Sunday, November 27, 2005

Cookie Exchanges

An exchange of cookies among friends or family is another way of sharing our baking. These can be organized in several ways. Keep the number to about 6, with each person bringing a dozen cookies.

Then the hostess will divide them up, so each person receives an equal number of each type. If you have the group much larger, the distribution can become rather unwieldy. However, there are many variations on this.

Also, if you’re meeting at the friend’s home for refreshments, as well as exchanging, bring some extra cookies to share with tea, coffee, or holiday punch.

When a friend organized a cookie exchange, she had 12 people participating. We all dropped our cookies at her home at a specified time. She then made the exchange and packaged each on a party plate, and we picked our goodies up later in the day. It had proved difficult to get all the participants together in an evening as it approached Christmas, so this way worked well.

(c)2005 Mary Emma Allen

(If you'd like to share stories about your cookie exchanges, write me: Write "Country Kitchen Blog" in the subject line.)

Giving Goodies for Christmas

An age-old tradition, giving gifts of goodies during the holiday season, brings joy and spreads cheer. As we share the baking from our kitchens, created from favorite family recipes and new ones, we form traditions and fond memories.

These may consist of cookies, fruitcake, pies, candy, and sometimes main meal dishes. We may give them to family as well as friends and teachers. My dad enjoyed penuche (brown sugar) fudge, so my sister and I often made a batch and wrapped it up for him. He probably expected it, but let us think he was surprised.

The first year Jim and I were married, money for Christmas gifts was in very short supply. So we made most of them, sewn, hand crafted, or baked. I made fudge of different flavors and mixed them for his and my younger brothers, giving them a gift they could eat all by themselves, if they desired.

“It’s all for me?” I recall one of his brothers asking.

My aunt and grandmother made many of the gifts they gave when I was a child. Auntie was especially good at making homemade bread, so she would bake several loaves and include them along with jars of pickles, jelly, and a plate of cookies in a “goodie” box.
They also might include jars of canned fruit…types my mom didn’t preserve.

Holiday Cookies…

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE TREATS – In a saucepan over low heat or double boiler, melt 1 cup chocolate bits. Stir until smooth and cool slightly.

Beat together ¾ cup sugar and ½ cup margarine until fluffy; blend in 2 beaten eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla and melted chocolate.

Add dry ingredients: 2 cups oatmeal, 1 ½ cup sifted flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir in remaining chocolate bits from a 12 oz. package.

Shape into 1-inch balls and roll in ½ cup powdered sugar, coating heavily. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes in preheated 350-degree oven.

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; then remove to wire rack. When cold, store in airtight container. Roll in colored sugar when removing to rack, if desired.

©2005 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen enjoys the holidays with her family in a multigenerational home in Plymouth, NH. Visit her web site: E-mail: )

Friday, November 11, 2005

Quilting Bees & Teas

My grandfather, Burton Barker Coon, writer and farmer, mentioned in his memories about his mother’s quilting, the fact that the ladies might together for afternoon tea and cut out pieces for quilt blocks. “They would take their sewing along and have a very pleasant time. All the girls were brought up to piece quilts, bake bread and do all kinds of housework….,” he related.

I wondered what they served with their afternoon tea. Then I browsed through my aunt’s cooking notebook, in which she jotted down favorite family recipes. There were several for cookies and cakes. Perhaps the ladies in the neighborhood enjoyed these as they chatted, cut pieces, and quilted.

(c) 2005

(If you have questions about quilts and quiltmaking or quilting bee foods, e-mail me: Include "Country Kitchen blog" in the subject line.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Pumpkin Time of Year at Trails End

“I have seen fields with the pumpkins so close together that you could have walked over the field by stepping from one pumpkin to another without touching the ground,” wrote my grandfather, Burton B. Coon, as he reminisced about life on the family farm at Trails End.

These words were written in the early 1900s, as he told of life 25 years earlier. Papa Coon, as we called him, was a farmer, as well as columnist for the local newspaper, in Dutchess County, NY,

I enjoy browsing through his collected writings, Fifty Years Ago, Rural Life from 1875, and learning about his life and that of my ancestors. He also was a genealogist and related family history stories, too.

Pumpkin Pie in “Olden” Days

Papa Coon described pumpkin pie as “one of the oldest desserts in this part of the country.” “It has figured in legend and song, as well as pantry and table, ever since the settlement of New England,” he continued.

“We used to gather them with cart and oxen and dump them in some fence corner near the pasture lot,” Papa Coon related. Then they would “throw some over to the cows each morning.”

He also told how “it used to be my job to cut open the big ones and take out the seeds to save for planting.” Then he described how they were stored in the barn and cellar where they were kept for winter use.

Pumpkins Have Long History

The pumpkin has a long history in our country, dating back to the early setters. They were easy to grow and store, so became a mainstay in their diets. Along with squash, they have been considered a food native to the Americas.

Pumpkins apparently originated in Central America then spread northward. The pioneers of our country found the natives using pumpkins and squash so learned to grow and cook them. Boiling, baking, drying, and making them into soup were methods of preparing pumpkins the natives taught the pioneers.

Pumpkin pie seems to be the most popular way of preparing pumpkin. However, you can make bread, cake, soup, custard, rolls, waffles, muffins, soufflé, preserves, tarts, and ice cream. Pumpkin seeds are a good snack, too.
From the Family Cookbook comes:

PUMPKIN ROLL - Sift together ¾ cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon salt; set aside.

Beat 3 eggs on high speed for 5 minutes; then add 1 cup sugar and 2/3 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin. Fold in the flour mixture and pour onto a 10 x 15-inch or 11 x 14-inch jelly roll pan lined with waxed paper and sprayed with butter or vegetable spray.

If desired, sprinkle ½ cup chopped nuts over the top. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Tip out onto a powdered sugar dusted cloth and roll up; let cool. Unroll and fill with cream cheese filling.

CREAM CHEESE FILLING – Cream 1 cup powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons margarine, 8-oz. package cream cheese, and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Spread over top. Then roll up as you would a jelly roll and chill; cut into slices.

©2005 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen writes from her multi-generational home in New Hampshire when she’s not traveling for business and doing family history research.)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Scrapbooking Family Recipes

By using your scrapbooking techniques, you can develop an interesting recipe scrapbook or journal to use currently and to preserve cooking memories for future generations.
My aunt saved recipes in a notebook, handwritten and frequently with notations of the person from whom she acquired it.

I’ve began to consider making a scrapbook or picture journal of some of the recipes, photocopying them in her handwriting, then attaching it to the page of a scrapbook. Illustrations and photos could accompany these, perhaps with journal entries about the person whose recipe it is.

Grandma Coon’s Recipes

With the recipes Auntie noted as Grandma Coon’s, I could post a photo of this lady. I have one of her with her husband and son (my grandfather) in front of their farmhouse. There’s another of Grandma posing for a photographer.

Since the scrapbook will consist for family information and pleasure, I’ll include some details about Grandma, gleaned from family research, my grandfather’s writings, and memories told by my mom.

Nanny’s Recipes

These recipes were referred to as “Ma’s Recipes” by Auntie and my mother. I always called her Nanny. So I can include my memories of food prepared and served at her home and at ours when she visited.

I have numerous pictures of this lady, both as a young woman and as the grandmother I recall. They will add interest and memories for my family.

Other Relatives’ Recipes

The list could go on, since I’ve collected, over the years, recipes from relatives on both my mother and father’s side of the family. There are cousins, aunts, and close family friends.

“And don’t forget yourself,” my daughter often reminds me when we’re collecting family memories and pictures. This would include the picture my mom took of me holding the first loaf of bread I baked….all by myself when I was eight years old.

Do You Have Family Recipes for a Scrapbook?

Almost everyone has recipes memories they could include in a scrapbook. These might trace back for several generations, or they may be recipes you’ve collected and found favorites.

Do you have recipes you accumulated in your travels? My daughter asked for a Sweet Potato Biscuit recipe where she and her husband dined on their honeymoon. This could be included on a scrapbook page along with a photo of their trip.

We have family favorite acquired on a backpacking trip into the mountains of Wyoming. The outfitter’s cook created a dish of sausage, potatoes, cabbage, and onions that tasted delicious after a day of trekking at 10,000 feet. He didn’t have ingredient amounts, so we, by trial and error, came up with a version at home that tasted almost like his.

MOTHER’S CINNAMON ROLLS – My nephew asked for my mother’s (his grandmother’s) recipe for these that he recalled her making in his childhood.

Stir up your usual white bread recipe. Instead of forming it into a loaf for the second rising, roll one or both loaves (most recipes make two loaves) into rectangles about 1-inch thick. Spread with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture (sometimes Mother used part white sugar and part brown); distribute ½ to 1 cup raisins over each.

Roll up as you would a jellyroll. Then cut in 1-inch slices. Place on greased or spray buttered cookie sheet. Let rise, as you would bread.

Then bake, about 350 degrees F., 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. When done, remove from oven and cookie sheet.

If you desire, frost with a vanilla confectioner’s sugar/butter icing. My mother never frosted hers, but some people prefer this.

©2005 Mary Emma Allen

(I write, journal, and scrapbook from my multigenerational home in Plymouth, NH. If anyone is interested, I will teach workshops in scrapbooking your family recipes and memories. E-mail me at: )

Monday, August 22, 2005

Where Do I Get Ideas for Country Kitchen?

Frequently I’m asked, “Where do you get ideas for your ‘Country Kitchen’ newspaper and online columns?”

I’ve been writing them since the early 1960s for various newspapers, sometimes only one and occasionally for two or three at the same time. Since it’s an area I love and have pretty much free rein with my topics, I usually have no problem coming up with ideas.

When I started writing this column for my hometown weekly in 1963, I had no idea I’d still be producing it more than 40 years later! Also, no idea of the enjoyment writing it would be throughout the years.

The ideas come from my daily life, children and grandchildren, my travels and foods I find in other parts of the country, books I read, history I research, family cookbooks and journals I browse. One might think I’d run out of ideas, but somehow they keep coming.

Chatting with my readers or sharing my ideas and philosophy, one might describe the columns. One reader said reading my columns was like chatting with me over a cup of tea. Another called “Country Kitchen” homespun philosophy. Still one more said my writing brought back memories of good times in her childhood.

If I can help brighten my readers’ day with my musings and sharing, I’ve discovered the secret for my writing.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Introduction to Country Kitchen

I've been writing Country Kitchen columns for newspapers and online pulbications since the mid-1960s. This has been a very enjoyable aspect of my writing. In fact, Country Kitchen, written for my hometown newspaper in Poughquag, NY, was my first published writing. I never imagined, at that time, I'd be writing this column for so many years.

However, it's been a way to share my thoughts and recipes, to reach out and encourage readers.
One reader mentioned that reading my column was like sitting down and chatting over a cup of tea with me.

Another reader said she enjoyed my "homespun philosophy." Someone else mentioned she enjoyed recalling incidents in her life that my column brought to mind.

I hope my Country Kitchen blog will bring enjoyment and inspiration to my readers, too.