From My Grandmother’s Kitchen: No Elves in Nan Nan’s Kitchen

By Steve Connolly

Photo from Pixabay

The house at 106 Cadima Avenue in Coral Gables, my grandmother’s house, will be one of those addresses that stick in my memory banks forever.  As a kid, I was fortunate to spend time with her during my summer vacations from school.

My grandmother was known as Nan Nan to her 33 grandchildren. She was fondly given this name by my oldest cousin, Cathy Tracy Dickinson. I am not sure where she came up with such a moniker, but it stuck over many years.

A visit to Nan Nan’s house broke up the endless summer days of playing army with my buddies, shooting basketballs, or fighting with my brothers. With Nan Nan you were guaranteed to have an adventure. When I was very young, I remember her walking me to the park to do arts & crafts.  Later years we would walk several miles to downtown Coral Gables for a hot fudge sundae. For a real treat, we would hop a city bus to downtown Miami. We would explore parks, museums, libraries or go to a movie. Being the oldest of five (Peter waited until we moved to New Hampshire to be born) I enjoyed the personal time she spent with me.

I remember my grandmother as the school librarian at a small Christian School.  I’m told Nan Nan started teaching there as the Home Economics instructor. Later at the age of sixty, she continued her education and became the school’s librarian. Being a Home Ec teacher I often wondered if this is why she was a fantastic cook. I have known only one other Home Ec teacher in my life, Mrs. Bernice Kyte, and she, too, was an excellent cook.

My Nan Nan was famous for her cookies. Visiting her house, the first thing we kids would do is check in the bottom cupboard to see if there were any cookies in her original Tupperware container. And you know, we were never disappointed. Nan Nan had several cookie recipes that we loved as kids. One was her Chocolate Chip cookies and another was her Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies. For years I have tried to duplicate her Chocolate Chip cookies without success. She must have kept something secret as I have her original recipe and have never successfully made them good as she did. One of her many cooking shortcuts must have been an unwritten instruction in her recipe. Someday I may resolve this mystery!

Click to tweet: My Nan Nan was famous for her cookies. #holidays @InspiredPrompt

However, I have mastered her Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies recipe. I know they are good as my wife often forbids me to make them. She claims they are addictive. I must disagree with her as I can limit myself to ten or twelve of them a day! I hope you enjoy them. Make sure and pay attention to the little tricks Nan Nan taught me about making these cookies.

Easy Peasy Sugar Cookies (must be her original name)

  • 1-1/2 Cups of Sugar
  • 2-1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon of Salt
  • 14 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter softened to room temperature (or squishy)
  • 3 teaspoons of Vanilla
  • 2 Large Eggs plus the Egg White of One Egg
  • ¼ teaspoon of Nutmeg

 It is best to start off by having all your ingredients measured out – this way you can double check and prevent missing something. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees after you evenly space the racks in the center of the oven.

  1. Next, sift into a separate bowl all the dry ingredients (except the nutmeg).
  2. With an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar and beat till light and fluffy
  3. Mix in the egg products one at a time beating until fully combined. Beat in the vanilla.
  4. Slowly mix in the flour to the egg/sugar mixture – about ½ cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary (You may need to chill the dough depending on your eggs).
  5. Roll the dough into one-inch size balls. Then roll them in a mixture of sugar and nutmeg (I always measure by eye – personal taste can dictate this – for Christmas use colored sugar)
  6. Put onto cookie sheets – I find aluminum sheets work the best.
  7. Start one sheet on the lower oven rack and bake 5 minutes. After 5 minutes move it to the top rack. When the 5 minutes is up, check to make sure the cookies are slightly browned around the bottom edges.  Time may have to be adjusted according to your oven.
  8. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack – I start mine out flat then stack them after a few minutes to let them fully cool.
  9. Wash your sheets in cool water between batches – Careful not to burn yourself.

My grandmother lived just shy of her 101st birthday.  She was an incredible person whom I think of most days.  In my house of five boys and one girl, it was required that we all learned to cook. Thinking of the skills I have developed over the years I find the majority are from things my grandmother taught me.  And by the way, my grandmother’s daughter, my Mom is a great cook too!

Rose Allen McCauley – Nick’s Christmas Carol

Since Rose Allen McCauley loves all things Christmas, it was a wonderful day when she found out her first book to be published by Barbour was a Christmas book. She now has five other books pubbed, and two of them are Christmas also!

Rose is our guest today, and she has supplied the Writing Prompts blog with an excerpt from that Christmas book. She’s also giving away a print version of the book, so if you’d like one, leave us a comment below. One of you will be chosen to receive the book — just in time for Christmas giving!

Rose: I need to preface this scene with the reason my hero and heroine are dressed like burglars! They have decided to make Christmas brighter for a young single mom with two little girls and are taking them a gift each day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. In the midst of helping others, they realize they are falling in love.

Excerpt from chapter 13, Nick’s Christmas Carol in Christmas Belles of Georgia:

Nick arrived at seven. Also dressed in black down to his ski mask and gloves, he pulled another ski mask from his pocket. “I love the golden streaks in your hair, but we need to cover it tonight.”

“Thanks.” He’d used the word love again. This time about her hair. Would he ever say he loved her? She took the mask and pulled it over her hair, only leaving her eyes, nose and mouth uncovered.

When she turned to face him, he kissed her on the tip of her nose. “You sure make a cute burglar.”

“I guess that’s better than a cat burglar.”

“I’m allergic to cats, so I’m glad you’re not one.”

“Me, too.” She had a lot to learn about this man, but she already knew the important things like his love for God and others.

He helped her into the truck.

“Thanks.” She looked at the tree filling up most of the truck bed. “It’s beautiful, so full and green.”

Nick hummed then began to sing, “Lavender’s blue, dilly dally. Lavender’s green.” His eyes locked on hers. “I’ve been humming that song ever since we met again this fall. I see your lovely lavender blue eyes every night when I go to sleep and when I awake in the morning.” He moved closer to her. “But tonight, in the dark, your eyes look lavender green.”

“Maybe it’s the reflection from the tree.” Me and my wise mouth. Right when he might have kissed me.

He scooted back to his side and started up the truck. “Maybe.”

The young mom’s home was only a few blocks from the Warren House. They drove the dark streets in silence. Nick shut off the engine and coasted to a stop two doors down in his minister friend’s drive.

“Stay warm inside until I get it untied.” He hopped out of the truck and spent a couple minutes unloading the tree, then brought it around to her door. He tapped on the door—two shorts and three longs.

“I’ve got the heavy end. You get the top of the tree.”

“Okay.” The light brown bird nest near the top glowed in the moonlight. She wished she could be inside when the children noticed it.

They quietly situated the tree on the small front porch. Nick motioned her to go on and hide behind the neighbor’s bushes. As she did, she heard the sound of a doorbell then felt two strong arms around her as he slid into place beside her.

The front door opened. A child’s high-pitched voice hollered out, “Mom, come look what’s on our porch.”

Another child began to clap. “It’s a Cwismas tree, a Cwismas tree.”

Phyllis stood on the porch, her arms around each child protectively.

The older girl pointed up. “Look, Mom, a card.”

The young mother picked off the note and read, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of  lights.” Her gaze searched the yard, and Carol could see the woman’s tears glistening. “God sent us this gift through His helpers.”

“Like Santa’s elves?” asked the younger child.

“Only better.” Phyllis motioned to the taller girl. “Connie, if you get hold of the treetop and pull, I think I can get the rest of the tree inside.”

The shorter child began to jump up and down. “Can we decowate it tonight? Pwease?”

“Yes, honey. God has given us this tree, and we will decorate it to be the prettiest one on the block. I’ll even pop some popcorn and teach you—” The mom’s words faded as the door closed on the happy family.

Carol lifted one gloved hand to wipe at the moisture in her own eyes. Surprised to find her other hand warmly held in Nick’s, she wondered when and how it got there. Although he might not know it, he also held her heart. She loved him.

***

Nick loved the wonder on the faces of the two young girls, and the joy and pleasure he read on Carol’s face. I love Carol Peterson. Now what am I going to do?


Rose: You’ll have to read the rest of the book to find out.

You can order the book from Amazon by clicking here: Nick’s Christmas Carol

Or, you can leave a comment and let us know you’d love to be included in the drawing to receive a free print version of the book. Note: this book makes a lovely stocking stuffer!

Betty: here’s another chance to win a book–If you’ve never read my book, Sutter’s Landing, #2 Kinsman Redeemer Series, you can comment for a chance to win it on Rose McCauley’s blog. Click here for more details: Win a copy of Sutter’s Landing!

Gingerbread Love

By Carlton Hughes

Have you ever been the apple of someone’s eye? The object of affection from someone who loves you unconditionally?

That was me with my grandmothers. They loved me more than anyone else has in this world, and I say with a straight face that I was the favorite. Apology to my cousins—who probably feel the same way. Both grandmothers had a way of making me feel like I was the most important person in the world.

Growing up, I loved to visit my grandmothers, and there were always special treats and surprises.

Mammaw Dema, my paternal grandmother, was petite in stature but strong as could be. She didn’t mince words, and you never had to guess what she was thinking. At her house I could always find a fresh pitcher of green lemon-lime Kool-Aid in the fridge, and, if I was lucky, there would be a homemade chocolate pie. Not a combination you find every day, but it worked for us.

Mammaw Arietta was my maternal grandmother, and she was a bit more soft-spoken. She loved having her family members around her, and they often gathered at her small home to talk, to drink coffee, and to play cards. Speaking of cards, I spent many an evening getting thumped by her at 500 Rummy. When I finally beat her after hundreds of tries, she wasn’t disappointed—she said she had taught me well.

One of my favorite treats at Mammaw Arietta’s house was her homemade gingerbread. It wasn’t shaped as cute gingerbread men—it came out of the oven in big slabs, with a design made from pulling a fork through the dough. I enjoyed large pieces smothered with peanut butter; again, it worked for us.

My mother recently provided me with the recipe, which is typical of a grandmother’s method of cooking. Some of the measurements are not exact, and there are no baking instructions. The cooks from that era didn’t have Google or hundreds of cooking blogs to draw from—just their own instincts, put to good use with limited ingredients.

The recipe was passed down to my grandmother from her mother. It’s the best gingerbread I have ever had, and, to this day, when I smell ginger, I think of those days at her house.

GRANDMA GREER’S GINGERBREAD

2/3 cup sweet milk (what we called regular milk, as opposed to buttermilk)
1 cup molasses
½ cup regular granulated sugar
2 eggs
½ cup shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ginger (or more to taste)

Mix all ingredients together. Add enough all-purpose flour to make the dough stiff. Grease a large baking sheet and spread the dough on it. Run a fork through the dough several times to make a design. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Click-to-Tweet: An old-fashioned holiday recipe from .@carltonwhughes #inspiredprompt #gingerbreadlove #grandmotherslove

3 Questions Wednesday with Carlton Hughes

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday.

Carlton Hughes

Today’s guest is a familiar one, a member of the Writing Prompts Crew. Among other things, he’s a communications professor, a children’s pastor, and an all-around great guy. Our readers know him for his warm, humorous posts.

So, let’s see how he answers our 3 Questions–

Question: Carlton, what inspires you?

Carlton:  Many things inspire me, but I’ve narrowed it down a bit. (1) I live in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and you truly witness the creativity of God here. Right now the colors of autumn are vivid, and nature inspires me. (2) I’m also inspired by the people in my life—my family, friends, students, and co-workers. There are always good stories floating around! (3) This one may sound strange, but I love classic sitcoms and get inspiration from them. When I’m feeling down, I’ll watch an episode or two of I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, etc. I love to write humor, and what better way to learn than to watch the best.

Sounds like you’re inspired by life. And you’re right–stories are everywhere. For humor writers, those classic shows are the best.

Next question–You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Carlton: This question is hard, but I’d have to say a vibrant royal blue, mostly because I bleed Kentucky blue!

The color blue indicates patience and calm, and also fealty (loyalty), and you are certainly loyal to your Kentucky Wildcats!

Final Question–As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Carlton: For a long time, I wanted to be an architect—I think it was the “Mike Brady Effect.” When I realized you had to take a lot of math to be an architect, I changed my mind quickly. I developed an interest in journalism starting in junior high and wanted to be a broadcast news anchor—I even double-majored in broadcasting and print journalism in college. God had other plans, though, and I became a professor and a freelance writer. However, I use the skills from my broadcast journalism classes in my writing all the time. Math? Not so much.

Good choice! This is a perfect example of how God uses our gifts to be a blessing to others.

Thanks, Carlton, for visiting 3 Questions Wednesday, and giving our readers the chance to get to know you better. Readers, besides here on our blog, you can find Carlton on Almost an Author (blog).

Click to tweet: Carlton Hughes bleeds blue! #Kentucky #3QuestionsWednesday #InspiredPrompt


Carlton W. Hughes is a communications professor at Southeast Kentucky Community College and coordinates the Dual Credit Program at Harlan County High School, where he also teaches part-time. He is children’s pastor at Lynch Church of God and won the 2013 Shepherd’s Cup Award, the highest honor for children’s pastors in the Church of God denomination. Hughes is also a year-round volunteer and Relay Center Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child. As a writer, his works have been featured in numerous publications, including the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game and Simple Little Words. Hughes is a two-time first-place winner in the “Dramas/ Plays/Scripts” category in the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Writers Contest. He resides in Cumberland, Kentucky, and he and his wife Kathy have two sons, Noah and Ethan. He is a fan of chocolate, good books, basketball, and classic television shows like “I Love Lucy.”


And don’t forget to enter our “Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway III” — you’ll see a “click-meme” in the sidebar on the right, or if you’re on your phone, you can click here to enter: Rafflecopter Giveaway

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My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Homemade Pancakes

I love the title for this month’s blog post. I had different relationships with both of my grandmothers. They each taught me so much in the precious time I had with them. After our family moved from the city, I used to spend a few weeks each summer with my Grandma Milem.

She lived in a cul-de-sac with other homes filled with folks much like herself; elderly, with grown children. There were very few kids my age living, or visiting in that semi-circle of homes; so I ended up spending a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa. This is the place where I learned to sew, embroider, and watch Grandma cook. A favorite family memory: she loved to whistle while she worked.

There was always fresh produce on Grandma’s table. Tomatoes sliced on a plate, cucumbers bathed in vinegar, or swimming in sour cream with dill, and onion stalks with their greenery spilling out of the top of a glass of water. She taught my mother how to can the benefits from our garden, her bread and butter pickles were the best! We had jars and jars of corn, green beans and tomatoes. Grandma would take zucchini home and come back to visit with loaves of zucchini bread!

I have fond memories of holiday gatherings. Wonderful smells would fill the house. There were no store bought pies here, no sir. Everything was made by hand, and if you went home hungry it was your fault.

By the time I became a teenager, Grandpa had passed away and their home had been sold. Grandma called herself a vagabond; she lived from place to place. Mostly with her grown children in different parts of the country. She would visit us in southern California for a couple of months, she would then divide the rest of the year between Arizona, South Carolina, or Ohio.

In 1999, we were all called to my Uncle’s home in Ohio to say our good-byes. Hospice had advised that Grandma would be leaving us soon. A memory from that time, so precious to me  was when my Uncle’s home lost power, and there was no air conditioning. My cousins and I took newspaper and made fans. Then we went into the bedroom where Grandma rested and fanned her while singing hymns. If you listened real close you could hear her humming along.

When asking my cousins which recipe they remembered most from Grandma’s Kitchen our memories varied.  But we all think of her as a constant reminder of our childhood, and her great cooking abilities. I just found out recently that one of my cousins had  snagged her recipe box! Oh what a treasure! She then proceeded to send me a picture of all of those recipes. So, per her request, I am happily sharing Grandma Milem’s pancake recipe.

 

Grandma Milem’s Pancakes

1 Egg
1 1/4 cup Buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup of Baking soda
1 1/4 Cups of Flour
1 tsp. Sugar
2 Tbs. Soft shortening
1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Salt

Mix the dry ingredients together well. The shortening should be soft like butter at room temperature. Add shortening, and  buttermilk; stir well. Let batter rest for a minute or two before pouring on hot griddle.

Click to Tweet: My Grandma’s Kitchen: Homemade Pancakes #holiday #memories .@InspiredPrompts