Writing New Jersey Life

People and places of New Jersey…with some travels.

Category: Food

“National Cookie Day: Norwegian Sugar Cookies”

As this year’s Happy Holiday thank you, enjoy a favorite gift for friends, Norwegian Sugar Cookies. Almond extract works well as a substitute for alcohol, though Grand Mariner adds a light and sweet flavor. A variety of holiday cookie cutters make for fun, but you will have your own spin on this recipe. The caraway seeds are part of the traditional recipe, though I make them without those. This is a festive gift that everyone enjoys.

Good Housekeeping’s Norwegian Sugar Cookies


2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup granulated

1 egg, well beaten

3 tablespoons brandy (or Grand Marnier or almond extract)

1 1/2 teaspoon caraways seeds (optional)

Powdered sugar

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt.  Work shortening with a spoon until fluffy and creamy.  Then gradually add sugar, while continuing to work until light.  Beat in egg. Stir flour mixture and brandy into shortening mixture.  Stir in caraway seeds.  Refrigerate until batter can be handled easily.

To bake:

Start heating oven to 350 F. Then roll out cookie dough on floured board to 1/8″ or thinner. Cut into small stars, circles, etc. Place 1/2″ apart on greased cookies sheets; sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake 6-8 minutes or until a light brown. Makes about 12 dozen 1 1/2″ cookies.

(Source: Good Housekeeping / Photos: Kathleen Levey)

Edison & Ford Winter Estates

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” 

An admirer of Thomas Paine, who once lived in Bordentown, New Jersey, Edison’s remarks sometimes revealed a revolutionary soul, “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.”  Perhaps that is one aspect that he had in common with his lifelong friend Henry Ford, a fellow trailblazer in innovation and mass production, who often visited at Edison’s Glenmont Estate in New Jersey.  Nevertheless, they both enjoyed some luxuries, not opulent in comparison with their peers, but elegant just the same.  One of those was their winter getaway to Fort Myers, Florida, designed by Thomas, which includes the Edison & Ford Museum, Seminole Lodge (main house, guest house, caretaker’s house), the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory, Edison Botanical Gardens, and The Mangoes, the Ford home.

The Botanic Research Laboratory was the result of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone’s concern about the United State’s dependence on suppliers overseas for rubber. After trying 17,000 native plants to produce rubber, Thomas found success with Goldenrod, though he did not live to see the completion of the experiments.  The lab is now a National Historic Chemical Landmark, designated by the American Chemical Society, one of few in the country, others commemorating the work of Rachel Carson and George Washington Carver. The extensive museum includes a Smithsonian Spark! interactive lab, a timeline of innovation, movies & music, and more.  Children’s activities include rainy day learning.

The more than 20 acres of botanical gardens includes trees planted by Edison and Ford themselves as well as a moonlight garden, 1929, designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman.  The banyan tree and royal palm allee are standouts among many gardens of interest.

Tours, lectures, and events are ongoing at the Winter Estates.  The estate is also available for corporate and private events. For more information and to take a virtual tour, visit: Edison and Ford Winter Estates.

If you enjoy bringing history to life, and simply making good recipes, try one of the favorites from Edison’s Family and Friends Recipes.

Ginger Snaps

2 cups brown sugar

2 cups molasses

1 cup shortening

4 cups flour

1 1/3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

Heat and bring to a boiling point sugar, molasses, shortening (part of which should be butter), ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.  Remove from fire and cool.  In the meantime, mix and sift the salt and flour and stir part of it in the cooling mixture. Dissolve the soda in a tablespoon of warm water and beat into the mixture then stir in the remainder of flour.  Roll out to about 1/4 inch-thickness on a floured board and shape with a floured cutter.  Place on small buttered tins allowing space for spreading.  Preheat oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Put in oven and bake for 7 minutes.

As a firefighter’s granddaughter, I decided to use the microwave instead of boiling, and an ice cream scoop and a pizza tray replaced the cookie cutter and tin.  (Things are fast and loose in this kitchen, especially with a deadline.)  The batter has a consistency like taffy and the cookies taste like gingerbread.  If you prefer a sweeter cookie, a couple of sweet recipes are coming in the summer and the Martha Stewart’s peanut butter and jelly cookie recipe is still up. Our father’s favorite cookie was a molasses-based spice crinkle, and he would have enjoyed these ginger snaps as well as Thomas Edison’s overalls quote in the preceding post.  The ginger snaps may be a fun cookie surprise for Father’s Day along with a visit to an Edison site.

Mina Edison’s Ginger Snap Cookies

Sincere thanks to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates for their kind permission to use this recipe from Edison’s Family and Friends Recipes that features family favorites.  This is more like a booklet and only costs a few dollars.  Other recipes are: Mina’s “Light as Air Muffins,” Egg Croquettes, Mina’s Deviled Crab, Hot Slaw, Hickory Nut Cake, Chocolate Caramels, and Mina Miller Edison’s Holiday Punch.

You can purchase the book online with the Winter Estate or in the Thomas Edison Historical Park gift shop where I did.  Since we were in touch late last summer, the nonprofit Winter Estates came through Hurricane Irma.  In what seems like characteristic generosity, they are offering wood from downed trees to local woodworkers.

(Source: edisonfordwinterestates.org)

All Rights Reserved © 2018 Kathleen Helen Levey

Space Shuttle Cake

Space Shuttle Cake, impromptu version


From PartyPieces.co.uk blog (“The Party Times”) and Children’s Parties by Ryland and Small. Posted by Pippa Middleton Matthews.

If this rainy start to the holiday weekend has changed your plans, have some fun making this Space Shuttle Cake together.  The recipe is via Party Pieces, the party company of Princess Kate’s family.  A hit on Instagram @kathleenhelen15 last summer, in the US pound cake can serve as a substitute for Madeira cake.  You did not read it here, but if you only have an hour to prepare this vs. the several you had planned, rumor has it that defrosted pound cake held together by canned icing, decorated with Skittles, licorice, and some tinfoil improvisation will make children celebrating the Fourth of July just as happy :).


-1 x 4 egg quantity Madeira cake
-1 x 450g quantity of Buttercream icing
-4 or 5 shop-bought mini sponge rolls
-Red and blue Smarties, silver balls and liquorice to decorate
-orange or yellow sugar paste
-6 ice cream cones


  1. Cook the Madeira cake mixture in a greased 1.2 litre ovenproof bowl for 50-55 minutes. Turn out and let cool. Trim the crust from the cake and slice the top flat. This will create the base of the spaceship.

To assemble:

  1. Using buttercream, stick together the sponge rolls. This will form the middle part of the ship. Place them on top of the base, then stick an upturned ice-cream cone on top of them to form the nose cone. Cover the whole cake with the remaining buttercream icing.
    3. Place the cake on a round cake board and stick five ice-cream cones around the base to form the space shuttle ‘legs’. Decorate the spaceship using blue and red Smarties, silver balls and liquorice wheels for portholes.
    4. Roll out the orange sugar paste and cut into little triangles. Stick these around the base of the rocket and up around the sides to create a flame effect.

Posted July 1, 2017 on “Writing New Jersey Life” Additional text: All Rights Reserved © 2017 Kathleen Helen Levey


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