Culinary Spotlight: Cherishing Family Recipes

Photo by Nolan P. Schimdt

This book has seen some things. There are some pages with creased edges. A drop of liquid landed there making the writing a bit hard to read or maybe even illegible. Some pages are just barely hanging on; a piece of yellowed tape keeping them together. These are all signs this book has been well used and referenced. A book of handwritten recipes means something.  

Before AllRecipes, Epicurious, New York Times Cooking and the endless blogs online, a recipe had to be tried and true before being written in the family recipe book. That means it was either shared by a loved one, a trusted friend, copied from a cookbook or magazine after being tested, perfected and determined it made the cut. This made it worthy of a page in the book and the use of your best handwriting. 

I remember looking through recipes written by my family members and struggling to read their swirly cursive writing as well as procuring some of the ingredients. Many referenced brands that have long been gone from the grocery store shelves. Fortunately, in this land of abundant options, alternatives are usually quite easy to find. At least adequate ones. Though the original writer will tell you that using a different brand creates results that are not quite the same and have ultimately altered the outcome.

Sometimes I feel as if they left little bits out so no one could ever make it exactly like they did or do. These secrets were kept close to the heart. For some, a family recipe is sacred and not just for anyone’s eyes. It makes the preparer special, needed and so that no one else can make it the way they do. This may also be in their procedure, their familiarity with how to fold, just when to stop and the eye to detect that perfect level of golden brown before letting rest on the kitchen counter. I love this aspect of family recipes.

If you have a family recipe book, be sure to cherish those written pages. Protect and preserve them. Select a few recipes you’ve never made before. If the writer is still with you, ask them questions as you walk through the steps with them. Prepare them with patience and appreciation. If you don’t have such a book in your family, you could start one. These recipes don’t need to be complicated. Simply tried and true will do. I think of my mother’s homemade chicken noodle soup. I’ve made it countless times in adulthood but it never turns out like hers. I may never know the secret and that is OK. It makes a visit even more special.

And now, I share with you a family recipe that is simply tasty, sweet and has been passed down through the generations. A true Midwestern classic. My grandmother’s Lemon Love Notes.

Lemon Love Notes Recipe

2c. All-purpose flour
1/2c. Powdered sugar
1c. Salted butter, softened

1/3c. All-purpose flour
6 Eggs, room temperature
2-1/4c. Sugar
3/4c. Freshly squeezed lemon juice (3-4 lemons depending on size)
1-1/2T. Lemon Zest
Additional powdered sugar for dusting

– Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9×13 baking pan.
– Mix 2c. flour with the powdered sugar. Cut in the butter until it resembles pie dough consistency. You can do this with your hands, a fork or a pastry blender. The mixture should resemble grains of rice.
– Firmly press the dough into the bottom of the pan and bake 15-20 minutes until a light golden brown.
– While the crust bakes, whisk together the 1/3c. flour, eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest until well combined.
– Pour the mixture over the baked crust.
– Bake the bars an additional 20-25 minutes until the lemon topping has set, with little to no wiggle in the center.
– Cool completely and dust with powdered sugar. Cut into bars and store in the refrigerator.

Written by Casey Steele

Casey Steele helped found Square One with a vision to offer professional commercial kitchen space to up-and-coming food businesses. Casey teaches several classes at Square One while managing the facility, making her quite the foodie pro.

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