Cooking

Grandma’s mystery recipe notes

Here’s the last of my Grandma’s Recipes posts – maybe I’ll dig through her clippings again one day and find some more to share, but I’ll leave it here for now. These are pretty hard to top, anyway – Grandma’s mystery recipe notes. Or: potatoes and *what*?!

As I sifted through the pile, I set aside a few bits of paper with weird, seemingly random recipe notes jotted down on them. They were both really funny and, in some cases, potentially really worrying:

Casserole with potato chips?

Tuna, peas, and potato chips – can’t go wrong there, right?

And then there’s some that are just notes on whatever must’ve been convenient right then.

Tupperware party note

I especially like this one, and not just because it’s funny, though it is. I have to wonder if she actually remembered what she wanted to fill with cranberry sauce when she came across this note later. But really I just like imagining the Tupperware Party she was at, trading cooking ideas with friends and finding this one important enough to write down.

But these two had my mother and I practically in tears from laughing – what could they possibly be for? They’re two sides of the same card but sure seem to be two different recipes – or at least I really, really hope they are.

Freeze.

Lots of potatoes, lots of cheese, freeze. Very cryptic.

2 eggs whole

And this side is so vague it could be for practically anything sort of dough-based – but I particularly like how she’s specified that the eggs are to be *whole*.

Because that’s what could really screw the whole thing up if you got it wrong.

General Eisenhower’s Old Fashioned Beef Stew

General Eisenhower's Old Fashioned Beef Stew

Here’s another recipe found tucked away in my Grandmother’s recipe clippings (like last time, click through for a bigger image) – probably from campaign-time 1952, or thereabouts. Early enough for there to be this level of public interest but obviously before the election of that year. So if you ever wanted to eat like Ike, copy this one down and whip up his simple but tasty beef stew. Or, you know, something his people grabbed from somewhere to help form the down-home, simple-tastes, family-man image this article is so shamelessly promoting. I guess politics isn’t really as different now as we imagine, eh?

Points for Perfect Pastry

Points for Perfect Pastry

A couple of weeks ago, I attempted to bake my grandmother’s famously delicious raisin bread. I’d actually been meaning to for ages, because my family has the notebook she wrote her recipes and cooking notes in, as well as an envelope full of recipes she clipped and saved from magazines, food packaging, pretty much anywhere.

The raisin bread was a giant flop. First it didn’t rise at all, then it did, then not again – in the end, the bread was too tall, too brown, and completely raw in the middle. Grandma clearly knew stuff about bread that I don’t know, and trying to bake from her handwritten recipe proved difficult in ways I didn’t expect at all. I don’t really know that much about baking bread anyway, I’m still in the early learning stages, so questions about yeast cakes vs. dry active yeast and the like had me confounded.

I tried again the very next day, having adjusted the recipe based on the first try, and it was wonderful! It made me want to dig through the rest of my grandmother’s recipes and, doing so, I found some real gems to share with you all. I have a little pile set aside that I’ll get through eventually, but first up is these super helpful hints on making the perfect pastry, brought to you by Robin Hood Flour (the pre-sifted flour, of course). (Click through to Flickr for a bigger version.) Not that I know anything about making pastry, the tips might be useless – but look at the fabulous artwork. They just don’t make ads like this anymore!

Any excuse for a cupcake

Oscar party cupcakes

Oscar night is a serious tradition in my family – ever since I can remember, we’ve printed up ballots and each hoped our predictions (or wild guesses, in some cases) would win us the family pool. With the whole family now settled in the UK, we record them in the middle of the night, all commit to a complete outside-world-blackout through the next day (no news, no internet, no radio) and then tuck in with some special treats. These tiny gold stars seemed an obvious choice for Oscar night!

Who won, you ask? Well, I don’t want to brag too much, but calling me the undisputed champion wouldn’t be totally crazy. Oscar night has always been pretty good to me!

Cupcakes: Martha Stewart’s One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes via Playing House
Frosting: Very Vanilla Frosting from Baked Perfection (this frosting is Seriously Amazing. It’s a keeper!)

Tutorial: how to dye your own sugar!!

Sugar Dyeing for baking and decorating

At Christmas, I made some of my favorite sugar cookies in snowflake shapes and wanted a simpler decoration idea than frosting. Seriously – only Martha Stewart and her army of crafters have time to draw lovely little designs on cookies at Christmastime. I decided to go with simple colored sugar, when my mother suggested saving the crazy cost of decorating sugar and just dye my own. She tells me she learned this as a Girl Scout and I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t really believe it would work, but it turns out to be crazy easy. And, since it’s made from things most of us have in the cupboard, totally free!

Here’s what you need:

Sugar Dyeing pt 1

– Sugar, obviously. It’d be awesome if you could find the really-big-crystal kind, but no such luck in my area. This not-fine-not-coarse supermarket sugar worked a charm for me.
– Food coloring in whatever colors you like
– A shallow bowl (I used a plate here but discovered later a shallow bowl works even better)
– A spoon
– Newspaper
– Measuring cup
– Not pictured: an apron, unless you’re a food coloring daredevil
– About 10-ish minutes per color, if that

To get started, spread out the newspaper and put on your apron because food coloring will go wherever is unprotected, no matter how careful you are. (Ask me how I know.) Measure out however much sugar you want to dye – I did about a half-cup of three colors and had more than enough to cover the cookies I baked – into your shallow bowl.

Sugar Dyeing pt 2

Drip a few drops of food coloring into the sugar. It’s best to start with too little than too much. Just like adding white paint, you can always add plain sugar to a too-dark color to lighten it, but that’s how you accidentally end up with a huge bag of a color you’ll never use. (Again – ask me how I know.) Here I’ve used 3 drops of pink coloring.

Sugar Dyeing pt 3

Work the color into the sugar with the back of your spoon, kind of just smooshing it in. There’s probably a million other ways to do this – with your fingers if you wear gloves, mashing it all around in a ziplock bag, etc – but I found this to be just as quick and easy to make sure it’s all even.

Sugar Dyeing pt 4

Keep smooshing and mixing until it’s all worked in and even, adding more food coloring if needed.

Sugar Dyeing pt 5

And that’s pretty much it! For this light pink, I used only three drops of color and it stayed pretty dry. Sugar with more food coloring in it might be a bit moist – it’s a good idea to leave in out in a thin layer to dry for a while.

I made three colors for Valentine’s Day:

Sugar Dyeing pt 6

Mmm, sugar.

Sugar Dyeing pt 7

Do yourself a favor and make these sugar cookies from Our Best Bites, which I promise is the best sugar cookie recipe on earth. Sprinkle them with your hand-dyed sugar before they go in the oven, or you could always use it to decorate cupcakes or anything else you want to sparkle!

Sugar Dyeing pt 8

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Update: Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh, this tutorial was on Craft: magazine’s blog!!! This is my little blog’s most exciting day evar! A bunch of readers also left their particular sugar dyeing methods in the comments below, so have a look through them for further tips and tricks. Thanks for stopping by!

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