Family memory foods
Thursday March 11th 2010, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Recipes

Warning: calories ahead.

When my husband and I were young newlyweds, his mother’s mother sat me down one long, boring day with her recipe file, and with her great enthusiasm and my attempting to look enthused, she had me copy down (by hand, kids, this was in the Olden Days) all her decades-long favorites.  She wanted to pass down the wisdom of her kitchen.  I chaffed in silence; I wasn’t about to tell her how much all of this represented to me what I so much didn’t want to be.  I had no intention of being a stay-at-home mom. Roasted Potatoes was just not what I aspired to.

Yeah well.  Live and learn.  One of the hardest things I ever did was decide to stay home with my children after all.  For the first few months of motherhood, I was able to work where I could take my baby with me; she wasn’t mobile yet, she slept a lot, nobody minded.  But then two things happened: she started exploring the world on her hands and knees–and we moved 2000 miles and that job was over.  I found, though it would have surprised me just a couple of years earlier, that I utterly could not bear to leave her, even if it meant living on my husband’s grad-student fellowship.  He very much supported my decision either way, but confessed later he was relieved I’d chosen to make motherhood a do-it-yourself project. He didn’t think anyone else could do as good a job as me.

And over all these years now, one of the things I’ve learned is how much memories attach themselves, over time, to–you guessed it–various foods.  Write down those recipes, give’em to your college kids so they can re-create home.

And yet.  GrandmaM would totally get where I’d been coming from back in the day.  She was the first woman in her small (and I do mean small) town to have a college degree.  She was a teacher who married a dairy farmer who was also the town’s high school principal, and the moment she was married she was of course out of a job; the idea of a married teacher back then was unthinkable, and a teacher married to the principal! Well now!

My older daughter, who is finishing up her PhD, asked for these, and I thought, as long as I’m typing them up, might as well put them up here.

From our family to yours.

There was a recipe making the rounds years ago with a story disclaimed by Snopes, supposedly stolen from Mrs Fields by a disgruntled ex-employee; whatever, someone did a good job of reverse engineering.  These make five pounds of dough–and I once had a batch at the top of the freezer, reached down later for something in the bottom of the freezer, and… Clonk.

Not-Mrs. Field’s Cookies (Clonk Cookies, perhaps?)

Cream: 2 c butter, 2c sugar, 2c brown sugar.

Add 4 eggs, 2tsp vanilla.

Mix: 5c oats that have been measured and then ground into flour, 4c flour, 1 tsp salt, 2tsp each baking powder and baking soda.  (I have been known to skip the baking soda.)

Mix all together and then fold in 24 oz chocolate chips and 3 c chopped nuts.

350 degrees, 8-10 minutes for medium-sized cookies. Note that the ground oats in the dough, being a little coarser than actual oat flour, help make it easy to pry off a little frozen cookie dough with a fork and bake just one or two at a time so that you can limit your caloric exposure at any one time if you want.


Recipe the second: this one originated from, of all things, a 1992 Mazola no-stick-spray ad. (Why, yes, I write notes with dates in my cookbooks; do you?)

Cranberry Bars

Cookie crust: set oven at 350. Grease 15×10 pan. Cut 1 c of cold butter–do not substitute, and needs to be cold–into 2 1/2 c flour.  Add 1/2 c sugar and 1/2 tsp salt, by hand, not by machine. It’s more work that way, but the difference in crunch in the crust is huge. Press firmly in pan, bake 20-23 minutes or till golden. Top with filling quickly and bake again.

Filling:  Beat 4 eggs, 1c corn syrup, 1 c sugar, and 3 tbl melted butter (do not substitute!) Stir in 2 c coarsely chopped fresh cranberries and 1 c coarsely chopped pecans.  Pour quickly over hot crust, spreading it out.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until set. Cool completely. Refrigerate it for it to cut cleanly, if you can wait that long.

Pecan Pie variation: for filling, use 4 eggs, 1 1/2 c corn syrup, 1 1/2 c sugar, 3 tbl butter, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 2 1/2 c pecans.  I find it curious that it uses so much more sweetener when it doesn’t have the tartness of the cranberries in this version, but if you want a pecan pie as a cookie finger food, this is definitely the way to get it.


I brought the cranberry bars to a get-together once and watched my friend Jim take his first bite, close his eyes in appreciation, and pronounce how if you want dessert done right you ask Alison to bring it.

I’ll share the recipe with GrandmaM when I get up there.  She will laugh.

21 Comments so far
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Thanks for the great recipes, Alison! Don’t hesitate to give us many more if you can be bothered. I always love reading your blog!

Comment by Karen 03.11.10 @ 5:47 pm

Thank you, Alison! These look wonderful!

Comment by Madeline 03.11.10 @ 6:12 pm

I remember those early days with my first borne. I had no plan to stay home, and yet I just couldn’t leave him. 🙂

Comment by kmom 03.11.10 @ 6:16 pm

I made the cranberry bars for a Christmas class get together when you first posted it when you sent the recipe to a family that was hosting your son on mission I think (?). Desserts and I don’t have a great relationship…I can make a 5 course meal, but not dessert. Go figure. Maybe it is because I am not a dessert lover myself. Anyhow, I tried anyways, thinking that at least you would never know they turned out inedible…but they didn’t! And even I liked them! They were a hit with the class parents, especially. I almost feel ready for the torte. I have a husband with a chocolate tooth, but me, I just want to make it ‘cuz its pretty….

Comment by Andiknits 03.11.10 @ 7:27 pm

Yum! On the oats in the cookie recipe: Is it 5 cups oats before you grind them into flour, or 5 cups oat flour? And how do you grind them? Will a blender work, or do you need a food processor?

Thanks for posting. I can’t wait to try them.

Comment by Julia 03.11.10 @ 9:25 pm

In our family, the comfort foods were cheese spoonbread and bacon cornmeal waffles. Outside of our family, not many people have heard of them. Those were the foods we’d request for our birthdays. 😉

Comment by Serena 03.11.10 @ 9:27 pm

I have a few recipes of my mother’s that were her mother’s before her. Most of them are in my own handwriting because like you, I was sat down and asked to copy them out. But my favourites are the ones that I have that are in my mom’s own handwriting. She’s gone now, but I remember her each time I flip through my recipe box.

Comment by Marlene 03.11.10 @ 10:19 pm

Julia: measure the oats first, and thank you for the heads-up–I just clarified it in the recipe. I have a food processor, so I haven’t tried it in a blender.

Comment by AlisonH 03.11.10 @ 10:46 pm

I still have a recipe that was handwritten by a young man that passed away much too early in his live – 21. It’s for a fruit pizza, which I will never make, but it is in his handwriting and I can’t throw it away. The same with all my grandmother’s recipes that she wrote for me for when I went to collage – including the one on how to cook an elephant.

Comment by afton 03.12.10 @ 4:45 am

It’s only recently that I got bit by the cooking bug. My reflex was to go to my mother for some recipes. More often than not though, she makes me a photocopy, but I did get to browse through my grandmother’s handwritten recipe book. Lots of heritage to live up to!

Thank you for sharing some of yours. 🙂

Comment by Suzanne in Montreal 03.12.10 @ 6:28 am

I loved this post. It brought back a lot of my own family memories. The recipe I treasure the most is from my grandma, written by hand, who passed away in 1991 at the age of 99.

Comment by Joansie 03.12.10 @ 6:36 am

I have that cookie recipe – it’s a favourite everytime I make it. And I’ve ground the oats in both a blender and food processor – they both work, but you need to do it in batches when you use the blender.
I sat one day and watched my Mom make her cabbage rolls and another day watch her make lasagne – marking down EVERYTHING she did. Measurements aren’t as important when cooking (different for baking), but just knowing the receipes are written down is important. I also have some of my Dad’s recipes that I recreated after he passed and wrote them down for future needs.

Comment by Sandra 03.12.10 @ 7:05 am

Isn’t it wonderful that we finally have a world where women – especially mothers – have options? It’s funny… I always wanted a career, but now, what I want most is to sit at home and write, with my fur-girls milling around.

Might have to make those cranberry bars tonight.

Comment by Channon 03.12.10 @ 8:35 am

I have all of Amalie’s recipes, but the only thing I make (in my condition) is her hotcakes. I really need to try her waffles which were so light and fluffy that you’d practically have to eat them off the ceiling!

When I moved into my own apartment many years ago, my eldest sister taught me many of her recipes, and by the time Am and I were married, I was a pretty good cook. But she was also darned good. Ah, well, those days now long gone.

Humor –
This is the story of the young lady who called her boy friend one day, saying, “Would you please come help me with this jigsaw puzzle? I’m having a dickens of a time.” “What’s the picture on the box?” he asked. “Well there’s a big red rooster.” “I’ll be right over.” And he was. And he saw these pieces spread out all over the table. He took one look at the box and said, “Okay, let’s just relax and have a cup of tea. Then we’ll put all these cornflakes back in the box.”

Comment by Don Meyer 03.12.10 @ 10:57 am

WAHOO! After 6+ months I finally have the cranberry bar recipe! And it’s mine, all mine… well, and everyone else who reads your blog, I suppose. I even have cranberries in the freezer, just waiting for a chance to be baked into cookies.


Comment by Sam 03.12.10 @ 12:20 pm

Oh, and just so you know my looong education hasn’t gone to waste, here’s what the PhD has taught me…

Good part of being an adult: realizing you can make an entire batch of cranberry bars and eat it all by yourself like you always wanted to as a child.

Bad part of being an adult: knowing what the word “calorie” actually means, and why you therefore should not *actually* consume an entire batch of aforementioned cranberry bars.

Comment by Sam 03.12.10 @ 12:29 pm

Yum. I, too, experienced the married-to-a-grad-student-and-staying-home-with-kids life. We were so poor, but we were every bit as happy, maybe more so.

Now I think I need to share another experience with you and try those cranberry bars!

Comment by twinsetellen 03.12.10 @ 4:59 pm

Allison, thanks for posting the recipes. I can’t wait to try them. Our youth group is having an auction soon to raise money for a mission trip. I was trying to come up with something creative to donate-cookies are just the thing. A plate with samples to taste and then the frozen cookies ready to pop in the oven for sale. One question, how long do you cook the frozen dough?

Comment by PennyV 03.13.10 @ 4:28 am

My family’s never had much money, so we have very few “heirlooms”….except a cake recipe. It has been the “go to” cake recipe in my mother’s family for a long time. When my grandmother spent a winter with my mom, my mom, a home ec. major, had my grandmother make “the cake”, so she could stop her at each step and measure the ingredients to get a recipe. My grandmother, and all the women before her, used their hands and fingers as their measuring tools. My grandmother was very patient (for her!) but amused and, at one point, commented, “This isn’t cooking; it’s chemistry!” The cake in question, I figured out after some research, is pretty much a standard gold cake, a recipe popular in the late 1800’s, in texture between a yellow cake and a pound cake. But it’s precious to us because of its family history. When my daughter and I made it a few years ago to take to a gathering at the 1880’s historical site where we volunteer, we became, respectively, the 5th and 6th generations of women in our family to use this recipe! It’s also the cake my mom makes for me every year for my birthday. Yes, I’m spoiled–thanks for noticing! 😉

Comment by Shirley 03.13.10 @ 8:50 am

Hey Mom– I cut the sugar in the “Mrs. Field’s” recipe down by 25% (because I always do that; normal cookie recipes are too sweet for me). It worked out great.

Comment by Sam 03.15.10 @ 6:03 am

Look, look, I fixed it!

Comment by Sam Rolland 07.17.17 @ 3:40 pm

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