Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (VI)

After I finished my holiday baking, I received a fresh set of recipes from the Akron Samaritan.  It’s the Akron Beacon Journal Christmas cookie guide for 2013, featuring recipes from local chefs.  I was touched by the gesture and wish I had received the guide a few days earlier — but, there’s always next year!  This recipe, from chef Roger Thomas, looked particularly interesting:

Abracci Cookies

Ingredients:  For light dough:  4 ounces butter; 1/2 cup sugar; 3 tablespoons heavy cream; 1 tablespoon honey; 1 3/4 cup flour; 1 teaspoon baking powder; pinch of salt

For dark dough:  4 ounces butter; 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons sugar; 1 egg; 1 3/4 cups flour; 4 tablespoons cocoa; 1 teaspoon baking powder; pinch of salt

For the light dough, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add cream and honey and mix well.  Separately mix dry ingredients together, then mix into butter to make a smooth, firm dough.  For the dark dough, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add egg and mix well.  Separately mix dry ingredients together, then mix into butter to make a smooth, firm dough.

Wrap light dough and dark dough separately with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Reshape each dough into balls the size of a large grape, then roll each ball into a log about 2 1/2 inches long.  Press the ends of the different dough logs together in the form of a circle, with the light dough on top of the dark dough on one side and the dark on top of the light on the other.  Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing the cookies 3 inches apart.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before storing in a container with sheets of parchment or wax paper between layers.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (II)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (III)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (IV)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (V)

The Value Of Vitamins

This week the Annals of Internal Medicine published an editorial about the growing use of vitamin supplements in America that may come as a surprise to many Americans.

Entitled Enough is Enough:  Stop Wasting Money on Vitamins and Mineral Supplements, the strongly worded editorial summarizes three articles and the results of a number of large scale studies that produced “sobering evidence of no benefit or possible harm.”  The editorial’s concluding paragraph states:  “In conclusion, B-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements are harmful.  Other antioxidants, folic acid and B vitamins, and multivitamin and mineral supplements are ineffective for preventing mortality or morbidity due to major chronic diseases.”

America has become a nation of pill-poppers.  About half of Americans take some kind of dietary supplement, and Americans spend $12 billion a year on vitamins alone and $30 billion for all dietary supplements.  The notion that the vitamin supplements Americans are swallowing in record numbers are ineffective — or even harmful — may shock people. Of course, whether Americans learn of the editorial and the results of the studies, and then whether they stop taking the vitamins and dietary supplements, is anybody’s guess; one vitamin user interviewed by CBS said she would keep slugging down the pills anyway.

Why are Americans so committed to vitamins and supplements?  Some people blame the aggressive marketing of the products, but I think the root cause lies in two other factors.  First, for years Americans have been bombarded with stories about studies that conclude that something is good or bad — be it cyclamates, red dye #2, or something else.  These studies, I think, have conditioned people to believe that taking one substance, or avoiding another, could have significant health benefits.  If a “medical study” shows that avoiding something has a material effect on health, why is it so outlandish to believe that taking another substance — or a combination of substances — might have a similar beneficial effect?  The context created by the onslaught of “medical studies” establishes fertile ground for hawking vitamins and supplements.

Second, people clearly hope that a magic little pill or two can make up for their lack of exercise, poor diet, or other questionable lifestyle choices.  Like Fox Mulder on The X-Files, they want to believe — but unlike Mulder, they lack any true skepticism.  If they skip a walk and eat a quart of ice cream but take a vitamin or “fat-burning” concoction, they can rationalize that they are doing something positive about their health.  They simply don’t want to get the advice offered by one of the authors of the Annals of Internal Medicine articles:  “fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, low fat dairy, things like that ..exercising would probably be a better use of the money.”

And that’s probably why the Annals of Internal Medicine editorial won’t have much impact.  Believers believe, and hard advice and facts usually don’t get in the way.