Behold the greatest collection of sugar cookie recipes
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handwritten pieces of paper that, over the years I'd tucked into the pages of some of my family's most loved cookbooks.
Folded carefully, they marked my obvious attempts at capturing (in the barest of forms), a recipe someone had given me to try, one I didn't want to forget, or perhaps was planning to pass along to someone else to decipher.
Memories from the years I was learning to bake, unearthed this week during my unsuccessful attempt to locate the original recipe for a family favorite
Ring Macaroni with Tuna salad
These cookbooks originating, not from Betty Crocker, or The Joy of Cooking, but instead from the some of the most trusted recipe sources one will ever find
The recipe we sought didn't originate with any church ladies. Instead, they were so much more.
Their authors included much-loved family friends, relatives, and neighbors. Those who also gathered to together every Sunday in the small country churches of Northwest Iowa, where we lived when I was a kid. Growing up on our family's farm
“I could have sworn it was in the blue book, but maybe it was the green. The yellow-covered one is at your house, right?”
My Mom and I thumbed through the cookbooks the weekend, their pages stained with butter and sugar, favorite recipes circled, and notes made in their ring-bound exteriors. I couldn't help but smile to remember such things as play-doh and minced meat pie.
Only a few months have passed since my Father brought me an old accordion envelope stuffed full of recipes from my Grandfather. I love them, man food if there ever was: Spam sandwiches and egg pancakes
I remember my Mother's recipes from long ago, which were only a wee bit neater, and stored in a larger notebook. Brimming full, mind you, but one could find a semblance of order if you paid attention
Thinking back to both of my Grandmothers, they really didn't seem to collect many recipes, at least when it came to daily cooking. I can't remember either of them referring to a book when making soups or roasts, for example. Whatever for? The soup was always made with left-overs, and they knew all of the standard ingredients by heart
One thing is certain, my family, it seems, has carried a sweet tooth with it for many generations. Every collection includes yellowing scraps of newspaper printed with recipes for things like cakes made with mayo, cookies that starred Crisco or Lard, or jiggly jello-filled
To wander down this memory lane splattered with flour and bacon grease, I'm struck too by how the language of recipes has changed, even in the short years spanned by these family, or church cookbook collections.
Everyone, it seems, understood the language of the kitchen. Some of the recipes are written with little more than an ingredient list and a couple of notes. I smile to read, “Kill and clean two pretty decent-sized chickens.”
(ps: I wouldn't have done well)
Many of the women whose recipes live on in these cookbooks have long-since died, ahead of a world filled with arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, and truffle oil. Yet, I have to believe they were truly light-years ahead of the curve.
They lived like they ate, seasonally and organically. Not because it was trendy, or they worried about climate change, or felt dissatisfied or disillusioned with their options at the “local” grocery (often 20 -30 minutes away!)
Instead, many grew the vast majority of their own vegetables, canning was done in late summer or early fall, and they wouldn't have dreamt of such things as store-bought jam. The meat that stocked their freezers more than likely came from their own pigs and cows, many of which had been nicknamed by their children
As I've worked at trying to recreate some of these dishes over the years .. as much as I long for a taste of the past, admittedly I've been heavily influenced by the present. The mushroom casserole I loved so much as a kid? It tastes a bit bland to me now
More than once, I've asked myself, “Does every dish really need a little something extra?” I've found myself adding garlic, onions, a splash of fresh lemon juice, or sprigs of fresh herbs to bring the flavors in line with the palate I have now
Should the recipes be presented as I think they were originally made without any changes? Or should they be adapted to my more “modern” palate? I have to believe the church ladies would approve of extra garlic, or an additional herb or three?
Certainly, they made cakes with mayo, but is that helpful or interesting, or more just a sign of how it was done back then? And really, just what am I to do with all of the Campbell's cream of soup-based casseroles? They're delicious
When I wonder all of this, I think of this recipe, and the spirit of my Grandmas and the church ladies of the past, who would never have been a slave to the four corners of a recipe card. If presented with my dilemma I'm pretty sure what they'd say
“Sweetie, why don't you head outside to play?”
Then they'd quietly finish dinner the way they'd always cooked. A bit of this, a bit that, a fistful of peas from the garden, and what the heck; why not just top it with some Western dressing for
This salad recipe has been a family staple for as long as I can remember, and it's all the things a good macaroni salad should be
It isn't gloppy, overly vinegary, or mostly macaroni. Instead, it's creamy but still light, with a flavor that's sweet yet tangy; not to mention it's a confetti of fun colors and textures from the add-ins.
An online search suggests it may have originated as a back-of-the-box recipe on Creamette pasta rings as far back as the 1960s.. though I've yet to find one that's exactly the same
By all means, make it your own; play around with your own veggie combos. Tuna is the staple, though wild-caught salmon is a wonderful substitute.
Note also, the pasta will absorb some of the dressing as it sits, so you may need to add just a bit more the next day
Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad
- 1 (7 oz) box small pasta rings
- 2 cans tuna (I've used wild salmon in olive oil as well)
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 (8 oz) package Colby jack cheese cubes, halved or quartered, depending on the size you'd like
- ½ red pepper, chopped
- ½ green pepper, chopped
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- Western dressing, to taste
- Prepare the ring noodles according to the package directions. Drain, rinse and add to a medium-sized bowl
- Add the chopped onion, celery, tuna, peas, peppers, and garlic salt.
- Mix to combine
- Add the Western dressing and mix to combine
- Store in the refrigerator
I love using old family recipes, I have a great stew that my Nan passed on to me and every time I eat it I think of her. I hope to teach my children to make it the same. This looks great, I’ve never tried ring macaroni!
I was just thinking the other day, with regard to how family foods keep us connected long after our loved ones have passed on. I think of my grandma so often when I cook because I spent so much of my childhood with her in the kitchen. I recently made her incredible cherry pie for my family and my son was in heaven. He’s asked for it again and again. It’s one of those recipes you can Google a recipe for, but not the technique. Thanks for making me smile today. x
Family recipes are great to have and to pass down. To have all those recipes from your grandfather is wonderful. The pics look good, you always have it so perfectly made! Was nice to read more about you.
I think of all of the cookbooks I’ve read over the years. Some are clearly written to be followed to the letter. Although, sometimes it’s a matter of the science of things being made and I can definitely respect that. But something like cooking a pot roast, well, there are a million ways to accomplish the task. To me part of the pleasure of a cookbook is finding those that speak to how you personally feel about tackling the job. Obviously, it’s a subjective thing, but speaking from years of cooking at home and as a bookseller, it’s clear to me that some books (like those written by church ladies) are just friendlier than others. Literally and figuratively. xo
We have quite a few family recipes that I like to use over and over again. They have grease from butter on them and just a lot of love on those pages. It makes me feel closer to my family every time I make them.
I’m forever scouring yard sales for old cookbooks and cast iron cookware. They’re truly the best. So many recipes that have been long since forgotten, many made from scratch, and all of the unique flavors that younger folks have never had cross their taste buds.
When I was a kid, I remember my mom making dinner for my brother and me nearly every evening. Neither one of us were picky eaters, so it was easy for her pretty much any recipe and we’d love it. The one that stood out? The Welsh Rabbit. Surprisingly my brother didn’t like (who doesn’t like toast with melty cheese?) so it turned into something my mom made just for me. In fact, I asked her about it just the other day and could hear her smiling through the phone. 🙂
Pasta rings! I always loved them.
I love the language of my mom or grandmother’s recipes. “Kill a chicken”, indeed! My husband keeps his grandmother’s Jewish Chicken Noodle Soup and it’s so soup-stained and smudged. An original copy, though!
Family recipes are amazing. It’s nice that you have such a collection at home. I have yet to combine everything into one lovely book for the kids to check on when they miss certain recipes from their childhood. I think this tuna salad is really nice in the summer!
That is so neat you have all those handwritten recipes. We have a lot of handwritten recipes too. I need to figure how to organize them better. And, this tuna salad looks amazing.
That ring macaroni is too cute. I’ve never seen them in that shape before. My nephew would look at these and love it. Yummy sounding recipe. That is up my alley. I love concoctions like that. Making me hungry,
I’m guilty of always adding something extra! Especially garlic. I absolutely love garlic and eat as much of it as possible! And cheese, a sprinkle of cheese is always a good sign
This is such a good reflection on your childhood. All the while I could imagine my grandmothers and how they’d always cook without a recipe. I think you should definitely add your own twist to the recipes to make them suit your taste and palate, because food should be always enjoyable.
Loving this pasta salad!
I don’t have a recipe book because I usually cook from scratch. Whatever is available and I know would taste good together, I cook it. Sometimes my sons would ask me what a certain dish is called, I just say, “I don’t know. You give it a name.” So far, no one has complained about my cooking. 🙂
Another great post! I love the idea of handwritten pieces of paper that have been tucked into cooking book pages with recipes on being carried down through the generations! To me, it’s like you’re carrying on their legacy even after they’re gone!
I think the recipes that have changes are brilliant – it shows progress and improvement but at the same time I think they need to remain fundamentally the same as their original state – as in the core of the meal should stay the same but adding to that I think is great!
I always add garlic to things. I just love it. Man, it occurs to me that I don’t have a lot of recipes to pass down. I’m all about simple. I would make this though! It looks and sounds like something everyone in my family would enjoy.
Oh, Ali! I just made this for dinner a dinner party, and it’s absolutely lovely. I keep wanting to go back for just. one. more. bite. (Pasta salads are my weakness) Thank you so much!
I love my handwritten recipes from my mom. There is something magical about a recipe when it was hand written with love!
Those are some of the best recipes from the ladies at church and our elders in the family. My grandmother had to kick me out of the kitchen regularly with a wooden spoon to keep me from sticking my fingers in the food.
If I had to kill and clean 2 chickens, I probably wouldn’t be making those recipes…lol…the tuna macaroni salad sounds yummy. I’m tired of the same old summer side dishes. Thank you to the church ladies.
First of all, this recipe looks and sounds great. I bet my family would really enjoy it. Also, I have to share with you that I found my great grandmother’s recipe cards. She was 99 when she dies, and my grandmother was 101. I have no idea how old the recipes are, but the cards are made of some thick paper and some have faded over the years. I love to hold them and think about my family history and how many times each have probably been made over the years.
I have a lot of old recipes that belonged to my grandma’s too. I love making things that they made and thinking about times when they made the recipe. And church cookbooks are almost always the best ones!
I love to research the origins of family recipes. I’ve never seen a ring macaroni salad before. It reminds me of the old cookbooks I’ve found in a thrift store, the ones that were produced by a church or a ladies’ club.
I love that the recipes are handwritten and the colors are faded on the note cards. With recipes comes memories of who you made them with or for.
You surely have some magic by your side dear! Even though I put all my efforts in cooking exactly as I’m told in your posts, I fail. Every time!! I guess I can never be as good a cook as you are. But such lovely recipes always motivate and encourage me to give it another try. ?
My mom never kept a recipe notebook. She would find an interesting recipe in a magazine and cook it on the weekend. At dinner time, she would tell us how the dish was made. So my recipe book is all stored in my brain. I wish I had a hard copy though. Something I can give my daughter so she can carry on with the heirloom recipes. Maybe I can start now…
I wish I could find family recipes from my grandmother who passed a few years ago. I think they’ve been lost. She used to jar pickles and I remember loving the way they tasted. Lost recipes….probably in a box in a basement somewhere.
Most of my recipes are old family recipes. I come from a big Italian family, so we have lots of them. This macaroni salad sounds perfect for the upcoming summer cookouts I have coming up.
Thank you for your beautiful writing! I recently started reading your blog after seeing one of your business cards hanging on a friend’s refrigerator. Reading your commentary is like having a good meal: I’m always sorry when I’ve finished, and I always look forward to next time.
There is something wonderful about being able to find a recipe from the past, or learning to back something that has been handed down via the family.
I absolutely love the sound of the ring macaroni and tuna salad. Yum.
I love church lady recipes. One of my favorite dinner inspirations is looking through all of the church cookbooks that I have collected over the years.
How special to look through the recipe book. I love looking through our family recipe books. This recipe looks so good. Both of my kids have found a love for tuna salad recently. Wondering if they would enjoy this too?
Recipes that are passed down through the family are the best. They bring back sweet memories each time you eat them. Thanks for sharing your families Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad with us.
That macaroni looks like what we call Ditalini here. I have a thing for collecting cookbooks. I really need to thin them out.
You’ll never go wrong with family recipes. This macaroni-tuna salad looks so delicious! I can’t wait to try it.
Macaroni is such a staple family meal – can’t go wrong with it. I can’t imagine ever using mayo to make a cake haha
That recipe card is so darling! I love family recipes, my grandma makes a really great crab dip that we have been making for many years. My daughter will love this recipe, you always have such awesome recipes!! We will be making this one mid next week when we are expecting rain showers.
I really only have one family recipethat was handed down. Memories of my youth come to mind when I make the cookies on that tattered recipe card. Cherished memories!
Food and family traditions go hand in hand in my family. I love the idea of hand-written recipe notes tucked into the cookbook pages. That is such a sweet idea.
I also have a cookbook of my mum! It has more than 30 years old and is so precious for us! There we have recipes that my mother collected from her friends, neighbors, mum and it is not only a simple cookbook, that is full of our memories. 🙂
Aw that food sounds very delicious. Will try doing it with my mom in the future.
Pass down recipes are the ones I enjoy making the most. One of my favorites is the peach cobbler my mom makes every Thanksgiving. I’ve been eating it since childhood and she’s been eating it since her childhood.
I really love tuna and tuna salad is one of my favorites!! I’ve been craving macaroni too. I think this plate is something I would really like as all the ingredients are my type!
My mom also maintains a notebook where she writes all her favorite recipes and the recipes he wants to try. I am gonna steal that from her one day. I wish my grand mother had such a treasured recipe book. she is a wonderful cook. I myself don’t maintain any recipe book thinking I can always call my mom. After reading this, i should probably start doing that just to treasure and pass it on to my kids later. Ring pasta looks delicious, I am going to try this.
Things like these help us travel to the past to see how the older generation lived. Not to say that things are better now or were better then, but to know the differences, I think is important. It just gives us perspective, you know.
I enjoy finding and making vintage recipes. One of my favorites is the chocolate gravy my grandma makes to pour over biscuits.
At the beginning of your post you talked about hand written notes with recipes that had been past down from older family members and it made me think about the different stories and pictures my family has passed down throughout the years. My family isn’t very good at cooking and often times need help from betty crocker. I see that cooking and recipes is something that your family values and I appreciate that. When my family gets together we pass around old photos and share stories. Although I am sure the stories have had details added throughout the years that probably weren’t presented in the original story – these are the stories I plan on sharing with my grand children.
My mother was a big collector of church ladies cookbooks. She folded pages, wrote in edges and stuck pieces of paper with great recipes stuck in the middle of the books. I love to read these old cookbooks I have gained from my mom. Makes me think of her in the kitchen making great meals.
Macroni looks so yumm and cute! You surely have some magic by your side dear! Even though I put all my efforts in cooking exactly as I’m told in your posts, I fail. Every time!! I guess I can never be as good a cook as you are. But such lovely recipes always motivate and encourage me to give it another try. ?
I’ve not had tuna in pasta in yard but I always loved it! I like to bake it with a tomato sauce with cheese grilled on top! Family recipes are always amazing
Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. And as always, your writing is so enjoyable.
I am coming to you late, but if you haven’t yet read Marion Cunningham’s preface to the Fannie Farmer Cookbook (my edition is from 1983), it will make you weep to hear her talk about how we have to teach cooking to women who did not learn from their mothers and grandmothers
I love old recipes, but I also love changing up my recipes and making it my own. I’ve never actually made a macaroni and tuna dish before, I would love to try this.
So many great food memories from my childhood. One of my favorites was being able to walk home from school for lunch. My mom always had an extra crispy grilled cheese on sourdough waiting for me. If she wanted to jazz things up, she’d put onions and mustard in them too. It always takes me back. For birthdays, I remember her four-cheese lasagne (which I still request) and a Betty Crocker white cake with chocolate frosting for every birthday. Simply the best memories.
Church Cookbook recipes are the best, especially those from little country churches. I have a collection of them and playing around with recipes and making them my own is always fun.
Awww. This post brought tears to my eyes thinking of dinner with my family as a kid and how even now that I’m an adult with a kid of my own I’ll still call my mom and ask for my favorites (coq au vin, fidejo, and posole).
I don’t follow recipes to a “T” and often modify them for my family. I don’t measure and find it hard when someone asks me for a recipe. I have also went looking for a favorite old recipe. One of mine is from a women’s magazine and I got it over 16 years ago for basic brownies and several variations. I still use that recipe to this day when I am cooking from scratch. I thought I lost it when we moved but I found it and now it stays on my fridge.
There are so many things that I grew up hating, but that I desperately love to do now because they’re familiar. I hated cold, wet, windy days (we had lots of those) – Sunday evenings, eating popcorn and fruit salad – etc.
I love my mom’s chicken cream cheese pockets, her homemade hamburgers, her chicken & pineapple, her spaghetti sauce (which I hated as a kid), her fried fish, and my dad’s pancakes with real Québec maple syrup and Doritos.
Aren’t family recipes the best? My family has so many amazing recipes (mainly desserts) that I can’t wait to make with my children some day (if I ever have kids). That Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad looks amazing.
This must might become a new favorite of my husband. He love anything tuna. Me not so much but I will still eat and enjoy the dish.
Ha! I had never heard of a Spam sandwich but sure does sound interesting! Sounds like you’ve got quite the collection of recipes from your grandfather… so great!
I’ve lost so many family recipes along the way but I have a favorites tucked in safely. I think it’s amazing that you were able to keep so much of them. Regardless of how old the recipe or outdated the ingredients are compared to the taste that we have these days, I think it’s really nice that you’ve kept it all. This pasta salad is a must try!
This reminds me of every church potluck I’ve ever attended. There’s always that group of old ladies who dishes have been passed down for generations and the stories that accompany them as well. I confess I don’t know which I love more, the recipes or the stories.
Believe it or not, I have never tried any form of tuna salad. I guess now is a great time to start because this looks heavenly!
I sooo wish I had recipes that were passed down to me. I’ve got nothing, so Pinterest it is. With that said, I hope to pass down to my kids recipes that they will make their families. I loved reading this post. Church ladies really do have the best recipes!
We love pasta salad in my home. I have had a variety of noodle types but not ring noddles. They are so cute and fun, I’m going to make some; the kids would love it.
Family recipes are the best. They really do bring back so many memories. Have to give this recipe a try. It’s perfect to send in my son’s lunch box for school.
There is something wonderful about finding a handwritten recipe that you had long forgotten about, they are often the best I’ve always found.
I love the idea of ring macaroni with tuna salad yum.
It seems you did your research really well here. My opinion to our question is that you should always add your extra personal touch to a recipe. I’m obsessed with parsley and will always make sure to add it in anything i cook 🙂
I love recipes that have been handed down over the generations. This macaroni salad w/ tuna sounds lovely. I would love to try this this week.
I love dishes with macaroni noodles. Spicing it up with Tuna is a good idea as its delicious and also a lot healthier.
Oh this macaroni salad looks so good! I typically make a pasta salad of some kind when we are invited over to someone’s house, but I have not made one like this. I will be giving it a try!
Ring Macaroni with Tuna Salad looks so good! I bet it’s a yummy treat! I’ll try the recipe later at home.
I wish my mom and grandmother wrote down their recipes! They cook from scratch and the ingredients are added according to taste. They did not measure in teaspoons, but used ordinary silverware instead. I wish my mom would write down the recipe for her lemon chiffon cake. I love her melt in your mouth, silky smooth slice of cake!
Church ladies do offer some great recipes. You macaroni and tuna love so delish. When I was a kid growing up in Pittsburgh PA some of the parents made this but I never had the recipe. I can’t wait to make this. Yummy
This looks like an awesome salad. I love how easy to eat it is.
I really want to try this. I have been on a tuna kick lately.
This looks like a great side dish for when my hubby decides to grill! Thanks for the recipe.
Your post couldn’t be more timely. My daughter is almost a year old and I just love the idea of creating memories around food that will eventually bring her home for visits with her mom!
My grandma was a fantastic cook, but what I really remember her for are the special desserts she’d make for birthdays and dinner parties she and my grandpa would have. Banana rum cake, black forest cake, crepes, macaroons, the list goes on and on. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of a carrot cake she made for my brother’s birthday. It was topped with (I swear) a million tiny marshmallows.
To this day, I still find out, hand-written recipes tucked into old family cookbooks. Of course, they all end up being my favorite recipes and I cherish them since they’re connected to my family.
I enjoyed reading this so much. I have a love of cooking and baking and Love it when my mom would share a family recipe with me, I know there aren’t many but I cherish them. I loved reading about the church ladies and the thought of them using just what they had, no fuss no muss. I know that my grandmother wouldn’t have cooked off a recipe card either. This got me thinking that I really need to better organize my recipes and maybe consider putting them in a book. My cards are also butter and sugar stained. It adds character I think. Now to the star. This Pasta Salad. I love the bright colours. I think we will be trying this over the weekend.