The Genealogy of a Recipe


My family has a collection of recipes that come from various friends and family members. They are part of our celebrations and meals, parties and surprises. Some of them I can share (and I do, over at my cooking blog, Holy Spoons. That’s where you’ll find some of my grandmothers’ recipes.) But other recipes are truly family secrets and they aren’t mine to share.

That’s the case with these cookies, affectionately called “Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies.” I had to think a bit to remember who she was, who in the family knew her, and when I first tasted her cookies. (And, I might add, just about anything that came out of her oven could be classified as “good”!)

Tonight I baked these confections. As they cooled on the baking rack, we sampled them. (The broken ones, of course.) They were DELICIOUS!!

Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies


I had to consult with my sister and my mom to get some specific instructions, as the notes on my faded and stained recipe card didn’t have a few key instructions. But after texting back and forth a few times, there was clarity and success. Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, amazing success!!

Tomorrow I will share these gems with church family and friends. They were well worth the work, and honor the memory of the generous baker who shared the recipe with our family in the first place.

I reflected on how much of what we know and do is handed down by word-of-mouth. Family traditions, holidays, celebrations all seem to come through the generations, each previous generation depending on the next to listen, take note, and (perhaps) improve on the work of the past. In the church it is no different, of course. Every time I read 2 Timothy, I reflect on how the faith of the grandmother and mother were accepted and lived out in the son/grandson.

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. (2 Timothy, NLT)

But the faith of Lois and Eunice would not have become Timothy’s had they not shared it! I suspect his first theological education began as he watched them care for others in their church, perhaps providing meals for a widow or for orphans. They patiently answered his questions and challenged him to make their faith his own. Paul reminded Timothy of this.

Cooking and baking is like that, too. You have to watch, try, and try again. You adapt what works in a modern kitchen. You get the benefit of years of baking and cooking. I’m reminded of my mom taking the recipe for corned beef (which called for a side of beef in a barrel!) and reducing the portions to make it with a 5 pound roast. I worked with the family’s treasured white bread recipe to make a tasty loaf in the bread machine.

Like many recipes, I’ve added notes in the margin now. What size pan I used, how long it took to bake, and any other reminders so that the next batch comes out of the oven with a little less guesswork. These “tried and true” recipes and tips are what bring the personal, special touch to our tables.

Not every recipe is a keeper! The “Grange” cookbook that was my grandmother’s was a hellish collection of jello salad molds, pickled beef tongue and spam recipes. I remember many of these dishes with a shudder…

So it is with the traditions and expectations of the Church of previous generations. We observe their “lessons for success” – and try to duplicate those practices which infuse life and love into our churches. Perhaps, just perhaps, we are discovering that there are customs that we can let go of… for another generation to grow their own expressions of love for Christ and reaching the world with God’s Love. We can keep the traditions that work… like Mrs. Griffin’s Good Cookies.

thoughtfully… and gratefully yours…


Friday Five: “Pie-ola!”

This week’s Friday Five is a winner at our house. Bearded Brewer likes pie any time of day. Being a good Hobbitses, he loves his elevenses. And pie is perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner or elevenses, as anyone knows.

So it’s very fitting that this week’s Friday Five is about pie!

Songbird at RevGals writes:

We had three pies planned for a six-person Thanksgiving dinner, and there was some anxiety on my part about the need one had for gluten-free crusts. I worried, you see, that we would have pies no one liked, or run out of the one “good” pie (you know, with gluten). There was a last-minute trip to buy more pie crust that failed (sold out!). Then early on Thanksgiving morning, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, saying she wanted to bring something over. It was a beautiful maple pumpkin pie!

Now we were all set.

Later in the day, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. Someone said, “It’s a pie delivery!”

And sure enough, it was a relative stopping by, and he had a pecan pie for us. Pie-ola!!!

Please answer these five questions about pie:

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?

ABSOLUTELY! Why? They just are! I think it’s in my DNA! My great-grandfather, upon arriving home from work and not finding a “fresh” pie waiting for dinner, would ask my great grand-mother, “Do you not feel well, dear?”

So, if pies were considered “essential” for every day cooking, of course they would be required for a holiday meal! Now, I confess I don’t make a lot of pies on a regular basis, but when I do, they pretty much disappear. It’s a good thing I have Someone around to eat them. (He thinks it’s a good thing too!) And when I get my kitchen back after renovation is done, pies are definitely on the list to bake!

2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss.

Um. I have a highly qualified answer here. If you are talking “bakery” pies and cakes, then I prefer pie. If you are talking chocolate, then I prefer cake. But – if you are talking homemade, warm, melt-into-your-mouth-and-onto-your-hips pie, then for THIS woman, it’s PIE. No question.

3) Cherries–do they belong in a pie?

Sure? If it’s a cherry pie. (Can you tell I don’t really care? I think the best way to eat cherries is freshly-picked from the tree!)

4) Meringue–if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?

Ever the non-conformist, I’m going to go with coconut. I’m not a big fan of chocolate in pies, unless it’s chocolate pecan pie. I like key lime pie over lemon, and traditionally it doesn’t have a meringue. But coconut meringue? Now you’re talking! I don’t get to have coconut cream pie very often, since I am the only one in my household enjoys coconut in any form!

5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don’t like to find in a chicken pie?

Let’s see… must have potatoes, carrots, fresh (not canned!) peas. Can have fresh (not canned!) green beans and fresh (not canned!) mushrooms. I’m not a fan of onion. And of course, nothing completes a pot pie like garlic. 🙂

BONUS: The “Old Family Recipe” for Oil Pie Crust
Adapted from the “red” Betty Crocker cookbook

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 1/2 to 5 tablespoons cold milk (amount of liquid is determined by relative humidity in your kitchen that day)

Measure flour and salt into bowl. Add oil; mix with a pastry fork until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle with milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until flour is moistened and dough almost cleans the sides of the bowl. (If dough seems too dry, 1 to 2 tablespoons oil can be added. Do not add more than the maximum amount of milk. If dough seems a bit too wet, add a tiny bit of additional flour). Gather dough together; PRESS FIRMLY INTO A BALL. After pressing firmly into a ball,the less the dough is handled the more flaky the crust will be.

Divide dough in half; place one half cut side down and flatten into a round. Roll each round of dough between two sheets of wax paper. (Note: you MUST use waxed paper! This dough is sticky, but if you add too much flour, you will have a pie crust that resembles thin cement!) Gently peel off one sheet of wax paper and turn dough upside down. Peel off remaining sheet of wax paper after placing bottom crust into pan leaving a 1/2 inch overlap around pan edge. Fill with desired pie filling. Repeat with top crust rolling out same as bottom crust leaving 1 inch overhang around pan edge. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on the rim to seal; flute edges as desired.

Cut slits to vent steam in top of pie. Bake as directed following your pie recipe.

found a new website

Hat tip to Debbi!!

She posted a recipe (Cheddar Cheese Casserole Bread) that looked great and sounded easy. I need some inspiration to make my meals more interesting. (Cooking’s just not my favorite thing to do.)

Mennonite Girls Can Cook is full of great, healthy, from scratch recipes. Everything from canning to casseroles.

I will definitely be back to get ideas from their blog!


Publish Post

Friday Five: It’s a Pumpkin!

Singing Owl of RevGals says…

All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is near. As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. We didn’t yet worry about razor blades in apples or popcorn balls or some of the other concerns people have with Halloween these days. Halloween was a chance to be mildly scared, and better yet, to dress up and pretend to be something we really weren’t. Let’s talk about that a bit, but then let’s add in some food ideas for this year. Where I live the leaves are falling, the temperature is chilly and pumpkins are for sale everywhere, along with many kids of apples. What’s more, the “Holiday Season” will soon be upon us. ACK! I could use a new idea for dessert. So, here we go…

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
Usually with some kind of PTA carnival at school. My parents opted out of participating after many years of organizing and planning them. By the time they had survived four kids’ worth of carnivals… they just dropped us off at school!

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?
It depends on what is going on for the church or neighborhood. We have done the neighborhood “trick-or-treat” thing. We’ve gone to a holy version of Halloween called a “Harvest Party” with hordes of kids wearing their parents’ bathrobes and towels tied on their heads (all of us representing some “biblical costume.” My favorite was the family covered in “leaves” made from trash bags… they were Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel.) We’ve gone camping and been out of town.

The photo here is from two yeas ago, when The Harpist was “Cyradis” (you have to have read David Eddings… it is too long to explain.) Reedy Girl was a DORITO! (Note the Orange Hair!) This year, for the first time, we won’t have anyone going out in costume to get candy. However, Reedy Girl may go dressed as an umbrella to school on Halloween this year. (I PROMISE pictures for that if it happens!!!)

2 (1/2?) Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else?
Eh. I like apples au naturel. Or in a pie. Or made into applebutter.

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?
We have carved and decorated them in the past. I don’t know about this year. Should be interesting. I’ve always wanted to go to the pumpkin chucking contest here in Maryland, though! And the day after Halloween, the elephants at the National Zoo in Washington, DC get to smash pumpkins and eat them. I’ve always wanted to go see that, too.

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.
Not really. Usually just a jack-o-lantern.

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality?
I don’t know if that’s really the case. (Or if it is, I am stranger than you think…) One year I was a blue crayon (a blue leotard and tights, a cardboard tube decorated to look like the wrapper, and a blue flowerpot on my head.) Another time I was a bag of jelly beans (balloons inside a clear garbage bag, tied with a ribbon.) Another time my beloved and I wore boxes painted to look like “dice” and had signs around our necks saying “I’m lost.” (“Pair of dice – lost” Get it?? – har de har har.)

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.

Baked Apples and Squash (You’ll find this on our table EVERY Thanksgiving!)

  • 1 lbs tart apples (Granny Smiths are good)
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 3/8 cup cup currants
  • 3/8 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp butter, chunked into small pieces
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • nutmeg, salt and pepper

Peel, quarter lenthwise, seed and cut crosswise the squash into 1/4 inch thick pieces. (About 3 cups). Cook in a large pot of water until almost tender, about 3 minutes. Drain.

Peel, quarter, cut crosswise and seed apples into 1/4 inch thick slices. (About 3 cups).

Combine squash, apples, and currants in a 9″ square glass pan. Season generously with spices.

Combine maple syrup, butter and lemon juice in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 10% power until butter melts. Stir. Microwave until bubbly. Stir and pour over pan. Toss squash and apples to coat evenly.

Cover pan with foil. Bake at 350 degrees until squash and apples are very tender, stirring occasionally (about 1 hour). Cool 5 minutes before spooning into serving bowl.

THANKSGIVING DAY BONUS: This recipe can be made a day ahead! Allow to cool on counter after baking. Cover with foil and put in fridge. Rewarm in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes OR (if you use a microwave-save pan) in the microwave.

Enjoy! Bon Appetite!


Just Desserts

As promised!! Two family favorites, which take lots of time but are enjoyed by all!

(named by the kids)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 1 bag Hershey’s kisses, unwrapped
  • additional confectioner’s sugar for rolling.

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. At low speed, slowly add in flour and nuts until well combined. Dough will be soft but not sticky.

Shape with (clean) hands into balls around the kisses. Completely cover the kiss and compact dough so that it forms a smooth ball. Bake at 375 for about 12 minutes. Cookies should be set, but not browned.

Cool slightly on pan until you can pick them up in your fingers. Roll in powered sugar. Set to cool on cooling racks. When completely cool, you can roll them again.

Yield: about 40 cookies, give or take for sampling and hungry elves!


  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1 pound peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 large brick (2-4 pounds) dipping chocolate

(NOTE: These weights are in pounds, not cups. You will need a kitchen scale.)

Mix butter, peanut butter and confectioner’s sugar well. Roll into 1″ balls. Place on waxed paper lined cookie sheets and set in fridge to harden. (Takes about an hour.)

Melt dipping chocolate in a double boiler or you can melt small quantities in a micro-wave safe bowl. Use candy-dipping sticks or toothpicks to spear the peanut butter balls. Leave a section of the ball uncovered by chocolate to make the “buckeye”. Allow extra chocolate to drain. Set on wax-paper lined sheets to harden. (May need to put in fridge if kitchen is overly warm from baking cookies.)

Keeps best when stored in fridge or in a cool place.

Yield: unknown. I’ve never gotten an accurate count because of “quality control checkers” in my kitchen!

Enjoy! They are not fat-free or calorie-free — but they ARE good!

From our home to yours-