Columns

Stock photo
Early diagnosis is crucial to treatment success

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Diabetic retinopathy is an umbrella term for microvascular complications of diabetes that can lead to blurred vision and blindness. There are at least three different disorders that comprise it: dot and blot hemorrhages, proliferative diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. The latter two are the ones most likely to cause vision loss. Our focus for this article will be on diabetic retinopathy as a whole and on diabetic macular edema, more specifically.

Diabetic retinopathy is the number one cause of vision loss in those who are 25 to 74 years old (1). Risk factors include duration of diabetes, glucose (sugar) that is not well-controlled, smoking, high blood pressure, kidney disease, pregnancy and high cholesterol (2).

What is diabetic macula edema, also referred to as DME? Its signature is swelling caused by extracellular fluid accumulating in the macula (3). The macula is the region of the eye with greatest visual acuity. A yellowish oval spot in the central portion of the retina — in the inner segment of the back of the eye —it is sensitive to light. When fluid builds up from leaking blood vessels, there is potential for vision loss.

Those with the longest duration of diabetes have the greatest risk of DME (4). Unfortunately, many patients are diagnosed with DME after it has already caused vision loss. If not treated early, patients can experience permanent loss of vision (5). Herein lies the challenge.

In a cross-sectional study (a type of observational study) using NHANES data from 2005-2008, among patients with DME, only 45 percent were told by a physician that diabetes had affected their eyes (6). Approximately 46 percent of patients reported that they had not been to a diabetic nurse educator, nutritionist or dietician in more than a year — or never.

The problem is that the symptoms of vision loss don’t necessarily occur until the latter stages of the disorder. According to the authors, there needs to be an awareness campaign about the importance of getting your eyes examined on an annual basis if you have diabetes. Many patients are unaware of the association between vision loss and diabetes.

Treatment options                                             

While DME is traditionally treated with lasers, intravitreal (intraocular — within the eye) injections of a medication known as ranibizumab (Lucentis) may be as effective.

The results from a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of studies, showed that intravitreal (delivery directly into the eye) injections with ranibizumab, whether given prompt laser treatments or treatments delayed for at least 24 weeks, were equally effective in treating DME (7).

Increased risk with diabetes drugs

You would think that drugs to treat type 2 diabetes would prevent DME from occurring as well. However, in the THIN trial, a retrospective (backward-looking) study, a class of diabetes drugs, thiazolidinediones, which includes Avandia and Actos, actually increased the occurrence of DME compared to those who did not use these oral medications (8). Those receiving these drugs had a 1.3 percent incidence of DME at year one, whereas those who did not had a 0.2 percent incidence. This incidence was persistent through the 10 years of follow-up. [Note that DME is not the only side effect of these drugs. There are important FDA warnings of other significant issues.]

To make matters worse, those who received both thiazolidinediones and insulin had an even greater incidence of DME. There were 103,000 diabetes patients reviewed in this trial. It was unclear whether the drugs, because they were second-line treatments, or the severity of the diabetes itself may have caused these findings.

This is in contrast to a previous ACCORD eye sub-study, a cross-sectional analysis, which did not show an association between thiazolidinediones and DME (9). This study involved review of 3,473 participants who had photographs taken of the fundus (the back of the eye).

What does this ultimately mean? Both of these studies were not without weaknesses. It was not clear how long the patients had been using the thiazolidinediones in either study or whether their sugars were controlled and to what degree. The researchers were also unable to control for all other possible confounding factors (10). Thus, there needs to be a prospective (forward-looking) trial done to sort out these results.

Diet

The risk of progression of diabetic retinopathy was significantly lower with intensive blood sugar controls using medications, one of the few positive highlights of the ACCORD trial (11). Medication-induced intensive blood sugar control also resulted in increased mortality and no significant change in cardiovascular events. But an inference can be made: A nutrient-dense, plant-based diet that intensively controls blood sugar is likely to decrease the risk of diabetic retinopathy complications (12, 13).

The best way to avoid diabetic retinopathy is obviously to prevent diabetes. Barring that, it’s to have sugars well-controlled. If you or someone you know has diabetes, it is imperative that they get a yearly eye exam from an ophthalmologist so that diabetic retinopathy is detected as early as possible, before permanent vision loss occurs. It is especially important for those diabetes patients who are taking the oral diabetes class thiazolidinediones.

References:

(1) Diabetes Care. 2014;37 (Supplement 1):S14-S80. (2) JAMA. 2010;304:649-656. (3) www.uptodate.com. (4) JAMA Ophthalmol online. 2014 Aug. 14. (5) www.aao.org/ppp. (6) JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014;132:168-173. (7) ASRS. Presented 2014 Aug. 11. (8) Arch Intern Med. 2012;172:1005-1011. (9) Arch Ophthalmol. 2010 March;128:312-318. (10) Arch Intern Med. 2012;172:1011-1013. (11) www.nei.nih.gov. (12) OJPM. 2012;2:364-371. (13) Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1588S-1596S.

Dr. David Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com. 

Stock photo

By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

Federal and state funding of COVID-19 related relief will likely require major budget overhauls and could potentially change the estate and gift tax landscape.

On the federal level, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubled the estate and gift tax exclusion from $5,000,000 to $10,000,000, as adjusted for inflation, for decedents passing away between 2018 and 2025. However, the increase in the exclusion amount is temporary and is scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2025 and revert back to $5,000,000 (adjusted for inflation).

Currently, the federal 2020 lifetime exclusion amount is $11,580,000 per person, which can be utilized to transfer assets during life or upon death, free of federal estate or gift tax. In New York, the current estate tax exclusion is $5,850,000. New York does not impose a gift tax, although gifts made within three years of death are brought back into the estate for estate tax purposes.

Portability on the federal level allows a surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s unused federal lifetime exclusion. Therefore, if the first spouse to die has not fully utilized his or her federal estate tax exclusion, the unused portion, called the “DSUE amount,” can be transferred to the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse’s exclusion then becomes the sum of his or her own exclusion plus the DSUE amount. 

To take advantage of the DSUE amount, a timely filed federal estate tax return must be filed within 9 months from the deceased spouse’s date of death, or within 15 months pursuant to an extension request. Many surviving spouses may not be aware of this requirement or fail to see how filing a return would be beneficial at the time of the first spouse’s death with the current exclusion amount being so high. If ignored, upon the death of the surviving spouse, his or her estate is unable to utilize the DSUE amount unless other specific actions are taken. New York State does not currently have portability.

With the looming sunset, practitioners were concerned with what exclusion amount would be used to calculate the estate tax for a decedent dying after January 1, 2026 who made gifts between 2018 and the end of 2025, or the DSUE amount for the spouse that died between these dates that filed a return for portability. Finally, on November 26, 2019, the Treasury

Department and IRS issued regulations clarifying that the estate tax and DSUE amount will be calculated using the increased exclusion amount that was in place between December 31, 2017 and January 1, 2026, confirming that there will be no “claw back.”

Increased spending associated with COVID-19 will likely leave the government searching for revenue. One such avenue could be a reduction in the exclusion amount on the federal and/or state level, even prior to the current federal sunset date. It is more important than ever for an executor to file a federal estate tax return on the death of the first spouse to lock in the higher DSUE amount. 

Additionally, individuals with high net worth should consider gifting assets now to reduce their taxable estate on both the federal and state levels. 

With so many political and social changes on the horizon, it is of paramount important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss these issues, review your estate plan and potentially revise your current estate planning documents to include provisions for estate tax planning on the death of the first spouse. The potential to be subject to estate tax could increase for a significant number of individuals if the exclusion amount is lowered in the future.

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office. 

Father Frank joined the Black Lives Matter protest on June 18. Photo by Drew Biondo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The pandemic has changed the world as we know it forever. As we attempt to go back to a new normal, many of us will not look at life in the same way. Many families are closer. So many have reassessed what is important and who is important. The workplace has changed. School, colleges, universities will never be the same.

Hopefully these new challenges will empower us to become the best version of ourselves. It has been amazing driving through Port Jefferson Village and seeing so many families sitting on their porches and lawns actually talking and laughing with each other and not texting!

In an instant, we in college education went from in-class human contact to a virtual classroom. It’s a whole new experience, a whole different way of teaching and learning.

Life is dynamic. We need to be more flexible and more willing to adapt to change. Too often we get set in a pattern of doing and thinking that is not always life-giving.

In recent weeks the already challenging landscape became more toxic with the unfortunate and tragic loss of life at the hands of law enforcement. This social unrest has given birth to the Black Lives Matter Movement. This movement has spread across the country challenging all fair-minded people to think about systemic racism and discrimination.

On June 18, students from Stony Brook University organized a Black Lives Matters protest in Port Jefferson. We were almost 400 strong as we met at the Port Jefferson train station. We walked down Main Street to Village Hall. We were White, Black, Latino, Asian and Indian chanting and talking. When we reached Infant Jesus Church, we were asked to kneel. The silence was deafening.

What was amazing during those moments of silence were two small children standing in front of me hugging each other; one was black, the other was white. When they turned around and I could see their faces, they both had on t-shirts that said “All Life Matters.” As we continued to walk, I could not help but think about that statement. Blacks, browns, documented, undocumented, Asians, Indians, Native Americans, whites, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people — they all matter.

This is a powerful moment in history. We need to confront systemic prejudice and discrimination everywhere. Most religions call us to a higher standard, but are equally guilty of discrimination, oppression and prejudice. Our schools and universities, law enforcement in almost every social entity that deals with people needs to step back and look at how they do what they do.

The social unrest confronting our nation is an opportunity for systemic change and reform across the spectrum of all human interactions; every system needs to be held accountable. No one should ever be above that standard.

When we arrived at Village Hall, the speakers thanked the police for their service and thanked all of us for standing together in solidarity. As I left, I did the same. I thanked each police officer for his or her service. I also realized that we need to see with different eyes; we need to hear and listen with different ears. As Gandhi said, we must “be the change that we wish to see in the world!”

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

METRO photo

It was the winter of 2007 to 2008 when the financial crisis hit. Years of excessive risky loans by banks (and others) and a downturn in the subprime lending market resulted in several years of economic hurt. Many lost their jobs and homes. Some say we truly have never recovered.

For the young people graduating high school or college just over a decade ago, it was walking blind toward a cliff’s edge. They went through school with certain expectations, but the jobs once promised to be there upon graduation were gone. In the following years, young people took what was available, much of the time it was low-paying service industry jobs without a real hope of promotion. A new kind of employment, something people started to call the “gig economy,” was born. People worked freelance without a chance for receiving health insurance through an employer or have any kind of job security.

Now we face a new impending time of economic peril, and there are many thousands of young people graduating this year from high school or college on Long Island.

We as parents and residents need to ask ourselves, “What will we do for them to make sure they can make it out there in a time of wild unpredictability and economic inhospitability?”

Research indicates that people who graduate in a time of economic tension can remain in worse straits than their peers for over a decade. A 2019 study in the Journal of Labor Economics showed the pay and employment rate for people who graduated during the Great Recession have remained relatively low, even after several years. Millennials, the youngest of whom are 24 while the oldest are nearing 40, hold just 3 percent of America’s wealth compared to 21 percent that the baby boomer generation held at around the same age, according to a 2019 U.S. Federal Reserve report. 

This is a pivotal time for young people entering the job market, as not only is this when they can start to accrue wealth and build up savings, but it’s a means to start grinding away at what can be tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. 

Without early starts to their careers, young people will end up running in place, making enough to live but not enough to build their credit or finances (though on Long Island it’s rare they will be able to afford the rent to even the smallest apartment). 

It’s time as a nation we seriously have to consider governmental action to save the future for our graduates. Yes, that includes student loan forgiveness programs, as there is potentially no worse idea than saddling a young person — who likely never even signed a check before — with thousands upon thousands in debt to either private firms or the U.S. government. Even more people will be looking to college as a way to build their job prospects, so it’s time we look at additional subsidies for college. We should also start thinking of handing out incentives to companies willing to hire people fresh out of school.

An unregulated financial sector helped cause the 2008 economic collapse. Now with the pandemic, more research has shown if the government, both state and federal, had responded to the crisis with lockdowns sooner, we could have saved more lives and potentially restarted our economy faster and smoother. 

What’s done is done, but the fact is young people had no part in causing this economic downturn. Let’s have us as parents and neighbors think about how we can still help young people get ahead in life, for the sake of their entire generation.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

America was reluctant to enter both World Wars and yet we won them both, at a tremendous cost to previous generations.

Today, as we continue to battle through the coronavirus, I’d like to think we will persevere. We don’t need political spin. We have plenty of that from both sides.

We need a sense of optimism, of shared purpose and of a keen belief that we will prevail through hard work and a readiness to innovate and adapt. We see so many horrific headlines about the number of people who test positive and who are threatening the capacity of health care systems in Florida and Texas, among others.

Even as we do everything we can to protect our health and the safety of our friends and family, we need to believe in ourselves and in our ability to work together. Defeating the virus takes more than ignoring it or claiming victory for political expediency.

Whoever wins this presidential election in this incredibly challenging year will have enormous work to do. 

Even a vaccine that is tested and produced in mass quantities by the early part of next year, which seems spectacularly optimistic but is still possible, doesn’t automatically put us back on the path to the world of 2019.

After all, the flu vaccine doesn’t eradicate the illness. It comes back with a vengeance some years. Some people who receive the shot still get sick, oftentimes with less severe symptoms.

We need to recognize that the world has changed. We’ve had time to process it and to adjust, even if we’re sick of the new rules. We need to use all the space we have to turn what seems like a nuisance and an inconvenience into a modern triumph.

The country can and should rethink everything from ways to attend sporting events to the specific needs of the home office. Maybe sports stadiums should remove seats, put picnic tables in front of patrons and make the game-time experience for fans look different because, for the foreseeable future, it will be.

Yes, I know, that will cost an incredible amount of money, but it would also give patrons a chance to enjoy their own space, instead of hoping for a time machine that brings us back to an era when we gave strangers a high five when our team scored.

Maybe waiters and waitresses can provide virtual personalized service, connecting through online services that deliver, via conveyor belt beneath those tables, contactless food to guests.

We need to renovate our homes to enjoy the new reality. Maybe we need virtual artwork we can add to our walls, that helps expand our small rooms and that changes at the flick of a switch. Maybe we also can figure out ways to create virtual assembly lines, where workers provide their part of a mechanized process from a distance, in a basement, workspace, or outside in their enclosed yards. It may not be as efficient, because someone might have to transport those parts, but those driving opportunities also create jobs for people who become a part of a new, virtual factory.

We may want to go back to the way things were, but we need to recognize the realities, and the opportunities, that come from moving forward. Moving on will require us to develop new ideas, create new jobs, and believe in ourselves. We have survived and thrived through challenges before, by pulling together, by innovating, and by tapping into the combination of ingenuity and hard work. People are prepared to put in the effort to earn their own version of the American Dream. We need innovations, new businesses, and inspirations that reignite the economy, while protecting our health.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

O! say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Yes, that is the first stanza of our national anthem, the star-spangled banner. It has been my experience, at ballgames and other public gatherings (remember those?) where the anthem has played, that many Americans do not know all the words. In fact, not a lot of the words. In truth, not any of the words beyond the first two sentences. Confess: that’s you or your spouse or your children.

Now there is always a story behind every creation. In honor of our nation’s upcoming birthday, I thought I would tell you some of the controversial story and remind you of the words of at least the first and last of the four stanzas written by Francis Scott Key.

So who was Francis Scott Key and how did he come to write these words?

Key was a good-looking, rich American lawyer, author and amateur poet who was from Frederick, Maryland. Born August 1, 1779, three years after the start of the Revolutionary War, he lived to be 63, dying at the beginning of 1843. He was married to Mary (“Polly”) Tayloe Lloyd and they had eleven children. Incidentally, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a distant relative.

We remember that we learned of Key viewing the attack by the British on Fort McHenry from a ship outside Baltimore during the brief War of 1812, and how he could not tell, through the dark night, if the fort had fallen to the enemy. But at dawn, when he saw the flag still flying, he was inspired to write the poem in 1814 that was to become our national song.

His friends called him “Frank,” which often blended with Key to come out “Frankie.” He had a high profile, having been part of Andrew Jackson’s Kitchen Cabinet, the unofficial advisers who were so influential. He defended a young Sam Houston in court on the latter’s trial over beating up an Ohio congressman. He was U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and he prosecuted the would-be assassin of President Jackson, who by the way was a Southern slaveholder.

Key, as a youth, had almost become an Episcopal priest, helped found two seminaries and wrote about poetry’s influence on religion. He also had a complicated and contradictory relationship with slavery. He personally owned six slaves, though he allegedly opposed the practice and eventually set them all free. Yet he did not do so for the many slaves his wife inherited and who worked the farm that provided much of the family’s income. He represented slaves for free in court who were trying to win their freedom, yet he was bitterly opposed to the abolitionist movement, and as U.S. district attorney, challenged its efforts. He strongly supported the colonization of former slaves in Africa, helping to found the colony of Liberia.

It is no surprise, then, that in the recent rush to tear down statues, his was toppled on Friday, June 19, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Today we have come to recognize that the imperfect Key is inseparably linked with slavery and pride in our nation.

O thus be it ever when free men shall stand

Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation!

Bless’d with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Chris Cooper, Brent Sexton and Steve Carell in a scene from Irresistible. Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Jon Stewart’s late-night reign on The Daily Show lasted sixteen years, from 1999 through 2015. His bold skewering of American and world events was equaled only by Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report. Together, they dominated an outrageous corner of a unique brand of journalism.

Stewart’s first foray into writing and directing was the film adaption of the memoir Then They Came for Me, titled Rosewater (2014), a serious drama about London-based Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari’s imprisonment in Iran. Now, Stewart has turned to comedy and written and directed the political satire Irresistible.

Rose Byrne and Steve Carell in a scene from the film.

Steve Carell (Michael Scott of The Office, General Naird in Netflix’s Space Force, and one of Stewart’s Daily Show colleagues) plays Gary Zimmer, a Democratic political strategist working the campaign of retired Marine Colonel Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) as he runs for mayor in a what is a unanimously conservative Wisconsin town. Hastings had interrupted a town hall meeting with a plea for their undocumented workers, making a case that everyone’s responsibility is “to the least of us.” A viral video brings Hastings’ plea to Zimmer’s attention. 

Coming off the failed 2016 presidential campaign, this is Zimmer’s attempt to connect with the voters of the heartland. No sooner does he set up camp than his Republican equivalent, nemesis Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), shows up to take over the current mayor’s (Brent Sexton) campaign. It is all-out war between the two factions as the battle is played out in the national media.

Initially, there are a good number of city-folk-in-the-country gags. Seeing the entire campaign staff crammed into a car in the high school parking lot because it’s the only place with decent Wi-Fi is amusing. One particularly obvious (but admittedly humorous) moment is the announcement of the Colonel’s campaign while Zimmer is trying to get the cows posed properly behind him. Fortunately, these easy laughs are not what make up the majority of the film. Most of the real wit comes at the expense of both the left and the right and the extremes they will go to “win,” as well as a viciously accurate look at the twenty-four hours news cycle.

Steve Carell and Mackenzie Davis in a scene from the film.

The film doesn’t avoid the dire straits and financial hardships of the current Midwest.  Deerlaken has been hard-hit by the closing of its military base. There are empty shops up and down the narrow main street. Its citizens are struggling. Stewart makes a point of honoring their humanity and intelligence; it is not a long stream of hick and redneck jokes but real people dealing with difficult problems. The fact that Deerlaken’s two sides don’t rise to the adversarial levels of the interlopers shows that they are, above all, a community.

A great deal is made about the age of information. Both Zimmer and Brewster bring in droves of consultants to research, conduct focus groups, and create over-the-top advertisements. One assessment that is an example of misplaced reliance on computer analysis is the disastrous leafletting campaign that ends up targeting a convent.  

The character development is subtle but ever present. All of the characters either grow or reveal themselves through the fast-moving hundred minutes. And while much of the situation is both ridiculous and untenable — and is as extreme as it gets — the reality is never gone. The campaign gets uglier, and Zimmer loses sight of his original goal. There is a comic discussion of “they go low; we go high” as he travels further down the twisted road in the opposite direction. This speaks to the overall question of what it means to be a good guy vs. “a good guy.”

One of the main takeaways is that elections are not even about politics. They are about math. If you can’t get more people to vote for your candidate, then you get fewer people to vote for the other. This is one of the few films to deal directly with the what is labeled the “election economy” — the money that is made through the campaigns but not necessarily for them. Fortunately, for a film about a corrupt and awful system, it never loses its comedic center.

The cast is all in top form. Carell gives a nuanced performance, with the growing realty that he is an outsider and yet believes in what he is doing. One of his most effective moments is when he explains the difference in the two factions; this gleam of non-partisan passion is beautifully understated. Byrne is a bit of evil incarnate but still manages to be wickedly charismatic. Chris Cooper accomplishes in silence what most actors can barely achieve with dialogue. When Zimmer drags him to New York for a West Side fundraiser, the pain and embarrassment are only matched by the pride in his own beliefs.  

Mackenzie Davis (recently seen in The Turning) has just the right mix of ease and strength as the Colonel’s daughter, who is wary of the entire process, and whose only concern is for her widowed father. Sexton’s mayor shows that he loves his people and is as frustrated with the situation as the Colonel. The supporting cast are all uniformly good, with the actors playing the locals being particularly dimensional and avoiding caricature.  

The film’s final shift is a smart-one and an incredible “ah-hah” moment — one that resonates in ways that will keep you thinking for quite some time. It raises very serious questions about the structure and value of the United States’ election process. And make sure to watch through the cunningly clever credits as well as the exit interview Jon Stewart conducts with Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Though light in tone, its message is clear and drives home the questions raised in the film’s final act.

In short, Irresistible is very entertaining, with a big heart but an even bigger brain. You can watch it for the laughs but you will leave it with an education. Rated R, the film is now available On Demand.

Photos courtesy of Focus Features

MEET MR. SMITHERS!

This week’s shelter pet is Mr. Smithers, an extremely friendly and affectionate senior cat currently up for adoption at the Smithtown Animal Shelter. 

At 10 years old, Mr. Smithers is certainly not the shy or quiet type. This little chatterbox will let you know when he is in need of some more TLC or attention. If the occasional meow doesn’t do the trick, this dapper gentleman will cuddle up to you with a nudge to ask for more attention. He has a hyperthyroid condition that requires a little extra care, but this is easily managed with daily medications. Mr. Smithers would make a wonderful addition to any family!

If you are interested in meeting Mr. Smithers, please fill out an adoption application online at www.townofsmithtownanimalshelter.com.

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. For more information, call 631-360-7575.

Fireworks Cupcakes

By Barbara Beltrami

When it’s not dark enough yet for fireworks or when the fireworks are over and you’re hankering for a nice cup of coffee, it’s time to bring out the dessert. The following recipes are delicious finishes to a long day celebrating our independence They all are patriotically correct red, white and blue and sure to please.

Fireworks Cupcakes

YIELD: Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes

INGREDIENTS: 

For the cupcakes:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 2/3 cups sugar

3 egg whites, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 cup vanilla cookie crumbs

For the frosting:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 tablespoons milk

Red, white and blue sprinkles

Star sprinkles 

DIRECTIONS:

For the cupcake batter:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 24 cupcake pans with cupcake papers. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add one egg white at a time beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In another large bowl, thoroughly combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Fold in cookie crumbs. 

Fill prepared cupcake tins two-thirds full; bake about 22 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 

For the frosting:

In a large bowl combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Add the milk very gradually to form a stiff frosting; beat until smooth. Spread the frosting on cooled cupcakes; top with sprinkles. Serve with coffee, milk or fruit punch.

Fourth of July Pie

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

One baked 9” pastry crust

1 pint raspberry sorbet, softened

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 pint strawberry ice cream, softened

2 cups blueberries

1 cup sweetened whipped cream

DIRECTIONS:

Spread baked pastry crust with raspberry sorbet; top with half the sliced strawberries; and freeze for one hour. Spread strawberry ice cream evenly over the strawberries; top with half the blueberries; freeze two hours. Top with whipped cream; arrange remaining berries in an attractive pattern on top. Let sit in refrigerator half an hour before serving or freeze, covered, for up to 48 hours. Serve with coffee, milk or fruit punch

Strawberry, Raspberry and Blueberry Cornmeal Cobbler

Strawberry, Raspberry and Blueberry Cornmeal Cobbler

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 pint blueberries

1 pint raspberries

1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8” x 8” square baking dish. In a large bowl toss together the berries, the half cup sugar and cornstarch.; transfer to baking dish. In a large bowl with mixer on medium speed, beat together the one-third cup sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes; add egg and vanilla and beat until well blended.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture; beat on low speed just until combined; beat in the milk, then the remaining flour mixture. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the berries; bake until berries are bubbly and top is golden, about 45 minutes to one hour. Serve with vanilla ice cream.