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Mine never look this beautiful. Image from hdwallpapers.com

Mine never look this beautiful. Image from hdwallpapers.com

This is the only cookie recipe I’ve ever committed to memory. These are pretty much the best rolled cookies there are. I used to call them “Sailboat Cookies” because for some reason, I was in possession of only one cookie cutter, and it was shaped like a sailboat.

  • 1-1/2 cups pure unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour

(You can add optional flavorings like lavender, almond oil, lemon extract, etc.) Cream the butter together with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, then salt and flour. Roll and cut. Don’t make these too thin, because they’re very tender and will break (see below). Make them nice and thick. Lay on ungreased parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 325F for about 10 minutes, just until they start turning brown at the edges. Frost with your favorite icing or make a glaze of confectioners sugar mixed with an egg white. Sprinkle on colored sugar. Barkis is interested in the cookies.

From the Gundersen family right-brained recipe file. No cookie cutters required!

Christmas Morning Plum Bread

2 c. self-rising flour
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 c. oil
3 eggs
2 jars baby food plums

Dump everything in a bowl and beat with mixer. Pour batter into oiled and floured pans. Makes 2 medium loaves, 4 mini loaves or one bundt pan. Bake at 325-350 for 50 min. to 1 hour.

Intensely Flavored, Moist Gingerbread

I adapted this from the Splendid Table website. I cannot tell a lie–I simplified it, increased the sugar and added the candied ginger and cayenne pepper. It’s pretty much the best gingerbread ever.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup molasses (dark corn syrup works, too)
  • 3/4 cup very hot water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with waxed paper (you can also use 2 loaf pans or 4 mini loaf pans), coat with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Beat together the butter, molasses, hot water and brown sugar. Beat in the egg and quickly add the rest of the ingredients, stirring until blended. Pour into pans. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack in the pan.

When the peaches are this good, you don’t need a fancy scone recipe. Just this one. I’m posting it here because I can never find mine but I can always search my blog. Bon appetit.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yoghurt (Fage), buttermilk or sour cream
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Chop butter into flour mixture.
  3. Whisk together yoghurt and egg until smooth.
  4. Stir yoghurt mixture into flour mixture and form dough into a ball.
  5. Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a circle about 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut into 8 wedges; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper). Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Okay, listen up. This is one of my most asked-for recipes so here goes. Sorry about the uninspired title of this post, but it makes it more findable when I search.

You can substitute any summer fruit you like–rasperries, strawberries, blueberries, nectarines…all your faves. I used peaches because this batch was amazing, from an orchard in Oregon.

Shortcake Recipe …kind of adapted from www.foodnetwork.com. I decreased the salt and increased the sugar, and used all butter, added the plain yoghurt because I didn’t have half and half, and suggested the romanov sauce. Changed the oven temp, too. So sue me.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup tablespoons butter, chilled
  • 3/4 cup plain yoghurt or half and half
  • Melted butter to brush shortcakes + coarse (demarara or however you say it) sugar
  • fruit
  • Faux Romanov sauce

Directions

Heat oven 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening. Mix in half-and-half. Form cakes about the size of your palm. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown. Cool and eat with summer fruit and Romanov cream.

Recipe: Faux Romanov Cream (healthier than the real thing, which involve creme fraiche which you probably don’t have anyway). I don’t have a photo because it was slurped down so fast.

  • 1 cup Greek style nonfat yoghurt (like Fage brand)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon Cointreau, triple sec or some other orangey liqueur.

Whisk everything together and serve over shortcake and fruit.

Christmas Memories by Susan Wiggs, author of Lakeshore Christmas
Lakeshore Christmas is my first full-length novel set during the holidays, so I relied on my deepest and most cherished personal memories for inspiration.
First, there’s the weather. I’m originally from a tiny town in the wilds of New York State, and to a child, the winters there are a time of enchantment. The snow is so deep and thick that the streets become virtual tunnels, and everything looks beautiful. My very favorite sports–skiing, sledding, and curling up with a good book while sipping hot chocolate top the list.
Next, there are the cookies. Are you kidding me? Between my mother, two grandmothers, various aunts and other women in my life, the holiday was one giant cookie. My Grandma Anna was the inspiration for Helen Majesky, who founded Avalon’s Sky River Bakery, and she was a maniac in the kitchen. The smells alone conjure up warm afternoons with my mother–cinnamon and cardamom and ginger, butter and marzipan and chocolate–and evoke vivid memories of standing on a step stool to help with the frosting and sprinkles.
One of the reasons I included a playlist in the Cookie Exchange Cookbook (a special end-of-book feature of the novel) is that there is no way I can separate the memories of making cookies from the background music. I had a very musical childhood, and our Christmas record selection was vast, from “Alvin and the Chipmunks” to Handel’s Messiah. Our selections were extremely secular, I have to admit. We were as likely to be found making gingerbread men to the tune of the William Tell Overture as we were to Herb Alpert’s “Tijuana Taxi.”
Readers of Lakeshore Christmas will find a tribute to the most treasured resource of any community–the public library. The library of my small-town girlhood loomed large in my imagination. Like the library in the book, it was an imposing, Gothic-revival-style building filled with all the wonders of the world. At the holidays, a tall fresh tree would grace the atrium of the building, and each year I would fashion a special ornament to hang on it. One year when I was about eight years old, I wrote a Christmas story on tiny pieces of paper, made it into a book and hung it on the tree. I don’t know what ever became of that story, but you can bet it had a happy ending.
And finally, there is inspiration in the magic of Christmas itself. I was a true believer long after most of my friends moved on to reality. And I still am. When I see a glow of happiness in a child’s eyes, or observe a stranger’s act of kindness, or hear a song I’ve known all my life, I know the Christmas spirit is present.
This is the Christmas story I’ve always wanted to write, and to be able to tell it in the context of the Lakeshore Chronicles is just perfect. I’m excited to share it with the world.

Lakeshore Christmas is my first full-length novel set during the holidays, so I relied on my deepest and most cherished personal memories for inspiration.

First, there’s the weather. I’m originally from a tiny town in the wilds of New York State, and to a child, the winters there are a time of enchantment. The snow is so deep and thick that the streets become virtual tunnels, and everything looks beautiful. My very favorite sports–skiing, sledding, and curling up with a good book while sipping hot chocolate top the list.

Next, there are the cookies. Are you kidding me? Between my mother, two grandmothers, various aunts and other women in my life, the holiday was one giant cookie. My Grandma Anna was the inspiration for Helen Majesky, who founded Avalon’s Sky River Bakery, and she was a maniac in the kitchen. The smells alone conjure up warm afternoons with my mother–cinnamon and cardamom and ginger, butter and marzipan and chocolate–and evoke vivid memories of standing on a step stool to help with the frosting and sprinkles.

[above: sfogliatelle. An Italian pastry that will change your life.]

One of the reasons I included a playlist in the Cookie Exchange Cookbook (a special end-of-book feature of the novel) is that there is no way I can separate the memories of making cookies from the background music. I had a very musical childhood, and our Christmas record selection was vast, from “Alvin and the Chipmunks” to Handel’s Messiah. Our selections were extremely secular, I have to admit. We were as likely to be found making gingerbread men to the tune of the William Tell Overture as we were to Herb Alpert’s “Tijuana Taxi.” To sample Maureen’s playlist, click here. To see Eddie’s, click here.

Readers of Lakeshore Christmas will find a tribute to the most treasured resource of any community–the public library. The library of my small-town girlhood loomed large in my imagination. Like the library in the book, it was an imposing, Gothic-revival-style building filled with all the wonders of the world. At the holidays, a tall fresh tree would grace the atrium of the building, and each year I would fashion a special ornament to hang on it. One year when I was about eight years old, I wrote a Christmas story on tiny pieces of paper, made it into a book and hung it on the tree. I don’t know what ever became of that story, but you can bet it had a happy ending.

And finally, there is inspiration in the magic of Christmas itself. I was a true believer long after most of my friends moved on to reality. And I still am. When I see a glow of happiness in a child’s eyes, or observe a stranger’s act of kindness, or hear a song I’ve known all my life, I know the Christmas spirit is present.

This is the Christmas story I’ve always wanted to write, and to be able to tell it in the context of the Lakeshore Chronicles is just perfect. I’m excited to share it with the world.

How about you? List some of your most vivid Christmas memories below.

A sneak peek at Lakeshore Christmas. Maureen Davenport and Eddie Haven are bringing sexy back to the library.

Bake some cookies. Save the library. Save the world.

Bake some cookies. Save the library. Save the world.

Click the link for a great recipe:

09_283_Postcard_Lakeshore

well-written recipes

well-written recipes

As if my roundup of romance wasn’t enough, here’s something else to tempt you:

Local, national authors dish up their favorite recipes

By Mary Ann Gwinn

Seattle Times book editor

At my book club, things always go better with food. Amateur critics may disagree; politics has been known to trump the chosen title as the matter under discussion. But a good dinner or a sublime dessert grounds the clash of ideas in the comfort of animal appetites.

A new local cookbook combines the world of food and books: “Literary Feast: The Famous Authors Cookbook” has just been issued by the King County Library System Foundation. Compiled and edited by Terry J. LaBrue, with a foreword by local chef/author Greg Atkinson, this compendium may ease your way as you contemplate what to serve for your next literary gathering.

Though the book largely focuses on Northwest authors, it includes some A-list national writers and their recipes: Arthur Agatston, M.D. (Mr. South Beach Diet); the mystery-writing spousal unit Faye and Jonathan Kellerman. Jacquelyn Mitchard! Alice Waters! Alexander McCall Smith’s recipe for Mma Potokwani’s Fruit Cake!

Contributions by area authors seem to fall into two categories: complicated and simple. This feeds my theory that authors, like other creative types, either throw themselves into cooking (if they love it) or consider it time wasted (if they don’t).

In the “complicated” category falls science-fiction author Greg Bear’s recipe for Chicken Mole Poblano, which actually appears to be his wife Astrid Bear’s creation. Bear describes this dish as “mouthwatering” and says he and his spouse serve it each year at their home to celebrate the annual Clarion West workshop for budding science-fiction writers.

Also complicated is Seattle author Garth Stein’s recipe for Clams with Sausage, Beans and Pasta, which makes sense, since Stein managed to craft a best-seller with a dog as a narrator (“The Art of Racing in the Rain”).

“This recipe evolved from a simple cannellini bean and garlic side dish I used to make for my wife when we were first married,” he writes. “Later, I added more stock, Parmesan and some escarole, and it became a soup. And finally, I got to this form after I saw someone cook clams and sausages together on TV — I didn’t know that was possible!” Stein appears to be what my long-ago psychology professor called a “divergent thinker.”

But the most useful recipes may be the simplest, the ones in which writers create fuel to keep on writing. Kit Bakke, author of “Miss Alcott’s E-Mail,” contributes Real Graham Crackers, because Louisa May Alcott’s family probably ate them. Children’s author Brenda Z. Guiberson’s recipe for “Writer’s Almost Nonstop Soup” is what it says — a nourishing soup, always on the stove, so you can keep on writing.

And my favorite: Portland author Chelsea Cain’s recipe for Pizza à la Chelsea Cain:

1 healthy cup laziness

The telephone number of your local fine pizza establishment

Approximately $25, with tip

Salt and pepper (to taste).

You know where this is going.

“Literary Feast: The Famous Authors Cookbook” can be ordered at www.thriftbooks.com; you can find it at bookstores later this summer. Proceeds go to local literacy and lifelong-learning programs.

Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or mgwinn@seattletimes.com. Mary Ann Gwinn appears on Classical KING-FM’s Arts Channel at http://www.king.orpages/4216533.php

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company. Permission to reprint or copy this article or photo, other than personal use, must be obtained from The Seattle Times. Call 206-464-3113 or e-mailresale@seattletimes.com with your request.

My contribution–inexplicably not mentioned in the otherwise-terrific review–originated right here on this blogRosemary Olive Oil Cake. I’m thinking it falls in the “simple” category. It’s fabulous. I just had a note from my friend Stephanie, who adapted it for Weight Watchers.

What about you? Do you like to cook “simple” or “complicated”? Post links to your fave recipes below!

“Think what a better world it would be if we all–the whole world–had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.” —Robert Fulghum

"Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you." --Robert Fulghum

"Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you." --Robert Fulghum

I sort of made this recipe up, based on the typical toll house cookie recipe. Do yourself a favor and whip up a batch today.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-3/4 cup self-rising flour (maybe more if the dough seems too wet)
  • 3/4 cup oat bran or rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup macadamia nuts (coarsely chopped)
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries or craisins

Cream butter and shortening together with sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat. Add flour and oats, then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350F until they just start to brown around the edges.

Also would you please check out the flowers in the photo? My bulbs are kicking ass this year.

Shoot. The theme for April is supposed to be mothers and daughters. I’m totally blanking on how to tie this post into the theme. My mother’s favorite cookie recipe was always “rip into that tube of Oreos and I’ll pour the milk.”

Hey! Tell us about your mom’s favorite cookie recipe in the Comments section!

Nothing fancy, just a nice recipe for something called Irish Soda Bread, which has nothing to do with Ireland but it’s simple and delicious, so here you go. If you’re like me, you don’t keep buttermilk around so use yoghurt or cream or something, and a squeeze of lemon.

tastes better than it looks

tastes better than it looks

4 cups unbleached flour, plus more for kneading

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons butter

2 eggs, beaten, optional

1 1/4 to 2 cups buttermilk (use more if you omit the eggs)

1 cup raisins or currants, soaked in hot water

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter, add eggs and buttermilk. Stir in raisins. Knead a few times and let rest 10 minutes. * Shape into an 8- or 9-inch round. Score top with a knife in the shape of a plus sign. Place in 9-inch cast-iron pan and bake at 375 degrees until top is brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool on rack.

Serve toasted with butter. Try it with a wedge of sharp cheese and a bit of hard-smoked salmon. Good luck!

Speaking of luck, I have written several books about Ireland because I love it there. I love the people and their history and heritage. Irish Magic and Irish Magic 2 are anthologies written with some of my favorite writers–Roberta Gellis, Morgan Llywelyn, Barbara Samuel. The Mist and the Magic takes place in Tudor Ireland. And the late, great Dancing on Air will be republished this year with a new title: At the Queen’s Summons. Good luck with that, too!

I didn\'t have a muffin picture. This is a pie I made.I love my readers. I love the honest and heartfelt posts they leave on my message board. Like this one:

I just wanted to let Susan know how her recipe for “Morning Muffins” couldn’t have come at a better time. My son was diagnosed with Leukemia in September of 07. One of the side effects of all that chemo is constipation. Which is one more complication that we could do without. Your muffins took away that potentially serious problem (also tasting great!). He also has Down Syndrome so it is even more important for him to “move” things out! I shared one of those muffins with one of my sons nurses and she was amazed at how well they worked. She even commented to me later that she thought about my “Magic Muffins” when a few days later another patient was having to take even more drugs to try to help alleviate her constipation.

I’m so grateful that I found that recipe! I’ve made it so many times that I know it by heart. Thank you for putting recipes in your books!

In honor of Anne and her son, here’s the recipe. You can tweak it any way you like, substituting craisins or dried cherries, sunflower seeds, etc. I like to add craisins and grated orange or lemon peel sometimes. Enjoy!

Morning Muffins from the Sky River Bakery (from Snowfall at Willow Lake)

1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup ground flax seed
3/4 cup oat bran
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups peeled and shredded carrots
2 apples, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup raisins or currants
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, flax seed, bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, vanilla and oil. Add to the dry ingredients. Fold in the carrots, apples, raisins and nuts. Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

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