By Steve Connolly
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!
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.
- Next, sift into a separate bowl all the dry ingredients (except the nutmeg).
- With an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar and beat till light and fluffy
- Mix in the egg products one at a time beating until fully combined. Beat in the vanilla.
- 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).
- 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)
- Put onto cookie sheets – I find aluminum sheets work the best.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!