Welcome! Kick off your shoes, get comfy and join in as we chat about books, romance and the ups and downs of everyday life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Grandma's Kitchen

I know I've posted this before but I've been thinking about my grandma a lot these past few weeks.  She's been gone more than thirty years yet I can still conjure up the delicious aromas from her kitchen, still feel her strong, loving arms around me, still live my life using the lessons she taught me.  A customer at the store yesterday complimented me on my "patience, kindness and always present smile."  According to her, I "never get ruffled, always put the customer first and always leave my customers smiling."  Credit my grandma for that; those lessons from her kitchen that have guided me through the years.  So, in honor of Grandma, here again is "In Grandma's Kitchen."

~PJ






Some of my earliest memories are of being perched on a stool at my grandma's kitchen counter, hanging onto her every word as she taught me how to wield a rolling pin, create flaky melt-in-your-mouth biscuits or golden brown, perfectly baked cookies. Much of what I know about baking was learned at my grandma's side but baking wasn't the only thing I learned in her kitchen. Sprinkled so lightly among the various techniques that I was hardly aware of them, were gentle lessons that have guided my life over the past 50+ years. From that wise and kind woman I learned to find joy in creating something with my own hands and mind, to take pride in my accomplishments but not be boastful about them, to share willingly and joyfully with others, to have compassion for those lacking the skills or resources with which I was blessed, to treat others with the same kindness and respect that I wish to receive from them and to honor those who have gone before me by sharing my love, my time, my knowledge and a few gentle life lessons with the young people in my life.

Grandma has been with the angels for many years now but, to this day, I can still feel her gentle hand on my shoulder, guiding me in the right direction. A few years ago I was visiting with some cousins that I hadn't seen in almost 30 years. One of them said to me, "You're so much like Grandma it's almost like having her with us again." I can think of no greater compliment.

MY FAVORITE SUGAR COOKIES

1 cup solid Crisco shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
dash of salt
Cream shortening. Add 1-1/2 cups sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and flavorings; beat well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2-3 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Dip a fork into flour then lightly press on each cookie to flatten. Sprinkle cookie with remaining sugar. Bake at 375° F. for 9 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
YIELD: 9 dozen

** For a festive appearance, sprinkle cookies with colored sugar before baking.

Here's another favorite:

OATMEAL CRANBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES

1 cup Butter Flavor Crisco (butter can be substituted for a crisper cookie)
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups oats
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chunks (or chips)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Using an electric mixer, beat Crisco and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs; mix well.

Combine oats, flour, salt and baking soda. Add to the previous mixture in several additions, mixing well after each.

Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until golden brown.

YIELD: 30 cookies

Are you a baker?  Who taught you?  Did they share life lessons along the way?  Are you passing those kitchens skills and life lessons on to someone in your life today?   Do you have a favorite holiday cookie recipe to share?  I'm giving away two gifts today.  One randomly selected person will receive a book (open to all) and one person will receive a book plus a package of homemade goodies from my kitchen. (U.S. only)


I'm working all day but I'll pop in when I can.  Let's dish about holiday goodies and goodness! 

~ PJ

45 comments:

  1. I wish I were a baker. I watched my mom and grandmother cook and bake as I grew up. They were natural. My mother never cooks anything the same way twice. She makes this amazing pound cake. It is our favorite birthday treat. One of my favorite Christmas memories with my mother-in-law was making tamales together for three days. I hope to share these traditions one day, but for now I'm happy to have other people cook for me! Including you, PJ! Love ya.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nicki, you know I'd cook for you anytime! :)

      Delete
  2. PJ, I loved this post the first time I read and enjoyed it just as much today. Thank you for sharing about your grandma.

    I used to bake up a storm all the time, especially at Christmastime. I just don't bake much anymore. My daughter has gotten the baking bug and will often want to make something (like last night, only she decided at 7:30 p.m. that chocolate chip cookies sounded good, didn't they? I have to give her credit; she made them from start to finish to cleaning up.) Anywhooo, I learned to bake from my mother who learned from her mother. My gram was an excellent cook and baker and never used a recipe. She wrote them down, but the recipes were forever in her mind. I loved her amounts from pinch to smidgen to glub (as in a glub of oil, meaning it makes the noise "glub" when coming out of the bottle).

    One last note, Gram always made our birthday cakes and now my mother has taken on that tradition with her grandchildren.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed, Deb! How lovely that your mom has taken over the birthday cake tradition.

      I love your gram's measurements! I know that "glub" sound well! ;-)

      Delete
  3. My grandmother and mother were the bakers, I can cook like them but when it comes to the baking I manage well enough, I just don't have their natural talent for it. I can remember watching my grandmother when I was little. In her (and my mother's) kitchen they had furniture, we didn't have kitchen counters back then. They had pie safes and kitchen cupboards, free standing pieces of furniture that did the work of our kitchen cabinets and countertops. Grandma would pull the counter portion out and clean it, then open up the flour bin which was built into it. She didn't use a bowl to make her bisquits, she would just sift out some flour (no measuring) and put it right on the table top, make a "well" in the center and start adding the ingredients. It was amazing to watch and though I have tried often, I just can't do that.
    No matter where we lived my grandmother was always beside us, when we moved she moved and when she was no longer able to keep her own house she lived with us. She passed on when I was 17 but I have never forgotten the things she taught me.
    Unfortunately since I am not a baker by nature I don't have a recipe to share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dianna, what wonderful memories you have of your grandmother. My grandparents lived on a farm when I was born and I remember my grandma's kitchen much you describe. They moved off the farm when I was a teen and their house was more modern but I have fond memories of that old fashioned farm kitchen.

      They also had an outhouse at the farm and, yes, I remember it well. ;-)

      Delete
  4. Your column brought back so many great memories. I am a native of south Louisiana; both my grandmothers were good cooks and bakers. Mom is still a great cook. I learned so much from her. I do cook and bake a lot and frequently think of her when I do. And today, my daughter and her son are here today, and we are baking Christmas cookies! It's good to pass these traditions on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's very good to pass those traditions on. You're creating precious memories for future generations.

      Delete
  5. I learned the art of baking from my grandmother who was an expert and very particular. She could bake anything and everything. I mostly bake cakes for special occasions, brownies and bars.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mom was a wonderful cake baker. My expertise tends to be in other areas. I can make a passable cake but nothing to compare to her's!

      Delete
  6. Your post was delightful. I wasn't permitted in the kitchen. My grandmother was an excellent cook and a wonderful baker but she did not share her skills at all. Instead when I became an adult I taught myself to cook with an expertise that I enjoyed and still do for my family for celebrations. Baking was harder but I enjoy experimenting. Birthday cakes, especially marble cakes are my forte which my children always loved and still do. today I am hosting a birthday celebration for my sons and their families with culinary delights such as latkes and pasta with meatballs and the beautiful marble cake as the dessert.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good for you that you took the initiative and taught yourself to cook. Today's menu has me drooling!

      Delete
  7. Pj, what a wonderful post! Sounds like your customer pegged you perfectly.

    These recipes look completely yummy. My mom didn't do a lot of holiday baking, but her fudge was amazing. One of my grandmothers died before I was born, and the other was in ill health, so my mother was my main baking influence. We don't do a lot of holiday baking, but there will be cookies waiting for the boy when he comes home this week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My paternal grandmother made fabulous fudge. I have the recipe but one of my brothers is this generation's expert. I'm expecting a package to arrive any day now! :)

      Delete
  8. PJ, I got teary-eyed reading this and remembering my grandmothers the first time you posted it, and the same thing happened today. Both my grandmothers were bakers. My paternal grandmother's specialty was pies, and I've still never tasted the equal of her pie crusts. None of her daughters could match her, even with her recipe. My maternal grandmother's specialty was cakes, and she baked half a dozen or more every Christmas--towering constructions of four layers with all the frostings, like the layers, made from scratch. I spent a great deal of time with her, and it was she who taught me to cook and bake. The first thing I learned to make was cornbread, but she shared her cake making skills too. I love the sense of connection I feel when I use her recipes. I lack the time and patience for some of them like the Lady Baltimore cake, but Mama's Caramel Cake with Walnuts is still a family favorite.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Janga, I get teary-eyed every time I read it! I have such wonderful memories of my grandmother. She's always with me, every day.

      My grandma made fantastic cornbread (for a Yankee). ::grin::

      Delete
  9. I'm not a cook or a baker. I can only bake things that are already prepared and mix and I just have to put it in the oven. A few years ago I found a recipe for pecan snickerdoodles online and had my cousin make them.

    2-1/2 cups flour
    1 cup finely chopped pecans
    2 tsp. cream of tartar
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 cup butter or margarine, softened
    1-3/4 cups sugar, divided
    2 eggs
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon

    Heat oven to 375°F.

    Mix first 5 ingredients in large bowl. Beat butter and 1-1/2 cups sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well blended. Shape into 1-inch balls.

    Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon sugar. Place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheets.

    Bake 10 to 12 min. or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 1 min. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Jane. Those sound fabulous!

      Delete
  10. PJ I envy you, my fathers Mom died when I was young and so my memory of her is very vague. My mothers Mom died in my teens but she was sick for so many years that she did not have a chance to "share" her skills with me either, do remember she made the best Kolaches though and to this day wish I knew how to do so also as my baking skills run more to drop cookies than anything more involved.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing wrong with drop cookies, Jackie! I'm sorry you didn't have time with your grandmothers to make those special memories.

      Delete
  11. I love to bake but don't bake all the time since I also love to eat what I bake. I learned to bake from my mother and then taught my daughter and tried to teach my son. My daughter loves to bake but my son cooks but doesn't bake much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL @ Maureen! That's the reason I give so much of my baked good away. As quickly as possible. They do love to call my name. ;-)

      Delete
  12. My grandmother lived to be 102 and I was fascinated by her stories of everything she had seen and done in those many, many years. So many inventions, too many wars. My favorite recipe from her was her fruit salad. She even had a special cut glass bowl for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My grandmother lived to be 102

      Wow! What a grand old age, Sharlene and how fortunate you were to have her with you for so long. My mom had those special bowls for favorite dishes too.

      Delete
  13. Well, i'm about to make my DH Birthday Cake :D
    just love the baking thing for the last 5 years, since i dont' have to work aka since i became (and still) a full time mommy -grins-

    Nobody taught me, i just learn it from the net and magazines. trials and errors every time :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nobody taught me, i just learn it from the net and magazines. trials and errors every time :)

      Good for you!

      Delete
  14. Grandma lives farb away npbut I learn from mom
    Kimh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you're busy baking something that brings you joy this holiday season.

      Delete
  15. Too funny. I liked reading your sugar cookies recipe, PJ, so I copied/pasted it into my recipe file, only to find one identical to it: I had already done this from a previous blog and didn't remember it. (Don't be insulted; I'm 53 and don't remember squat these days, LOL! If you can't laugh, you'll cry; I prefer laughing about it instead.)
    As for one of my holiday cookie recipes, I like to take a chocolate chip recipe and substitute M&Ms or Smarties for the chocolate chips; you can do them in reds or greens or combinations, for example. My adult kids still love these (but like the batter even better!).
    Merry Christmas to all the Dishes!
    (I'm in Canada)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't be insulted; I'm 53 and don't remember squat these days, LOL

      LOL @ Laney! I do that every day! And, don't worry. I'm not the least bit insulted. I'm flattered that you liked the recipe enough to want to copy it two times! :)

      Delete
  16. I baked at home with my mom and with my grandmothers when I visited them. It was always something I enjoyed. I had my children cooking with me as early as they could. Our son even attend a Little Chefs cooking class when he was 4. We still have the cookbook 26 years later. All three of our children are excellent bakers and cooks.
    We have many good recipes. I'll try to dig one of them out and send along. Right now, I need to get to bed. It has been a long day and looks like it will be a short night.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love that you had your son in there cooking with you. I did the same with my youngest brother (he's 20 years younger). He's always been able to fend for himself in the kitchen and is a darn good cook and baker - much to the delight of his current co-workers! :)

      Delete
  17. I bake when I'm in the mood or have a particular craving. I learned to cook and bake from my mother. Don't really remember any life lessons being imparted. The oldest (4-1/2) of my young grandchildren is now old enough to start to "help" with baking, and I'm looking forward to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's such fun to create new memories with the little ones, isn't it? My six year old grand-niece will be coming over this week to bake cookies with me. Can't wait!

      Delete
  18. Both grandma and my mom introduced me to baking & I love doing that especially this time of year. I recently made my chocolate brownies & decorated them just like Nigella did in one of her Christmas shows. With some icing sugar as snow & a few plastic fir trees and deer. (Put a picture of them on my blog.) I think it looked great and will be doing it again next year. Also plan to make cinnamon cookies and a gingercake, both recipes from Grandma. I just love to add all those Christmas spices to my baking. They never taste as great as hers did though, maybe she had a secret ingredient?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love the decorated brownies! Here's the link to the blog if anyone wants to take a look. Very creative!

      http://atpalerosecottage.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-fine-day.html

      Delete
  19. I love to bake! My mom always made the best pies ever. She taught me her techniques and how to make her perfect pastry. Today, my family is always ready for a pie. One son loves pumpkin and another loves apple. I find it funny that my sister never cared to cook or bake and her comment is always: "Why go to all that trouble when there's a Mrs. Smith pie in the freezer?" Silly goose. ;-)

    In addition, I love to make cutout sugar cookies with my grandchildren using their great-grandmother's cookie cutters. Some of them were hand made by their great-grandfather and a couple were used by my husband when he was little helping his Mom make cookies. The children work hard decorating their cookies and always make a special one for Santa to leave out with milk to wash down the cookies and carrots for the reindeer.

    Wishing everyone a very special Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mom and grandma both made great pies. I can make a decent pie but I don't have their touch when it comes to the pastry. I finally gave up and buy mine. Much easier. Tastes better too. lol!

      Delete
  20. I remember making dough pies with the extras when my mom made a regular pie. We also make a special thumb print cookie and I would help make the holes and fill it with grape jelly and sprinkle nuts too. I don't bake a lot any more but those cookies are still our special Christmas cookie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have me intrigued. What's a dough pie? And how do you make it?

      Delete
    2. You just make a patty or whatever with the left over dough and add a little cinnamon and dab of butter. It kept us kids busy while my mom could get on with the real pie baking but actually it was tasty too. Sort of like a cookie made of pie dough. It was a treat since my mom usually didn't make too many pies.

      Delete
  21. I'm so bad at cooking! It didn't stop my lovely family from letting me help, though :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad they let you help! Anyone who wants to help is welcome in my kitchen. I don't care how accomplished (or not) they are. If the spirit is willing then so am I!

      Delete
  22. PJ, I remember your maternal grandmother's homemade noodles. They were so good! My mother, her sister could also make them, but they were'nt quite the same.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Delores! Thanks for stopping by! I remember grandma's noodles too, along with her homemade rolls. So good! It's a fact that nobody ever left Sunday dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house hungry!

      Did your mom ever make dill pickles? I remember the barrel on the back porch at grandma's farm house where she would "magically" (at least in my mind) turn cucumbers into crunchy, delicious dill pickles. I sure did love those pickles! :)

      Delete