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.
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