Friday, December 4, 2009

Aunt Effie's Pecan Pie

I believe that most basic pecan pie recipes are about the same, but grandma made this pie for all holidays once Aunt Effie became part of the family functions. Of course, grandma made lots of pies as she made pumpkin, apple, cherry, mincemeat, and pecan.  Occasionally, she'd make a Chocolate Cream pie.
Pecan pie is a rich and gooey pie that is either loved or hated. It is too rich for my taste buds, but I make this pie several times a year as Bob loves it. I've made it for my neighbor before as a "thank you",  such as when she watched the five younger grandkids when my brother Scott passed away so we could all attend his memorial without worrying about small children. She is from Georgia and loves pecan pie.
Aunt Effie loved pecan pie, too, and this is the one that she always made.

Aunt Effie's Pecan Pie

1 cup dark Karo corn syrup
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 Tbls. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecans
1 9" pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix all ingredients well. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30-35 minutes, till outer edges are set.
*Alice makes a similar pie. She mixes all ingredients except the pecans, which she arranges in a circle around the pie so that it is prettier and more professional looking.
**I have used half cup dark Karo and half cup light Karo before just for fun.

Aunt Effie'

Effie's Mom's Nut Bread

Grandma always had a couple of loaves of this bread, along with the banana bread at all the holidays. This was one of Aunt Effie's favorite quick breads. You will find this recipe in just about any old cook book prior to 1960 as it was a popular bread. It has a dry consistency and is good toasted with butter. You will notice that there is no added fat in this bread.

Effie's Mom's Nut Bread

4 cups flour
6 tsps. baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 cup nuts, chopped coarsely

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour and baking powder, add sugar; mix. Add eggs and milk, then nuts, blend well. Pour into two greased 9"x5" loaf pans. Let rise 20 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool. Freezes well.
*Bread spreads such as a honey butter or a cream cheese spread would be good on this bread.
**When I make this bread I will post a picture.

Effie's Pecan Butter Balls

These cookies seem to be a staple at Christmastime all over as most families make these. They go by many names: Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, and Melting Moments, just to name a few. These are a true shortbread cookie made with lots of butter and pecans.
Growing up, Grandma always had a tin of these cookies that she would make as she knew Aunt Effie like them and that we did, too. These had been cookies that Aunt Effie made regularly.
I use a nut mill to run the pecans through so they will be chopped up fine. I have used walnuts in place of the pecans with good success. I prefer to use pecans, but one year the price of walnuts was $1.99 a pound while the cost of pecans were around $4.99 a pound! This has happened several times over the years, and I will not pay that big of a price difference. On those years when  pecans are so much higher in price, I use walnuts instead. These are one of Kim's favorite cookies and I usually make some for her.

Effie's Pecan Butter Balls

1 cup butter or oleo, softened (DO NOT use spreads!)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsps. vanilla
2 cups flour, sifted
2 cups finely chopped pecans
powdered sugar

Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Cream butter with powdered sugar. Add vanilla, then flour and pecans; blend well.  Flour your hands and shape into balls the size of walnuts. Place on greased cookie tins and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, then roll in powdered sugar and place on wire racks. When cool, re-roll in powdered sugar. Store in airtight containers or freeze from 2-6 months, depending on how well wrapped.
Makes about 4 dozen.

Aunt Effie's Famous Sugar Cut Out Cookies

YUM! About sums up what these cookies are all about! I've had many sugar cookies, but these are the best hands down. I remember the very first time I had one of these, I think it was December of 1968, Kim and I had gone with Dad to go over to Harold and Effie's, and Aunt Effie had dozens of these goodies sitting out all over her Duncan Phyfe table in the basement where she'd iced a bunch of them. We were about eight and nine years old at the time, and we were told we could pick out one~O-N-E cookie out of all those lovely iced shapes! I chose a yellow iced camel and savored every bite. Kim and I both agreed we could have eaten a few more as they were so very delicious! There were Santa's, bells, stars, angels, trees, snowmen, camels and reindeer, and after much consideration I had to have a camel.
If that was not the last year that Aunt Effie made cookies, then it was close to the last year as I never had another one that she made herself. Grandma made a few of these once or twice, and then when I was fifteen I began to make these and have made them ever since.
I remember back in 1982 I had gone over to Pam and Jerry's house for dinner and Uncle Ed was there. I had made some heart-shaped sugar cookies for St. Valentine's Day and had iced them pink. I put out a platter and offered some to Uncle Ed but he declined, saying that sugar cookies always looked good but tasted like cardboard. I assured him mine did not as they were Aunt Effie's recipe. I had a cookie or two, so did some others, and after awhile of sitting there, they became irresistable and Uncle Ed reached for one, biting into it and then having the funniest look of surprise on his face. "Why, these are good!", he stated. I laughed and told him of course they were good! I was not going to waste my time making cardboard tasting cookies! I'd had quite a few of those myself over the years, and I've had plenty since. I not only want cookies that look nice, but they must be also be tasty~no sense in making nasty cookies
My kids love these and always clamor for them at Christmas, though they can be made any time of year and cut into any shape.

Aunt Effie's Famous Sugar Cut Out Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbls. milk
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Decorator's Icing (recipe follows)
Non Pareils ( colored sugar balls)

Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla; beat in eggs and milk, mix well. Sift together dry ingredients and add to batter. Chill 30 minutes or longer, till easy to handle.
Prehat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out 1/4" thick, cut with floured cutters or with a floured glass. Place 2" apart on lightly greased cookie tins. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes; do not brown or allow to burn. Cool on wire racks. Ice and add sprinkles. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies, depending on size.
Decorator's Icing: Sift 3 cups powdered sugar into a bowl, add about 1/2 tsp. vanilla and enough milk to make a slightly stiff, but not hard icing that will slide slowly off of a spoon and mound in ribbons. If it runs it is too wet and needs more sugar to stiffen it up properly. (I am used to when it "feels" right). Divide icing evenly into 2-3 bowls, depending on how many colors you wish to make and add food coloring, a bit at a time until you get the right color you wish. I usually make a yellow, pink, and green batch so I will have three colors for the cookies. Ice each cookie, and then sprinkle with non pareils (sugar balls) immediately. Allow icing to set up for about 15 minutes before stacking cookies. Make sure icing is hard before stacking.
*I almost always double this recipe as I make a lot of these at a time. Once icing has hardened, these can be layered in a container with wax paper between layers and frozen. Sometimes the icing will look different but it does not affect the taste of the cookies. These will freeze for 2-6 months, depending on how well they are wrapped and stored.
One year I made 720 of these cookies! Jenna helped me to ice them and we counted them. It took us two days to ice them all. But they are very popular.

Aunt Effie and Uncle Harold

Who could forget Aunt Effie? If you were born before 1975 you most likely remember aunt Effie at all the holidays up at grandma and grandpa's house. She quickly became a fixture in our family, and she and grandma had become close friends. It wasn't always this way as they led separate lives.
Harold was grandpa's fraternal uncle. Uncle Harold was born on October 2, 1891, and he passed away in July of 1973. Aunt Effie was born September 2, 1891, and passed away on September 28, 1979. They had had one daughter, Mildred, born in 1912, who passed away at age 38 of heart complications. Mildred never had children.
In their earlier years, Harold and Effie had been friends with the great WWI flying ace, Eddie Rickenbacker. Harold and Effie ran in circles that were a bit above the ordinary, and their choice of friends reflected this. Somewhere in their early years they moved to Mount Vernon, Ohio, where both would work. Aunt Effie owned a millinery shop where she made and sold hats. They would eventually come back to Columbus where they bought a small, modest home at 6511 McGuffey Ave.
Aunt Effie enjoyed cooking and baking. One of the things she was most famous for were her Sugar Cut Out cookies. The day after Thanksgiving, Aunt Effie would begin to make thousands of these cookies as she would make them up, roll them out, ice them, and give them away to the many people whom they knew. These cookies have become a standard in my holiday cookie baking as they are the best I've ever had. The recipe had originally come from Aunt Effie's mother.
Aunt Effie and Uncle Harold didn't really come into the family as "fixtures" until around 1968/69, when Dad, Kim, and I were living up at grandma and grandpa's house. One day, Uncle Harold called grandpa and told him he needed help. His health was failing, he could no longer drive, and he also had back problems. Grandpa sent Dad over to take Uncle Harold to the doctor's office and the store, many times with Kim and I in tow. We got to know both well in this way.
I remember Uncle Harold liked to eat Kix cereal, which I thought was rather a horrid choice, at the time. He always kept a few boxes bought up and on the shelf.
As Uncle Harold's health began to fail, we kids were "farmed out" to stay with Aunt Effie. I remember one time when Uncle Harold was in the hospital, I had to go stay with Aunt Effie, and I had to sleep on his bed. They had two seperate beds in the same room as Uncle Harold had a bad back. Lucky me! I wanted to sleep in that pretty guest room (which I don't think any of us kids ever did get to sleep in!), but instead, I had to sleep in Uncle Harold's bed, which sported a door between the mattress and box springs! Yes, you read that right, a door. A heavy wooden door that was old, heavy, and shellacked a deep golden brown. It wasn't very comfortable!
After Harold passed away, each one of us older kids had to take our turn being "farmed out" to Aunt Effie's house to keep her company. This meant that Kim, Vic, Val, Irene, and I all got to go stay at Aunt Effie's house on a semi-regular basis in order to keep her company. Being the oldest and more sedate, I got to go more often than all the others. I wouldn't have minded so much had we been allowed to take a jog around the block once a day, but the neighorhood had deteriorated so that it was no longer safe to walk down the street~even during the day. One time, Aunt Effie wanted to walk down to the corner store a few blocks away, perhaps 4-5 blocks, and she told me to keep close by! Good heavens, a snail could crawl faster than she could walk, and when one is eleven years old, this is hard on the exuberance that one naturally has and needs to run off. There was no running off any excess energy at Aunt Effie's house! The funny thing is that dear Aunt Effie felt responsible for me and wanted me near her to protect me, but I am afraid had anyone tried to molest us in any way, that it would have been me doing all the protecting~ which I would have gladly done! I did love Aunt Effie! All of us kids loved her.
One time, when it was particularly hot and humid out, the only exercise I got in a three day visit was a quick trip out to the small back yard to water the three tomato plants growing near the clothes line. When Aunt Effie took her afternoon nap, I placed an SOS call to grandma to get me out of there!!! My knees actually hurt from inactivity! Grandma sent Dad up with a different kid, whom I can't recall, perhaps Kim, but I got out of there for a couple of weeks so I could go home and run like a kid needs to do. I couldn't wait to jump on a bike or go swimming and stretch my limbs. I was getting all kinked up sitting around doing nothing.
We all loved Aunt Effie, and it isn't that we so minded staying with her, there just wasn't much to do. I got smart after the first couple of trips and took a book or two with me, along with some puzzle books like Word Finds, and also a deck of cards (Solitaire can keep you occupied for hours!), and so I had things to do.
Of course, we were sometimes called upon to run the sweeper, run down into the basement to fetch something Aunt Effie needed, or to water the tomato plants.
By the time Uncle Harold died, Aunt Effie had little she could do to occupy her time. Her sight was not as good as it once had been, so she could not longer embroider or crochet, and she no longer felt compelled to bake, so grandma began to make all of Aunt Effie's favorite dishes for the holidays. The Chinese Chews, Rum Balls, and the Nut Bread would become traditions at the holiday feasts we always enjoyed. And that included Aunt Effie's Pecan Pie that grandma would make.
Aunt Effie had a "peaches and cream" complexion, hair that was barely gray, and she had never drank a soda pop in her life, though she did drink coffee. She liked her sweets as she always kept spearmint leaf and orange wedge jellies, and Kraft jelly nougats in the candy dish on the coffee table in the living room.
She and grandma used to like to go downtown on the bus to eat at the Colonial Room in Lazarus, and to get their hair done. This meant grandma would catch a bus on the corner of McCutcheon and Lincolnshire, then change and go to McGuffey where she'd have to walk to Aunt Effie's, and then the two of them would catch a bus downtown by walking down to the bus stop. Sometimes, Uncle Ed would drop grandma off at Effie's, and in later years, Alice would take grandma over to Effie's and help her clean Effie's house. Aunt Effie was thoroughly entrenched into our family.
When Aunt Effie passed away it was the only time I ever saw a misting of tears in grandma's eyes. Grandma sure loved Aunt Effie as they had grown close over the years.
We all missed Aunt Effie and her quiet ways once she was gone. But thankfully, we had her recipes and these helped us to keep the food traditions alive that we had come to love. I share them with you here, along with others hand-written in her cook books that I inherited when she passed away.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Potato Refrigerator Rolls

Grandma never made yeast breads. I don't know why, though I do have a supposition, which is that grandpa had worked for both Wonder Bread and Omar Bakery, and grandpa always had ideas about how things should be done or made. I think (and notice it is just a 'think', not based on any real or tangible evidence) that grandma didn't want to hear about how she should have done this or that, that she hadn't kneaded the dough long enough, or whatever else grandpa may have come up with. I am not trying to slam grandpa, it is just that we all know what he was like.
I asked grandma one time, shortly after I'd taught myself to make bread, why she didn't make bread since it was so easy. She just told me because she could 'never do it right', though she managed to do everything else right, which is why I have my supposition, and I am sure most of you will think so, too.
I got married to my first husband in November of 1974. On December 27, Tim and I moved into my dad's trailer, which was sitting empty as my dad had gotten remarried in May of that same year, and we had moved to Columbus, near Whitehall. Dad had tried to rent the trailer, but no one seemed to work out, so Tim and I moved in and would live there for the next 27 months. It was already home to me, so it was so nice to move back to where I'd lived the past 2 years.
I'd go up to grandma's about once a week as Tim and I would go to visit. It was now about the first week of January, bitterly cold (it never got above zero for twenty days in January of 1975), and the snow had turned to ice and crunched under foot. But off to grandma and grandpa's we'd go, regardless of the weather, and their house was always so warm and inviting, with a basement full of coal, the ever-percolating coffee pot on the back of the stove, and warm scents emanating from the oven.
That night when we went to leave, grandma handed me a paper sack that held a five pound bag of flour, a five pound bag of sugar, a three-strip envelope of Fleischmann's yeast, a copy of the booklet "Fleischmann's New Treasury Of Yeast Baking", a few potatoes and onions, and five dollars for gas.
Wow! What a treasure of things to bring back home! I told grandma I didn't know how to make bread, but she told me I could learn, hence the conversation about bread as related above. I went home and read through that magical book that night with all of those beautiful pictures of breads of all kinds.
I read that book for the next two weeks before I felt brave enough to try to make my first loaf of bread~basic white bread. Yum! The aroma of that bread baking filled our trailer with the most wonderful scent! I ended up with two lovely white loaves of bread and a passion for bread baking, and all because grandma was so thoughtful as to send me home with one of her cook books, some flour, sugar, and yeast, and an attitude of assurance that I could make bread if I wanted to.
In the back of this book, which I still have, is a hand-written recipe by grandma for Potato Refrigerator Rolls that grandma said were just delicious! In fact, I remember her deliberately writing this recipe in the back of the book so I would have the recipe. They are delicious. I am going to post the recipe exactly as grandma wrote it, and where needed, I will write in parenthesis the right word.

Potato Refrigerator Rolls

1 pkg dry yeast (1 envelope)
1/2 cup warm H2O (water)
1 cup mashed potatoes (unseasoned)
2/3 cup shortening*
1 tsp salt*
2 eggs
1 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup sugar
6-8 cups flour*

Cook and mash potatoes, add shortening, sugar, salt, and eggs to mix bowl. Cream well.
Dissolve yeast in warm H2O (water), add lukewarm milk then potato mix~add sifted flour, make soft dough. Knead well. Put in mixing bowl. Rise till double. Knead lightly, grease top with melted butter~cover and put into refrig~ready to use.
1 1/2 hours before baking pinch off and shape. Let rise~bake 350 degrees til brown~20-25 minutes.

*When you mash the potatoes do not add milk or butter. Make sure you knead for 6-8 minutes until soft and elastic. Place in a greased mixing bowl, cover to grease top. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. Knead lightly on a board, grease top with melted butter, cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until ready to use (dough will take on a sour dough taste if not used same day).

*To make this recipe much more healthy, replace the shortening with lard, the salt with real sea salt (pink or grey), and half the flour with whole wheat flour.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grandma's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I hadn't been married too long, maybe five or six months, when I called grandma and asked her if she had a recipe for pineapple upside down cake. Whenever I was looking for a recipe I would call her up and she'd give me a recipe out of her collection.
The recipe she gave me was for a layer cake, but I like to make my upside down cake in a 13"x9" pan, so I double the ingredients of the original recipe.
I can remember grandma making pineapple upside down cake a few times. I make it several times a year as it is Lisa and Bob's favorite cake. Lisa usually requests this cake for her birthday and I oblige.
This is a deliciously rich cake easily made from a store-bought cake mix.

Grandma's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

1 (18 1/4 oz) yellow cake mix*
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 can (16 oz) pineapple slices, drained*
Maraschino cherries (optional)
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make cake mix according to directions on cake box. (You can use drained real pineapple juice in place of water in mix, if desired.)
Melt butter in a 13"x9" pan in oven. Add brown sugar and stir well to mix. Sprinkle on nuts, if used. Arrange pineapple slices over nuts. Place cherries in strategic places around pineapple. Pour cake over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or till cake tests done. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate, then flip onto a serving plate so pineapple is on top; let cool.
*To make this heart healthy, either make your own cake from scratch or my Lori's Yellow Cake (search on here for recipe), or make sure you use virgin olive oil in place of the vegetable oil called for in the cake mix directions.
*You may want to open a second can as they are usually 2 pineapple rings short for a full sheet pan.

Grandma Made Beer Biscuits

I don't know where grandma got the recipe for these easy biscuits, but I do know she liked them and would make them quite often. She had found the recipe sometime in the mid 1970's, most likely in an ad for Bisquick, and she would sometimes make a batch of these to have with supper, though grandpa wouldn't touch them. He just plain wouldn't eat biscuits as they were "poor people" food to him. Growing up, he and his family didn't always have enough to eat, and there were times when they had honey and biscuits for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Grandpa equated biscuits with being food that poor people ate. He ate dinner rolls, but not biscuits of any kind.
I liked them okay and I would eat at least one. Grandma found them rather tasty and she would have one or two, slathered with butter, with a steaming cup of coffee.
You can't get any easier than this!

Beer Biscuits

4 cups Bisquick*
1 can (12 ounces) beer
2 tsps. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine ingredients; mix well. drop by Tbls. onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
*To make this heart healthy, make your own copycat Bisquick mix, but make it with unbleached flour and real lard. Also, make sure that the baking powder you use does not contain aluminum.

Grandma's Rum Balls

I remember grandma making these cookies a few weeks before Christmas and storing them in tins. Aunt Effie loved these cookies, and grandma always made sure there was at least one batch of these made for Christmas so the adults could enjoy them. I thought they tasted awful, still do! But I do have those fond memories of grandma measuring out the rum, rolling the cookies into balls and then into powdered sugar, and then storing the cookies in tins in the living room closet. The rum would have kept these fresh and good for months, though they never lasted that long!

Grandma's Rum Balls

3 cups vanilla wafer cookies, crushed*
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup ground walnuts
1 1/2 tsp. cocoa
3 Tbls. corn syrup (non-GMO, if possible, look at health food store)
3 jiggles rum or whiskey
extra powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Roll into 1" balls, then roll into powdered sugar. Store in airtight container. Makes 40 balls.
*If you can't find a tore-bough vanilla wafer cookie that is made with wholesome ingredients, then think about making your own from scratch.

Grandma's Peanut Butter Cookies

Uncle Ed loves peanut butter cookies, and who can resist these? This was another one of grandma's signature sweets that she would make for the holidays as she knew that everyone would scarf these down as we all loved them~especially uncle Ed!
We kids were always on a sugar high as there was always something good that grandma had baked just for us to enjoy. And we were happy as larks to eat what she'd made.
This recipe is not so big so feel free to double it if you need a larger batch.
I make these at Christmas and my kids now love and enjoy them.

Grandma's Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup peanut butter*
1/2 cup shortening*
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
cream together the peanut butter, shortening, and sugars. Add egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Roll into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheets, 2" apart. Criss-cross with a fork dipped in flour. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes. Do not over bake! Makes 40 cookies.
*To make these more heart healthy use lard or palm oil shortening in place of the regular shortening. Buy the natural  peanut butter by Jif or Skippy, or use Krema. Use aluminim-free baking powder.

Carolyn's M&M Cookies

Remember these??? I think these were most of our favorites as we used to all look for the cookies that had the best colors and the most M&M's in them. I can remember watching grandma making these the day before a big holiday as she'd let me have a few M&M's out of the bag. Back in those days M&M's came in a 16 ounce bag for around $1.39. Today, you get less than 12 ounces and on sale they are 2 for $5.00! Ridiculous price, but we all love these candies!
These cookies should take you back in time and make you remember all those happy days we spent at grandma and grandpa's house~especially for the holidays.

M&M Cookies

1 cup shortening*
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsps. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 bag M&M's (make sure you get enough to snack on while making cookies!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream shortening with sugars; beat in vanilla and eggs. Stir in dry ingredients. Drop by tsps. onto a lightly greased cookie tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Decorate with M&M's as soon as you take them from the oven.
*To make this more heart healthy replace the shortening with lard of palm oil shortening.

Grandma's No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I have made a lot of No Bakes as I have my own recipe that I received in school from my Home-Ec class as we were taught to make the ones that the lunch ladies made for the school lunches, and though they are very good, they are not as good as these cookies are that grandma made for us kids when we were young. These are awesome!
I love the coconut in these cookies as it makes them so distinctive. I have never seen any other recipe that calls for coconut, and when I talk to other people they have never heard of using coconut in these cookies. Truly delicious.
Grandma used to make these the day before any holiday such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and even The 4th of July....She knew we loved these cookies.
Aunt Cathy has often made these for me, and I have made her the banana bread~a nice trade for the both of us! I don't make these very often because I will eat them!

Grandma's No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 Tbls. cocoa
1/2 cup coconut (optional)
1 stick butter
3 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil one minute. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter, oats, vanilla, and coconut. Drop by Tbls. onto waxed paper. Cool one hour to set.

Grandma's Brownies

Grandma always had a variety of snacks for all of us to pig out on when we were kids growing up. She'd make pies, cookies, fudge, and brownies. This is the recipe she always used for her brownies. I like my brownies more chocolaty and intense, but as a kid, who didn't love these? These are cake-like, not too chocolaty, and easily thrown together. A pan of these brownies disappeared in no time flat at grandma's.

Grandma's Brownies

1 cup butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate*
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder*
2 tsps. vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. In a bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs; add the chocolate mixture and beat well. Add the flour, baking powder, and vanilla, blend well. Fold in nuts. Bake in a greased 13"x9" pan for 40 minutes at 350degrees. Do not over bake.

The following is my take and changes:
*For a more chocolaty taste add 4 squares chocolate instead of just two. If you want a more traditional brownie that is not cake-like, omit the baking powder.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Carolyn's Apple Crisp

YUM!!! How I can remember grandma making this crisp from the apples that she and grandpa grew! This was one of my very favorite things that grandma made! I can remember there being several bushels of apples sitting in the kitchen for grandma to process into jelly, juice, and applesauce. Jars and jars of applesauce would line the pantry shelves, as would opaque jars of jelly from not only apples, but quince and grapes. Grandma never made much apple jelly, but she sure made the applesauce!
She would also make lots of pies from whatever fruit was in season at the time, cherries, peaches, and finally the apples, when they came ripe in late fall.
Grandpa did the pruning, the bug spraying, the picking, and grandma would process the fruits from these trees into many items, including fruit packed in syrup. The apples they grew were Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, McIntosh, and Winesap. Grandma would use one of the latter three, but I prefer Granny Smith's.
Grandma would make apple pie, which was always my favorite pie and still is, but then she would make this crisp which is different from any other crisp I have ever had. Most other crisps are a granola base made with oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, butter, and nuts, but this topping is so very different in taste and texture, with its rich buttery crunchy top and its soft and delicious insides. It is a perfect accompaniment to the apples bedded beneath.
I know grandma got this recipe from a newspaper, too, but when and which one is anyone's guess. How long had she been making this particular crisp I don't know, and perhaps uncle Ed or Jerry will remember (my dad never remembers these things!), but it doesn't matter where it came from or when, I am just glad she found it.

Carolyn's Apple Crisp

About 3 pounds of baking apples, pared, cored, sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1 stick melted butter (no spreads!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine apples with brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Pour into a pie dish or 9" square pan; set aside.
Combine sugar, flour, and baking powder. Add egg and mix well until crumbly. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over apples, making sure all apples are covered. Pour melted butter evenly over crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until crumb mixture is golden brown.

Grandma's Banana Bread

Okay, so you all knew this would be the very first recipe! Who doesn't have memories of moist, dense, dark banana bread at every family function growing up? Grandma always made banana bread, whether it was at Christmastime or the the 4th of July, and we all looked forward to eating it!
I had asked grandma one time where she had gotten the recipe and she said she couldn't remember exactly, but she knew it came out of the food section of the newspaper. Now, whether that newspaper was the now defunct Columbus Citizen Journal or The Columbus Dispatch is up for debate since she and grandpa always took both papers, and grandma herself couldn't remember which one she found it in, but this doesn't matter; what matters is that she found it, and it has become one of our most loved family food traditions. My kids could not imagine me not making this bread frequently or not having it for the holidays. It is always requested.
I began to make banana bread shortly after I turned fifteen years old, way back in November of 1974. I know I made it at least a few times prior to this, as early as age thirteen, but to actually keep a copy of the recipe and to make it fairly often, this happened after I turned fifteen. In fact, at the same time, this is when I really began to seriously teach myself baking skills in all areas from bread-making to cakes from scratch, candy-making, and everything in-between. I'd made cookies, banana bread, brownies, cobblers, cream pies, and fudge from age eleven up, but became more serious once I was married and out on my own.
But I am off topic, back to the banana bread! Grandma used to make it with nuts and without nuts. I prefer mine without nuts, but some people prefer it with nuts, such as I my husband. I often make three to four loaves at a time when I have a large amount of over-ripe bananas, and I will make at least one loaf with walnuts for Bob.
Daughters Carrie and Lisa sometimes make this banana bread, though Carrie swears she can't make it like I do, which I think is silly as it is the easiest thing in the world to make. I've made it so long that I have it memorized, and I can whip out those three to four loaves in about fifteen minutes or less! Lisa makes it occasionally as she loves this bread, too. I look for the other girls to bake it, too, as they start making their own homes. Gwen will be the exception as she doesn't like bananas. Son-in-law Ken loves this bread, as does his stepdad, Ed.
Even when I make this bread, I often think of grandma and all the good and happy times we had growing up. This bread conjures up more than taste and aroma, it conjures up memories of days gone by.

Grandma's Banana Bread

1 Tbls. butter (No Spreads!)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 very ripe medium bananas, mashed with fork
1/2 cup milk (original said 8 Tbls.)
1 1/2 cups flour (*half whole wheat can be used)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar till well incorporated. Add eggs and beat well. Add bananas, beat; add milk, beat; sift together dry ingredients and add, beat; add nuts, beat. Pour into well-greased 9" x 5" loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. When cool, wrap well in plastic wrap and let sit 8-24 hours or overnight before serving. This freezes very well if wrapped tight in foil and placed in freezer for up to 6 months.
*This is not in the original. I have used half white and half wheat flour before with excellent results. The flavor is not affected.

Tips I have learned over the years:
1.I try to always buy unbleached flour so I am not getting flour that is more processed than I want.
2.I place the bananas in a small (but high sided) mixing bowl and use the electric mixer to mash them. This is much easier and less time consuming that mashing with a fork.
3.I eyeball the amount of butter used. You do not have to make this exact, though it can't be less.
4.Absolutely DO NOT use spreads of any kind to make this or you will end up with a dry loaf of bread. Butter has 80% fat. Real margarine (such as Land O'Lakes) has 80% fat and is okay to use (though I avoid margarine for health reasons), and spreads are just junk with anywhere from 35% to 70% fat, depending on the brand. This means they have a high water content to make up the difference. They are also absolutely bad for your heart and vascular health and should be avoided.
5.To freeze for several months, wrap the bread well in plastic wrap and in at least two layers of aluminum foul. Do not allow bread to touch freezer sides or it will most likely end up freezer burned where it touches. This is also true for any other bread product that you freeze, including store-bought bread.

Friday, November 13, 2009

All About Carolyn

Carolyn Agnes Trueax Matheson was born on August 18, 1912, and she died August 13, 1980, of an inoperable tumor between her larnyx and spine. She married Roderick J. Matheson on April 25, 1935. They had four boys, Rod, born March 9, 1936, Ed, born December 30, 1942, Louie, born February 15, 1945, and Jerry, born June 15, 1951.
Grandma was born and raised in London, Ohio. She graduated from the old St. Francis Hospital Nursing School in June 1935, and worked in the ER for almost seven years. She quit nursing in 1942 as grandpa told her to quit since she was pregnant for Ed and he wanted her home with the kids. Grandpa had recently become an electrician and he felt he could adequately support the family. I think grandma had always wanted to go back to nursing as she loved it, but it wasn't meant to be. Instead, she spent her entire life taking care of others, which meant she used her nursing skills in many and numerous ways. She was definitely a caregiver in all ways.
Grandma was also an excellent cook, and she made many delicious meals and desserts for her family and others to enjoy. She was always cooking and/or putting up food.
Grandma also made the very best pies you ever ate. She never measured out anything, not even the pie crust, because as she said, "I could do it in my sleep I've made so many". I used to sit and watch her as she'd get out the old red canister that held sugar, the canister of flour, and a can of Crisco. She's measure out what looked like a fair amount of flour and sift it into a bowl, dump in a mesure of salt she'd pour into her hand, and then take a fork and add enough Crisco until it "looked right". After she mixed all together she'd add enough cold water from the tap to make a ball of dough and then she'd place it on the table where she'd sprinkled a goodly amount of flour. Handling the dough with a light hand, she say things such as this: "That's going to be a perfect pie crust" or she'd say, "I got a bit too much lard in that crust". I'd ask her how she knew and she always replied the same, "I can tell by the feel". Well, to a child of eight or nine, this did not make sense. When I was fifteen and sixteen, I was beginning to see what she meant. And now, I tell my kids I know what the pie dough will be like "by the feel", and so I've come full circle and finally understand what cannot be explained.
The one recipe the entire family wishes we had was grandma's vegetable soup. We can all remember watching her can the base, we can say what she put in it, but so far, no one has been able to replicate it, though we've all tried. And since grandma made this up as she went and it wasn't written down, it is lost forever.
I think everyone who knew her would say she was the kindest, firmest, most wisest person we knew. She was exremely kind as she was always thinking of others. She was firm as she wouldn't out up with any back talk or nonsense. And she was wise as she always knew just what to say and what we needed to do. Grandma was definitely no-nonsense and couldn't abide tears, tantrums, or fits. She also wouldn't put up with anyone being irresponsible or acting ridiculous. Grandma would tell it like it is, and she would not tolerate arguing or sass. I can't tell you how many times I was chased with the broom, but I know I only had to fetch a switch one time before I learned my lesson of how far I could go! Having to cut your own switch from a bush and getting slapped with it made an impression one didn't soon forget!
I have so many memories of grandma, all like a kaleidescope of film clips that run through my head and leave images that are so homey and warm. Most of us have these memories and they are precious and good.
I will post recipes in further posts.

Cry Babies

Beatrice "Bea" Lovella Lowe Matheson was born in 1879 to Joseph Lowe and Mary Cave. She married Roderick Garnet Matheson around 1906-1907, and three children were born of this union: Mabel (Mary) Katherine in 1908, Roderick Joseph in 1910, and Edwin Henry (or vice versa, can't remember the order of his name) in 1912.
I have very vague memories of my great grandma, including vague memories of her funeral, in February of 1966, when I was just a bit past six years old.
Grandpa remembered coming home from school with the scent of these Cry Baby cookies in the air. These had been his favorite cookies as a child.

Cry Baby Cookies

1 cup shortening^
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup black strap molasses
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
5 cups flour (unbleached)

*Original version: Mix well. Drop by Tbls. on greased tins and bake in a quick oven.

**My version: Cream shortening with sugar; beat in egg and molasses, blend well. Alternately add soda water and flour, beginning and ending with flour so batter does not curdle. Drop by Tbls. onto greased cookie tins and bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

*Tips: These could easily be dressed up by sprinkling sugar over the tops prior to baking. You could also make these a ginger spice cookie by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger, and a 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. These could also be less strong by using a lighter molasses. This recipe can also be easily halved, but use the egg and don't try to halve this.

^To make this more heart healthy replace the shortening with lard or palm oil shortening.

In the beginning.........

I was posting recipes of my own, of my grandma's, my great aunt's, and my brother's on other sites, and I realized that I needed a place to put all of these together so they will be in one place and easily located. This site will be a place where I can compile them all for family to come and find what they wish to have.
My wish for the past 22 years or so has been to make a family cook book, but cost, time, and a dead computer brought this idea to a halt. I had over fifty hours of writing time with hundreds of recipes from family members in a computer that went kablooey on me~and I lost everything. It was so disgusting and discouraging.
I do have recipes of my grandma's, my great aunt Effie's, and my great-great aunt Helen's all typed out on paper that was to be put together in a binder, but then I had no time to get back to this project and it has been collecting dust for about four to five years. The dust won't matter anymore because I will post all of those recipes on here. This is easier and cheaper than making a cook book!
I also have recipes that belong to family members who sent them to me in hopes of seeing a recipe book materialize, but instead, I will post them on here, according to the author of the recipe, and this way it will truly be a family site. I will also post my own recipes.
Okay! Now I just have to get busy and post them all!