Tag Archives: vvg

Lemon Bars

I like you, a shop here in Minneapolis that sells handmade goods from local and regional artists had copies of this print in their shop recently:


Image from Etsy

I’ve always loved this print because it’s so true – there’s nothing that a lemon bar can’t fix.  That and because my absolute favorite VVG recipe from Grandma has always been lemon bars.  Life hasn’t been giving me many lemons to speak of lately, but that didn’t stop me from making three batches of these to celebrate the end of the spring semester.  I brought them in for one my classes this semester and promised my students that I would post the recipe.  It’s a little late in coming to them, and to you, but I hope you’ll all enjoy some lemon bars soon!

Lemon Bars
1 c. butter
2 c. sifted flour
1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
4 eggs
2 c. sugar (you can reduce this by half and still be adequately sugared up, I promise)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/2 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Cream butter.  Add flour and powdered sugar and mix.  Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Combine well beaten eggs, sugar, salt and lemon juice.  Mix together baking powder and flour and add to egg mixture and mix well.  Spread on the hot crust layer.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool completely. Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

lemon bars


Grandma saves the day with Crazy Cake!!

Today one of my students, who happens to be from a South American country, a place with a hot climate, noted that it was pretty warm out today so I took the opportunity to explain the word balmy to the class.  We all had a good laugh at the fact that we live in a cruel, strange world where we think 30º is warm.  Even those of us from South America.  But compared to the cold temperatures we endured last week, it is downright balmy out!

When the temperatures climb above 15º, I usually try to walk home from work.  Yesterday was just such a day.  On my leisurely walk home I remembered that I had book club later in the evening and that I should really bring some food to share.  I was thinking of making a nice citrus salad, but alas, didn’t have many of the ingredients on hand.  That, coupled with the fact that I was feeling pretty lazy – too lazy to chop a few oranges – left me with few options.  I mean really.  If you can’t handle chopping a couple of oranges, the cooking options are looking a little bleak.  I considered baking something, but that lazy component kept rearing it’s ugly head.  I didn’t want to make cookies – too much work!

But then, wouldn’t you know, Grandma came to the rescue.  I was flipping through the cards, hoping for some inspiration and there it was – Crazy Cake!  “Sift flour, sugar, soda, cocoa and salt in an ungreased pan”.  Wait a second!  No bowl?  I can mix this thing up in the pan?!  And it will be ready in 40 minutes?  And be delicious?!  Crazy! I always wondered why this was called Crazy Cake, when for all those years I thought it was just a good chocolate cake with a delicious caramel frosting.  Nothing too outrageous or anything, but now I know the real reason for it’s name.  Between the ingredients and the method, it is a little crazy!

Grandma used to make this cake for us all the time.  One bite into this last night and I remembered just how much she made it.  I haven’t had it in years, but it tasted exactly like I remembered.  Rich, moist, chocolaty, and that caramely frosting…so good!  Actually, it’s VVG!

Crazy Cake
3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. oil
2 c. cold water

Sift flour, sugar, soda, cocoa and salt into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan.  Make 3 holes in the dry ingredients.  Pour vanilla into one, vinegar into another, and divide the oil between all three.  Pour cold water over the entire mixture.  Blend with a fork.  Do not beat.  Bake at 350º for 35 – 40 minutes.

Quick Caramel Frosting
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. milk
2 c. powdered sugar (sifted ??)*

Melt butter in sauce pan.  Add brown sugar.  Boil over low heat 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add milk, continue stirring until it comes to a boil.  Remember to cool.  Then add powdered sugar, beat after each addition.

* I’m not sure why Grandma had these questions marks after the powdered sugar.  She sifted everything.  There was no question in that.  And she measured everything perfectly.  I’m also not sure what the underlining was all about on this one, but I definitely remembered to let it cool.

I only used one cup of powdered sugar last night because I felt I was going into some sort of hyperglycemic shock just thinking about all of the sugar in that frosting and guess what – it was still good.  Yes, Dad. I wrote this for you.  Minus one cup of sugar and still edible!  In fact, tasty!  Believe it!!

Crazy Cake with Caramel Frosting

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

You know what’s VVG?  My grandma’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.  I haven’t made one of Grandma’s recipes in quite a while so I decided it was time to break out my little recipe box and dig out a gem.  And dig one out I did!  I forgot about how wonderful these are!

I like to think that in addition to being a tried and true Grandma VVG* recipe, these cookies also turned out well because I made the peanut butter myself.  That’s right – I made peanut butter!  No, I did not shuck the peanuts and roast them myself, nor did I manually grind them into a fine butter, but I did go through the painstaking process of pouring a bag of roasted nuts in my food processor and turning it on to watch the magic of electricity and sharp blades work it’s magic.  That counts for something, right?

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
1 c. shortening or butter
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 c. peanut butter
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 c. oatmeal

Mix ingredients together. Drop dough on an ungreased cookies sheet.  Bake at 375º for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

A note from Grandma:
I bake all drop cookies at 375º. Depends on your oven.  Since Grandpa replaced a spring in my oven door, it doesn’t close tight – so it’s baking by guess and by gosh!

I wish I had a picture of Grandma baking by “guess and by gosh” to share with you.  She was pretty cute perched on her stool watching the progress in her oven!!

Jar of Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies










*All of Grandma’s recipes are tagged VVG (and a few of Aunt Pat’s).  You can just type in VVG in the search field at the top of the screen and you can see them all!

Aunt Pat’s Grasshoppers

Happy New Year!!  I hope everyone was able to ring in the new year in a special way.  For my part, I was invited to a “Fattening” party, a potluck with fun people and delicious food, and watched the Badgers try unsuccessfully to bring home a Rose Bowl win.  I’ll admit that the football game, though fun to watch, was a bit disappointing.  The Fattening party on the other hand, was a huge success.  Not only did I get to eat a lot of tasty food and enjoy tons of good laughs, I won Bananagrams at the gift exchange!  Clearly, my year is off to an excellent start.

My contribution to the New Year’s Fattening was twofold.  I brought a version of this squash and lentil salad as my contribution toward health, and Aunt Pat’s Grasshoppers as my contribution toward gluttony.  This is the same Aunt Pat of Brandy Slush fame, so I knew it would be a hit.  That and this was perhaps one of the best parts about the holiday season while growing up, so I saw no reason why it wouldn’t be a wonderful way to ring in the new year with some new friends.

But the best part about these Grasshoppers is that you don’t really need a holiday as an excuse to enjoy them.  I recommend mixing up a batch today to enjoy throughout the new year!!

Aunt Pat’s Grasshoppers
1 pail vanilla ice cream
1/2 c. creme de cacao
1/4 c brandy
3/4 c creme de menthe

Allow ice cream to soften.  Mix in liquors and freeze.  Enjoy!!

Apple Pie

A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I headed out to Aamodt’s Apple Farm for some apple pickin’ and wine tastin’.  We brought a variety of zucchini treats for a picnic (post forthcoming, one of these days or months) and enjoyed the absolutely perfect fall day that it was.

Last night I decided to finally enjoy the fruits of that afternoon’s (or 20 minutes as it were) labor by making an apple pie.  I briefly considered making some apple kuchen, because it’s sooo good, but thought it was time to break out a different Grandma classic this time around.  I used my grandma’s VVG flaky pie crust recipe and my mom’s Betty Crocker apple filling.

Flaky Pie Crust
4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. shortening (not butter this time)
1 T. vinegar
1/2 c. cold water
1 egg.

Sift dry ingredients together.  Work in shortening.  Then add beaten egg to water and vinegar.  Roll out into pie crusts.
Wrap any remaining crust into wax paper.  Ready to use at any time.  May be kept in freezer.  Thaw to room temperature and use as freshly made up.  Save all scraps each time and refreeze.

Apple Pie Filling
5 c. apples, thinly sliced
1/2 c. sugar
3 T. flour
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
dash salt
3 T. butter
Sprinkle dry ingredients over apples.  Toss until well coated.  Put in pie crust and top with butter.

Bake pie at 425º for 15 mins.  Then reduce heat to 375º and bake for 30 mins.  Let set as long as you can before eating.  Enjoy with ice cream!

Apple Pie

Brandy Slush

This last weekend I went camping with my friend and her aunt in Wisconsin at Wildcat Mountain State Park near the Kickapoo River, where we did some canoeing and biking on the Elroy-Sparta trail.  If you’ve never been canoeing in the Kickapoo, I highly recommend making the trip to Drifty’s to rent a canoe.  The drive alone would make it worth your time, but jumping out of the canoe and floating down the river to cool off will guarantee it.

Growing up, my family didn’t do a ton of camping but there were a few times that we went up north to visit Aunt Pat, Uncle Bob and cousins to hang out at their RV campsite.  Those weekends were always a lot of fun.  I seem to remember my brothers doing a lot of fishing, and my parents and aunts and uncles doing a LOT of laughing.  What could have induced all this laughter?  Who knows for sure, but I’m sure that Aunt Pat had something to do with it.

This weekend, as I was devouring s’mores by the campfire, I thought a little bit about those trips up north, which got me thinking about Aunt Pat, and naturally got me thinking about ice-cream buckets full of fun (Aunt Pat could always be counted on for fun, in ice-cream buckets or otherwise).  I’m not so sure we had brandy slush when we visited Aunt Pat and Uncle Bob on those trips up north, but I sure did have a glass last night when I got home from my weekend camping trip.  And you know what?  It was almost like Aunt Pat was right there with me, having lots of fun and lots of laughs.

Brandy Slush
7 c. water
2 c. sugar
4 green tea bags
2 c. brandy
1 12-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 12-oz can frozen lemonade concentrate

Boil 5 c. water and 2 c. sugar.  Let cool.  Boil 4 tea bags in 2 c. water for 4 minutes.  Cool.  Add orange juice and lemonade concentrate to sugar water.  Add tea.  Add brandy.  Put in freezer for at least 24 hours.  Serve one scoop in a small glass and fill with 7-up, squirt, or ginger ale.

Strawberry Shortcake

I have been completely uninspired about cooking this summer.  Even when I’m not making anything that requires actual heating, I want to spend as little time as possible in my kitchen chopping or mixing ingredients.  But every so often, I am asked to bring a dish to pass somewhere so I suck it up, turn on the oven, bake my heart out, pack up my goods, and leave my hot apartment to enjoy my food in someone else’s hopefully air-conditioned abode.

Last week Monday, I attended an “American Desserts Potluck” event in honor of a group of visiting Chinese ESL teachers.  I knew some of the other American teachers were bringing rhubarb pie and apple crisp.  So, charged with the task of making a very American dessert, and thinking of a good summer dessert at that, I decided to whip up a batch of Grandma’s VVG Shortcake.  The Chinese teachers told me that they really enjoyed this dessert because it’s not too sweet.  Rich, yes, but not too sweet.

Strawberry Shortcake

1/3 c. shortening (I used butter)
2 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt (optional – ok, maybe not for Grandma, but definitely for me)
3/4 c. milk

Cut shortening into flour.  Mix in remaining dry ingredients.  Mix in milk until just blended.  Roll dough onto a floured board and knead 20 – 25 times.  Roll or pat into 1/2″ thickness and use a 3″ cookie cutter* to make shapes.  Bake at 450º for 10 – 12 mins.  Bake a little longer if you decide to put the dough in a cake pan.

*Normally, I use a 3″ cookie cutter to make the shapes, but went with a smaller one this time so that all of the Chinese teachers could have a little taste of shortcake.  I baked them for about 8 mins.


Strawberry Shortcake