04 April 2011

Family recipe Monday: Girl Scouts and brownies

Cranes in a frost-covered field, Kearney, Nebraska

It's been a long, long couple of weeks, and consequently a low-productivity time on Threads and Traces. My plans to keep up with the daily genealogy challenge for National Women’s History Month have been blown out of the water by both the expected and the unexpected. I expected to be delayed by the annual crane migration pilgrimage. I did not expect to be derailed by loss. It’s been a difficult time for so many of us as we suffered the loss of a dear friend.

Genealogy tells us so little about a person. It can only trace descent and familial relationships. The vibrant story of dear friends, pursued dreams, networks of love….all that is so much harder to capture. Occasionally we get a glimpse of the complex person behind the dry facts, but more often we have no way to trace the friendships that shaped her.

Last week we lost a true leader, a kind and hysterically funny friend, a dedicated and loyal Girl Scout, a scrappy lawyer and a feisty golfer. Sherry Peel was all of that and more. It’s just about impossible to imagine the world without her in it. Rarely, all too rarely, you find a friend who never wavers, stays the course, and picks up the conversation where you left off months or years ago. That was Sherry.

We worked together at a Girl Scout camp in our college days, a time I can't look back on without joy and laughter, even now. There is something magic about times like that, aided greatly by the glow of campfires and the sound of singing. Our youth is in each other's eyes.

The weather seems to have picked up the mood, rushing back into a snowy white-out winter blast on Sunday. That's right. April 3. But the grass is nevertheless greening, the hawks and cranes and migrating back in huge numbers, and spring seems to be everywhere, in not-so-subtle ways. We grieve, celebrate, and live.

If the genealogy work has taught me anything, it's the deep appreciation for the force that makes us survive, mourn, laughter, and find new hope. We will have a memorial reunion for Sherry in the fall, and I expect that the laughter will far outweigh the tears. That is what a good life lived well comes to.

I plan to bring a few many dozen brownies to this. It's so appropriate for this crew in so many ways, not just in the name. I hope that, during this, we will capture many of the stories and pictures that are lost in bare-bones genealogy. Our family is far greater than any family tree can ever show.

Cinnamon brownies

5 eggs (keep 1 white separated)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
5 tsp. cinnamon
1 ¼ cups melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 cups chocolate chips
1 T water
2 tsp. cinnamon sugar (1 tsp. each)

Preheat oven to 350* F. Beat 4 egg whites, 5 egg yolks, sugars, cinnamon, butter and vanilla thoroughly. Sift flour and baking powder and add to egg mixture. Beat well. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips. Grease and flour an 11”x18” sheet cake pan. Spread batter evenly in pans. Beat reserved egg white and 1 T water together, and spread over batter. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and cut into 1 ½” squares. Will freeze. Store in airtight can or bag. Yield 6 dozen.

I may bring these along, too, mainly because they are so lovely and decadent. And they're easier to get down there in Texas. "Brer Rabbit molasses" is a single word in our family--no other brand need apply.

Praline cookies

2/3 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
½ cup Brer Rabbit molasses
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
1 ¾ cup flour
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. mace
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ to 2 cups pecans

Slowly melt margarine. Cool. Add sugar and molasses. Mix well. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Sift together flour, soda, mace and salt, then add to first mix. Drop by scant teaspoons on greased and floured baking sheet 2” apart. Bake in moderate oven (375* F) for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan immediately. Yield 8 dozen.

Happy Monday. Go hug a friend. Spring is here.

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