Tag Archives: Cookbooks

Cookie platter masterpiece

About two years ago, my mom and I went to Sweden to visit one of her oldest friends, Katie. (See this post for more on the trip/fun with yeast bread.) Katie and her husband were wonderful hosts and tour guides, AND…..she gave me a cookbook.


This cookbook, as I understand it, is a Big Deal in Swedish kitchens–it was first published in 1945 and there have been several editions since then. When she gave it to me, Katie told me that traditionally, Swedish ladies would invite their friends over for coffee and serve dainty sweets from the book. And, if you were really an A+ lady known for throwing kick-ass parties, you would make seven different kinds. The foreword to the book confirms this, but then backs off a bit in the last sentence shown below:


“But in today’s world, there is seldom time for more than one or two kinds”?! Is that a challenge, Lady Who Wrote This Cookbook Foreword? Because if it is, I ACCEPT. I will make seven different kinds of cookies, because that’s what you need to be an A+ lady known for throwing kick-ass parties, and that’s pretty much what I’ve always wanted to be when I grow up. Plus, I’m currently unemployed, so what the hell, right?

I decided to attempt this feat when I was put in charge of dessert for a luncheon at my dad’s office this week. It began, like all of my grand schemes, with a list on a yellow legal pad.


(Just so you know, around these parts we call lemon bars “lemon love notes.” It sounds much lovelier, so I suggest you do the same. I’m hoping it’ll catch on.)

I whisked, zested, rolled, and sprinkled, and ended up with this:



The roster: 1) thumbprints with raspberry jam, 2) lime-scented macaroons, 3) chocolate slices with ganache and pearl sugar, 4) chocolate cut-outs with raspberry flowers, 5) lemon love notes, 6) peanut butter chocolate chip mini muffins, and 7) chocolate cigars.

This was not quite as insane as it looks, because I made really small batches of everything, and the thumbprints and mini muffins were made from essentially the same dough, as were the chocolate slices and chocolate cut-outs. Also, it was totally worth it, because when I put everything on the platter and stepped back to admire my handiwork, my heart swelled with joy, similar to the joy I expect to feel someday at the birth of my first child. (OK, I am prone to exaggeration. But I was pretty delighted.)

I’m going to type out the recipe for the chocolate cigars, because they’re my fave. They’re kind of like sandies, if you’re familiar with those, but better because they’re half-dipped in chocolate. They’re also vegan if you use Earth Balance instead of butter, which I did, with no adverse effects on the finished product.  Make these, make six more things, and then take your ladies luncheon on the road, because you’re gonna be a star 🙂


Chocolate Cigars (straight from “Swedish Cakes and Cookies” or “Sju Sorters Kakor” for you Swedish-speakers)

  • 3/4 c. stick margarine or butter, softened (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. ground walnuts (I pulsed mine in the food processor)
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 2 tbsp milk or light cream (almond milk here)
  • For dipping: 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (I melted about 1/2 c. chocolate chips in a double boiler, with one teaspoon coconut oil for shine, and a couple tablespoons of almond milk to thin it out.)

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the nuts and flour, then the milk. (I chilled the dough at this point. The cookbook doesn’t say to do this, but I think it’ll make what comes next easier.) Roll into small finger-thick ropes and cut into 5 cm (2 inch) pieces. Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center oven rack for around 12 minutes at 350 degrees. When the cookies have cooled, melt the chocolate and dip one end of each cookie.


Pickles for P.E.O.s

You know who really knows her way around the kitchen?


My Grandma Neva, that’s who. (Did you think I was going to say Ina Garten? Also a good answer.) Grandma Neva always brings her contributions to family dinner in a big basket, and everything that has ever come out of that basket has been just plain legit. I want to emulate her in cooking (and in just being a great lady in general), so sometimes I wear one of her old gingham hostess aprons while stirring things. She has also been published (several times, I might add) in the Jefferson IA P.E.O. cookbook series.


Oh, are you not familiar with P.E.O.? Let me explain: it is a club for ladies who are passionate about civic engagement, educational attainment for women, and light refreshments. We have meetings in living rooms, give scholarships, etc. My grandma is a P.E.O., as is my mom, so it was preordained that I too would join when I came of age. The club started in Iowa in 1869, but now there are chapters all over the place. Also, it’s one of those clubs where, when you get initiated, you get to find out secret things. And I LOVE SECRETS. That’s all I can tell you. Perhaps I’ve already said too much.

My grandma’s best contribution to the P.E.O. cookbooks, in my opinion, is her recipe for “Crisp Pickle Slices.” It appears in the volume pictured above, but I don’t think you’ll find one of these on Amazon, so I’ll break it down for you right here. First, you need a really big bowl. Like, three times the size of your head.


And get out your box o’ canning supplies.


Slice up the cukes and supporting-role veggies, toss with canning salt in the giant bowl, and cover the whole mess with ice for 3 hours. (My mom has always used the slicing disk on her food processor to slice the veggies. My grandma used to do it by hand–feasible, but it’ll take awhile.)



When it’s time to get to canning, drain the cukes really well and put them in a big pot with the vinegar, sugar, and spices. (The amount of sugar in this recipe looks kind of insane, I know. But it makes a lot and it’s not like you’re going to drink the pickle juice, right? Who does that? I would certainly never do that…) At this point you also need to sterilize your jars and lids by boiling them for several minutes. (This is important! If you don’t sterilize your jars don’t come suing me over your botulism!)


Boil the bejeezus out of those jars and lids, and meanwhile, heat the pot of pickles just to boiling, stirring occasionally. They’ll change from a happy green color to a more muted, pickle-y color. Then take out the jars one-by-one, fill ’em with pickles and juice (a wide-mouth funnel is helpful here), and screw on the lids. Use potholders and tongs as needed, people–this is hot stuff! When the jars seal properly, there will be a little “pop” sound as the lid goes down. Once the jars are cool, press on the lids to see if they still have some give in them. If you get one that does, you’ve gotta refrigerate it, my friend. Eat that one first, because those pickles will not stand the test of time.


I’m going to type out the recipe below, just as it appears in the cookbook, plus the helpful hints my mom has written in with pencil over the years. Give it a try, and have yourself a splendid weekend!

Lovingly in P.E.O.,


Crisp Pickle Slices

  • 4 qts sliced medium cucumbers
  • 6 medium white onions, sliced
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c. coarse salt (pickling/canning salt)
  • 5 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 3 c. cider vinegar

“Do not pare cucmbers; slice thin. Add onions, peppers and whole garlic cloves. Add salt and cover with cracked ice; mix thoroughly. Let stand 3 hours. Drain thoroughly. Combine remaining ingredients, pour over cucumber mixture. Heat just to a boil. Seal in hot sterilized jars. Makes 8 pints.”

Notes: We usually use about 16 cups of sliced cucumbers, and end up with about 10 pint jars at the end.

Judgment Day Carrot Cupcakes

So, I was running some errands with my mom today, feeling pretty good about life, when I saw this:

Umm, I know I’ve been a little busy with finals and graduation, but…..SWEET.  FANCY.  MOSES.  Somebody could have let me in on this a little earlier!  I’m a bit fuzzy on the judgment day ground rules, but I’m guessing I broke a few of them in the course of my post-finals celebration week.  Also, I’ve been known to use what I once heard a Sunday school teacher refer to as “worldly language,” and I really like Lady Gaga.  So, I guess this might be goodbye.

If it is goodbye, I decided I would like to end on cupcakes.  Always, always cupcakes.  I wanted to bake them in my parents’ kitchen while watching Barefoot Contessa, and then frost them while singing along to my baking playlist.  As luck would have it, some fantastic relatives gave me two new cookbooks for graduation, and one of them has a carrot cake recipe in it I was dying to try.  Bonus: vegetables + no refined sugar in the recipe = me looking and feeling my very best as I march off to meet my cosmic fate.  Here’s the cookbook:

It looks fabulous and I would probably highly recommend it after trying more recipes, but, alas, we may never know.  Anyway, I gathered up my ingredients to start.  Note: I hate to be bossy, but maple syrup is an important ingredient here and you need the real stuff (no Aunt Jemima/Mrs. Butterworth).

I filled the pans with cupcake liners, made the batter, spooned it in, and baked.

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Let them cool completely.  I thought this step was taking an eternity, which really illustrates how unprepared I am for this rapture business.  Once they’re cool, you can mix up the frosting.  In an effort to dazzle the henchmen of the apocalypse with my pastry skills, I piped the frosting onto the cupcakes using a large ziploc bag like so:

Finally, I sprinkled them with coarsely chopped walnuts and sat down to enjoy one while reflecting on these past 25 years.  I’ve had a good run, I guess.  The recipe is below.  If I make it, dear readers, I’ll see you again soon.  If not, I want to leave you with these final words of wisdom: It’s always better to under-bake than over-bake.  Always.

Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from the Spring Carrot Teacakes in “Green Market Baking Book” by Laura Martin)

Makes about 20 cupcakes

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. maple syrup
  • 1 c. oil (The original recipe calls for 1 1/4 c. light olive oil.  I only had extra virgin, so I used 1/2 cup of that and 1/2 cup canola.)
  • 1/2 c. Greek yogurt (The original recipe calls for sour cream here.)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour (The original recipe calls for 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup spelt flour.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 c. grated carrots (The original recipe calls for 3 cups, but I hate grating stuff.)
  • 3/4 c. chopped nuts (I used walnuts.)


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the eggs until frothy, and then add the remaining wet ingredients and whisk for another minute or so.  Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl, pour in the egg mixture, and mix everything until just combined.  Stir in the grated carrots and chopped nuts.  Spoon the batter into muffin tins filled with cupcake liners, and bake at 325 for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center of one comes out clean.  (I think I took mine out after 18 minutes.)

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.  For the frosting, mix the cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract until smooth.  If you want to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes, spoon it into a large ziploc bag, work it down into one corner, cut a small hole in that corner with scissors, and squeeze the frosting out with one hand as you hold the cupcake with the other.  Sprinkle the top of each cupcake with chopped walnuts or more grated carrots if you like.

Note: I ended up about 4 cupcakes short on frosting.  But—if you frost with a knife instead of piping, I bet you’ll use a bit less on each cupcake and it would work out perfectly.