedman, MD was published in the NY Times last December in which described CBD-based candies as a “fruit flavored placebo.” But more to the point, he cites a 2017 study in JAMA that only 26 out of 84 samples of CBD oils, tinctures and liquids contained the amount of CDB claimed on the labels. Eighteen of them contained THC, which could lead to impairment or intoxication and a quarter contained less CBD then specified. The FDA has also issued warning letters to producers whose products  did not contain the amount specified.

In 2017, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine published a review of some 10,000 studies on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. The review is over 400 pages, but here is the summary chapter. They found only a few small, randomized trials of CBD and concluded that there was insufficient evident that CBD was effective in treating insomnia, Parkinson’s, and smoking addiction, and only limited evidence that it was useful in treating anxiety.

And to move directly into utter quackery, there is now a CBD infused sports drink being promoted by retired NFL player, Terrell Davis.

That’s it. There are no other substantive studies on CBD except the one finding it helpful as an adjunct in treating two uncommon forms of epilepsy.

Other than that, there is simply no evidence that CBD is effective for anything except profit margins!

What about CBD with THC?

pot plant1

In his somewhat critical New Yorker article on medical marijuana, Malcolm Gladwell points out that all of the studies on marijuana effects were done using older strains of marijuana. All such studies were required to use the same plants, grown for research at the University of Mississippi. Modern breeding techniques have allowed the development of newer strains with about 10 times higher concentrations of THC. And we have simple no idea what the effects of these higher concentrations might be. We don’t know if the body responds linearly to this drug, or whether it responds more than that. We don’t know if there are new side effects or any indications of additive properties. We just don’t know.

National Academies Study

The complete summary of the National Academies study is actually rather disheartening to medical marijuana advocates.

  • There is strong evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective
    • for the treatment of chronic pain,
    • as anti-emetics for treatment of nausea induced by chemotherapy.
    • For improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms
  • There is moderate evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective in improving short term sleep outcomes
    • associated with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis
  • There is limited evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective
  • Increasing appetite in HIV/AIDS patients
  • Reducing symptoms of Tourette’s disease
  • Improving social anxiety symptoms in people with that disorder
  • Improving symptoms of PTSD
  • There is limited evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are ineffective for
    • Dementia
    • Glaucoma
    • Depressive symptoms
  • There is no evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for
    • Cancers
    • IBS
    • Epilepsy
    • ALS
    • Huntington’s chorea
    • Parkinson’s
    • Dystonia
    • Addiction treatment
    • Schizophrenia

Negative effects of cannabis

The same National Academies study found associations between cannabis use and

  • Lower birth weight (substantial)
  • Development of schizophrenia and other psychoses (substantial)
  • Increased symptoms of mania and hypomania in bipolar disorder (moderate)
  • Increase suicide ideation (moderate)
  • Pregnancy complications for the mother (limited)
  • Later outcomes in the offspring (not refutable)
  • Cognitive impairment in learning, memory and attention (moderate)
  • Impaired academic achievement (limited)
  • Increased rates of unemployment (limited)

41xF+Ugrf4L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_And, in Alex Berenson’s new book Tell your Children the Truth about Marijuana, he also draws connections between marijuana use and mentally ill criminals. Essentially, he asserts that they are all pot smokers.

What is disturbing to me is that despite the very low level of medical value of both CBD oil and actual cannabis, and the very high amount of risk it seems to present, the “marijuana industry” has been very successful in promoting their products as beneficial, when objective evidence simply does not support these conclusions.

Nothing could be more indicative of this slippery slope than the fact that the Wilton Continuing Education department was offering a class in the benefits of CBD oil taught by a woman from a marijuana dispensary, whose bio clearly shows how strongly she believes in the medical benefits of cannabis, but who has very little actual scientific training. When I pointed out the articles showed how little benefits actually existed, they did not cancel the class.

 

 

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German chocolate cake you’ll love

German chocolate cake you’ll love

This fairly easy recipe is a simplification of the one on the Bakers German Chocolate bar. We show you a few shortcuts. Some people make this light cake and just decorate it with the coconut-pecan topping. We do that but ice the sides with chocolate buttercream icing to hold it all together.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 oz German Sweet Chocolate
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) softened unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 280 g cake flour (2 ½ cups sifted)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 lined 8” cake pans
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F
  2. Beat the egg whites in your mixer until stiff. Remove to another bowl until needed.

3. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer

4. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.

5. Put the chocolate in a bowl with the water and heat in a microwave for about 90 seconds until melted. Stir until uniform.

6. Add the vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture and beat in the chocolate.

7. You don’t really need to sift and measure the flour, as we described in this article. One cup of sifted cake flour weights 112g, so just weigh 280 grams (which is 2 1/2  cups sifted) into a bowl and add the soda and salt. Stir briefly to mix.

8. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.

9. Fold in the egg whites by mixing in ¼ of them and then folding the rest in using a rubber spatula, dipping a turning the blade to mix in the whites without deflating them.

10. Line the 3 cake pans with parchment using the technique we described here. Butter the pans and the parchment.

11. You now need to separate the batter into 3 equal parts. We do this by weight. The stand mixer bowl and contents weighed 3606g, and we know the empty bowl weights 1014g, so the contents weighed 1578g. Thus, we need to put 526g of batter in each of the 3 cake pans. We put each cake pan on the scale, press the tare button to zero it, and add 526g of batter. The third pan is always a little short because some batter sticks to the sides and to the spatula. So we steal a little from each of the other two pans to make them about even. It is still easier than eyeballing it!

12. Bake the cake in the pans for 30-35 minutes, until the cake starts to pull away from the edge, and a toothpick comes out clean.

3 baked

13. Let the cakes cool on a cooling rack, and then take the cakes out of the pans and let them cool completely.

Cake Filling

  • 8 oz evaporated milk (This is 1 1/3 6 oz cans)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 beaten egg yolks
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick) cut up
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Combine the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Stir constantly to avoid burning.
  2. Allow the liquid to come to a slow boil but keep stirring to avoid sticking.
  3. Remove from heat and add the coconut and pecans.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator until cool enough to spread.

Buttercream frosting

  • 2 lb confectioners sugar
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) butter, cut up
  • ¼ cup milk (approximately)
  • 3 oz baking chocolate
  1. Combine the sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixed.
  2. Add the milk until spreadable
  3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes at 50% power. Stir until uniform and then add to the buttercream mixture and pulse until uniform. This will make more frosting than you need, but you will use about ¾ of it.

Assembling the cake

It is easiest to ice the cake on a little rotating cake platform, but if you do, be sure to start with a cake cardboard under cake, as the layers are delicate and won’t pick up easily to move to a cake cover later.

  1. Place one solid layer on the bottom and carefully ice it with the filling. If the filling is too cold to spread, warm it for 15 sec on the microwave.
  2. Place a second layer on top and ice it either with the chocolate buttercream frosting or with the filling. You will have plenty of both. Place the third layer on top and ice the top with the filling.
  3. If any of the sides protrude, trim them off so the sides are relatively uniform. Ice the sides with the chocolate buttercream, using a spatula dipped in milk to smooth the outside of the cake. Let it dry for half an hour before serving.

sliced

 

 

A quick way to line cake pans

A quick way to line cake pans

Most cake recipes suggest you line the bottom of your cake pans with waxed paper (old school) or baking parchment (new school). Well tracing and cutting out those circles for 2 or 3 cake pans is a lot of trouble. Here’s an easier way.

pan and parchment

Cut a square of baking parchment, a bit bigger than you cake pan. For 8” cakes, cut a 9” or 10”  square. It doesn’t have to be very accurate or even square: a rectangle will do just fine. We’ll cut off the excess as we go along.

Fold the square diagonally so that the left edge meets the top edge.  This establishes that square. Any left on the bottom will be cut off.

Fold that triangle in half down the middle.

Then, keep folding down the middle until you have a little pointed triangle.

Lay that triangle on the bottom of the cake pan with the point at the center, and cut off the triangle at the edge of the pan.

Then, unfold it. It should be a circle that will just fit in your cake pan. If it is a little big, just refold it and cut off a little more.

lined pan

Then, butter the pan, lay the liner inside, and butter it, too.  That’s really easy. I did all 3 cake pans in about a minute! See the top picture for all three!

The new Nikon Z6 versus the D7200

The new Nikon Z6 versus the D7200

Nikon’s new Z6 camera is the first of their mirror less full-frame cameras. It’s nominally a 24 megapixel camera much like my recent D7200. But while the D7200 is a DX format with a sensor that is 24  x 16 mm. The new Nikon Z6 has a full frame sensor of 24 x 36 mm, but with the same megapixel resolution. Is it better or just more expensive? All reports seem to indicate that the larger, sharper pixels.

z6 and adapter

The Z6 is a camera you can enjoy handling. It is about 3 oz lighter than the D7200 (both with their default kit zoom lens) and much thinner. It is very easy to hold. Unlike the D7200, the Z6 has no built-in flash, but that is no great loss because the built in flash on all these cameras isn’t that great. But the flash connector works fine with my SB-800 flash.

Because the camera is mirrorless, the display and viewfinder are electronic and sharp as a tack. In addition, vibration reduction is built in, so you get a sharper picture by default than you could ever get in camera with a flip up mirror.

With the Z series (there is also a 45.7 megapixel Z7), Nikon has introduced a new Z lens mount that supplants the F mount of the past 40 years or so. The opening is a bit bigger, and the new technology it includes will allow lenses as sensitive as F/0.95.

The standard kit lens for the Z6 is a 24mm-70mm f/4 zoom lens, which seems very sharp indeed. By contrast, the D7200 comes with an 18mm-140mm f 3.5-5.6 zoom. Of course making these lenses is much cheaper for the DX area than for the full FX area.

Nikon also has introduced a $250 adapter for F-mount lenses (shown above), but only some of the most recent lenses seem to work with it. Neither of my fairly recent full frame lenses allowed autofocus to work, so look at the table of supported lenses before ordering it. Nikon has also released a roadmap of new lenses they will be introducing in the next 3 years.

The buttons and controls are very much like all my previous digital Nikons, so for the most part you will find it pretty easy to use. However, there are some exceptions.

Formatting the memory card is no longer something you can do by pressing two buttons at once: there just aren’t as many buttons on this camera body. But rather than hunting for the Format menu item, you can easily add it to your private menu favorites (My Menu) so you can find it more quickly. I usually copy photos to my PC about once a day and then format the memory card, so this is much handier.

I was surprised to discover that out of the box, there is no display of the photo you just took: the display goes live right away. If you want to look at your latest shot, you have to press the right-arrow button at the top left corner of the camera. There is a way to change this, however, using the Image Review menu item in the Playback menu. This took me quite a while to find, but after trying the setting both ways, I can see some advantages to each. For very rapid action shooting, that review is in the way, but if you are taking candids or covering an event where you need to make sure of your last shot, turning on Image Review will help.

The Z6 is also provides WiFi connection, which should allow you to transfer photos wirelessly. But like a number of other people who have tried this feature, I simply could not make it work. Fortunately, photos transfer very quickly using the provided USB cable. I now have 3 such USB cables: one for my D80, one for my D7200 and one for my Z6. So, when travelling be sure to pack all the cables you might need.

The display is bright, sharp and crisp, as is the viewfinder display, making you appreciate the quality of this camera’s features. However, this does have battery implications: you will probably have to change the battery every few days, while for the D7200, I could sometimes go a week or two between battery changes.  Fortunately, both cameras use the same charger and can use the same EN-EL15 batteries.

How sharp is it?

Below is a lovely shot I took in Martinique using our workhorse Nikon D7200. Can the Z6 do any better?

hillside mart.jpg

Well, not having another trip planned, I decided to do a couple of local tests. Below is a forest scene near our house.

z6trees full

I took the same shot at about a 50mm focal length with both cameras, with aperture priority set to f/11, using the same autofocus settings. At full frame the two pictures look pretty identical. You can see them at full resolution here for the D7200 and here for the Z6. Below, are details from both shots. It is pretty clear that the Z6 is much more detailed.

Nikon D7200        ——-    Nikon Z6

And what about our dog Edward?

bigz6dog

Here he is full frame, and here he is in details from both cameras. No question that the Z6 is much sharper. Of course he dozed during  D7200 shot and that could be why he looks “less sharp.”

Nikon D7200  —–     Nikon Z6

Having used the camera for about a week now, I am really impressed with the incredibly sharp pictures in the viewfinder, on the display and expanded on my laptop. It is the sharpest digital camera I have ever had and I plan to keep it.

Photo notes: Pictures of the two cameras (Z6 and D7200) were taken with my 10 megapixel D80. Pictures of the Z6 were taken with the D7200.

Oh, and incidentally, the Z6 uses only relatively expensive XQD memory cards, and the package (camera plus lens) does NOT include a memory card. Make sure your order includes one!

Chicken pot pie using an Instant Pot

Chicken pot pie using an Instant Pot

Chicken pot pie is an absolutely delicious comfort food for these cold winter days. Our version makes meaty chicken pies using the meat of a whole chicken and makes the stock for the stew base out of the carcass. It’s not a lot of work, but with the time it takes to cook the chicken and make the stock, the elapsed time is probably an hour a half. However, there is very little actual labor. In this version, the crust for our pie is buttermilk biscuits, from this recipe.

  • One whole frying chicken, 3 ½ to 4 pounds
  • 5 cups water, or more
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 1 whole leek, split
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt, pepper
  • 4 Tb butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup light cream
  • 1 recipe buttermilk biscuits.
  1. Cut the chicken into serving sized pieces, pulling off as much of the skin as you can.
  2. Put the chicken pieces in the Instant Pot, on the trivet and add the water and salt.
  3. Cook in the Instant Pot, using the Poultry setting for 15 minutes, 20 it the chicken is really big.
  4. Use Natural Release to let the chicken and water cool so it doesn’t spurt when you release the pressure.
  5. Remove the legs, thighs and breasts and cut the meat off and reserve. Put the bones back in the pot.
  1. Add 2 carrots, the leek, the bay leaf and 1 stalk of celery.
  2. Close the pot and cook using manual for 30 minutes to make chicken stock.
  3. Meanwhile, make the biscuit dough and preheat the over to 375˚
  4. Cut the remaining carrots and celery into small slices and saute in 2 Tb of the butter in a covered saucepan for about 20 minutes. We usually add the carrots first, and the celery 5-10 minutes later.
  1. Open the pot after the 30 minute cooking. Since it isn’t as full now, you probably can use Quick Release. If it starts to spurt, just let it cool another 5 minutes and it will easier to open.
  2. Melt the remaining 2 Tb of butter in a large, say 4-quart pan, and add the flour. Cook the flour in the butter for 30 seconds, and then scoop out some chicken stock, a cup or so at a time and cook into the flour. You should be able to incorporate and thicken about 4 cups of stock.
  1. Add the sautéed carrots and celery to the developing. If the gravy seems too thin, you can cook a couple more Tb of flour in some butter in the now emptied saucepan and add some stock to it. Combine with the original gravy in the pot,
  2. Add the chicken to the pot, the cream, and the frozen peas.
  3. Cook until heated through and pour the chicken mixture into a casserole dish
  1. Top with about 10 biscuit rounds.
  2. Bake in the 375˚ for 15 minutes.
  3. Serve the casserole dish with a ladle to life out the biscuits and chicken. Serve with butter for the biscuits.

Note: Another approach is to put the chicken mixture into soup crocks. For a crust, roll out some puff pastry, and brush with a small of egg-water mixture. Bake for 15 minutes as above.

in ramekins

Either way, this serves at least 4 people. We put the other half of the chicken mixture in these soup crocks to freeze for another meal.