The Quest - Part V

The Quest continues with a Christmas update…

Although I continue to look for MTAOFC at yard sales and thrift stores, Julia’s gem still evades me.

I was inspired again this Christmas season by finally watching Julie & Julia, I wanted to love it since when I read the book almost two years ago, it is what inspired me to start Holly’s Diner. I have to say I enjoyed both books (Julie & Julia, and My Life in France) more than the movie, although I loved Meryl Streep! My thirst for MTAOFC was renewed.

Then a surprise for Christmas, my step-mom Anna, gave me all of my great Aunt Mary’s cookbooks! The cookbooks had been boxed up in 1996 when Uncle Phil died, and Anna and I have talked about them only recently. Anna immediately said, “There’s no MTAOFC.” But there were other treasure, for sure!

Come into the Kitchen with Jackie by Jackie Olden of KNX (personally signed to Aunt Mary)
The Mike Roy Cookbook No. 2 by Mike Roy KNX (with Aunt Mary’s cooking notes)
Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta (I'm going to share this one with SS, remind her of a "taste of childhood" since she's in the South.)
Chafing Dish Cookery – 1950 (This I’m packing away with Grandma Helen’s chafing dish, which I inherited in 2000 but have yet to use it.)
The New York Times Cook Book by Craig Claiborne (Just like the copy I found in Fresno, but this was Aunt Mary’s! I’m keeping this one!)
Microwave Cookbook, the Complete Guide
The Complete Book of Cheese
The California Cook Book
– 1946
Gourmet, the Magazine of Good Living, Volume 28, 1968
New Recipes for the Cuisinart
by James Beard and Carl Jerome
Avanelle Day’s Herb & Spice Sampler Cookbook
Holiday Favorites Presented by Professional Home Economists
– 1985
Successful Microwaving with Toshiba – 1982
The Sunset Casserole Book – 1965
Cooking with a Food Processor – 1978
Sunset Mexican Cook Book – 1972
Adventures in Wine Cookery – 1965
The Official Directory of Salt-Free Foods – 1979
American’s Favorite Recipes from Better Homes and Gardens – 1972

With these cookbooks, Aunt Mary covered two of the Big Three in American’s culinary history (James Beard, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne), but not Julia. (Sigh, heavy sigh.) The Quest continues…


Chirstmas Eve Tradition

The holidays, they evoke traditions – new and familiar. Here’s how lasagna on Christmas Eve became a new tradition.

By the time I got to college, Christmas Eve was always spent with my Dad’s side of the family. How we got to that point is a whole other story, perhaps for another time (or not.) Although there were more of us at one time, we evolved to Daddy and my step-mom, Anna; Grandma Helen and my step-grandpa, Al; and my great Uncle Phil (Grandpa Sid’s younger brother and Daddy’s name sake); and me.

Christmas Eve with this side of the family meant getting dressed up – dresses or skirts, panty hose and heels for the ladies; slacks, pressed button down shirts and ties for the gentlemen, perhaps even a sport coat or two. I even curled my hair most year’s to please Grandma Helen. We had “cocktail” hour, although, somehow I never remember having a cocktail, only the “adults,” even when I was an adult. The table was covered with the good gold-rimmed china and gold-rimmed crystal, the gold flatware, the linen tablecloth, the works. Dinner was usually ham with all the fixin’s. It was a big production.

After dinner, we always did all the dishes before opening any presents. We passed out all the presents for that evening, opening one at a time, as we went around the circle so everyone could “ooh” and “ahh” about what was received, but more important, the joyous reaction to what you gave.

The last year we did this was 1995. Then things began to change, rapidly.

In just five years, four of the six of us were gone. The Christmas’ of 1998 and 1999 being the toughest since it was just Grandma Helen, Anna and I; Grandma Helen was not doing so well those years. But we kept the tradition, kept the faith and kept the smiles on our faces.

By Christmas 2000, it was down to Anna and me. We needed a new tradition, and how! And here’s how a new tradition was born, one that I cherish and look forward to every year.

Anna and I agreed we wanted something very different, much simpler and more comfortable – the panty hose had to go! We decided on lasagna, a salad and warm bread with soft, creamy butter. We agreed casual was fine, but if either of us felt the spirit to dress-up a bit more, that was okay too.

When HH joined the picture, he was welcomed into our holiday tradition and soon learned that if Anna and I were together on Christmas Eve there was no discussion on the menu, the tradition was set.

For this year’s celebration, I made Art’s Special Sauce last week, the base of my lasagna. I loosely follow the recipe my Mom wrote of her lasagna, and what has evolved is a new tradition – Lasagna, Holly’s Diner style for Christmas Eve.

Lasagna, Holly’s Diner style

Start with Art’s Special Sauce, I like to embellish with two shredded zucchini and a bunch of chopped fresh spinach for Christmas Eve.

What you will need:
16 – 17 cups of Art’s Special Sauce
14 – 15 lasagna noodles, cooked
32 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
32 oz low fat cottage cheese
Some shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

I make this in my turkey roasting pan, so it’s pretty big, lots of delicious leftovers.

Spray the pan with non-stick cook stray. Ladle 1 ½ - 2 scoops Sauce in the bottom of the pan to coat. Place 5 lasagna noodles on top. Ladle 3 more scoops of Sauce and spread around, be sure to cover all of the noodle so they are at least moist. Scoop half the cottage cheese and spread around. Take about 2 hand full’s of mozzarella cheese and spread around, sprinkle some Parmesan as desired. Repeat with noodles, cottage cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan. Place last of noodles, remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella cheese and sprinkle Parmesan as desired. See why you need the turkey roasting pan?!

Bake at 425º for 1 hour, remove from oven, and let rest for about 20 minutes (just enough time to heat the bread, if needed). Cut into generous pieces and serve – Christmas Eve only comes around once a year!

If you happen by the Diner next Christmas Eve, you know what will be on the menu, and I hope you like it.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!


Diner Drivin' Part 4

A road trip at Christmas to Phoenix – what better way to spend the holidays? HH and I headed down asphalt to visit family, yet made time to stop at one of Guy’s joints – Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert, AZ.

I remember the first time I saw the piece on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, and thought what wonderfully, fresh food they served. When we found directions, with a description of the location that said “on the north side of the road in a grove of trees,” we thought really? Really! The map actually indicates that Joe’s is on the edge of “Agritopia,” how appropriate since they are known to cook what they grow.

As we drove up, it looked like an old cinder-block building in the middle of a park. As we walked up, we could see that the converted old house was fresh and shiny with stainless steel trim, yet rustic from 1960’s cinder-block, and as clean and inviting as could be all at the same time.

HH and I arrived at the beginning of lunch, right at 11 AM, there was another couple there but that was it. This was good for us since we need to really study the menu! They have burgers, salads, chicken, pizza, BBQ and “Farm Favorite.” After reading the entire menu, we both settled on the very first item – the Farm Burger.

The burgers are described as “local, natural, fresh ground chuck, on a buttered grilled bun with farm-fresh produce and a side of fries. Available cheeses: American, cheddar, Swiss, Fontina, blue.” I describe them as a hamburger with real flavor; a delicious soft and fresh, yet buttery grilled bun with well-melted sharp cheddar and awesome grilled onions! The tomatoes were pretty anemic, but what do you expect in December in the desert! The lettuce had flavor, and good green. And the fries were golden, crispy with just the right amount of salt (I know, I just acknowledged that salt is good!)

The condiment bar was beautiful – stainless, tons of possibilities and even a sign to remind guest to be “patient” when dispensing the mayo. I had ranch dressing and bbq sauce to dip my fries in; HH had his own concoction of mayo and ketchup. We both eat up and enjoyed every bite.

The outdoor dining area was a wonderful park setting with a huge old tree for shade, great for spring and fall in the desert. We chose to eat inside, since it was a little cool outside, and a storm was a-coming.

So the next time you are hitting the asphalt and land in the Phoenix area, take the 202 to Gilbert, get off at Higley and head toward Agritopia to find Joe’s Farm Grill – it’s definitely worth the trip!


Mac and Cheese 101

What could be better during the holidays than a homemade treat to warm your belly, and fill your mouth with such ooey gooey goodness that you can’t think of anything else but being inside with fuzzy bunny slippers, a warm fire and snow falling on the ground outside. I’m talking comfort food, macaroni and cheese to be exact.

One of the things I make during the holidays, and only during the holidays, is Macaroni and Cheese 101, as per Martha Stewart. This recipe is one of the most requested recipes that Martha Stewart has, and I clipped it out a number of years ago when I was in my Martha Stewart phase – I’ve moved on, but keep the recipe.

When I was a kid I loved mac and cheese – from a box. Later as a single woman cooking what I wanted, I always had a box of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese in my cupboard and thought I was high stylin’ it with the deluxe version. Then I discovered Martha’s version and all the boxes were out the window!

The first time I made it, I made the entire recipe – meaning a lot! I shared with Anna, but it was a little too rich for her. Then when HH walked into the Diner and later brought his family, I found a mac and cheese compatriot – someone I could make mac and cheese “for” each year at the holidays. Gary and I love this mac and cheese, and although I say I make it for Gary, he is just my excuse. But I’m glad to have Gary around to “mac” it down each year.

I decided a few years ago to only make it at Christmas, because something this good should be dreamed about all year, leaving our taste buds watering as we start to smell it heating in the oven. Gary and I check, look, pace and simply can’t wait until the mac and cheese comes out to the oven bubbling hot. It is all we can do to let it cool down enough to take the first bite without burning our tongues!

This mac and cheese has white cheddar cheddar cheese, pasta shells and toasted sourdough bread crumbs (that’s my variation) on top. I have learned to make only half the recipe if there is a small group (six or less), but you can freeze it and enjoy it again during the winter if you really want to.

And what do I serve it with at the Diner? An enjoyable beverage. Does it need anything else? (“No,” Gary says.) Ham works, bbq ribs are good, turkey sandwiches are delicious, but really it is so rich and filling and warm and cozy it can stand along.

If you’d like to try, here’s the recipe, just beware if you make the entire recipe you will spend about $15 just on the cheese, so be sure that you’re ready! And enjoy.

Macaroni and Cheese 101, Marth Stewart style
8 tablespoons (l stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
5 1/2, cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for water
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat oven to 375˚. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour melted butter into the bowl with the bread; toss. Set the bread crumbs aside.
2. Warm milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Melt remaining butter in a high-sided
skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. While whisking, add hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue
cooking, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens, 8 to 12 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, peppers, 3 cups cheddar cheese,
and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere (or I cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.
5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until
the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
6. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining cheddar and Gruyere (or
Pecorino) and bread crumbs over top. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.


Alternative "Fat"

Boy, the Twelve Days of Cookies took a lot out of me! But more baking was in store. The Diner was very busy this week with more mixing, baking and finally sorting of cookies.

There was one slight problem though, WonderSlim. Here’s a little background –

I don’t have shortening or lard at the Diner, ever. I don’t cook with them; I don’t want them in the things I cook. I just don’t think a real or artificial solid FAT is necessary, since. Okay, I use butter like there is not tomorrow, but somehow that is different!

A few years ago I found a wonderful product called WonderSlim. I look for it each year during the holidays to help reduce or replace the fat requirements in the cookie recipes I bake. Last year I looked and looked and could not find WonderSlim. I asked at supermarkets and health food stores and no one knew what I was talking about. Finally, just after the first of the year I found a jar at a discount store, so I scooped it up!

I made HH some chocolate chip cookies, using WonderSlim, and saved the jar so I could better show the grocers this holiday season if I had trouble finding it again. The jar came in handy, since; once again, no one knew what I was talking about.

I called the manufacturer on the back of the jar, trying to track down a local outlet. The bad news (well, I guess that depends on your point of view!), the product was discontinued. It didn’t catch with consumers, as it was sold as a fat and egg substitute.

I read the ingredients on the back of the jar, and noticed that prune puree was the main ingredient (HH, you should not be reading this otherwise you may question the content of the cookies at the Diner in the future!) So I wandered the aisle of the supermarket, got creative, and viola! Pureed prunes are solid in the baby food aisle! Perfect! Since a half cup of WonderSlim replaces 1 cup of shortening, I used two-pack of baby pureed prunes to replace the shortening and the cookies are great!

The cookies are a little darker than normal, but their texture and taste are just fine.

So if you are looking to eliminate that nasty container of solid artificial shortening (or some other solid fat) from your baking, try the pureed prunes.

I experimented and used apple sauce for another recipe, since I have heard that this works also, but I thought the apple sauce made the cookies a bit more flat, the batter was runnier.

And here’s the research…


fat = solid fat
Equivalents: l Ib, = 2 cups
For baking

General notes: Reducing fat will give baked goods a denser texture; to correct for this, try
increasing the sugar in the recipe and/or beating the egg whites and folding them into the batter.
Also try using a softer flour, like pastry or cake flour.
• applesauce (Applesauce can replace up to % of the shortening in many recipes. Add
with the liquid ingredients and reduce sugar in recipe ifthe applesauce is sweetened.) OR

• pureed prunes (Pureed prunes can replace up to % of the shortening in many recipes; it
works especially well with chocolate. Add with the liquid ingredients.) OR

• apple butter (Apple butter can replace up to % of the shortening in many recipes, also
reduce sugar in recipe if the apple butter is sweetened. Add with the liquid ingredients.) OR

• fruit-based fat substitutes (Especially good when baking with chocolate; add with the
liquid ingredients. For best results, substitute only 3/4 of the fat with this.)OR

• ricotta cheese (This works well in many yeast breads that call for solid fat. Substitute
measure for measure. For best results, substitute no more than 3/4 of the fat with this.) OR

• bananas (mashed) (Substitute measure for measure.) OR

• omit or reduce (In many recipes for quick breads, muffins, and cookies, you can reduce
the amount of fat in the recipe by about a third without seriously compromising the

• oil (Avoid substituting oils for solid fats when baking cookies, cakes, and pastries; it will
make the dish greasy and dense. If you must do so, substitute 3 parts oil for every 4 parts
solid fat and consider increasing the amount of sugar and eggs in the recipe. Pie crusts
made with oil aren't as flaky as those made with solid fat.)


Twelve Days of Cookies - Twelth Day

Now that we are at the end, here’s where the story begins…

Cookie baking with my friends first began in 1996, with gingerbread cutouts and baking only when Stephen was almost two and James was “Sweet Baby James: at only four months old. Little did we know this would become an annual tradition.

The both of the boys “helped” the next year, Laurie and I had our helpers who were three years old and a year and a half. The flour flew, the royal icing was abstract, and Laurie and I were exhausted.

As the years have passed, the tradition continues. The boys have gotten better at cookie cutting and measuring. They get to take the cookie trays out of the oven these days, something they have wanted to do since they were about five years old. They are still excited about our holiday tradition, I think, although their attention span still wanes during the afternoon – nowadays turning to the Charger games and Nintendo.

Stephen is definitely more interested in the baking than James, but James still contributes. This year James took the foil off an entire back of Hersey’s Kisses for the Peanut Butter Kisses, no small task!

This is our favorite recipe, a Christmas classic, and definitely a “must” for any holiday cookie baking day.

James and Stephen
Laurie and Holly
Gingerbread Cutouts

5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2 tbsp vinegar
Creamy Decorative Icing & candies (optional)

Stir together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. In a large mixer bowl beat shortening for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat till fluffy. Add egg, molasses, and vinegar and beat well. Beat in flour mixture gradually, stirring in last part with a spoon till well mixed. Divide dough into thirds (in long rolls). Cover and chill about 3 hours or till easy to handle.

(Take one roll and split in half. Leave half in refrigerator and with other half) roll dough 1/8” thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375º oven for 5 – 6 minutes or till done. Cool and decorate.

Creamy Decorative Icing:
In a small mixer bowl beat 1 egg white, 2 tsp lemon juice (from a lemon fresh off of Laurie’s tree) and enough sifted powdered sugar (1 ½ - 2 cups) to make icing of piping consistency.

Laurie loves the reindeer, which are the most delicate and difficult to get out of the cutters. James likes the angels. I like the candy canes; they are easy and so traditional. Stephen likes to eat all of them!
Ready to ice
Ready to Eat!
Part of the Day's Efforts!



Twelve Days of Cookies - Eleventh Day

I would be remiss to do any cookie list without including a Holly’s Diner favorite – Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We are talking the traditional way, with a slight modification, that is soft and chewy. Then there’s the version with walnuts, which are thin and crispy. Sometimes I use my egg timer, sometime I use the smoke alarm timer and they turn out extra crispy – you get the picture.

I love this cookie dough, a few bites before the chocolate chips are poured in, then a few more bites when the chocolate chips are added. HH loves the soft and chewy version, he will eat any version, but soft and chewy are his favorite. Anna always requests the thin and crispy with walnuts version, that was Daddy’s favorite too.

If you have access to Holly’s Diner, then you have access to the cyberspace and therefore access to this recipe. Although, in order to be consistent, here is the recipe below with my slight modification.

Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (I don’t put this in)
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened (sometimes I use Wonder Slim, and prune-based fat substitute, for half the butter)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12 oz) Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels*
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 375º.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 9 – 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

* Sometimes I use a combination of semi-sweet and milk chocolate morsels, also, these cookies need an extra cup of morsels, for sure! If you are going to go chocolately and gooey, why not go all the way!



Twelve Days of Cookies - Tenth Day

Okay, this is not a cookie, but this recipe cannot be missed during the holidays.

I used to experience Donna’s homemade Peanut Brittle just after the New Year. She had some left over from the holidays, and the first day I arrived, I would just eat and eat Donna’s Peanut Brittle as if it was my last opportunity for something sweet – ever!

I’ve always liked Peanut Brittle, but Donna’s is different. Donna’s Peanut Brittle is lighter in texture and color, it’s not as translucent (if you can use that word for peanut brittle), it’s more opaque. Although it is still very crunchy or “brittle-y” (if that’s a word), it is not nearly as difficult to chew as other peanut brittle. Donna’s Peanut Brittle is, somehow, not as hard.

It’s actually been a few years since I have visited in Donna (and Art, at the time) and had any of Donna’s Peanut Brittle. I guess the good news is I don’t have to walk an additional 10 blocks in the morning – in addition to the 10 blocks that go along with Oatmeal Brownie Gems – this time of year.

Donna’s Peanut Brittle

1 cup sugar
½ cup Karo syrup (white)
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter
1 tsp baking soda

1. Mix well sugar and syrup and cook on high in microwave for 4 minutes.
2. Stir in 1 cup peanuts; cook 4 minutes on high in microwave.
3. Stir in vanilla and butter; cook on high for 1 minute in microwave
4. Stir in baking soda and spread out on cookie sheet for 1 hour. (Then smash to desirable size.)



Twelve Days of Cookies - Ninth Day

If you like gingerbread cookies, but want something different, or maybe you like chocolate chip cookies but want something a little more sassy – these are the cookies for you!

My friend Laurie found this recipe ten years ago, but did not introduce them to Cookie Baking Day until a few years ago. These are the ones we all look forward to eating right out of the oven; we tell everyone one about but somehow don’t ever have enough to share. They are the first ones gone in the past few years, and the cookies I look forward to making the most.

When I start thinking about these Chocolate Ginger Cookies, I can taste them right away again. They are a little spice from the ginger, gooey from the chocolate, and soft and chewy little rounds of cookie delight.

This is another Martha Stewart recipe from Martha Stewart Living Magazine in 1999.

Again, if you like chocolate and ginger, this is the recipe for you!

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies – Martha Stewart Living 1999

7 oz best-quality semisweet chocolate (we’ve used a bag of chocolate chips and its fine)
1 ½ cups+ all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger (Laurie thinks we use a bit more each year, depends on how much you like ginger)
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup dark-brown sugar, packed
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
¼ cup granulated sugar, for rolling cookies

1. Line two baking sheets with Silpats* (French nonstick baking mats), and set aside. Chop chocolate into ¼” chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa; set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the grated ginger and butter until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the brown sugar’ beat until combined. Add the molasses; beat until combined.
3. Add the reserved flour mixture in batches until fully incorporated. Mix in reserved chocolate, cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
4. Heat oven to 325º. Place the granulated sugar in a pie plate. Using a 1 ¾” gelato scoop, shape the dough into a ball. Roll each ball of dough in sugar. Bake until the surface cracks slightly, 13 – 15 minutes; let cool 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Note: Silpats – I’ve been using these for a few years, the first time I experienced them was in the industrial kitchen size when SS had a Wetzel’s Pretzels business. Silpats were the greatest thing to bake the pretzels on! I finally got some in 2002, moving from parchment paper to Silpats, and now I would not bake without them!



Twelve Days of Cookies - Eighth Day

Here is a simple, classic cookie, good any time of year, but certainly appropriate for Christmas. This one is from my sister-in-law’s, the cookie are delicate and yummy and will give you a break from all the thigh expanding and fanny dropping cookies that I love so much.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

1 cup butter
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped nuts

Cream first three ingredients.
Blend flour; add nuts.
Roll into balls.
Bake at 300 - 325º for 25 – 30 minutes.
Roll in powdered sugar



Twelve Days of Cookies - Seventh Day

On our annual cookie baking day, this is another cookie that the boys often ask for, Laurie and I always have to think twice.

Although these are delicious, they are essentially a homemade Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, they are another one that will go directly to your fanny! These are gooey and messy, rich, full of calories and other stuff I would not serve every day, but they are delicious!

Buckeye Balls

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening

1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar with hands to form a smooth stiff dough. Shape into balls using 2 teaspoons of dough for each ball. Place on prepared pan, and refrigerate.
3. Melt shortening and chocolate together in a metal bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth, and remove from heat.
4. Remove balls from refrigerator. Insert a wooden toothpick into a ball, and dip into melted chocolate. Return to wax paper, chocolate side down, and remove toothpick. Repeat with remaining balls. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.
From www.allrecipes.com



Twelve Days of Cookies - Sixth Day

I found this recipe in The Mini Page of the newspaper in 2004. I thought it would be a great new recipe, not quite the beloved gingerbread, just a little different.

Anna helped me, and we modified the recipe based on the ingredients at the Diner and Anna’s taste. So I guess it officially becomes a Holly’s Diner recipe because of the modifications.

The next year, Anna came over to bake and we wanted to make the Spice Cookies again, they were so good the year before. I looked and looked for this recipe – high and low, far and wide – everywhere and any where I could think of that I would have saved it and I could not find the darn thing! I finally resorted to contacting The Mini Page again and pleading for a copy of the recipe. I received it the day before Anna arrived to bake, so all was good.

Later that day after baking, cleaning up and writing down my cookie baking list for that year (I keep that stuff from year to year, taped inside the cupboard), there is was! The original Spice Cookie recipe with handwritten modification that I had clipped out of the paper the year before! I knew I had put it in a safe place!

Spice Cookies – Holly’s Diner style

1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar, extra for flattening
2 tbsp molasses
1 egg
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger

1. Mix butter until creamy, and then add sugar, molasses and egg.
2. Sift together the baking soda, flour, cinnamon and ginger.
3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well.
4. Roll in balls; flatten with bottom of cup, sugared.
5. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350º oven for 10 – 15 minutes

Makes 6 dozen cookies.

These should turn out crispy and crunchy, and delicious!



Twelve Days of Cookies - Fifth Day

My friend, Laurie, brought this recipe for one of our cookie baking days. These cookie bars are rich and messy and gooey and sooo delicious!

There is definitely nothing figure-friendly about these cookie bars. When you put the first bite in your mouth, you can feel your thighs expanding before you have even swallowed! These cookie bars require an extra 10 blocks on my morning walk this time of year (not that it always happens!), but they are delicious.

This is the perfect cookie bar to share, tasting one and giving the rest away – that’s what I have learned to do each year.

Laurie’s Oatmeal Brownie Gems

2 ½ cups oatmeal, uncooked
1 cup flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
1 – 12 oz package M & M mini baking bits
1 – 19 to 21 oz package fudge brownie mix (batter prepared as directed on box)

Pre-heat oven to 350º. In large bowl combine oats, flour, sugar, nuts and baking soda; add butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Toss in M & M bits until evenly distributed. Reserve 3 cups of mixture. Pat remaining mixture onto bottom of 15’x10’x1’ pan to form crust. Pour prepared brownie mix over crust, carefully spreading into thin layer. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over top of brownie mixture. Pat down lightly. Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely. Cut into 48 bars. (Well this doesn’t quite happen! They always end up large and, therefore, not 48!) Store in tightly covered container.

Enjoy, and beware!


Twelve Days of Cookies - Fourth Day

This recipe was in the December 2003 issue of Martha Stewart Living, with the most unusual cookie ingredient – one cup of olive oil. Give these sugar cookies a try; they might just become your new favorite, as they did mine six years ago.

By the way, as good as these cookies are, the best part is sampling the raw dough!

I usually have two cookie baking days, one with my friends (which you will hear more about later), and one on my own. For the cookie day on my own, I start by making all the dough one day, then baking the next. This does two things – it allows me to make a mess and prep one day, then enjoy all the warm homemade cookies the next, dividing the tasks just make everything much more enjoyable; the other thing this does is allow me to eat as much of the raw cookie dough that I want in peace without anyone to say anything! I make enough cookies that it hard for anyone to tell how much raw dough was consumed, or not consumed, depending on the year. So that’s my little secret, don’t tell anyone!

Anyway, here is Martha’s fabulous cookie recipe:

Simple Sugar Cookies – Martha Stewart Living, December 2003

4 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for pressing cookies
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of one orange

1. Sift together flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda; set aside. Place butter, olive oil, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 1 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium until fluffy.
2. Beat in eggs, vanilla extract, and orange zest until well combined. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
3. Heat oven to 375º. Form dough into balls measuring about 1 inch in diameter, and place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Press flat with a glass dipped in sugar. Place cookies in oven, and bake until very lightly golden, 7 – 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.



Twelve Days of Cookies - Third Day

I’ve had this recipe a long time. It is one of the cherished recipes in my collection. It is handwritten by my sister, Heather. As I read the recipe card, I can see where Heather started writing; I got frustrated with her and continued writing the recipe myself.

I laminated the recipe a number of years ago so I didn’t “season” the recipe any further –the flour, the vanilla, the brown sugar are literally ingrained in the recipe card.

This recipe is not unique; you can find it in all the holiday magazines, and other times of year, too, and it goes by a variety of names.

I try to make these every year, even if not many people eat them, just to connect and use my sister’s recipe.

Heather’s Peanut Butter Kisses

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup shortening (I use an apple substitute now a-days, I don’t buy shortening any more)
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/12 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 – 11 oz package milk chocolate candies

Preheat oven to 375º. Cream together granulated sugar, brown sugar, shortening, and Jif (PB). Add eggs, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt, add to Jif mixture. Beat well.

Shape into 1” balls; roll in additional granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 375º oven for 8 minutes. Remove from oven. Press a milk chocolate candy into the center of each warm cookie. Return to oven, back 3 minutes longer. Makes 6 – 7 dozen cookies.

I hope you…Enjoy!


Twelve Days of Cookies - Second Day

In 2002, my good friend, Laurie, asked what I might like for Christmas, I said I just wanted handwritten recipes of her family’s favorites.

At the time, James was six and his favorite was Black Cat Cookies. Here’s James recipe, partially in his own handwriting.

By the way, when you are (or in James case, when he was) six years old, it doesn’t matter if you make black cat cookies at Christmas, it just matters that the cookies taste good!

James’ Black Cat Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup water
2 eggs
1 package chocolate cake mix
M & M’s

Beat together peanut butter, eggs, and water. Add cake mix. Mix well. Form dough into one inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten balls with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Pinch out two ears at top of cookie. Add M & M eyes and nose. Press fork into dough to form whiskers. Bake at 375º for 8 – 10 minutes. Makes 4 ½ dozen.



Twelve Days of Cookies - First Day

I love Thanksgiving for all the savory, hearty, traditional dishes that are served.

And I love Christmas for all the sweet, delicious bite-sized treats that are served!

To celebrate one of my favorite sweet treats, Holly’s Diner is kicking off The Twelve Days of Cookies!

The Twelve Days of Cookies are about the butter and the sugar (granulated, confectioners and brown), the flour and the vanilla, the orange zest and the spices.

The Twelve Days of Cookies are about the soft, creamy cookie dough to sample (again and again) before the cookies are baked. About the warm, delicious aromas escaping from the oven as the cookies rise and bake and turn golden brown.

The Twelve Days of Cookies are about the delectable first bite of the first cookie of the season, and about the extra 10 blocks I need to walk each morning for each cookie I eat! (I’m not ready for my fanny to be hanging on the ground and looking like Maxine yet, give me a few more years!)

If you are looking for cookie ideas, new and traditional, stop by the Diner for some ideas.

Let’s start with something traditional, my Cousin Mike’s favorite cookies – Nana’s Cocoa Cookies. I have the recipe on a recipe card Nana typed out, that is clearly her manual typewriter, and she typed “(Mikes’ favorite)” at the top so she would remember.

Nana’s Cocoa Cookies

Have measured and ready to mix

3 cups quick Oatmeal
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
Misx (Nana’s typo) well and bring to rapid boil for one minute 2 cup sugar—1/4 pd. Margarine (or butter at the Diner) and ½ cup milk.

After this ahs (Nana’s typo, no computers or liquid paper available at the time) boiled pour over above mixture drop on wax paper in small balls and let cool.

(This one’s really messy, so be ready with the wax paper!)



Grandma's Handwritten Recipe

HH’s family just had a reunion last week. Part of the HH clan got together, shared holiday greetings, shared photos which led to sharing memories, and (of course) shared some food.

Besides it being a beautiful day and having the family together, the best thing was what HH’s cousin Rhonda did for everyone. She found a cherished recipe of Grandma’s, found a beautiful photo of Grandma, and pulled Grandma’s signature off an old Christmas card, creating this for everyone.

It’s actually a pot holder that everyone can use and hang in their kitchens.

All of HH’s cousins talked about the wonderful cake they remember Grandma used to make – how delicious it was, how moist, how it was filled with Grandma’s love.

I’ve certainly seen recipes for this cake before, but never made it. You can bet it will be served in the near future at Holly’s Diner, since HH loves it!

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

3 cups unsifted flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp (baking) soda
1 ½ cups Best Food mayonnaise (so this is why HH will only eat Best Foods!)
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ tsp vanilla

Sift together dry ingredients. Stir in mayonnaise. Gradually stir in water and vanilla until smooth and blended. Bake at 350º, about 30 minutes or until cake sponges back.
Love Grandma