Let’s see. My obsession with collecting heritage recipes and cookbooks began in earnest in 2000, when I opened my first restaurant and featured my own family’s dishes. Since that time, I have cooked from and collected hundreds of cookbooks, ranging from family heirloom recipe collections and church fundraising cookbooks to publications produced by food manufacturers hoping to give the home cook suggestions on how to use their products. Some cookbooks go into unbelievable detail about a family’s genealogy or a church or civic organization’s fundraising activities. Then, there are the books that say nothing on the cover and nothing on the inside pages. They are simply hand-written and bound recipes. It was one of these non-descript cookbooks in which found this scrumptious recipe for Brown Sugar Nut Bars. The cookbook simply said “VAVS Volunteer Cookbook.” (I’m assuming VAVS is the acronym for Veterans Administration Volunteer Services, or Veteran’s Affairs Voluntary Services.) In any case I have no one to thank for pages and pages of delightful recipes like this one. The Brown Sugar Nut Bars have a light and delicate shortbread base, and you can use any nut you like, although this recipe suggests slivered almonds. It’s a terrific treat to make ahead and freeze, and it can easily be transported to a party or pot luck without worrying about it falling apart. If you’ve got some leftover walnuts, pecans or almonds, just mix them together and blend them in the bath of butter, brown sugar and pure vanilla. The sweet and salty result is the perfect paring for the shortbread base below!
If you don’t want another cookie addiction, then maybe you’ll want to bypass this week’s column. If, however, you want to jump on America’s latest cookie craze, then you’ve come to the right place! Swig cookies, with their scrumptious pink frosting and craggy edges, are somewhere between a soft sugar cookie and shortbread, and they have certainly won our hearts! (To date, there are about 41 million search results for Swig Cookies on Pinterest. I’d say we are obsessed with these sweet treats!) The Swig cookie originated in Saint George, Utah in 2010 at the Swig Drive-by Drink Shop. Known for their signature frosty drinks and sweets, Swig has now expanded to multiple locations in Utah and several other states. The minute I heard about them I employed “The Niece Factor.” That’s when I make a big batch of cookies and drive them over to my nieces and wait for their response. With these Swig Cookies I got a text about 20 minutes later (before I even got home!) that the entire batch has been devoured. That’s good enough for me! I think you’re going to like these cookies. They’re fun to make and may even be worthy of a spot on your holiday cookie exchange platter this year.
What a delicious way to combine Mother’s Day with a delicious Spring Pie! This Heart Shaped Strawberry Pie has a sweet history that’s worth remembering! In 1949 if you had wanted to know about rural life in Iowa, you would have looked to Evelyn Birkby, the newspaper columnist, author, and radio personality who for almost 60 years shared stories of farm life, recipes and tales from her own country kitchen. Evelyn was also one of the famed “Radio Homemakers” who, for 40 years broadcast across a five-state area on radio station KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa. (In the 1950s, domesticity dominated the lives of most rural Iowa women. Somewhat isolated on the farm, many relied on the radio to hear a friendly voice. The KMA Radio Homemakers were the ones they turned to for advice and information about cooking, gardening, household hints and beauty tips.) Evelyn Birkby was by far the most popular of the “neighbors on the air,” helping women with everything from menu planning to child rearing. For more than a quarter century Evelyn was a regular monthly columnist for Kitchen-Klatter Magazine, and broadcast on the syndicated Kitchen-Klatter radio program. Birkby is the author of ten books radio homemakers. Her book Up a Country Lane stitches together stories, photographs and recipes from Iowa farm life in the 1940s and 1950s. The Strawberry Pie in Up a Country Lane is reflective of all of the recipes in the cookbook. They are fun, simple, and were often sent in to Evelyn from her adoring radio fans and newspaper readers. While so many recipes for Strawberry Pie use a strawberry gelatin as a thickener, the
natural pureed strawberries in this version really gives this pie a through and through fresh strawberry flavor. I think you Mom will enjoy a little neighborly Iowa hospitality with Evelyn Birkby’s summertime favorite!
I’ve always thought this cake is perfect for Easter time with its fluffy white frosting. Elaine Nall’s Italian Crème Cake is just plain crazy, out-of-this-world delicious. Period. The recipe was given to Elaine, a longtime Scottsdale educator, more than 40 years ago and it has withstood the “friends and family favorite” test ever since. It’s apparently the most requested dessert at Nall Family birthdays, anniversaries, holiday gatherings and even at Elaine’s church group—the one that has met for four decades every Christmas for a White Elephant sale. I’m just happy that when daughter-in-law Donna Nall quietly mentioned to me that Elaine was famous in the family for this cake, I paid attention. In between three ever so rich-tasting layers of buttermilk cake is a luscious slather of cream cheese and pecan icing. Yes, it’s absolutely perfect for Easter, or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, just because, for no reason…
Watch my How To Video for Italian Crème Cake here!
I received the cutest cookie bouquet this week, and it got me thinking about making a few of my own arrangements for Valentine’s Day. So what makes the perfect cookie for decorating? How about the icing? How can we make our own decorated cookies look like the pro’s? Well, it takes the right cookie dough recipe, the perfect royal icing and a few tips to get you off and running. After Valentine’s Day, this recipe will be great for Easter, Christmas or just because! For a step by step tutorial, I’ve included the link to my video!
Watch my How to Video for Decorated Cookies here!