Last post promised the story of my 20-year friendship with amazing Ann along with recipes for cookies served at her 80th birthday party. That promise will now be kept. Setting the time machine back two decades…
My first job out of college was “food scientist,” which was ideal as I had trained to be exactly that with my Food Science degree. The less than ideal part was that I really didn’t like the job. Test tubes and lab coats weren’t my thing, though I wasn’t sure what my thing was quite yet either.
That same year I was given a Betty Crocker cookbook for Christmas and I remember my fascination while turning its pages. Ironically, I had not learned to cook in college. A degree in Food Science requires plenty of science: reading, lab work, discussions, tests, but cooking is not required.
But with a cookbook in front of me (and Betty’s at that), I became enamored with the concept of sharing recipes and other food ideas. My career goal began to crystallize: I wanted to be a food writer.
Living in a small town in southern Minnesota, I shared this information with my grandmother. She knew of a local woman who owned a b&b and also wrote for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Taste section. I dutifully called this woman and was invited over for an informational interview. And that’s how I met Ann.
The day of our interview changed the course of my life, I’m convinced of this. Ann was friendly, warm, and encouraging, but the kicker was her no-nonsense, down-to-earth outlook. I already had a solid support system with friends and family, who were all kinds of “friendly, warm, and encouraging,” but Ann was the first to offer practical career advice.
She listened to my story, then suggested I offer to write a food column for a local paper. My initial response, “what if they say ‘no?’,” was countered with advice I still carry with me today: “Assume they’ll say ‘yes’.” Ann also suggested I volunteer at a local food co-op. Because Ann was the kind of person whose orders you simply obeyed, I followed both suggestions. Not only did I land the food column gig, but ended up working at that co-op as well, where I (finally) learned to cook and bake.
Ann supported me in so many ways: My husband and I b&b-sat when she was out of town. I assisted Ann when she taught cooking classes as well as tested recipes for her cookbook projects. Ann helped me believe in myself as a food professional. And with that confidence, I was able to move forward in my career and eventually find courage enough to start my own business.
We’ve both since moved from that small town to the same metro area. We see each other occasionally for lunches, dinners, and meetings, and she’s always generous with her gifts, time, and advice.
It’s been fun to watch Ann’s career evolve as well. Since we met back in the mid-90s, she’s published cookbooks (A Cook’s Tour of Minnesota and Hot Dish Heaven are her two most recent) and also was invited to serve as Comfort Food Ambassador to celebrate Creamette’s 100th birthday. How can you not love this woman?
So when Mary, a mutual friend, asked if I wanted to co-host a party for Ann’s 80th birthday, I immediately said “yes.” Not only would planning the party be fun, but we’d be celebrating a woman to whom I owe so much.
We sent out the invites, made plenty of food, took care of party favors (small booklets with the cookie recipes), and added Ann’s special touches: napkins she’d used at the b&b, egg salad made with the recipe from the co-op I’d worked at, dates because she always had a stash at her desk when she worked at the paper, fresh strawberries as she’s originally from a town called Strawberry Point, and the three cookies she’d requested. We were ready to party.
And party we did. Folks seemed to enjoy the event and most importantly, Ann was pleased. She was surrounded by people from her years at the newspaper and in the Betty Crocker Kitchens (did I mention that Ann had worked on Betty’s cookbooks?); others she had mentored; friends from church; neighbors; her daughter. Folks shared stories about what Ann had meant to them and it was clear that mine was not the only life she had changed with her practical, no-nonsense advice as well as her fierce loyalty to friendships.
My hope is that we all have an Ann in our lives–someone to encourage us in professional endeavors. Someone who knows what it’s like on the inside and can help us get where we don’t yet know we want to go. And someone who will celebrate with us when we do. Thank you Ann, for everything you are.
And now let’s talk cookies!
Strudel & Nudel’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Ann fell in love with this recipe when she wrote about Erich Christ who ran both The Black Forest and, next door, a deli called Strudel & Noodle. He sold homemade apple strudel and noodles besides these great cookies.
- 2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1/2 + 3/8 cup shortening or butter
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
- 4 cups + 2 tablespoons rolled oats
- 1 1/4 cups raisins
Heat oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheets.
In bowl, cream together brown sugar, shortening, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in milk. Add cake flour, oats, and raisins, mixing smoothly.
Drop batter by large spoonfuls on baking sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched with finger. Cool on rack. Makes 30 large cookies.
A favorite of Ann’s.
- 1 cup butter
- 4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups chopped walnuts, optional
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13×9-inch pan.
In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in sugar. Cool slightly. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
In small bowl, mix flour and salt; stir into chocolate mixture. Fold in nuts, if using. Spread batter in pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack. Cut large or small as desired.
Small-pan Brownies: Use half of each ingredient; mix and bake in 8-inch square pan.
Here’s the recipe for Ann’s signature cookies, baked for her b&b cookie jar by a succession of excellent bakers. From Ken Haedrich’s Maple Syrup Cookbook.
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered instant coffee
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
- 2 cups finely chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with kitchen parchment.
In bowl, cream butter with electric mixer, slowly drizzling in maple syrup. In small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in hot water; beat coffee and vanilla into butter mixture.
In separate bowl, toss together whole wheat and all-purpose flours, walnuts, baking soda, and salt. Stir into butter mixture, in several batches, until flour is just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Let batter stand several minutes to allow whole wheat flour to absorb moisture in syrup.
Drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Transfer to rack to cool. Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.
I love this sweet story, Liz. Ann sounds like an amazing friend, and I’m also happy to hear more about how you got started. Of course the cookies all sound great, well except for the raisins 😉 The fudge brownies are my favorite!
Thanks, Andi. It’s cliche, but they broke the mold when Ann was born. Haha, yes, raisins. Those were actually my favorite of the three because they are so soft, sweet, and just a bit spicy. Good breakfast fare. The raisin thing didn’t even occur to me. What’s happening to me? Please don’t tell me I’m starting to like dried fruit in my baked goods. Noooooo…….
Though nothing shabby about those brownies. Very soft and crumbly. I may have underbaked, so watch for that.
Good to see you 🙂
What an inspiring story! My first job out of grad school was as a research scientist, and I did not enjoy working in the lab at all. It’s so great that you discovered your true passion and had someone there to help you get started!
The cookies and brownies all look so delicious! I will try to make at least one of them–just can’t decide which one to make first!
Thanks for coming by, Ada 🙂 Different strokes for different folks, I suppose and the lab piece didn’t work for either of us. I remember being so bored and not caring terribly much about the “experiments” unless they related directly to food. Though put me in the kitchen and I’m all over it.
Let me know how the cookies and brownie turn out if you do make them. The raisin cookies are very soft and tend to crumble if not stored carefully. We were worried when this happened, but Ann said that’s how they turned out at the store, so… Enjoy!
What a lovely story and a fabulous tribute! Very interesting to read about your transition from food scientist to food writer too. It’s funny how the paths we start down don’t always lead us to where we end up but somehow still help pave the way. All of the cookies look wonderful but the maple ones sound especially delicious!
Thanks, J 🙂 I love how our paths unfold, because there are always surprises along the way. (Hopefully most are pleasant!)
The maple cc seems to be a crowd fave here, though I preferred the oatmeal-raisin as it was sweeter. The maple cookies aren’t all that sweet. But they’re elegant and classy–perfect for a party!
Yes, we should all have an Ann in our lives. And I’ll have all three cookies thanks.
Here you go, saucy–three cookies for you 🙂 (you can have as many as you want, of course) Appreciate that you’re here–thanks for coming by 🙂
What a wonderful tribute!! The party sounds like it was a smashing success – how awesome that all those folks came out to show their love and appreciation for Ann! And how awesome of Mary and yourself to put the whole thing together!! You are a true friend Liz. And PS Maple chocolate chip cookies?!? Yes please.
Thanks, amb. The party went well which we were glad for as the guests were all home-ec sorts who knew good food. No store-bought chips-and-dip at this one!
Hey, if you came to town, I’d totally throw a party for you 😉 Would make the maple cc cookies, too.
That is so touching. What a great way to thank someone who has mentored you.
And maple chocolate chip cookies, wow!
Good to have you here, Tracy 🙂 Thanks. I’m looking forward to reading your CHOCOLATE post as soon as I have a moment. So excited!
Ann is one-of-a-kind. Old-school all the way, which is so refreshing in today’s fast-paced, me-first world.
I love the fact that Ann is old-school. Sometimes we need to be reminded to slow down and take a moment to savor life.
Oh, heavens to Betsy. Liz, maple syrup is one of my favourite things in the WORLD. I have printed off this recipe and dammit, I will make them this weekend. I CANNOT WAIT.
excellent–am so glad you like! They’re not terribly sweet, which makes them more a cookie for grown-ups. (i.e. Stick would not care for them, haha)
Am thinking I will find you a cookie recipe with bacon and maple syrup and choc chips 😉 Thanks for stopping by, Becky.
I love friends like this! What a sweet story. You’re lucky to have met each other. And great looking recipes, Liz.
Thanks, Princess. I consider myself very lucky to have an Ann in my life. But I think next time I throw a party it will be a popsicle party–how much fun would that be? And I know where to find my recipes 🙂
Yes! I have plenty more. I just stopped posting them as I thought people needed a reprieve. xo
What a great story Liz! I can see your enchantment with Ann!
And now for a small world moment: my first job out of law school was at a firm nearby the Strudel Nudel. The oatmeal cookies were LEGENDARY and I will be soon baking up a batch.
no. way. that is too awesome!!!!! The cookies are famous, then? Wow. We had a bit of trouble breaking down the recipe (ours was from the store–Ann must have connections to have gotten ahold of it) for household baking, so adjust flour if needed. They are very soft, but the flavor is indeed extraordinary. Thanks for hopping over and commenting 🙂
I love her philosophy on assuming they would say “yes”. Confidence, whether true or faked, can get you very far. That’s how I got in (and have stayed in!) pharmacy school. 😉
Also, those maple cookies are calling me…mmm…must try them!
Fake it ’til you make it 🙂 Love how popular the maple cookies are. That’s the thing about Ann: She served these cookies 20 years ago and they’re still faves. She knows classic when she sees it. I think she’d like you!
i’m so glad you and ann collided into each others lives. we all need an ann! i’m glad you took that step and were fearless to put your column out there! those fudge cookies are making my mouth water…yuuumm!
Thanks, Trace. Fearless? Maybe, but also just doing what I was told. Ann has that effect on folks. And no, can’t go wrong with fudge cookies 🙂
What a great story, and I love that you have Ann. We should all have an Ann in our lives at some point, and not to mention 20 years and going strong!! I was just talking about a ‘mentor’ of sorts who changed things for me and helped get me on my career path, and so grateful for just one conversation that turned it all around for me. I’ve lost touch with him in the many years since that day, but I think of him so often. Your story is inspiring and nudges me to think about writing him a note to express my gratitude after all these years. The Ann’s of the world need to know they made a difference for us!
Those cookies all look soooo good, especially the maple chocolate chip! Great post Liz, loved hearing more of your story. And kudos to putting yourself out there, I love the ‘assume the answer will be yes’ …I think I am going to put that in my pocket!
Thanks, Bonnie. What a comment 🙂 Teachers and mentors are too often forgotten, but how to keep in touch with everyone as we move through so many stages? Am sure he would be especially pleased with a note from you.
Assuming they’ll say “yes” has pushed me into many a situation I might not have ventured otherwise. They’re great words to live by!
I love your story. It is always nice to have a special friend like that. I am hoping when I finish school that I to can find someone just as amazing as her. The cookie recipe looks delicious.
Thank you for stopping by–love that you’re here! I hope you find an amazing professional to offer advice, etc when you are out of school as well. And just because you are looking for one, I’d bet lots that you’ll find him or her 🙂
Such a loving tribute to your friend and mentor, Liz, and what a wonderful way to celebrate her 80th birthday. These are 3 of my favorite 4 desserts. (I must have pie, too.) And a good oatmeal raisin cookie tops them all. Thanks for telling us of a bit about your special friend and for sharing these 3 recipes
Thank you, John. Your comments are always so thoughtful and well written 🙂 I’m thrilled to have Ann in my life and love that I was lucky enough to find her. Confirms my suspicion that I’m where I’m supposed to be 😉
Off to check out your new posts now. You are home? if yes, welcome back and hope your trip went well.
The 2 last cookies are my 2 favourites, Liz! Yummm! I must try them out soon! they look all very appetizing & fabulous even! Yummo!
awwww, thank you Sophie 🙂 You know I love your visits!
Saving all of the recipes, before you know it holiday baking season will be upon us and I love making cookies. Really love the oatmeal raisin cookies.
holiday baking season? Oh, dear! 😉 The oatmeal raisin are excellent–great flavor and perfect soft texture. Hope you like! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
You are such a humble, beautiful, thankful human, Liz! I have enjoyed every single word of this extraordinarily lovely post 🙂
Loved those star studded cookies. Can I have some? 🙂
wow–thanks. That’s one nice comment! Glad if you like the cookie recipes and enjoyed the post. So happy when you come by 🙂
Sorry, I lost track of the thread at FFF because I was all wrapped up at BoFN and of course WBS is always a maddening distraction for WDYDFAE, as for everyone.
So great to finally hear the story! And a very well told one at that. Enjoyed reading about your history here just as much as or more than Ann’s.
An Ann is needed in everyone’s life 😀
This delicious cookie recipe round up is also so perfect!
Choc Chip Uru
Thanks, CC 🙂 Totally agree about everyone needing an Ann along with a few good cookie recipes! Appreciate you coming by for sure.