Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cream Filbert Cookies

Several weeks ago, I noticed a badge on someone's blog advertising The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap.  Now, I LOVE to bake, and even more, I love to eat cookies...any cookies, any shape, any form!  So, of course, I wanted in on this swap.  

What truly amazed me, though, was the fact that in order to join this swap, you paid a fee, and 100% of that fee was donated to Cookies for Kids Cancer Research.  In return, we baked one dozen cookies for each of three food bloggers, and received one dozen cookies from each of three food bloggers.  We also received the cutest little cookie spatula from Oxo with the words "Be a Good Cookie" printed on it.

I baked Cream Filbert Cookies, a vintage butter cookie with a filbert/hazelnut baked in the center (yes, they are the same thing), then dipped in a glaze and then into colored sugar.  These cookies were my Grandmother's favorite cookie, and I bake them every year in her honor. 

I sent cookies to: 
Nicole at
Stephanie at
and Vijay at

I received the most amazing cookies from 

This was such a wonderful experience for me, and I cannot wait to participate next year!

Cream Filbert Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 oz. filberts/hazelnuts
Glaze (below)
Colored Sugar

Heat oven to 375ºF. Cream shortening, butter and sugar.  Add egg.  Measure flour and stir dry ingredients together.  Blend into creamed mixture.  Add vanilla.  Roll in balls (using level tsp. dough per ball) and press a filbert into the center.  Shape so dough covers nut.  Place on ungreased baking sheet about 2" apart.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until delicately browned.  Cool.  Holding cookie at bottom, dip entire top in Glaze.  Roll in colored sugar.  Makes 7 -8 dozen cookies.
Glaze: Mix 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, 3 tbsp. water, and 2 tsp. vanilla.  Stir til smooth.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spiced Chai Cookie Bars

Gooey, warm, baked mac and cheese; chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles; Mom's delicious meatloaf; homemade giant cinnamon rolls or caramel rolls; spicy, chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside molasses cookies; DQ's chocolate malt.  All of these things epitomize to me what all-American, genuine comfort food is. Food that evokes fond childhood memories.  Food that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and food that takes you back in time to when the most important thing in life is what color eye shadow to wear or if you should tell your best friend that you experienced your first kiss that left you totally breathless and feeling like you could simply just die.

Well, there's one more thing to add to that list that makes me feel so content and satisfied that I couldn't care less if that load of laundry gets folded right now.  Chai tea. That exotic Indian spiced tea that you'd swear has some kind of drug in it because it is so devinely delicious and completely addicting. I absolutely adore this stuff and over the last couple of years there has been an explosion of desserts, pies, cakes and cookies that all have Chai tea as the main component.


These bars are no exception, and I must say that they are just as addicting as Chai itself.  They are incredibly simple to make and are delicious both with the icing and without...your choice, but I made these with.  What the heck, I'm gonna blow the diet anyway the minute they hit my mouth whether they're frosted or not, so I may as well do it up right and add the frosting.  Now don't say I didn't warn you...they're addicting and I challenge you to even try and eat just one!

Spiced Chai Cookie Bars

2 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

2 Tbs instant Chai tea powder

1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or grease bottom only of a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  In small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In large bowl, beat butter on high until creamy.  Beat in sugars.  Gradually beat in eggs and vanilla into sugar mixture until combined.  In low speed, beat in dry ingredients until combined.

Spoon half of the batter into pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the filling on top.  Drop the rest of the batter by teaspoons on top of the cinnamon filling mixture.  Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown or until toothpick inserted comes clean.  Let cool for an hour.  Drizzle the glaze over the bars.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Apologies and Mom's Sausage Gravy

Firstly, my sincere apologies for such a long absence with no blog posts; I know it doesn't speak well of me when such a long period of time lapses with no word at all, especially when beginning a brand new blog.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way at some of the most inopportune times.  In any case, I'm back now, and I promise to do my best to keep you informed and up to date on a regular basis.  

The recipe I've chosen for today is incredibly simple to make, and has been a staple around our house since I was a teenager...but first let me give you a little background information.  

When I was 14, my parents packed all five of us kids up and moved us to Nashville, TN...Dad had gotten a cushy new job as Food & Beverage Director at (sadly, the now defunct) Opryland USA, and Mom was going to be working at the Grand Ole Opry ticket office. Anyway, we were all in store for some major culture shock, and that included our taste buds.  All of a sudden, we were slammed right and left with an explosion of new tastes and flavors, as well as new methods of cooking and new ways to cook old dishes.

Early on, my Mom learned how to make Sausage gravy to serve over mind you, she had been making milk gravy with her pork chops for years, and I HATED that, so I didn't hold out much hope that I was going to like this new sausage gravy stuff.  But, as with everything Mom or Dad cooked, if it was brought to the table, we HAD to at least try it.  Then if we didn't like it, we didn't have to eat it, but we wouldn't get anything else to eat either.

So on this particular Sunday after church, Mom decided to try the new recipe for sausage gravy that one of her new friends had taught her to make.  So she stirred and whisked, fried up sausage, made the biscuits, and it all came to the table piping hot and looking, much to my surprise, not bad at all.  And when I tasted it, oh my, what an explosion of flavor!  I LOVED it, as did all my brothers and my sister.  So, here it is, Mom's recipe for Sausage Gravy, and I hope you love it as much as we do!

Mom’s Sausage Gravy

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Ready In: 30 Minutes
Servings: 8

1 pound ground pork sausage
3 tablespoons bacon grease*
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste

1.         Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Set aside, leaving the drippings in the skillet.
2.         Mix bacon grease into the sausage drippings. Reduce heat to medium, combine with flour, and stir constantly until mixture just turns golden brown.
3.         Gradually whisk milk into skillet. When the mixture is smooth, thickened, and begins to bubble, return the sausage to skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

*Although you may be tempted to substitute oil, butter or margarine for the bacon drippings, please don't do that.  Bacon grease is a must have for this recipe to successfully replicate that of true Southern sausage gravy.  Just try the bacon grease the first time, then, if you must use one of the other fats next time. I guarantee you'll go back to the bacon grease in short order!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

DIY Campfire Casseroles

Here in Minnesota, we're about to dive head first into summer as the temperatures reach 90+ degrees F.  That means one thing in our family:  camping season!

Growing up, both my hubby and I spent a lot of time in the summer camping.  And I don't mean with a big gorgeous motor home, or even camper
(not that I have anything against them, mind you), but usually at a state park or campground in a tent with a bonfire and sometimes a Coleman stove.  

I remember one year camping in Kentucky.  We had pitched our tent, gotten the "outdoor kitchen" all set up and things were going great when the sky suddenly darkened, thunder banged directly overhead scaring the bejesus out of all 5 of us kids, the wind came up and nearly knocked my baby sister into next week, and the rain started coming down in sheets.  It was useless to run to the tent for cover, so Mom and Dad hurried all 5 of us into our station wagon where we waited out the storm.

When it was over, the entire campground was under about 18 inches of water, our tent was completely blown down, and our little kitchen was destroyed.  We later learned that a tornado had actually gone through the park, so we were extremely lucky to have weathered the storm relatively unscathed with most of our stuff, although most of it was scattered everywhere.

That actually is a great memory for me, because even though it was pretty scary at first, we got through it as a family, and everyone in the campground helped each other rebuild their campsites.  It truly was a group effort, and it was a great thing for children to see strangers offering help to each other in a time of need.

I believe one of the greatest things ever invented for camping was the "hobo dinner."  If you've ever camped in your life, you know what I'm talking about.  Usually a hamburger patty, seasoned, with assorted veggies...potatoes, onion, carrot, etc., wrapped in foil then cooked over the fire.  They were fun, nutritious and delicious, and there have been a million different versions sparked by that first burger supper.  Potatoes with onions and bacon, AKA campfire potatoes, omelets in baggies thrown into boiling water over the campfire, you name it, it's been done.

Today, I'm going to share with you a version of that first hobo dinner, but mine's a little more hands on, and does require some advance prep on Mom's part, but the result is a wonderful supper, one that kids and adults alike will have a blast preparing.  I give to you "Southwest Style Campfire Casseroles."  Enjoy, and please let me know how yours turned out!

Southwest Style Campfire Casseroles

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 pkg. taco seasoning
Assorted fillings, such as:
     chopped onion
     chopped green pepper
     black beans or chili beans
     sliced green onion
1-2 cups shredded taco style cheese
1 can enchilada sauce
1 pkg. Jiffy corn muffin mix, prepared according to package directions.
Crushed tortilla chips
Mini Aluminum Loaf pans
Vegetable cooking spray


First prepare ground beef with taco seasoning as directed on package.  Place ground beef in covered plastic container, such as Glad Take Alongs. Place your prepared cornbread mix in a container as well.  (You can also prepare the mix at camp, but make sure you have the milk and eggs along too)

Next, and this is how I've discovered is easiest for my family, but it's purely your preference, place fillings in muffin tin, along with the cheese, as shown in the photo below.


My muffin tin has a lid with a handle, but if yours doesn't, simply cover with aluminum foil.

Now, when you're actually ready to prepare the casseroles, spray your loaf pans with cooking spray (each loaf pan will feed one adult or 2 children.  You may also choose to prepare them in aluminum muffin cups for smaller portions) Pass out the pans to each camper, and tell them to start adding ingredients, beginning with the ground beef, and finishing with crushed chips, if you have them.  I've numbered the steps in the diagram below:

You can see that the taco beef is first, then the onions, corn and beans are second, cheese is third, enchilada sauce is fourth, cornbread mix is fifth and crushed taco chips are sixth.  We used a half cup ice cream scoop for the cornbread mix and a small gravy ladle for the enchilada sauce, using one scoop of cornbread mix and 2-3 ladles of sauce, according to how moist you want them.  This should make about 4 mini loaf pans full.

Next, wrap your loaf pans in foil, leaving a little space at the top, then place them over indirect heat on your campfire or covered grill.  Watch them closely so as not to over cook them.  They should take approximately 20 - 40 minutes depending on the heat of your fire.  And that's it...have fun, and enjoy!

*Note*  You can also prepare these at home...they're great for parties or even for a fun family night.  Simply bake the mini loaf pans uncovered in a 400 degree F. oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Below, you can see the different steps as my husband prepared his.

Adding toppings:

Adding Sauce:

Adding chips last:

Experiment with different toppings, and have fun with these!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Chocolate Banana Shortcake

As a child, we moved around a lot, and although I was born in Minnesota and live here now, I spent many of my "growing up" years in the South.  At age eight, we moved to Louisiana, at nine, we were in San Antonio, Texas, and that same year, we moved yet again to Dallas, Texas, then once more to Waynesville (Ft. Leonardwood), Missouri.

When I was ten, my parents made the decision that my Dad would spend a year in Viet Nam working for AAFES  (Army and Air Force Exchange Service), so we moved back to Minnesota for that year. When he returned home, we were transferred to Ft. Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, where we stayed until I was fourteen.  We then moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky for a year, and then finally Dad took a job at Opryland USA in Nashville, Tennessee.

Those years in Tennessee are some of the most memorable of my life.  Friendships were formed, I graduated high school there, went to college there, had my first job there, my first boyfriend, and my first apartment.   Mom and Dad were finally meeting new people as well, some of whom have remained lifelong friends.  

One couple in particular were Buddy and Reba, who became like second parents to us kids, and best friends to Mom and Dad. God rest their souls, we lost them both last year within a few months of each other.

Buddy was an OTR truck driver and Reba was a recent divorcée when they met and fell in love at the American Legion.  They were married, and between them had 8 children. Although not a clone of the Brady Bunch, their family dynamic worked.

Reba came from an upper middle class family and never had to learn to cook, so the cooking skills she brought to the marriage were, um, limited, to say the least.  But she jumped right in, and to her credit, she became a pretty decent cook in her own right.  She made the absolute most awesome biscuits you ever ate...they literally melted in your mouth.  One day we were over for brunch after church and Reba had the traditional biscuits and sausage gravy, but she had also made "Chocolate Gravy"!

I'm like, what the heck is chocolate gravy...I'd never heard of, let alone tasted a delicacy such as this!  Turns out, it's a very Southern dish (usually served over biscuits) that I can only describe as a cross between chocolate pudding and chocolate syrup...either way it's heaven in your mouth!

Anyway, the other night, I was trying to figure out what to do with some leftover shortcake I'd made the night before for Strawberry Shortcake.  I'm thinking, "what the heck can I make that's sweet to go over that darn shortcake?"  

And then it hit me...Reba's Chocolate Gravy!  Well, I didn't have her recipe, so I went in search of one in my vast array of cookbooks, to no avail.  Then I turned to the internet and came up with several that I thought sounded close to Reba's.  Well, I make the gravy, tried it, and I'm not so impressed.  It needed something.  So I added cinnamon and strong coffee and tried it again. Still not there.  Then I spied the bunch of bananas on the counter and it hit me.  Chocolate. Banana. Shortcake. Ding, ding, ding, was to DIE for!  The real deal. Truly a most incredible dish worthy of the gods, people!  So without further ado, I give you Chocolate Banana Shortcake!


Chocolate Banana Shortcake

For the shortcake:

Recipe adapted from here.

3 cups flour

5 tsp. baking powder

1-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. shortening
1-1/2 cups half and half
2 tsp. vanilla
Melted butter to brush shortcakes
Sanding sugar for dusting


Heat oven 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening. Mix in half-and-half and vanilla. Drop by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown. Cool and set aside.

For the Chocolate Gravy:
Recipe adapted from

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup cold strong coffee
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
Heat butter in a cast iron skillet over low heat. Mix in sugar, brown sugar, flour, cocoa and cinnamon. Slowly pour 1 cup of milk into the skillet and whisk well to remove lumps. Whisk in half and half and coffee, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick, being careful not to scorch. Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Set aside.

6 bananas, cut in half, then cut in half again lengthwise
1 - 8 oz. tub whipped topping, or 1 cup sweetened whipped cream.


Cut shortcakes in half and place on serving plate. Place 2 cut banana halves on each shortcake.  Ladle 1/2 cup chocolate grave over bananas and top with dollop whipped topping or whipped cream.  Serve immediately. Serves 12.

Hello, and Welcome to RetroGrannie Cooks!

Wow, my first blog post, and I'm as nervous as a wh... er, as a cat on a hot tin roof! Please bear with me as I muddle through the ins and outs of being a food blogger. If I make any mistakes, or you have any suggestions for me, please don't hesitate to email me, and let me know. But, please, play nice. If you can't say something nice (to me or other visitors), then don't say anything at all. Constructive criticism, however, is always welcome, but please email me with it.

OK, now that that's out of the way, let me introduce myself.  My name is René, or RetroGrannie, as I'm known in the food world. I'm actually not a Grannie, rather the term refers to my age...umm, nope, I'm not tellin ya!  :)  I live with my husband, the Magnificent Mr. T.  No, not THAT Mr. T, LOL, just my loving term for my loving hubby. (Yup, I'm totally suckin' up here!) 

We live in North Central Minnesota with Cookie the Cat and are surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles. We spoil our nieces and nephews rotten when we see them, which isn't very often, because they are scattered all over the U.S. 

The Retro refers to the fact that I adore anything retro, vintage or antique. I'm a rummage sale fiend, and love to collect old kitchenware, utensils and the like. I love to cook and bake, and share the goods with family and friends. I don't always have success with what I happen to be making on any given day, but you can be sure that it's always made with love.

Here, I will share some of those successes and hope you get as much pleasure out of making and eating them as I do.  I'll be posting the first recipe real soon, so y'all come back now, y'hear?! (Sorry, my years living in the South just had to make an appearance)!