Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Hot Crossed Buns

I make Hot Crossed Buns every year for Easter, mainly because they’re the perfect complement to leftover slices of Easter ham. Grandma’s youngest sister was supposed to have made the BEST Hot Crossed Buns, but I had never seen the recipe until I found it in Grandma’s file. This is a photo of this sister with my mom. She was a WAVE (we think) in WWII, and it looks like she was home on leave.

Hot Crossed Buns

I would say it’s springtime since the garden behind them isn’t looking too green and my mom has a little spring coat on. I was so excited to see that the recipe was in Grandma’s recipe file and that I would get a chance to try it! There are a lot of steps, but it really isn’t that hard or complicated. So here goes . . .

Hot Crossed Buns

Hot Crossed Buns 2

The house smells so good when these are baking!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Hot Crossed Buns

1/2 cup warm water (not hot – 110-115 degrees)

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm milk

3/4 cup unseasoned mashed potatoes (it doesn’t say if they need to be warm so I made them the day before and they were cold)

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter (I didn’t know how well softened butter would mix in so I melted it and it worked just fine)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup raisins

4 1/4 cups flour, sifted

In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water.

Mix in remaining ingredients except flour.

Add half of flour and beat until smooth.

Add enough of the rest of the flour to handle easily.

Mix by hand (I mixed the dough in my big mixer, but then kneaded it by hand).

Turn out onto floured board and knead until smooth.

Place in greased bowl, flip greased side up (I cover with plastic wrap), and let rise in warm place (85 degrees) until double (about 1 1/2 hours).

Punch down, put on floured board, cover, and let rest 10-15 minutes.

Divide dough into 2 halves and divide each half into 16 pieces.

Place pieces into greased 9 inch round or square cake pan (I smooth the pieces like I would if I was making buns).

My round cake pans were only 8 inches, so I did have a few left that I just put on a baking sheet.

Brush with egg yolk glaze (beat 1 egg yolk with 2 Tablespoons water), and let rise again until double (30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Remove from pan and let cool.

Make “X” on top with powdered sugar icing: about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar mixed with 2 Tablespoons or so milk or cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla.


I never really know how smooth is smooth enough when kneading dough. This is how far I went, and you can see the size of the ball of dough before rising.


I cover with plastic wrap so the dough doesn’t develop a skin and have a hard time rising. This is also how much it grew during the first “rise”.


Punch it down, cover it, and let it rest a bit.


I use a serrated knife to cut the dough into pieces.


These are the pieces of dough before and after baking.


You really don’t need a lot of icing for making the “X” on top. I use a snack sized zip top bag as my icing bag. Just put the icing in, zip the top, cut a small piece off of one corner of the bag, and squeeze from the top. Just toss when you’re done!


I LOVE how these turned out – they’re nice and compact.


They’re already in my freezer ready for Easter!


These buns are a tradition in our family and I’m so glad I found this recipe from my great-aunt – they’re my new favorite! It’s a fairly easy recipe and they’re DELICIOUS!!! Try these – it will be your new favorite, too!



Butter Mints

I remember having these Butter Mints at big family gatherings back when I was a kid, but I don’t know where they came from or who made them. All I know is that they were delicious and I LOVED them! I have never made them and when I had the excuse of making them for a birthday party, I decided to give it a shot. The birthday party is for my mom and here’s the birthday girl at about age 4 – what a sweetie! She’s celebrating a big birthday this year.


I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me telling you that she just turned 75. I wanted to make these mints for the birthday party, so I looked up a recipe and found one from Emeril Lagasse – you can find the original recipe here. These only have 3 ingredients and are VERY easy to make. There is also the possibility that the mints that I had as a kid were made with cream cheese, but these made with butter are the ones I’m trying today.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Butter Mints

10 2/3 Tablespoons butter, at room temp

1 pound powdered sugar

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Cream butter in large bowl with electric mixer until softened.

Add sugar and extract, mixing at low speed, until mixture is thick, creamy, and smooth, scraping down sides of bowl.

Divide mixture in 2 parts, putting each part onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

Roll up into a log about 1/2 inches in diameter and put into refrigerator to chill for 4 hours.

Scoop with a teaspoon measure, roll into balls, place on waxed paper, and press with tines of a fork.

Refrigerate until ready to serve (some people say to cover with a paper towel and leave them out for a day or overnight).

Will keep for up to one week.


Having done these mints now, I would have made the logs smaller in diameter. It would make it easier to roll the mints into balls. I did see that sometimes they are rolled into thin “snakes” and just cut with a knife into pieces instead of rolled and pressed with a fork.


I started out trying to use a teaspoon measure to get the balls all the same size, but it was nearly impossible when the logs are chilled. I tried slicing the logs into even slices and that worked pretty well.


I saw somewhere online, when looking for the recipe, that one person rolled the balls in granulated sugar. I tried that and I like how they look kind of sparkly. It also helps the mints not stick so much to the waxed paper. One more tip – don’t have the tines of the fork cover the entire ball when pressing it down. This allows you to gently use your fingertip to hold the mint in place while lifting the fork off of the mint.


These mints absolutely melt in your mouth. They’re great for parties, but they’re REALLY great anytime.  So good, so pretty, and so buttery – just like I remember!




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Chocolate Ice Cream Dessert

This is one of those desserts that I can soooooo see Grandma making for entertaining. Chocolate Ice Cream Dessert is right up her alley. It’s got ice cream, an easy to make crust, and chocolate. Perfect. My husband thinks Grandma had quite a sweet tooth because of all of the recipes she had for sweets and desserts, but I think she had this many recipes because of the unbelievable amount of entertaining they did. They entertained a lot with family AND friends AND church groups. One of the last times that she and Grandpa entertained a large group was just before they moved to the assisted living facility where they lived out their days – they had 8 people “in” and I think it was for dinner. They were around 85 and 88 years old at the time. Those two just loved to entertain.

Chocolate Ice Cream Dessert

This is another very easy, very good dessert.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Chocolate Ice Cream Dessert

While mixing other ingredients, take out one gallon of vanilla ice cream to soften (of course the amount in a box of ice cream are not what they were back then, but I used one box anyway, even though it wasn’t a full gallon – it was a bit short).

Put into a unbuttered 9″ x 13″ cake pan:

1 package of Nilla (vanilla) Wafers, crushed (save a few for the top)

Put half of gallon of vanilla ice cream on top of crushed vanilla wafers (it will get softer while you make the rest of layers). I used a spoon to evenly put it on top of the crushed crumbs.


2 squares semi sweet chocolate (I used 2/3 cup chocolate chips)

1 stick butter

Mix with:

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 egg yolks (use pasteurized eggs if you are worried about raw eggs, but they do get heated by the warm chocolate/butter mixture)

Fold into chocolate mixture:

3 egg whites, beaten until stiff

Put this chocolate mixture on top of layer of ice cream (on top of crushed vanilla wafers).

(The recipe says to put on a layer of chopped nuts here – I did not, since my son doesn’t like nuts. Peanuts would maybe be a nice choice.)

Layer on the other half-gallon of softened ice cream.

Top with the rest of the vanilla wafer crumbs.



The chocolate mixture is quite thick until folding in the egg whites.


I used my trusty rolling-pin/plastic zip top bag system to crush the vanilla wafers.


I spread the ice cream with my small offset spatula and then pour on the chocolate mixture.


I didn’t get the ice cream split exactly in half, but once the rest of the vanilla wafer crumbs were sprinkled on, you can’t really tell that the top layer of ice cream is a little short.

006 (2)

I had this in the freezer overnight and it stayed pretty soft. It didn’t get rock solid but held its shape just fine.


This dessert is delicious. Try this one next time you need a different kind of dessert. It’s great for entertaining!





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Some Fun Easter Ideas

I’m sharing some fun Easter ideas today. We had 8 inches of snow yesterday in Minnesota, and I’m determined to make it springtime, no matter what! So let’s pretend it’s sunny and 70 degrees out there. Things change fast in Minnesota this time of year – maybe it will be that warm by the time Easter is here.

easter bunnies

I made a bunch of these bunnies last Easter and gave them as gifts. They’re so cute and colorful! I found the pattern on a blog called Twig and Thistle and you can get the pattern here.


I make these Hopping Bunny Rolls for family and friends every year. They’re from a cookbook I got when I was 12. They’re delicious and it wouldn’t be Easter without them.

bunny napkin

One of my daughters did these cute bunny napkin folds from Martha Stewart for our Easter table last year (this photo is from Martha’s website, not from our table). They were so cute we hated to use our napkins and ruin the beautiful bunnies!


Everyone is doing their own version of this Easter Bark, and I posted mine last year. It’s so festive and so pretty and so GOOD! It’s easy to do and kids love to help make it!

These fun ideas should get us going to MAKE spring happen. Let’s get it started! Easter is just around the corner!






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Apricot Bread

The recipe today is another one that comes from one of Grandma’s sisters. This sister’s daughter is my godmother. This photo shows the two sisters and their daughters, and I just love it! Grandma’s sister is the one on the left proudly holding her new baby (who would eventually be my godmother), and Grandma is the one in the middle proudly holding her daughter (who would eventually be my mom). I’m not sure who the one on the right is, but she is also a proud mama (if someone knows who this is, please let me know). I love how the baby is already looking at my mom like she’s saying, “Hey you! We’re gonna be such great friends!” Either that or she’s saying, “Hey you! Your giggling is interrupting my nap!”

Apricot Bread

Either way, these two little girls would grow up to be the best of friends, just like their mothers and their sisters, and their brothers, and their wives.

The smell of this Apricot Bread baking brings back more of those memories from childhood. It seems like Grandma made a lot of things with apricot back then, and she always had things around like apricot jam or apricot nectar.

Apricot Bread

Apricot Bread 2

This bread is delicious.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Apricot Bread

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons butter, softened

2 eggs, well beaten

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup warm water

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Scant 1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup nuts, chopped

Soak dried apricots in some warm water for about 30 minutes.

Drain well and cut with scissors into 1/4 inch pieces.


Sugar, butter, and eggs.


Orange juice and water.

Sift together:

Flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Add dry mixture to first mixture.

Mix together and then add in:

Apricots and nuts.

Mix well and put in greased bread pans (I used a pan with 4 tiny loaves in it).

Let stand for 20 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.


I put the soaked apricots on a paper towel to dry them and then snipped them into smaller pieces.


I used this pan with tiny loaves so I can give these as gifts.


The tiny loaves came out beautifully. So cute!


The loaves are chock full of fruit and nuts.


Another delicious recipe that would be good with your afternoon coffee or tea, or it would even be good for breakfast. Oh let’s face it. This bread would be good anytime.




Soda Cracker Bars

Today’s recipe is one that originally came from Grandma and I used to make it a lot in the 1970’s, but I thought it was lost. I found it again years ago, and even though I’m not sure where I found it (it might have been in my mom’s recipe box), I’m so glad I did. We made a lot of this in our family years ago, and it just happens to be one of my sons favorite treats. I can’t tell you how many batches of these I made for him during the middle school/high school/college years. These Soda Cracker Bars are unbelievably good. Addictively good. REALLY good. I know the name is “bars” but I really think of this as more of a candy. There isn’t a recipe card for this (actually, it’s scribbled down on a scrap of paper), so I’ll just type it out here.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Soda Cracker Bars

1/4 pound soda (saltine) crackers

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup butter

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter 10″ x 15″ jelly roll pan.

Cover bottom of pan with whole soda crackers.

Combine sugar and butter in small saucepan.

Boil 2 minutes.

Spread mixture on top of crackers.

Bake until bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top of caramel.

Once the chips have melted (they get shiny), spread the chocolate.

Sprinkle nuts on top of chocolate.

Cut while warm.

Put in refrigerator to cool.

Break apart and remove from pan.


I just put as many crackers as I can on the jelly roll pan, even breaking some in half to put along the edge of the pan.


Spreading the caramel evenly isn’t too difficult, it’s easy to spread around. This shows it bubbly right from the oven.


You can see how shiny the chocolate chips get on the hot caramel. Spreading is easy once the chips have melted.


It seems weird to cut the bars while warm and the chocolate will still be melty, but they’re easier to break apart after chilling if you do.


I didn’t put nuts on this batch because my son doesn’t always care for them. I still think they look more like candy than bars.


You can see the caramel layer here. I can’t begin to tell you how delicious these bars are. Try and hide them. It’s your only hope.


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Easy Brownies

This recipe for Easy Brownies is from Grandma’s church cookbook, and was contributed by one of her good friends. I’m really not sure how or why I found it, but I’m glad I did! I made this recipe for brownies a lot during the last years that my kids were in school, just because they’re so easy and quick to make. I usually ended up making a last-minute batch to send off with the kids to college at the end of a weekend. You can see that I’ve written notes about the recipe in the book over the years.

Easy Brownies


This really is a great and very easy recipe!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Easy Brownies

1 1/2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

10 Tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup soft butter

4 eggs, unbeaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Place all ingredients in a mixer bowl (it’s easier to mix all the ingredients if you cream the butter and sugar first).

Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.

Top with chocolate chips, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.


These brownies are so easy to make, I forgot to take photos until they were done!


I topped this batch of brownies with mint chocolate chips, green sugar, and white pearls for St. Patrick’s Day, but you can customize these depending on your or your family’s likes and dislikes. I have topped them with all kinds of chips: mint, white chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, milk chocolate, and combinations of all of the above. You can also put any kind of chopped nuts on top.


These are so ridiculously easy to make (that’s why I like this recipe so much). Just put it all in the mixer bowl, mix up the ingredients, and that’s it. These also freeze very well.


They’re delicious, dense, chewy, and chocolately – everything you want in a brownie. Oh yeah – and they’re VERY EASY!




Chocolate Macaroons

We’ve had some nice warm weather in Minnesota for the last couple of days. Can we really start to feel like spring will eventually come? I sure hope so. I’m sharing a spring photo of my mom today.


She looks like she’s all dressed up for springtime with her pretty little coat, bonnet, gloves, and little purse. I’m sure it was spring – look how happy she looks, like she’s just getting out of the house for the first time in a long time!! 🙂 The photo says 1943 so it might have been right around her 3rd birthday. Her birthday is in March and she’s celebrating a special one this year!

Last April I posted a recipe for Swedish Macaroons, and I mentioned that there was also a recipe on the back of the card for Chocolate Macaroons that I would make at another time. The recipe for today is that Chocolate Macaroon recipe.

Swedish Macaroons 2 (choc)

These macaroons are so good and so rich and so chewy.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Chocolate Macaroons


2 egg whites

Gradually add in:

1/2 cup sugar

Beat until it stands in peaks.


1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla


1 12 ounce package chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips)

Cool a bit and add to egg white mixture.

Fold in:

1 cup coconut

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.


Once you add the melted chocolate to the egg whites, it makes a thick batter.


The batter gets even thicker when you add the coconut and nuts.


I didn’t use my trusty scoop to make these because I didn’t want them to be TOO big.


I expected the macaroons to stay in a “ball” shape but they spread and turned into “cookie” shapes.


These cookies are little bits of chewy goodness that even my son (who doesn’t like coconut OR nuts) liked. I believe his exact words were, “wow, these are really good!” Well, there you go.


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The Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Today I’m going to share an adventure my husband and I went on last weekend in Bayfield, Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. Last year the ice caves were open for the first time in 5 years, and we didn’t make it there to see them. When we heard they were open again this year, we made the spontaneous decision to go for it and take a quick trip to see this amazing natural wonder. Because we only had one night, we decided to go all out and spend the night in the most beautiful inn in Wisconsin. We stayed in the fabulous Old Rittenhouse Inn, our room being the Turret Suite in the La Chateau house.


Our room was absolutely beautiful with 4 rounded windows and an amazing view overlooking Lake Superior, the harbor, and the ice road going to Madeline Island (that’s our room was at the top of the tower with the pointy roof). This is the view out our windows and you can see a bit of the ice road heading out from the harbor (you can even see a car on the road). Residents of the island take a ferry back and forth to the town of Bayfield in the summer, but in the winter they have to either drive on the ice road across frozen Lake Superior or take a kind of air boat until the ferry starts running again in the spring.


We had time to do some exploring before dinner, so we drove across to the island on the ice road and around the island a bit before experiencing the sunset on our way back to the mainland, dinner at the Pickled Herring restaurant, the full moon coming up over the lake through our windows, and a nice fire in our room to cap off the evening.

We spent our 10th wedding anniversary at the Old Rittenhouse Inn (21 years ago), so it was fun to see how much (or how little) things had changed. The next morning, before heading out to the ice caves, we had a beautiful and hearty breakfast, even sitting at the same table where we had breakfast all those years ago!

We packed up, loaded up, and dressed up for our adventure onto frozen Lake Superior. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is just west of Bayfield and their website has some very useful information and helpful hints about what equipment you’ll need to make your trip to the ice caves easier and more pleasant. We found a place to park and headed down the road, and then trail, down onto the lake for our hike to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves.


Little did we know how we’d regret where we’d parked. It seemed like it was a shorter hike to the ice caves than from where we were SUPPOSED to park, hmmmm, we seemed to be walking downhill the whole way. That last 1 1/2 mile hike back UP the hill would prove to be a physical challenge unlike anything I’d ever done before.

We finally found ourselves on the frozen shores of Lake Superior and on a trail across the ice with thousands of other visitors to the caves. We jokingly called it the “sidewalk” because that’s what it looked like. All these people were walking either to the caves or back to their car, basically single file. Our plan was to head to the farthest ice that we could see and work our way back instead of starting at the first ones and then maybe not getting as far as we might have liked.


The caves are sometimes hard to see, but they line the lakeshore and islands. You can explore them by kayak in the summer, too.


I’m glad we have some people in these photos to show a little bit of perspective and how huge these ice formations are.


This cave was huge and the formations really were gigantic.


We had gorgeous weather and a beautiful 2 days for our trip. We calculated that we hiked approximately 5-6  miles and that was in snow and over ice, with heavy snow boots on (YakTrax and trekking sticks highly recommended), winter gear (we were overdressed and got overheated), and hiking UPHILL for the last 1 1/2 miles back to our car. Thankfully, my husband had read the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and counseled me to count my steps (like she did) as we went. Seriously, I don’t know if I’d had made it without that advice, it was so physically demanding. I actually cried when I saw our car, I was so happy to have made it and to be there. But I did it! I wasn’t the only one who got their butt kicked, my husband was tired, too, and we were both sore the next couple of days. If we had parked where we were supposed to (Meyers Beach), we would have walked a bit farther, but not UPHILL and for the LAST mile and a half.


This sunset was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. It was an amazing adventure. If you ever have a chance to go and visit the Apostle Islands Ice Caves, we highly recommend it, and maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend the night AFTER you hike to the ice caves. I would recommend the Old Rittenhouse Inn, preferably one of their rooms with a Jacuzzi! You don’t get to see these natural ice formations every year, only when Mother Nature feels like showing it to you (they were only open 9 days this year). It was a real challenge, but it was so worth it.



Soda Cracker Pie

The recipe for today is another one with an unusual name. You wouldn’t think a pie made with soda crackers would be this good (it sounds kind of weird) but it is!! I may even put this one under “Retro Oddities” because of the soda crackers in it. This recipe is actually labeled Soda Crax Pie (I renamed it Soda Cracker Pie), and because my mom is the only person I know who used to write the word “crackers” as “crax”, it may have come from her. It looks like maybe she was the one who wrote the title, but then Grandma finished writing the recipe, so it may have been Grandma’s recipe and my mom was just writing it down. Who knows?!! I don’t care! I’m just glad we have this recipe, unusual as it is, it’s so good!

Soda Cracker Pie

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Soda Cracker Pie

Mix together for crust:

3 egg whites, whipped

14 soda crackers (saltines), crushed

1/2 cup nuts, chopped (I used walnuts)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup sugar

Put mixture in VERY well-greased pie plate.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.



1 cup whipping cream, whipped with a little bit of sugar (I used about 1/4 cup)

Top with:

1 small package frozen strawberries, well-drained (fresh berries would be great, too)

Keep refrigerated.


I put the crackers into a zip top bag and use my trusty rolling-pin to crush them. I think the food processor would turn the crumbs to powder and it wouldn’t be the same.


The crust is chock full of good stuff with the soda crackers and nuts.


The crust bakes up golden and crispy.


Whipped cream is just always good.


I think I would use fresh berries on this next time. I’m sure when this recipe was first made, fresh berries weren’t as readily available in the winter as they are now, or they might have been more expensive then frozen berries.


You can see here (in the pie plate) how important it is to grease the pie plate VERY well. I thought I did grease it very well and it still stuck a bit.


This is a delicious pie that’s a bit unusual. The crust is like a light meringue cookie crust, and how can you go wrong with whipped cream and strawberries on top. It’s another very easy, very good dessert that tastes like a breath of spring.



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