Tag Archives: grandmother

Peanut Butter Cookies (From the File)


I don’t think I’ve ever made peanut butter cookies before. How said is that? Sure, I’ve made cookies and various other treats with peanut butter in them but I’ve never made a straight-up peanut butter cookie. That’s right, I’ve never had the pleasure of smooshing fork marks into the top of thick, rich, peanutty dough balls. Truthfully, I’ve always been a little put off my recipes calling for peanut butter and butter in PB cookies. Why do they need both?

It’s only fair to give this standard recipe a try before declaring it ridiculous. it just so happens that my grandmother’s recipe file (let’s just call it The File) contains such a peanut butter cookie recipe. It’s on a leaf of notepaper that fell out of The File’s torn bottom back at my dad’s house. Peanut butter cookies are at the top of the page and below is a recipe for Icebox Cookies, followed by Coconut Haystacks on the back. There are little notes in the margins next to each recipe, one noting that the PB cookies are a nice, small recipe. The icebox cookies are also described as a small recipe and a note says “better double it”. I love these little voices from past kitchens. I don’t know whose they are, since the handwriting doesn’t really look like my grandmother’s. I’m guessing that my great-grandmother (G.B.) wrote these lines. She was the queen in the sweets department. I can picture her planning a day of cookie baking for some special occasion.

Here they are, plain-old peanut butter cookies. They’re far from a secret family recipe but as my first peanut butter cookies, I’m quite proud of them. I’m also proud of myself for hustling them out of the house as soon as I baked them. I took these cookies (along with some lovely chocolate chip cherry cookies I made yesterday) to Lee’s work this morning. Giving away baked goods is always more satisfying than eating all of them yourself. I assure you, though, I tested these cookies and they are good!


Peanut Butter Cookies
From The File

1/2 cup room-temperature butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten

Combine the flour and baking soda in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand if you’re buff like me), cream together the butter and sugar. Add the peanut butter and blend thoroughly.
Add the beaten egg and vanilla extract
Add the flour mixture, one cup at a time, to the wet ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth dough.
Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for as long as you can wait to make your cookies (not part of the original recipe).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (a “medium oven”, as the recipe says).
Spoon dough onto parchment, Silpat, or oil-coated cookie sheets (I ended up with 22 cookies).
Smoosh the tops of the balls with the bottom of a fork in perpendicular directions.
Bake for 12 minutes or until cookies smell yummy and you can’t wait to eat one!


Filed under desserts, inspiration and musings

The Recipe File Project

Ever since Lee and I moved into our San Francisco apartment a few weeks ago, I’ve been sitting next to a very important presence in our home. A paper shopping bag against the wall next to my seat at the kitchen table holds my grandmothers recipe file. A cardboard box next to it holds some of her cookbooks.


When I first came across the file, bursting at the seams from all the paper crammed into it, I realized that my grandmother and I had more in common than I thought. It is clear from her collection that Helen maniacally clipped articles and recipes from any newspaper food section or food magazine she got her hands on. I remember my bringing her the entire Los Angeles Times food section when we visited my grandparents in Colorado. Helen devoured food writing as nourishment for her gourmet brain.

I like to think that I’m developing a similar habit in the vast world of online food discourse. I spend more hours a week than is healthy reading blogs, commenting, saving recipes, and clipping restaurant reviews or food-related articles from the Chronicle on my Kindle (yes, you can do that!). The cookbook section in bookstores is a deadly trap that often waylays me for much too long.

If my grandmother was alive now would she be a food blogger? Would she read blogs on her computer and email me recipes that she wanted to try? I think so.


The recipe file has not gone untouched. I have glanced at letters A-D and thumbed through most of the cookbooks in the box. What I have seen so far has inspired me to do a thorough sort and inspection of my grandmother’s recipes. The mix of newspaper clippings and ingredients scrawled on the backs of envelopes begs to be curated. Of course I’ll have to cook from the file as I sort through it! I will be posting recipes I test and telling whatever stories go along with them.

Step 1: A new file! (The bottom is ripping off of the old one and clippings are spilling out all over the place!)


Filed under inspiration and musings

Chocolate Chip Carrot Muffins

I need to learn to wear an apron. I have one. It’s colorfully striped and my mom gave it to me several years ago. Do I ever think to put it on when I’m about to make a huge mess in the kitchen? No. It sits in a drawer right in front of me while oil spatters on my shirt an little flecks of tomato sauce make their way onto anything white that I might be wearing. I should really wear the apron while I’m eating, for that matter, since balsamic vinegar and pasta sauce rarely make it to my mouth without leaving a drop here and there.


When I started grating the carrots for this recipe I remembered my apron, got it out of the drawer, and put it on. No carrot juice left it’s mark on me!

Now for the muffins. It’s been a while since I’ve baked my favorite treat. The time was right for muffins this morning. I was craving chocolate after breakfast (who doesn’t?) so I shuffled through some cookbooks and my recipe box for a chocolate chip vehicle. A recipe for Carrot Cake Bars came up as the winner. I’ve made these bars many times before and they always satisfy my craving for carrot cake without making me feel too guilty if I eat several a day.

How did bars become muffins, you ask? I don’t have the right pan to make bars and muffins come pre-portioned. I swapped out raisins with chocolate chips and made the recipe vegan, since Lee ate the last eggs this morning. Necessity is the mother of invention!

Hot from the oven with melting chocolate chips in every bite, these satisfied my chocolate craving. I love how oats give muffins crunchy tops and chewy centers!


C is for carrot. C is for chocolate: Muffins on a cute little plate from my grandmother.

Chocolate Chip Carrot Muffins

Adapted from Cooking Light

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened butter or vegetable oil*
3/4 cup milk or non-dairy milk*
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ground flax seed + 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice, because it’s yummy)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated carrot
Handful semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine ground flax seed with water. Set aside.
In a medium bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar and butter (or oil).
Add the milk, flax mixture, and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, wheat germ, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring gently until just combined.
Fold in grated carrot and chocolate chips.
Spoon into muffin pan lined with paper or silicone liners or into silicone liners on a baking sheet. (I filled 10 silicone cups about 3/4 full and the batter rose just to the tops of the cups when baked.)

Bake at 350 F. for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are crispy and brown.

Next up: The sourdough loaf I’ve been baking but still haven’t captured on film? ICE CREAM in my new ice cream maker? I know, maybe some sourdough waffles in my untested waffle iron. I’m sure all these things will make it to the blog eventually!


Filed under muffins

New and Old

Unpacking in a new place is so much fun. There are more boxes to open and goodies to unwrap than on Christmas morning. The process is even more fun when you packed said boxes yourself several years ago and have not seen the contents since.

I had a few of those to open after Lee and I moved into an apartment in San Francisco last weekend. I also had several boxes of goodies from my grandmother’s kitchen. I packed those last week at my dad’s house after sorting through my grandmother’s things in his basement.

When she moved out of her home and into a small apartment, my grandmother got rid of many things from her kitchen and brought the rest to her new place. There was a logic to what she kept. I remember her showing me a tarnished aspic pan, explaining what an aspic was, and telling me about a recipe for one that she thought I’d like. She also pointed out her funny handleless mugs. They were old ironstone cups, she said, and she liked their everyday utilitarian feel. I found the aspic pan and the cups among my grandmothers things along with much, much more.

I know I’ve mentioned my grandmother here before. Helen was an ice show skater, choreographer, and aspiring chef. For her third career, she started a catering business that grew from her kitchen into it’s own bustling building. Helen’s home cooking had southern roots in her Texas childhood and worldly influences from her extensive ice show travels.


When Lee and I decided to move to the bay area, I knew I could outfit my new kitchen largely from my grandmother’s things. I wasn’t sure what all she’d kept but it had to be good, whatever it was. Unpacking her boxes turned out to be part archaeological venture, part Christmas morning. I ooohed and ahhhhed over everything I unwrapped as my dad explained the history behind whatever it was. Some things were mysterious, like this metal stand that I remember being in her kitchen. What is it for? Where did it come from?


I did a little dance when I pulled this out of a box. I’ve always wanted an espresso maker! Although I’d never seen it before, apparently Helen had a classic Italian stovetop model that she knew was worth keeping.


This ice cream scoop brought another grin to my face. I love ice cream and the only way to scoop it is with a hefty, solid scoop like this one. The metal is cool in my hand and the grip is perfect for digging into icy, creamy goodness.

There is much, much more but I’m saving some goodies for later : )
I think I’ll do a series of posts on artifacts from my grandmother’s kitchen as well as recipes from her GIGANTIC file. Lets look at it as culinary heritage, both familial and cultural.


Filed under inspiration and musings