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"How'd You Make That?"




Laurie Colwin


As I was packing up to go to law school, it occurred to me that I was going to be responsible for my own nutrition for the first time ever. Having lived in the dorm for four years in college and, thus, getting all my meals in the dining hall, the fact that I didn't know how to cook was unimportant. Now, suddenly, it was.


It is still a little embarrassing that the one thing for which I requested a recipe from my mother was grits. Grits! I was acutely aware of my insufficiency and thought, from years of observation, that grits would be easy -- and cheap, of course -- to make. And, so, my mother, without once laughing, wrote down the instructions by which she had fed me so successfully on so many winter mornings:


2 Tbsp. quick grits per serving


Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add grits; reduce heat to low. Continue cooking about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add water as needed.


Those simple instructions became the first "recipe" I transcribed into the three-ring Hallmark recipe binder I bought for myself at the Hen House in the Statesboro Mall.


In the ensuing years, that binder has grown to include a culinary history of my life. Its pages are appropriately stained and the Scotch tape by which I attached many of its offerings has turned that ugly shade of yellow. Slips of paper and clippings from magazines are stuffed between its pages. I can almost cry when I see the handwriting of friends and family who have shared their favorites.


I recently wrote about one of those recipes. Skillet Almond Coffee Cake,

and, surprisingly, a number of folks have requested the recipe. I don't think it's because of a broad love of almonds or coffee cakes, but because of something vastly more important.


Skillet Almond Coffee Cake doesn't require elaborate ingredients or advanced culinary skill. It doesn't take hours to prepare. It is a simple recipe that becomes extraordinary in the hands of one who cooks with love. Ask anyone who has every been the recipient of an aluminum foil-wrapped offering.


So, because it is the season in which nothing is more festive than gift-giving, here you go.


Skillet Almond Coffee Cake


3/4 cup room temperature butter

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup flour, sifted

2 eggs

2 tsp. almond extract

slivered almonds

sugar for sprinkling


Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Add flour, extract, and a pinch of salt.


Pour batter into an iron skillet (9 to 11 inches) lined with heavy duty aluminum foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Leave excess foil on side.


Sprinkle top with almonds and sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes. During very last minute, turn on broiler. WATCH CLOSELY!


Freezes well. Drizzle with chocolate for dessert.


Merry Christmas from Sandhill!


Copyright 2023

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