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Grandma’s Pie Crust Cookies

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Lacey, Mom, Me, Dad, and Grandma Davis, 1997

We all had a special someone or someone’s on our minds and hearts on Memorial Day and for me, that was my Grandma Davis, my paternal Grandmother.

Grandma and Grandpa Davis with their eight children. My Dad (front middle) was the surprise, born when Grandma was 45 and most of the other children were grown.

As a kid, I remember being annoyed when she telephoned because she would talk our ears off and at that age, I didn’t have the patience for it.  I remember listening to stories from her childhood while visiting her, often wishing I was outdoors playing instead.  I now wish I could do those years over and spend the time with her that she craved and that I long for now that it is too late.

Grandma (left) and a friend in 1961

I want to ask her what life was like during her childhood, during the Depression, and how she felt the first time she rode in a car.  (She was born in 1904.)  I want to hear more about the years when they had a farm and ranch in Nebraska and she cooked for all the ranch hands.  I vaguely recall a story she told me about stuffing mattresses with human hair, and now I burn with curiosity about it.  Was it hair from concentration camp victims during World War II?  Why was she stuffing mattresses with it?  I think I remember her saying that the government was letting poor people do it for free so they had something to sleep on.  Could this really be true?  At the time, all that really made an impression was the way she pronounced mattresses.  How sad, when obviously there was quite a compelling story there if I’d just had the interest to ask.

In Grandma Davis's arms the week of my birth, with Grandma Millner on my left and cousin Tammy on my right.

There were a few stories she told that did pique my interest, and they were usually the ones in which she was being ornery or rebellious.  I guess I held her up as a hero for these instances, like when she set her mother’s kitchen on fire as a child because she didn’t like the new curtains.  I thought that was brilliant, because I would have loved to take revenge on my mother for all manner of wrongs (mostly imagined) that she committed against me.  I also loved the story of how she punched her future husband when he tried to be a gentleman and pick her up and carry her over a puddle.  She was indignant because she was a self-sufficient woman that could walk over the puddle on her own two feet and didn’t need a man to show off for her in such a silly manner.  That really tickled me!  Or the story about when she punched him years later when she thought he was asleep, (apparently she had waited for this moment to punch him because he had made her mad!) and he bit her thumb when the punch landed.  Or the time when she found him gambling with his friends and started throwing rocks at them in a fury.

Meeting my Great-Grandma Gailey. Looks like we don't quite know what to make of each other! Grandma Davis, her daughter, is behind her and my Mom is holding me.

I guess my Grandma was a feisty lady!  But she also was incredibly loving.  She cried every time it was time for me and my sisters to go home and she loved having us stay with her.  Although I had no patience for her stories, I loved staying with her too because she let us watch all the TV we wanted, she always had tins of cookies and peanut butter crackers that I liked to sneak into, and I loved her cooking!  She made us things like pigs in blankets, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and let us have angel food cake with whipped cream for dessert.  This was AMAZING food to a child that frequently dined on baked fish, plain salads (dressing was a no-no), lentils, and tofu sandwiches on Ezekiel 7-grain bread.

Grandma's yard in the 80s. Can you find the wind catcher she made out of a 7-up bottle?

Here it is, as clear as I can get it. She used to make a lot of these.

One of the things Grandma Davis taught me was not to waste anything, and that almost everything can be put to use.  She made rugs out of empty plastic bread sacks.  She made quilts out of old jeans.  She took empty 2-liter pop bottles and turned them into hanging ornaments that caught the wind and turned on her front porch. She also taught me to make little cinnamon roll cookies with leftover pie dough, rather than throwing it away.

Photograph courtesy of Upscale Downhome. This is exactly how my grandma’s bread sack rugs looked!

Grandma made this blanket for us with old jeans. As for the identity of the naked child, I plead the fifth.

RE: Plastic Soda Bottle Wind Chimes

Photo source. My Grandma’s wind spinners were always made with 7-Up bottles and looked very similar to this, though she made smooth cuts instead of wavy.

I’m thankful for every story that I can still remember, and for this lesson in waste that she passed on.  Sure, it can get me into trouble, because I tend to hoard things (for starters, I have a sack full of clean, empty food jars in my basement, waiting for an opportunity to be useful), but when it comes to these cookies, I feel the lesson is a blessing!

These cookies are delicious and so simple to make.  Flaky, buttery pie pastry layered with cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and nuts makes for something nearly akin to a kicked up cinnamon roll, and I like to go ahead and drizzle a simple glaze over the top of mine since I keep the sugar on the inside pretty low.  It makes them even more like a cinnamon roll in appearance, which I like.

I think many Grandmas taught their grandchildren to make these cookies, though my Grandma’s way seems to be a little different from the other recipes I’ve seen online.  Those call for cinnamon and sugar only, but that’s not the way Grandma Davis rolled (if you’ll pardon the pun).  She sprinkled on the raisins and nuts too!  Maybe it’s only because it’s the way my Grandma made them, but it’s the way I like them best.

Cinnamon Roll Pie Crust Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Leftover pie pastry (I recommend this recipe–it stays tender and flaky, even after gathering up the scraps, pressing together and re-rolling)
Powdered sugar & milk for optional glaze

Gather up your pie dough scraps and press together to form a new ball and flatten into a disc.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to use. If you aren’t making the cookies for a day or two, you’ll want to remove the pie dough from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for half an hour to an hour so that it is soft enough to roll out.

Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, a silpat mat, or spray with cooking oil.

Roll out the leftover pie pastry on a floured surface.

Sprinkle sugar over the top.  This amount won’t make the cookies very sweet, but that’s OK if you plan on using a glaze.  If you’re skipping the glaze, you’ll probably want more sugar.

Sprinkle on the cinnamon!

You could stop there, but I like to add some raisins and nuts, because Grandma said so.  And Grandma knows best.

Roll into a tight log, like so:

I didn’t get any pictures of this because my hands were busy doing this step, but use a piece of waxed floss to cut 1/2″ cookies from the log. To do this, run the floss under the log, then cross the ends of the string over the top, and pull the ends in opposite directions until the string passes through and makes a cut. This will be messy and you’ll have nuts and raisins popping out which you can then pop back in before placing on prepared baking sheet. Some of the cookies will have to be rewrapped completely, especially those on the end that are smaller. Place all the cut cookies on the baking sheet.  I like to use parchment paper, but would like to get a silpat mat soon since it’s reusable.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Cool on a wire rack. I just slid the entire sheet of parchment paper off the cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack.  Handy dandy.

Once cool, you can make a glaze by mixing powdered sugar with a little milk until it is a drizzling consistency. I think I used like 1/2 a cup of powdered sugar and a teaspoon or two of milk. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the top.

If you aren’t serving these right away, let them sit out until the glaze hardens, then you can store them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. Will keep for at least a week but they won’t last that long!

In loving memory of Alta Davis.  1904-2001

Honey Bun Cake

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It’s the height of spring here in Kansas and today was our warmest yet, 84 degrees.  I had the day off for a routine doctor appointment so I got to enjoy a bit of the sunlight today, and had enough time to try out a few of the recipes I’ve gotten from fellow foodies.

Since I had a bit more time in the morning than I usually do, I actually cooked breakfast rather than dumping it into a bowl.  I chose to make the French Toast that my friend, Kimberly, posted on MySpace (you can get it here), which has brown sugar and nutmeg in the batter with cinnamon sprinkled on top.  It was delish!  Next time I will add vanilla and possibly some orange zest.  I love French Toast!

French Toast with melted butter (ate it as soon as the syrup was on):

I stopped at my Mom and Dad’s house to drop off some eggs (I have a local supplier) and Dad was out back so I went to go see what he was up to.  He had just picked some garlic and was cleaning it off to give to his girls (I’ve got two sisters).  Like how he’s labeled for easier identification?

Dad loves to be outdoors and chat, especially now that he’s not working, so he kept me there as long as he could, showing me around his “garden.”  I put that in quotes b/c it’s not a traditional garden, by far.  In any case, I was glad to stay, glad to feel the sun, glad to smell the herbs & weeds and soil, glad to spend some time with my father for no particular reason.  (He had a stroke last October, leaving him without the ability to read, and although I visit once or twice a week–it’s usually b/c I have to fill his medicine container, read to him and pay his bills….Mom doesn’t do any of this b/c…well, she’s a long story.)

Here’s what I meant when I said his isn’t a traditional garden.  In this photo, there are so many things to notice that you really don’t see anything.

This is his garden–a mishmash of scattered herbs, dead poppies, weeds, grass, all lined with concrete blocks with toilet lids & rocks on top and a compost pile in front.

I asked him to show me where his garlic was and he pointed to about seven different places.  I thought the funniest one was amongst the iris.  You probably can’t see it, but the tops are thinner than the iris leaves.

He also has comfrey, which you can make tea with to help heal broken bones (I used this when I broke my tailbone):

Horseradish (the big leaves behind all the grass, garlic & various weeds)

A goji plant (he says he’s the only one in KS that has one but I wouldn’t believe him unless he actually had to travel to China to get it)

And, thinking of our dinner tonight, I picked some tarragon:

And some sage:

I had a good chuckle over the “volunteer” squash and broccoli plants that had cropped up in Dad’s old compost pile (right next to the new one–ewwww!)

Here’s a close-up of the broccoli

And over what Dad considered “lawn decorations,” like the toilet tank lids (some broken) and his seashell collection in the bowl of an antique sink.


I call him “Alta reincarnate” when I see stuff like this b/c his mother (Alta) would never throw anything away and used a lot of crazy stuff like this to decorate with (including plastic soda bottles).  He’s also got an old cement mixer & toilet in his yard.  I do like these huge chunks of glass, though:

Oh yeah, and laughed a little over the lamb’s quarters too:

Apparently this is just a weed but can be eaten. He didn’t plant them, they just sprung up as weeds do, but since he’s got so much Alta in him, he’s going to eat them b/c otherwise it would be “wasting” (wasting weeds!?!).  Oh no, I just realized I do the same thing with food–I can’t waste it!  It’s in my blood!  But I don’t know if I’d be eating weeds.

On the way home, I stopped at Food For Thought for some local ground bison.  The Whole Foods by us ran out and hasn’t had it for a while (it’s just a local store, not a part of the big chain) so I took advantage of being uptown to stop at the health-food store I grew up with.  It started out in this rinky dink little place (where it says Central Food Mart)

And then moved across the street to this larger location (though probably still laughably small by big-city standards).

I didn’t take many pictures, but this is an adorable store with lots of fascinating things for sale–they’re not just about the vitamins and gluten-free products.  I liked this one, though I managed to refrain from purchasing (I prefer poking my enemies with real pins):

Here’s their organic produce section.

I headed home with four pounds of bison and actually took time to prepare myself a decent (late) lunch rather than slapping a sandwich together.  I had a Morningstar Farms Hickory Barbecue Riblet (it’s actually meatless) with what has become my new favorite side dish–green bean salad (recipe here).

Instead of making my own vinaigrette, I just use Kraft Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette and sprinkle on some dried basil.  It might not be as delicious as originally intended, but I love it. And I love the riblets too–they’re the bomb.  They have a really meaty texture and are kind of like shredded brisket that has been compacted.

I’ve been wanting to make Tucky‘s Honey Bun Cake ever since she posted her Mom’s recipe for it on a bulletin, but I haven’t had the time until today.  I headed out to get some sour cream and then whipped it up into two shallow pans b/c I wanted to keep one and give the other away.  Doing it this way, there wasn’t quite enough batter to cover the filling layer, but it still worked out and baked up nicely.

 For dinner, I made Sweet Bacon Chicken Wraps (recipe here) using my friend Kim‘s idea of leaving the breasts whole and adding in herbs between the chicken and bacon (and then I couldn’t help sprinkling it over the top too). This is where Dad’s sage & tarragon came into play, and I also added some basil and rosemary.

If I hadn’t used fake chicken breasts, this would have probably killed me, but I only suffered a mild aneurysm.  Thank goodness for fake poultry!  This was so incredible, it’s almost enough to make me try it with real chicken.  Brown sugar and chili pepper on bacon-wrapped chicken–what could be wrong with that?!  And if you’re wondering why I would bother using fake chicken if I’m going to use real bacon, then you’ll have to ask b/c I don’t feel like getting into it (and you are probably better off staying out of my head, anyway).

As good as dinner was, we could hardly wait to clear the table for dessert–the sweet cinnamon smell was calling to us!!!!  I served up two therapeutic-sized slices and we gobbled it up in silence–the only sounds being our forks scraping the plates.  Then we both looked at the rest of the cake and then looked at each other.  And smiled.  I nodded and served us up another slice.  Then the cake seemed to be a little bit crooked so we evened it up with a thin sliver.  And then another.  The cake is more than half gone now, but I’m consoling myself with the fact that if I’d made the cake in one pan, only a quarter of it would be gone.  Is there something wrong with me for thinking that a quarter of a cake isn’t that much? :)

All in all, a very nice & relaxed day (even the Dr. visit wasn’t bad–he was very happy that I’ve lost 15 pounds–and we parted with our usual hug) and the cake was…well, the frosting on the cake (though it might have undone some of my weight loss efforts)!  To make the ending as sweet for you as it was for us, I’ll leave you with the Honeybun Cake recipe, compliments of Tucky & her dear Mother.

Honey Bun Cake


1 box yellow cake mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 (8-oz) container sour cream

1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup milk
3 cups powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9×13 pan.  Pour HALF the batter into the pan and sprinkle with filling. Pour remaining batter on top and bake at 350 degrees for 40 min. While cake is hot, poke holes in the top of the cake with a fork and then pour & spread icing onto the cake.  Chill and serve!

*Veronica’s Notes: I used two disposable 12.25×8.13×1.13 pans and divided everything between them.  I did double the icing, but that wasn’t necessary.  Also, I served it at room temperature and it was delicious.  I’m chilling it now to see if it’s better that way b/c I think the cake is still in need of some trimming.

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