Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Ginger Cookies #2

I am trying another recipe from the tiny book I found at my sister’s house last winter. There hasn’t been a bad one in the bunch, and this one is no exception! These Ginger Cookies #2 are SO good! I’ve made a lot of ginger cookies in my day (hard to believe, isn’t it?), and these are my favorite so far. I really wanted to make these with lard and just see if there is a difference, but on the day I made these, I didn’t have any so I used butter. This recipe would be great to use for your Christmas ginger cutout cookies. They’re delicious.


These cookies are ridiculously good!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Ginger Cookies #2

Cream together:

3/4 cup lard (I used butter)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs, beaten


4 teaspoons baking soda in 3/4 cup molasses and 4 Tablespoons hot water

Add to creamed mixture.

Sift together:

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix with rest of ingredients.

Add enough flour to make a soft dough (I added an additional 3 cups or so – start at 2 cups and go from there).

Roll out and cut with cookie cutters.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until done (no time or temperature on this one again!).


This dough didn’t stick much at all for me, so I didn’t have to use a lot of extra flour on the board even though it looks like a lot of extra flour here.


I used this old-fashioned cookie cutter because I’d been thinking of the big old molasses cookies that our landlady used to make. We lived in the upstairs of Hilda and Mike’s house when I was little. She would have me and my other grandma come for afternoon coffee where she would serve big cookies like this and Mike would slurp his coffee from his saucer (not his coffee cup) to cool it off faster.


The scraps rolled out just fine – I piled them up and used them together at the end.


I love the big crystals of sanding sugar that I used on these.


The scent of the spices in the air when these were baking – whoa!


These are PERFECT with a nice hot cup of something: coffee, tea, Hot Chocolate Mix, Russian Tea, Viennese Coffee, Instant Cappuccino Coffee, Grandma’s Cocoa, apple cider, Wassail, Hot Cranberry Drink.


I highly recommend trying this recipe. These are just so good – really!! For some reason, the spices in these are absolutely perfect. I munched on these with a cup of coffee as I remembered Hilda and Mike and those afternoon coffees of years ago. If I dared, I might try slurping my coffee out of my saucer, but I’m afraid I’m have the coffee down the front of my shirt. Try this recipe – you’ll love them!

Don’t forget to check back on Thursday for my 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas!



Beef Stew

Are you tired of eating leftover turkey? I have a great recipe for you today that is NOT turkey and that is perfect for the upcoming holiday season when time is of the essence and you don’t have a lot of time to make a great meal. This recipe for Old-Time Beef Stew is from an old cookbook series that my mom had years ago (and I now have in my possession) from Better Homes and Gardens, called the Creative Cooking Library. The book that this one came out of is called So-Good Meals, and believe it or not, the section it’s under is called “Meals Men Like”. Seriously? Um – women like them, too. I know it was a different time, but wow. Anyway, there are some great recipes in these books, and this is one that I’ve been making since I could write like I did on this one to use “no thickening”. The recipe is for making this in a Dutch oven, but I use my crock pot and just throw it all in.


This is one of my all-time favorites!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Old-Time Beef Stew

If making this in a Dutch oven, brown the meat:

2 Tablespoons fat (I use olive oil)

2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2″ cubes (I will sometimes use a more economical round steak for this)

Heat the fat and brown the meat on all sides.


1 medium onion, sliced

1 clove garlic (they say to take it out, but I mince it and leave it in)

2 cups boiling water

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 or 2 bay leaves

Dash allspice or cloves

Cover and simmer (not boil) for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove bay leaf and garlic.


6 carrots, cut in chunks

1 pound small white onions (or whole onions cut in chunks)

6 medium potatoes, cubed (optional)

Cover and simmer 30-45 minutes longer or until everything in the pot is tender.

If desired, thicken the gravy (I clearly thought when I first made this in about 4th grade, that this step wasn’t necessary).

Combine in a jar:

1/4 cup cold water

2 Tablespoons flour

Shake to blend.

Stir into mixture.

Cook, stirring constantly, until gravy thickens and boils.

Gently cook 5 minutes more.

To cook in crock pot:

You can brown the meat for more flavor, but I don’t. I’m all about quick and easy. I just put everything into the crock pot in the morning, turn it on low and let it go until dinner time. I never thicken it.


Please excuse my very well used crock pot – it IS clean. I promise. I just put in the cubes of meat – no browning.


Next in go the veggies and spices. Put on the cover and turn it on! Dinner is done!


This is really more like a soup when you make it in the crock pot. The Dutch oven method makes more of a stew. You could serve this with a green salad, some crusty bread or crackers, and some fruit.


There’s nothing better on a cold winter’s day when you’ve been running around shopping, or baking, or wrapping. Throw this all into the crock pot, run your errands or do your chores, and dinner is ready when you are!! This stew is delicious and I know it will become one of your favorites, too! Well, your man will like it. Oh come on, everyone will like this stew!!!





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Happy Thanksgiving!

On this Thanksgiving Day, there are so many things to be grateful for.

I’m very grateful for all of you readers who stop by and check out Plenty Sweet Life.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I’m so grateful for you all!


Happy Thanksgiving!


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Reminder – 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas Coming December 1-12


Hi all you Plenty Sweet Life readers!

This is just a reminder to be back here on December 1 for Day 1 of the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas!

I hope you’ll come on back and check it out!




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Pecan Pie Bars

Since this is one of the big weeks for getting together with families, I have to share this photo of Grandma and Grandpa and one of Grandma’s sisters and her husband. Grandma and her sisters were together for gatherings a lot, even after they were married, and it didn’t have to be for holidays. They got together a lot for Sunday suppers, too. They always seemed to have so much fun together. This sister was exactly 2 years older than Grandma – their birthdays were on the same day!


I just love the dresses on the ladies here, and the men are looking dapper! So cute!

The sisters were always exchanging recipes and they all liked their sweets. Today’s recipe comes from one of grandma’s sisters. This is a great recipe if you love pecan pie, but want something smaller that still tastes like a pecan pie in a bite. These Pecan Pie Bars are still “plenty sweet”, but not quite as rich as a whole piece of actual pecan pie. This would be a nice addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table, where you may already have several pies and where you need something just a little bit different. I love pecan pie, but sometimes after a HUGE Thanksgiving dinner and having to decide which of the several pies to have, I think this little bite of heaven would be just right.



These bars are so delicious!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Pecan Pie Bars

For crust:

Mix together:

1 yellow cake mix (reserving 2/3 cup for filling)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 egg

Press into greased 9″ x 13″ cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

For filling:

Mix together in large bowl with mixer:

2/3 cup reserved cake mix

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups dark corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

Pour onto baked crust.

Top with:

1 cup pecans, chopped

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.


I used a small offset spatula to spread the crust in the pan. It doesn’t seem like there’s enough batter to cover the bottom, but there is. It’s not a thick crust.


Ah, pecans. How I love them.


After baking the crust, on go the goodies!


First pour on the filling and then sprinkle on the chopped pecans. I didn’t think it looked like enough pecans, but it was just right.


Wow. After baking it turns a caramel brown color and smells divine. The recipe doesn’t say to grease the pan, but I gave it a squirt of non-stick spray. I would grease it even more next time. The filling stuck around the edges after baking.




These bars are so gooey and so good. You need to add these to your desserts – not just at Thanksgiving time – any time. They’re easy to make and absolutely delicious, like all of the recipes I’ve tried that come from Grandma and her sisters.


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12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas – Coming December 1st!!

Hey, Plenty Sweet Life readers! I’m trying something new and exciting!


We’re going to celebrate the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas! There will be Scandinavian holiday posts with something to see every day from December 1-12. Check back here to see what’s happening for the holidays on Plenty Sweet Life! Some things will be from past posts, but there will also be some new things to draw inspiration from. I hope you’ll share this info with everyone you know and check back in to see what’s new!


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Cranberry Salad #2

Today I’m sharing another one of those strange salads made with Jello and cottage cheese. I have to say, this one is not one of my favorites. Naturally it goes under the “retro oddity” heading, because I’m sure it’s from the 60s or 70s. I really don’t know what the deal was with the cottage cheese and jello. I had some issues with this recipe, and I’ll discuss them as we go along. This Cranberry Salad #2 is a recipe that could be either a Thanksgiving salad or a Christmas salad. When I had all of the ingredients out and was getting ready to make the salad, it smelled so much like the holidays with the raspberry, cranberry, and orange – it got me in the holiday spirit. But just for a minute – we’ve had temperatures up to 20 degrees above normal here in Minnesota this month, and it’s been hard to get in the mood for Thanksgiving when it’s warm enough to sit outside on the deck. 2 years ago we had snow and sun dogs showing up by this time in the month. Oh well, we’ll take the warm weather as long as we can get it!



This is a very pretty salad!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Cranberry Salad #2

Dissolve according to package instructions:

1 package of raspberry jello

1 1/2 cups boiling water (Here’s where I think there is a problem. I did use 1 1/2 cups of boiling water for this, but finishing it according to the package takes another 1 cup of cold water. The salad ended up a bit soft and I think I’d cut back to 1 cup boiling water and 1 cup of cold water – the usual way – to make the jello.)

Chill until mixture begins to gel (this took about 45 minutes for me).

Fold into jello:

1 lb can of jellied cranberry sauce (crushed) or whole cranberry sauce (drained) (I used the whole cranberry sauce which now comes in a 14 oz can – I did drain  it a bit, but there wasn’t a lot of juice from it.)

1 orange, quartered and put through a food chopper – rind and pulp (I don’t have a food chopper so I used the food processor, which seemed to add even more liquid from the juice)

Pour into square or oblong pan (I used a 9″ x 13″ pan)

Chill until firm.

Cut salad into 3″ squares.

Place squares into lettuce cups.

Spread with:

1/2 pint cottage cheese

Top with another layer of salad to make a “salad sandwich”.

Serve with desired dressing (I didn’t add this).


This salad really doesn’t have many ingredients, and overall it’s really a very quick and easy recipe.


While the jello was setting, I broke up the whole cranberry sauce and put the orange into the food processor.


It is colorful once the lettuce cups are added.


I made the executive decision to just top the salad with a spoonful of cottage cheese instead of topping with another square of salad. Especially after what happened next.


This is what happened when adding the second layer of salad. The salad was so soft, it sort of fell apart. I think that’s why I would just make the jello the regular way instead of adding an extra cup of boiling water. Maybe using a food chopper for doing the orange would have also made the orange less juicy than using the food processor. The salad was delicious and very pretty with the red salad and the green lettuce, but my family decided that it would have been better without the cottage cheese. I think it would have been just as good to make the salad in a pretty bowl and serve it with a spoon. The salad was good, we just didn’t appreciate the “retro oddity” component of adding the cottage cheese. Give it a try and let me know what you think!



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Potpourri with Dried Orange Slices

This is the time of year where we’re heading to so many parties and gatherings, sometimes it’s hard to find something new and different to bring for a host/hostess gift. How many times can you bring a bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers before you just get tired of bringing the same old thing (I think the hostess is tired of getting the same old thing, too!). Let’s up the creativity a bit and bring something a little bit different. The recipe for today isn’t really a recipe, but it is a great thing to have on hand for a hostess gift. You can make up a big batch of this Potpourri with Dried Orange Slices, put it in jars, decorate it with a pretty ribbon, and you’re all ready to grab one running out the door to your next party. In addition to being easy to put together, it smells amazing and it’s really pretty.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Potpourri with Dried Orange Slices

Mix together:

pinecones (I used 2 different kinds)

dried orange slices

cinnamon sticks

bay leaves

whole cloves

allspice berries

Combine and store in jars.


Gather all of your ingredients. These are the things I used, but you can alter this to incorporate anything that smells good or looks good. You could put some small gourds in this for Thanksgiving or maybe some small glass Christmas ornaments for a Christmas batch.


I confiscated these pinecones from the neighbor’s yard. Go outside and see what you can find: rosehips, seed pods, anything dried.


Spices are what makes this potpourri smell good. Star anise would also be great in potpourri. You could also put in a few drops of essential oil for more scent.


I like the smell of dried bay leaves and they add nice texture. Dried citrus slices add a bit of color. I used oranges, but lemons or limes would be pretty, too.


To dry the citrus, slice the orange thinly and drain a bit on a paper towel. The less moisture you have, the faster they dry. The first time I tried this I cut the slices too thick and after 6 hours in the oven, they weren’t dry yet. Thinner is better.


Put the slices on a non stick pad or parchment paper. Into the oven at 170 degrees for an hour (that’s as low as my oven goes). Turn the slices over and go another hour. You may need more time, depending on your oven and the thickness of the orange slices. If they’re in the oven too long, they’ll turn brown, so keep an eye on them after the 2 hours. Let them cool and you have pretty dried slices for potpourri or crafting.


Mix everything together in a bowl and you’re done!


You can package this up in a glass jar for gift giving. Add a pretty ribbon and there you go!


I just love that this is an all natural, non-commercial thing.


This is so pretty to have sitting out anywhere in your home.


I love to fun my hand through the potpourri and let the scent waft through the living room. It has a nice light scent that will last throughout the winter. I think this is a different kind of hostess gift and it will be VERY well received. And, I mean, how easy is that? Ridiculously easy and fun to put together. Just gather the pretty and scented things and jar them up. Now put on a pretty ribbon. Done. Now get out there and party cuz you have this covered.


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Caramel Candy

This recipe for Caramel Candy came from a family friend years ago. I think I was in junior high school when I started making these caramels, and our family has made them ever since. I used to have the perfect candy-making pot, but it was non-stick and the inside started to get too beat up to keep using. It was orange (I’d had it since the 70’s) and I loved that pot. I haven’t found another one that keeps the temperature nice and even without scorching until this year. Last year for Christmas, my husband gave me a ridiculously expensive copper pot. I was not happy, but he was. WHO wants me to keep making candy (all the while talking about how we need to stop eating candy)? I would guess that it’s someone who gives people copper pots for gifts. Anywhoooo, I decided to give the new copper pot a try BEFORE the holiday season and see just how great this thing is gonna be. Well. It. Is. Amazing. The heat seemed to stay nice and even, and the syrup heated up pretty fast with no scorching. I have to admit that it works great. Ok, ok, I know. That means more candy making. I mean, I have to use the pot, right? It can’t just sit there looking all pretty and coppery, right?


These caramels are amazingly delicious!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Caramel Candy

Cook to hard ball:

2 cups sugar

2 cups dark corn syrup

Remove from heat and add:

1 cup butter

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Return to heat and cook to soft ball.

Pour into 9″ x 13″ pan lined with buttered foil.

When cool, flip upside down onto cutting board, cut into pieces, and wrap in waxed paper.


It’s really only necessary to lightly butter the foil.


Here is the infamous copper pot, before and during boiling to hard ball! If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use the ice water method and drop a bit of caramel from a spoon into ice water to see how hard it gets. Does it turn into a soft ball of caramel or a hard ball of caramel?


The caramel seems like it will never cool. Sometimes I put it into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to help it cool down faster. Just don’t let it get too hard before cutting it.


Cut the pieces of waxed paper big enough to wrap the caramel candies in and still be able to twist the ends. You can find pre-cut wrappers online, but I just use a roll of waxed paper and cut my own.


It’s easy to flip the caramel out of the pan. I put it onto another piece of waxed paper, just in case it would stick to the cutting board. Peel off the foil and you’re ready to cut. Use a large knife sprayed with non-stick cooking spray to cut the caramels into pieces. I think I could have cut these a bit smaller, but can you really ever have too much caramel?


Before wrapping, I sprinkled on a bit of sea salt crystals. Oh boy – you know, that sweet and salty thing?!!!


This is about the right size to wrap and twist.


One pan makes a lot of candies, so you might want to recruit someone to help cut and wrap.


Oh wow. These are so good!


I have to admit that my new copper pot is wonderful, and I highly recommend you get one. These caramels are amazingly delicious and they make a great gift or hostess gift for the upcoming holidays. Make a batch and give it a try. It takes some time, but they really aren’t hard to make. I gave some of these to my friends, and I hid the rest from Mr. Copper Pot. Trust me, you have to hide them or they won’t last long!




Mud Hen Bars

The recipe for today is kind of funny, so I thought we needed a funny photo, too. This is a photo of me with my dad and a couple of ducks he shot during hunting season. I look like I’m about 2 here, and I sure seem to be enjoying the dead duck. Ha! I seem to vaguely remember something about these particular ducks being special in some way, therefore the picture of them, but I can’t remember why.


The funny recipe today goes by the name of Mud Hen Bars, possibly named after mud hens, which are ducks that are plentiful around our area in the fall. This time of year, there were always rafts of hundreds of mud hens – or coots – on the lake where I grew up. I remember that we made these bars a lot during hunting season. Sometimes I don’t think it was the shooting as much as being outdoors for my dad. And the food. He would go deer hunting or goose hunting with his friends, and there would always be pictures taken of the food. Maybe it was because back then, the men didn’t cook all that much. They sure seemed to be proud of it when they did. I don’t seem to remember that many photos of the ducks or deer they bagged. Hmmm.

Here is a photo of real mud hens that I took on the way to my mom’s house yesterday. Just so you know that they are a real kind of duck.


This is just a bit blurry because they were wiggling their little behinds to get away from me. They didn’t fly away from me . . .


but these guys did!! To me, this is a classic picture of fall in Minnesota!



These bars are ridiculously delicious!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Mud Hen Bars

Cream together:

1/2 cup shortening – half butter (I used all butter)

1 cup sugar


1 whole egg and 2 egg yolk – reserve whites (on the ingredient list above it says 2 eggs, but you actually need 3)


Sift dry ingredients together:

1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Add to first mixture and mix well.

Spread in 9″ x 13″ pan.

Spread over batter:

1 cup nuts, chopped

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 cup miniature marshmallows


the remaining 2 egg whites

1 cup brown sugar

Spread over top of all.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.


This really is an easy recipe. Make the crust, just sprinkle on the goodies, and pour on the top.


They look kind of funny after baking, but looks can be deceiving!!


The crust is kind of cake-y and then there are the goodies in the middle and last is the meringue-like topping.


Oh my. I’m not sure why these are named after a duck, but who cares?!! These are so good. I mean, really, SOOOOO GOOD! Don’t wait for hunting season to make these – you should make them all the time!!


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