Tag Archives: baking


The Diva and the Cookie

by Becky Noffsinger

peanut butter cookies

Once upon a Friday it was 25 cent book day at school. I forgot to send money, so one child borrowed from her teacher, another bummed from a friend, and the youngest found a quarter on the floor for his purchase. I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud of their resourcefulness. Mostly I feel like I let those quarters slip through the cracks because we’ve been so busy these days.

Life has been hectic since we embarked on what I like to call The Double Income Trap Experiment. Because of the crazy busy, my large extended family has taken turns helping us cover the bases. It feels great to have help.

Wait a minute.

That last sentence was a complete lie.

I hate asking for help. Independence is my middle name, and my inner child is forever stamping her feet with crossed arms demanding “Do. It. My. Self!”

Asking for help requires me to admit that I don’t have all the answers and am incapable of handling it all. If that’s true, then I must rely on others, trust them not to disappoint me, and let go of my imagined control over every outcome.

But worst of all, accepting help evokes feelings of gratitude, which sits awfully close to guilt in my auditorium of emotions.

Let me tell you about Gratitude in my world. Gratitude is this little old lady, a slow mover with a cane who says “Thank you Dear” a lot. She really is sweet. But when she starts creaking out of her seat  to speak, her seatmate Guilt jealously rushes the stage and steals the show.

Guilt is a diva.

Although she is entertaining, she is prone to creating drama and stretching truths in order to stay in the spotlight. When she steps ups to the microphone, Guilt announces (loudly, and with flair) that I shouldn’t need help. She lectures on and on that I should always be the one giving help, not receiving, and that if I had my act together I wouldn’t be a burden to others.
It’s seductive. When I give Guilt my full attention, she ekes out every second, well into the orchestra’s walking music, and only stops when the cameras cut to commercial.

By the time Gratitude climbs up on stage (assisted by Grace and Humility), Guilt has carried me off to the after-party along with her best friends Perfection and Control Freak for a night of bawdy bad decisions. Gratitude might deliver a beautiful speech, but nobody is there to listen.

When I do tell Guilt to stay parked and wait for Gratitude, this is what I hear:

Accepting help is not a weakness. It takes strength to  be vulnerable and admit you don’t have all of the answers/skills/power.

Accepting help builds relationships and feeds our souls, if we let it.

And here’s the hard truth: Guilt is so seductive because she shines the spotlight on me. Gratitude requires me to focus on others.


I arrived home from work one day to my husband and daughter making Peanut Butter Cookies together for the school bake sale. Guilt started with a whisper:

“You’re the Mom, you should be the one doing this.

Cookies aren’t good enough—didn’t you see some other Mom bring in fancy decorated cupcakes last time?

If you didn’t work so much maybe you would have time for your daughter”.

But then I stopped Guilt in her tracks: I stretched out the shepherd’s hook, yanked her off stage, and kicked her out the backstage door. Gratitude came along and pointed out that my husband and daughter were happily bonding and I was off the hook after a long day. Besides, I stink at making cookies, you might remember, and these cookies were a thing of beauty.

And the auditorium gave the old lady a standing ovation.

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Lucie's Peanut Butter Cookies

Lucie's Peanut Butter Cookies


  • 1 cup shortening or softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 well-beaten eggs
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cream the butter and sugars together. Stir in the egg, vanilla. Add the peanut butter and mix.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Add to the peanut butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Roll the dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie with a fork. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet to cool completely.



We've held some epic discussions about pie over on The Last Jar's Facebook page. From favorite flavors to the great pie crust debate, this is one topic that The Last Jar's readers love to dish about. And then this question came from a reader this morning:


"Tried to make a lemon meringue pie today. It was a miserable failure. Came out of the pan reasonably thick, so I thought it would cool/set up thicker after baking.

I was wrong.

When I sliced it, it was runny- like the consistency of half and half. I know there was a discussion a while back on The Last Jar about pie. Do you have a recipe I might try?"

And that's when I decided what to make for dessert today.

For the task I pulled out a 1976 edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, and right there, in a little sidebar, were these words of advice:

"How to cook cream pie fillings:
Both cooking time and temperature are important when preparing cream pie fillings. Under- and over- cooking cause runny fillings. Set a timer for exact minutes specified in recipe. Cook fillings over moderately high heat. Too high a heat cooks mixture too quickly; too low a heat results in excessively long cooking."

Gosh I love old cookbooks. Here's the recipe:

Lemon Meringue Pie 
from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1976 ed.

9-inch Pie Shell, cooled

1 ½ cups sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (for Gluten-free, substitute with cornstarch)
Dash salt
1 ½ cups hot water

3 slightly beaten egg yolks
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
½ tsp. grated lemon peel
1/3 cup lemon juice
Meringue (see below)

In saucepan, mix 1½ cups sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt. Gradually add hot water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over moderately high heat till mixture comes to boiling. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Stir a moderate amount of hot mixture into egg yolks, then return to hot mixture. Bring to boiling and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add butter and lemon peel. Slowly add lemon juice, mixing well. Pour into pastry shell. Spread meringue over filling (no need to cool the filling); seal to edge. Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool before cutting.

Note: For creamier filling, cook and stir first 5 ingredients 8 minutes over low heat after mixture comes to boiling. Blend in egg yolks as above; cook 4 minutes after mixture boils.

Meringue :
3 egg whites
½ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
4 Tbsp. sugar

Beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar till soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating till stiff and glossy peaks form and all sugar is dissolved.

The pie turned out almost perfect, although a couple of peaks of meringue almost burned and we didn't wait for it to cool completely before digging in. I did replace the flour with cornstarch to keep it gluten free, so that helped with the setting up, I think.

Have you tried a lemon meringue lately? Any tricks or tips or questions?


Just Cake was "written and made up by Lucie Olmstead". An original!

This one pretty much sums up my Midwestern upbringing. Get it done, make it good, then move on because there's a lot of work to do. When you have 6-7-8 mouths to feed and firewood to get and cows to milk and bills to pay, there is no time to fuss over the food. Be thankful you have some.

The original was light on instructions and listed the flour as "more or less", so this recipe is clearly something to make on the fly and open for interpretation. Don't let that intimidate you. Remember to have fun with it! And if you feel like adding a little orange peel or chocolate chips to change it up, have at it.

So here's your Just Cake: no expensive ingredients, no complicated techniques.

Just Cake


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 TBL shortening or softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • ? cup milk
  • 1 ½ cup cup flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp. salt

Set oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9” square pan or round cake pan.

Cream sugar and shortening together. Mix in the egg. Separately, sift together dry ingredients. Alternately add dry ingredients and milk to the sugar mix. Stir in vanilla. Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

A Lucie Original