Archive for the ‘Food memory’ Category

As some of you know, I decided to conquer bread making during my sabbatical.

Where I started.

I’m still working on it, BUT, things have improved.

Due to some good advice from Luke, a professional baker and friend of my sister, I have successfully baked a wheat bread loaf with a rounded top and I hope (fingers-crossed) to bake our weekly bread from now on. Once again food connects us all! Thank you Luke.

I also took several classes at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. These classes helped me connect the baking dots and took away some of the mystery when it comes to yeast and all-things-bready.

Next up: baguette and croissants, (if the baking gods are willing!)

Here are some images of my breads in various stages.

Bread rising in my homemade proofing box.

An old world wheel loaf.

In class: How did my brain get in that bowl?


Fancy-pants Rustic Fougasse bread Baking Class with Eileen Usovics

Learning at the Culinary Center of K.C. with Chef Cody Hogan

Ta-da! Homemade Happy Bread!


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Here are my comfort foods: noodles, fried chicken, wonton soup, hot coco with saltines  and mint chip ice cream.

Two of these foods are because of my grandma (can you guess which?)

Because I am an old school cook I wanted to learn how to cut up a whole chicken and the best reference for this is the only woman I know who’s actually killed chickens, my grandma.

No, I did not end this chicken’s life, the farmers at Campo Lindo did that for me, but I did spend a whole morning learning the country art of carving a chicken and my grandma’s special recipe for frying it up! Not only was this good food for the soul, grandma time is just good for my heart (the fried parts included).

Cutting up the chicken…

Soaking it in buttermilk. Not for too long, 15-20 minutes maybe.


Frying the chicken

I had totally forgotten about sorghum butter. It’s a thick molasses combined with butter that my grandma loves on her biscuits and perfect with fried chicken. I hadn’t tasted it since I was a kid.

Grandma gave our chicken a thumbs up…

…and so did my tummy!

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Liz truly cherishes her friends and their Girl’s Night Out dinners.

For three years her and her friends have fun getting together, sharing stories, laughing, dining, and supporting each other.

GNO’s can also turn into GNI (Girl’s Night In) when Liz and her friends cook together in the kitchen.

“We filled the kitchen, each working on our own tasks — someone might chop vegetables, someone might pour the drinks, someone might set the table, someone might gather all of the ingredients — everyone contributed.“

Liz and her friends prove once again that food brings us and keeps us together.

Liz’s Recipe and a Girl’s Night Out Favorite….

Layered Greek Dip


1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese softened

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. dried italian seasoning

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2  cups prepared hummus

1 cup chopped cucumber

1 cup chopped tomato

1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup sliced green onions

Pita chips and/or multi-grain tortilla chips


1) In a medium mixing bowl beat cream cheese, lemon juice, Italian seasonings, and garlic with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and combined.

2) Spread cream cheese mixture into a deep 9-inch pie plate or shallow serving dish. Evenly spread hummus on cream cheese layer. Top with cucumber, tomato, olives, feta cheese, and green onions. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours. Serve with pita chips and or multi-grain chips.

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As a child there was one food I was afraid of, The Lep Cookie. This Boonville Missouri  and Farris family favorite sat in jars all around town “ripening” for months before being consumed at Christmas. The idea that a cookie got better the longer it aged did not tempt my refrigerator /expiration date trained taste buds (plus it was filled with raisins, walnuts and no chocolate). The Lep cookie isn’t just a legend in our family, but a Christmas cookie tray staple and a topic of discussion every holiday for many families in mid-Missouri.

Where do these flat dark brown cookies come from?

According to a 1974 article in the  Boonville newspaper,  the “Lebukuchen” became a popular cookie in mid-Missouri due to the scarcity of sugar. Brought to Boonville by german immigrants in the 1800’s, the Lebukuchen, was soon americanized to the German Honey Bar, The  Lepp or Lep cookie. This cookie was traditionally exchanged by neighbors and served when anyone dropped by. Though there are many different local recipes all involve the same basic ingredients: flour, nuts, fruits, and sorghum molasses. The nuts are key. There are a lot of nut trees in area, so essentially they were a free ingredient for baking. These cookies were prepared around nut harvesting time, November, and eaten at Christmas.

The Lep cookie is so ingrained in the town’s culture that at the local hospital huge quantities were often baked and decorated like greeting cards for the patients and in 1928 each new Christmas infant took one home.

Now the question is, when did my family start making them?

One fall afternoon, Linda and I found my great grandmother’s recipe for Lep cookies. It was buried under magazine recipes and several different newspaper versions of Lep cookies. My grandmother was about to toss it out!

I have groaned about the Lep cookie for years, but to be totally honest, I ended up loving the that cookie after I baked it myself. I learned that, yes, it’s true you must let them chill before handling the dough or it will turn into a sticky tar mess. But it’s really tasty, kind of like a granola bar or fruit cake without the candied fruit. I ate them with tea like my mother’s side of the family. And frankly, I am forcing myself to wait until frosty afternoon in February to eat the rest. This is one cookie that is more a part of my DNA then I ever thought possible.


Because they keep forever, all Lep cookie recipes bake a ton.

Here is a condensed recipe:

Lep Cookies


8 oz or 1 cup sorghum molasses or dark molasses

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup lard or Crisco

1 pint or 2 cups of flour

1/2 cup of buttermilk

2 1/2  teaspoons of baking soda

1/2 Tablespoon of each: clove, ginger, nutmeg, all spice

1 Tablespoon of cinnamon

1 cup of chopped mixed nuts ( I used pecans and walnuts)

1 cup of mixed fruit (I used raisins and dried cranberries)

Pinch of salt

Wax paper


Heat molasses, lard and sugar and let cool.

Add baking soda to milk, then add all ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

Mix together until a wet dough forms.

Pour ingredients onto a sheet of wax paper. Use your hands to shape the dough into rolls. You won’t use your hands too long, the dough is very sticky. Once you have a log shape going, wrap the wax paper around the sides of the dough and use it to roll the dough into shape. I cut my dough into two rolls.

Wrap the wax paper around the dough and chill. Chilling can be over night or you can freeze it and bake it much later.

Slice and bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes.

To ripen them: Store in an air tight container (like a stone jar or plastic container) at room temperature for a month or freeze them (icing and all) and eat them until next year.

Lep cookies are served frosted and unfrosted. I choose to make a Browned Butter Frosting for mine. Here’s that recipe, but feel free to use any frosting you like!

Browned Butter Frosting (from Better Homes and Gardens)

In a small saucepan heat 1/2 cup  butter over low heat till melted. Continue heating till butter turns a delicate brown. Remove from heat; pour into small bowl. Add 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low-speed till combined. Beat on medium high-speed, adding additional milk if needed to reach spreading  consistency.

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Me and my 10 lb baby.

Christmas and cookies just go together. In fact, I think a jolly cookie fever  sweeps through this time of year leaving everyone feeling sugared and stuffed. People love to make and eat cookies they don’t want regularly  because of tradition and family. Cookies just taste different during the holiday season. Personally, I’ve never been a big cookie baker. Chocolate chip cookies tend to be my standard along with a favorite holiday cookie/candy, the chocolate peanut butter ball.

Since I had the time, I spent the days  before Christmas making different kinds of cookies each week (most were new recipes for me) and then gave them away to friends, neighbors, and the seniors at the community center. I liked playing Santa. It was fun to catch neighbors backing out of their driveways and scout out friend’s homes I haven’t visited in years all for the sake of  a little sweet cheer.


Did I sample all of these treats more than once, yes. Did I buy three jars of marshmallow Fluff, yes. Did I even get close to the number of cookies my Aunt Bec made, NO. I heard she made twenty different kinds. She is a baking saint.

Week One: Vanilla Caramels and Fudge.

*There’s no visual record of the my first attempts at candy making. Although the first few bites of caramel tasted good, they quickly turned rock hard in under 30 minutes. The old-time fudge solidified in the pan and I could lift the whole thing up with the cemented candy thermometer. It was not a good day in the kitchen, I was lucky to salvage the pot and the thermometer. I laughed and learned, what else can you do.

Round Two of fudge went much easier. I turned to the time-tested and trustworthy Fluff.

Mamie Eisenhower’s recipe was so good, I ended up making it twice. I did add smashed candy canes to the top (mostly to make it more Christmas-y, but  it actually tasted really good).

Eisenhower Fudge


4 1/2 cups of sugar

pinch of salt

2 Tablespoons butter

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

12 ounces (2 cups)  semisweet chocolate chips

12 ounces of German Chocolate (in baking section of store)

2 cups marshmallow creme

5 candy canes (crushed into bits) – optional


In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, butter and milk. Boil for 6 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips, German chocolate, and marshmallow creme.

Pour hot milk mixture over the chocolate mixture and stir with wooden spoon for at least 5 minutes, until the chocolate has melted and the fudge has begun to thicken.

Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with lightly buttered wax paper. Pour the fudge into the pan and let sit.

If you’re adding crushed candy canes, feel free to add them after the fudge has cooled a little (maybe 15-20 minutes).

Cover fudge and let it sit on the counter overnight until it’s firm enough to cut into squares.

Week Two: Rocky Road Cookies

*These were so yummy, we pretty much ate them all in one night. Luckily the recipient of them joined us for dinner, so she got her share too.

Rocky Road Shortbread

1 1/4c flour
1/3c pecans, chopped finely
1/2c butter
1/3c sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4c mini-marshmallows
1/2c walnuts, chopped coarsely
1/2c chocolate chips, either milk or semi-sweet

Pre-heat oven to 350′, grease baking sheets. Beat together butter, sugar & vanilla until creamy. In another bowl mix dry ingredients together – flour & finely chopped pecans. Slowly stir into creamy mixture.

Use a 1″ cookie scoop, scoop dough and place on baking sheet. Gently flatten until about 1/2″ thick, with smooth-ish edges. Bake 16 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.

Just before cookies come out of oven, melt chocolate chips. I use the microwave – high for about 1 minute, then stir until completely melted. Watch out, microwaves vary and it is easy to scorch your chocolate.

Remove cookies from oven, spread with approximately 1 tsp. chocolate/cookie, then top with coarsely chopped pecans and marshmallows. Return to oven for 2 more minutes for the marshmallows to soften.

Remove from oven and place on racks to cool.

Week Three: Peppermint Whoopie Cookies and Lep Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting (separate blog to come on this Farris classics).

*I was a little nervous about the Whoopie Cookie, which is basically like a moon pie. I didn’t think it would travel well, but it just looked so cute, I gave it a go. I’m glad I did. It was fun to make and ended up holding together great after being in the fridge for about an hour!  Yes, I added candy canes to this recipe too, (I heart peppermint).

Peppermint Whoopie Cookies


2 cups  all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp.  unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp.  baking soda

1/4 tsp.  salt

1/2 cup  butter, softened

1 cup  packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp.  vanilla

1/2 cup  buttermilk

1 1-oz. bottle  red food coloring (2 Tbsp.)

1 recipe  Whoopie Pie Filling, recipe below

1/4 cup of crushed candy cane


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment; set aside. In medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. In large mixing bowl beat butter on medium to high 30 seconds. Beat in brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beating after each addition just until combined. Stir in food coloring.

3. Spoon batter in 1 or 2-inch diameter rounds, about 1/2-inch high on prepared baking sheets, allowing 1 inch between each round.

4. Bake 7 to 9 minutes for 1-inch cookies or 9 to 11 minutes for 2-inch cookies, or until tops are set. Cool completely on baking sheets on rack. Remove cooled cookies from baking sheets.

5. To fill, dollop Whoopie Pie Filling on flat sides of half the cookies. Sprinkle candy cane on top of the filling. Top with remaining cookies, flat sides down. Makes 60 one-inch or 42 two-inch cookies.

6. Whoopie Pie Filling: In medium mixing bowl beat 1/4 cup softened butter and half an 8-ounce package softened cream cheese until smooth. Fold in one 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme. I did add candy cane to the filling, maybe 1  1/2 table spoons.

7. To store: Refrigerate in airtight container up to 4 days. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Week Three/ Part One: Butter Pecan Cookies, Swedish Tea Cookies and more Fudge.

* There are three treats that mean Christmas to me and Butter Cookies and Swedish Tea Cookies (some people call them wedding cookies or mexican wedding cookies) are two of them. In my mind, they taste like our family holidays. Mom came over to teach me the recipes and bake all day.

Butter Cookies


1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups flour

whole pecans


Cream butter and sugar together. Add flour. Mix well.

Chill for 2 hours.

Roll into small balls.

Flatten each with your thumb.

Decorate with a single pecan placed in thumbprint.

Bake 12 minutes at 375.

Makes 3 dozen.

Swedish Tea Cookies


1/2 cup of powdered sugar

1 cup margarine or butter softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

1 cup finely chopped pecans and almonds

1/4 tsp salt

Extra powdered sugar


Beat 1/2 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla until fluffy.

Add flour, nuts, and salt. Mix until dough holds together.

Shape into 1 inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 325 for 15 to 20 minutes (until set, but not brown).

Remove from pans, cool slightly, roll in powdered sugar. Cool and roll again.

Makes 5 dozen.

The Fudge, revisited.

Week Three/ Part Two: Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls, Peanut Butter Cookies with Hershey Kisses and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

*Christmas Eve morning I got up and baked to Perry Como and falling snow. Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls (or Buckeye’s) are my other favorite Christmas treat. I can’t get the recipe out of my Grandma, she has to ask her sister and well, that’s family for you. I found a recipe online that pretty much tastes the same. Mine are messy, not smooth like Gladys’. I’m considering calling them Lumps of Coal from now on.

My Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls or Lumps of Coal:


1 Cup chunky peanut butter

1 cup Rice Krispies Cereal

1 cup powdered sugar

I package of Almond chocolate bark

wax paper


Mix peanut butter, powdered sugar and Rice Krispies together in a large bowl.

Spread wax paper on a tray or multiple plates.

Roll mixture into walnut sized balls and place on covered trays. Chill for 1 hour.

Melt the package of chocolate bark in a medium to small-sized saucepan.

Dip balls into the chocolate with tongs and put them on wax paper covered trays/plates (could be ones from earlier or new trays).

Cool  until firm by leaving them on the table or in the fridge!

*Our favorite restaurant in town is Cascones in Overland Park. We had our wedding reception there and love being regulars. Christmas Eve is one of their busiest nights of the year. The staff stays late filling take out orders and making families full and happy. It’s become a tradition for John and I to take them treats  and hopefully make working Christmas Eve a little easier. This year the staff got Peanut Butter cookies with Hershey Kisses. Classic and easy to eat on the go!

* When John and I got married I made a point of asking him what cookies meant Christmas to him. He remembered always having Chocolate Chip, not a traditional holiday cookie for the Farris family.  Each year I make a batch on Christmas Eve just for my honey. This year I insisted he eat the batter on the beater for breakfast. There wasn’t any pushback, but  I wasn’t allowed to take a picture.

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Tom sent me this story and it was just perfect…

My wife and I got married 3 years ago. We both love food and grew up in awesome food families. My wife’s family is from Italian and I’m learning all about the magic of sauces and the perfection of Gnocci. But I grew up in a house where we (as a family) always cooked together. My dad would cook, my mom, my sister and I would do all the prep clean up. We always were in the kitchen together. And like any food family we have a number of recipes that are true family secrets. They are the recipes that my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins… we all know these recipes. It’s the food that makes us family.

So four years ago I was searching for the ultimate mother’s day gift. Because I’m a designer and my parents are artists I knew if I wanted to impress, I needed to make my mother a gift. So I silk screened set of recipe cards for my mom. She is always giving out her recipes to coworkers and friends so I thought she needed some cards that people would know were from Susie Brantman.

Mom seemed to like the gift but then…

A whole year went by and I never saw any of the recipe cards. (Did she hate the gift?)

Then my fiance and I had a couples wedding shower. My parents were there and I clearly remember unwrapping the gift from my mom. She had taken all the recipe cards I gave her and copied down EVERY family recipe on them. But not just the recipes; she wrote where they were from, why we loved them, the stories of our family with the recipes, illustrations of some dishes.

AMAZING! The amount of time that I know my mom spent writing all these down is incredible. I still can’t believe that she took all that time to pass on those recipes to me.

The best part of the gift to me is now that I have my son, I pull them out and start cooking dinner with him in the kitchen and I just smile at the idea that it feels like my mom, my whole family is in the room when we are cooking. These recipe cards are the one thing that I hope get to pass on to my kids.

Susie and Tom’s son James

Susie Brantman’s famous CRACKER JACK COOKIES


2 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

2 cups oatmeal (old fashioned)

2 cups rice krispies

1 cup coconut


Set oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and soda. Combine flour and egg mixture. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Drop heaping tablespoons, about 2” apart on greased baking sheet. 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove immediately from pan to cool.

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Growing up with a dad in the kitchen is a special thing, I know from experience. So when I read Danielle’s e-mail, I felt an instant happy connection.

“Food is very much apart of my memories of growing up and I enjoy baking and cooking now. My dad was the cook of our house. He had a garden. I would go grocery shopping with him and he’d push me around as I stood on the edge of the cart. He’d pack my lunches and write notes on the brown bag. We’d pull and make taffy across the kitchen. He’d cook breakfast just about every morning.”

When it comes to parents and children, food helps to shape our relationships in so many unspoken ways, no matter how much we are a like or how much we’re different.

Lunch box notes, grocery cart rides, and making breakfast together are not just expressions of our love, they help make us who we are, and how we remember each other.

Danielle’s love and pride in her dad just beams when she talks about him. It just makes me want to go and give my dad a big hug.

A recipe from Danielle and her Dad…

Baked Oatmeal

Mix together:

1/4 cup of oil

1/2 cup of sugar

1 large egg

Add, mixing well

2 cups of QUICK oats

1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder

1/2 tsp. of salt

3/4 cup of milk

Pour into a greased 8 inch square pan.

Microwave at 70% power for 8 minutes

or Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

For a healthier version:

1/3 cup of applesauce instead of oil

and substitute 3 packets of Splenda for the sugar

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