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  • By Susan Welsh

Christmas and Cholesterol


My last few doctor's appointments are beginning to remind me a hell of a lot of those years at the Audi dealership when my All-Road was starting to wear out. I eventually bought a new Audi and my focus shifted to maintaining the engine, chassis, and suspension of my God-given transportation system--one more aging human body to be fueled, driven, and licensed to operate.

For the most part I eat clean, drink minimally, and exercise frequently. My only vice, really, is cookie dough and it appears it has finally caught up with me. My last blood test revealed a jump of 40 points in my cholesterol. That, combined with high blood pressure, puts me at greater risk for heart disease. So, in yet another negotiation with my doctor to stay off pharmaceuticals for as long as possible, I suggest forgoing the statin and giving me 6 months to lose a few pounds and tweak my diet. She agrees, with this caveat: "eliminate butter, cheese, and egg yolks." I receive these guidelines in the first week of December, or what I like to call National Cookie Baking month---a free pass to eat dozens of raw cookie dough made, primarily, with eggs and butter! What's a red-blooded cookie fanatic like me to do? Since I basically have ignored her guidelines this entire month, I'm hoping I'll have time in the subsequent 5 months to undo a multitude of sin and make up for it by doubling up on carrot sticks and eating egg white omelettes.


I plan to gather my Peanut Blossoms while I may. I refer to The classic salty, sweet and chewy favorite created by Mrs. Freda F. Smith for the ninth Grand National Pillsbury Bake-Off competition held in 1957and emceed by a young Ronald Reagan our once and future president of the United States. Mrs. Smith's creation, which she originally named Black-Eyed Susans, would go on to appear on the back of the Hershey's Kiss packages and enjoy great popularity. Finally, in 1999, Pillsbury commemorated its 50th anniversary by creating a bake-off Hall of Fame, inducting 10 recipes that had endured as consumer favorites throughout the half-century. Mrs. Smith's posthumous award was accepted by her daughter, Jo Anne Smith Lytle, who was given a General Electric stove, a mixer and $100 in addition to a trip to the Bake-Off held at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverley Hills, CA.


The Bake-Off was hosted by a variety of famous hosts including Bob Barker, Oprah, Marie Osmond, Martha Stewart and this year, Ree Drummond. For my money, though, Trebek is the host with the most. During his years as host, 1996-1998, the Grand Prize was a million bucks! Trebek experienced his own bake-off once when he "accidentally" ate a half dozen brownies he didn't realize were laced with hash. The "trip" was not one he especially enjoyed and now the self-proclaimed "chocoholic" steers clear of brownies that aren't purely butter, chocolate and eggs and sugar.


Today I bake. Tomorrow I diet. My baking line-up includes polvorones (also known as Polish Wedding Cakes and Mexican Wedding Cakes), Spritz, and of course, the award-winning Peanut Blossoms (Black-Eyed Susans) created by Ms. Smith 60 years ago.

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