Tag Archives: Grammy Thompson

4 Ways to Beat the Heat

It’s been bloody hot the past few weeks. There were a few days when things cooled down a bit and I felt I could catch my breath, but otherwise I’ve been “perspie” as my Grammy Thompson used to say.  “Perspie” was her delicate way of saying perspire. Since we don’t have air conditioning I’ve come up with four great ways to beat the heat.

"swimming hole"

My favorite swimming hole

1. Clean your basement. Seriously, the basement is always cooler than upstairs. I’m not talking heavy lifting, just some rearranging, a few loads of laundry. You’ll cool down and be happier. Heck, just tell everyone you’re going down to clean the basement and instead grab a folding chair and a good book and read for a while.

2. Find a Swimming Hole. This tip is for folks in the country. There are several near and far from me (unfortunately nothing within walking distance). What you’re looking for is something on the icy side so you can bring your core temperature down. Don’t forget to put an extra towel on your car seat so you don’t fry your bottom when you leave.

3. Turn on the Brooklyn AC. When I lived in Brooklyn there were no swimming holes, and we couldn’t afford the electricity an AC unit sucked down so we made our own AC. First set up a chair with a towel on it. Beach or bath it doesn’t matter. Second position an oscillating fan in front of your chair. Third grab all the bandanas you own and soak them in cold water, wring out most but not all of the water. Fourth strip naked. Then sit on the chair, place the damp bandanas all over your body and turn the fan on high.  It will feel like you have AC. Re-wet the bandanas as they dry.

4. Make a pitcher of ice tea. I covered the basic concept for ice tea here. My friend Hilary Zaloom made this divine ice tea for our monthly knitting group when we were crazy enough to meet during a similar heat wave last summer. We ended up at Hilary’s house because she has AC (and not the Brooklyn kind) and she also makes the most delicious drinks. Needless to say between the beverages and the AC we were all happy to sit there for several hours chatting with a bunch of wool in our laps.

"Hilary's Ice Tea"

Hilary’s Herbal Ice Tea with Honey Water

Hilary’s Herbal Ice Tea

The genius of this ice tea isn’t just in the flavor combination, but in the sweetener. Instead of using a simple syrup (one part water to one part sugar) Hilary adds honey and some warm water to a squirt bottle. Once shaken to combine the honey water can be squirted into any cool beverage as a sweetener without clumping as it is want to do in cold drinks. Brilliant!

Red Zinger or Hibiscus tea

1 orange

2-4 spring mint

honey water* to taste (I make mine at a 1 part honey to 2-3 parts water)

Place teabags in a large pitcher of water and let soak 3+ hours or overnight. Remove bags and add mint sprigs.  Slice half the orange and  juice the remaining half. Add juice and slices to the tea. Sweeten to taste with honey water.

*Store honey water in the fridge if you don’t use it immediately, it will keep for a week or so.

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Easter Nests

The Easter Bunny has been rather busy the last few weeks. Dusting off the plastic eggs, hunting down the best tasting jelly beans (taste testing a few along the way), searching for the right things to go into everyone’s baskets, and sending happy mail* with an Easter flair. The other day Ms. Bunny came across the most adorable chocolate nests filled with candy eggs. "chocolate nests"

Those chocolate nests made her think of Grammy Thompson’s Scandinavian Cookies. The cookies are shaped like little nests which you fill with jam instead of eggs, but they’re equally cute and rank very high on the adorable scale. I guess you’re getting a pretty good idea of how my brian functions seeing how I jumped from chocolate nests to sugar-coated cookies which somewhat resemble nests.

"Scandinavian Cookies"

Grammy T. usually brought us these cookies every year at Christmas time** and the tin she brought them in was full! My Mom was sweet enough to give me the tin after Grammy passed away, along with a hand-written recipe card for these particular cookies. I think of Grammy every time I make a batch and put them into her tin. With a week to go until Easter there’s a batch of these adorable cookie nests coated in pastel colored nonpareils waiting for Ms. Bunny to drop a dollop of jam in each.

"Grammy T's scandanavian cookie box"

There should be several other treats Ms. Bunny will be making for Easter this upcoming week including a ginormous batch of Peeps & Kisses as well as some fun Easter shaped sugar cookies, so stay tuned.

Scandinavian Cookies

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 egg yolks (save the whites and freeze for later use)

2 cups sifted flour

colored sugars, non-pareils (or sugarettes as my Mom called them), and/or finely chopped nuts

seedless jam or jellies for filling

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Cream the butter, shortening, and brown sugar until smooth and no streaks of butter remain. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating until the batter has lightened. Blend in the flour (if you don’t sift the flour before measuring these cookies will be too dry and crumbly). Roll the dough into small balls, then roll the balls into the sugar or non-pareils, or nuts and place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Make a depression with one of your fingers in the top of each cookie and bake 5 minutes. Quickly press down the centers again and bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool. Do not fill with jam or jelly until you are ready to serve the cookies as it will make the cookies soggy. If you are giving these as gifts I suggest you find a teeny tiny jar to put in the cookie box or you can use one of those plastic containers for dressing you get at a salad bar. Barring either of those suggestions slip in a note suggesting they spoon in the jam of their choice.

Makes about 47-60 cookies depending on how small you roll the balls of dough.

"Cream all the butter/shortening and sugar until there are no streaks"

"rolling cookie dough in nonpareils"

"scandinavian cookies ready to bake"

Here is one of the HappyMail eggs I sent out. Turns out if you’re willing to put first class postage on something weighing 13 ounces or less you can pop it in your mailbox or one of the big blue mailboxes found all over the U. S. Pretty cool. So far I’ve mailed Easter eggs, flip flops (one at a time), plastic water bottles, and plastic sushi boxes (not filled with sushi of course).

"Happy Mail getting ready to send "

**For Christmas I roll these cookies in red and green nonpareils or colored sugars.

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Mary B.’s Coffee Cake

"grammy and grampy thompson

Grammy & Grampy Thompson

My cooking memories of Grammy Thompson are fewer than those I have with Grammy Caldwell for the simple reason that we didn’t live as close to her. Though their numbers are less, the recipes I do have from her are nonetheless precious. As far as I (and many of my family) am concerned one of her signature recipes was her coffee cake. My siblings, cousins, and I call it Mary B.’s Coffee Cake for Mary Brock Thompson. Grammy T. and her children called it Phyllis Marrin’s Coffee Cake after the woman in Grammy’s bridge club who originally shared the recipe with her, while my nephews and niece refer to it as Marcy’s Coffee Cake after my Mom, whom they call Marcy (and sometimes Grammy). I guess what you call it is all about the cook you tasted it first from.

"Mary B.'s coffee cake

Mary B.'s Coffee Cake

Regardless of how you refer to this coffee cake it is a staple at our house for Christmas Day. This past Christmas Isabelle became the queen of coffee cake making since the guys and I were all sick with pneumonia. Bella baked us the requisite Christmas morning coffee cake, and then because we gobbled it up so fast she made us another a few days later, and one more for New Year’s. She was on a roll so she also made one for her boyfriend, and took one as a Christmas present to another friend. They do make wonderful gifts for people. My mother made one for my nephew Bennett’s birthday last year and it was such a hit she went on to make one for each of the three grandchildren who live down the street from her (see what I mean about proximity bringing food blessings?) as one of their Christmas presents. Nathan, Bennett, and Avery couldn’t have been happier.

Mary B.’s Coffee Cake

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup vegetable shortening (or you can use all butter)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cup flour

1 cup sour cream (you can use low fat or greek yogurt, but not no fat)

2/3 cup cinnamon sugar (3 Tablespoons cinnamon with sugar to make 2/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8″ x 8″ pan and set aside. Cream butter, vegetable shortening, and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Beat in the baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 cup of flour. Alternate mixing in the sour cream and the rest of the flour, beating well after each addition. Plop slightly more than half the into the prepared pan. Sprinkle on 1/3 cup of the cinnamon sugar then carefully drop the remaining batter evenly across the cinnamon sugar. Don’t try to spread it as it will just roll around in the cinnamon sugar. You’ll have more success if you drop it by spoonfuls then nudge the batter to touch the edges of the pan, where it will stick and stay. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar on top and bake for 55-60 minutes. Cool as long as you can resist the amazing aroma.

If you are giving this as a gift I would suggest lining the pan with foil (leaving some to hang over the edge) so you can simple bake, cool, then lift out and wrap in the foil it was baked in. If you try to shift a cake baked directly in the pan the cinnamon sugar on top will fall off.

"sandwiching cinnamon sugar in batter"

Sandwiching the cinnamon sugar in the middle of the batter

"coffeecake ready to bake"

More cinnamon sugar on top and ready to bake

"coffee cake"

Waiting for it to cool

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