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The Power of a Sugar Cookie

June 9, 2014

I’ve been using cookies as communication devices for years. The College of Cardinals uses a smoke signal to tell us there’s a new pope,  and I use cookies to send messages too. They can say:  I love you, I miss you, or Happy Birthday.

After I left Pennsylvania in the early ’80s, I knew I’d lose touch with my family and my young nephews if I didn’t connect. Since I adored my nephews, I wasn’t about to let that happen, so what better way to connect than with cookies?

Our incredibly successful pink fig costumes.  She designed and sewed them, I got to bask in her glory.

Clearly, everyone loves a pink fig.  Dawn designed and sewed these outfits which won first place.  I got to bask in her glory and enjoy the prize bottle of wine.

One of my favorites is a cookie whose recipe I’ve never changed. For me, to not touch anything in a recipe is a huge acknowledgement to the original baker that her or his recipe simply cannot be improved.  That recipe is Gramma Ev’s Sugar Cookie recipe. Part of the reason I love these cookies is that my mother never made plain sugar cookies — ever, so I was thrilled when I found someone who did.

I got the recipe from one of my best friends, Dawn, who I met in college.  We met at Clarion State University’s orientation, back when we both thought we wanted to be school teachers. She was the designer of our incredibly successful Halloween Pink Fig Costumes, which won us first place.

Dawn was tall, thin, blonde, beautiful, very athletic and swam like a fish. Normally, I would instantly hate someone like that, on principle alone. We couldn’t have been any more opposite physically, but when we met, I loved the fact that she was so down to earth and real, not one of those fussy, fragile girls. This came back to haunt me when she thought it would be fun to turn me upside down whenever she felt like it, even at my wedding reception.

Who doesn't love a friend who turns a bride upside down on her wedding day?

Who doesn’t love a friend who turns a bride upside down on her wedding day?

Dawn is still tall, thin, blonde, annoyingly beautiful and athletic, (she actually swam around the island of Key West)  plus, she’s now a successful Key West artist, who creates some of the coolest botanical prints you’ll ever see. They’re perfect for a beach house, a boat or a mountain cabin. Here’s her website just in case you feel the urge to decorate:

Dawn’s Gramma Ev was adorable. She was in her 60’s when I met her. She was the spunky type who owned a leopard print hat and smoked cigarettes, which was slightly racy at the time. Gramma used to send us boxes of her sugar cookies at Christmas during our college years. We kept them in the freezer and swore we’d offer some to friends when they visited. They’d visit, we’d “forget” to share, then after they left, we’d say, “Hmmmm, wonder how many Anne would have eaten?” We’d factor in appetite, come up with a number and that’s how many we’d devour.

Halloween ghosts.

Halloween ghosts.


Graduation Cap Cookie

Graduation Cap Cookie

We made Gramma Ev’s cookies for St. Patrick’s Day in the form of shamrocks, or on Halloween in the form of pumpkins, ghosts or bats. They’re very versatile and easy to make.  In fact, I just created a new shape, the graduation cap, which I devised with a square cookie cutter,  half a marshmallow and strings of licorice.

For one of my nephew’s communions, I created tiny cookies, shaped like communion hosts that could work as practice for the big day. I got the idea from the nuns in grade school who gave us Necco Wafers to practice with. This dough is perfect for Christmas baking also.

The good news is cookie communication worked. I still love my nephews and they seem to tolerate me fairly well, so it was worth every minute I stood baking and wrapping and mailing.

Good Holy Communion practice!

Good Holy Communion practice!

Just know that once you make them, you will be asked to make them again and again.  So, here’s the recipe, which you can pass along if you don’t feel like making them yourself. Gramma Ev would be thrilled.

Gramma Ev’s Sugar Cookies

1 cup Sugar

3 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup soft butter

1 slightly beaten egg

3 Tbsp. evaporated milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly then cut in 1 cup soft butter. In another small bowl mix the slightly beaten egg, 3 tablespoons of evaporated milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla
Add liquid mixture to flour and butter mixture and mix with hands to form soft dough.  Dough may be chilled.  Roll out  on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out shapes with cookie cutter.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 5 or 6 minutes.  If you like a more crisp cookie, you can bake them longer, but keep an eye on them, they can burn quickly after six minutes.  Ice when  cooled.

Vanilla Icing:

2 Tbsp. butter

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 Tbsp. half and half

Dash of salt

Melt the butter and add the powdered sugar.  Add the vanilla and the half and half and salt to taste.  Ice cooled cookies with icing.





  • Reply
    Granola Cluster Cookies –Even Your Healthy Friends Will Love Them! – At Fran's Table
    March 26, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    […] in it, but I have no more time or money to waste on recipes, so for now, I’m sticking with Gramma Ev’s Sugar Cookies as my undisputed favorite sugar […]

  • Reply
    Granola Cluster Cookies –Even Your Healthy Friends Will Love Them! | At Fran's Table
    December 18, 2017 at 6:02 am

    […] in it, but I have no more time or money to waste on recipes, so for now, I’m sticking with Gramma Ev’s Sugar Cookies as my undisputed favorite sugar […]

  • Reply
    Patty Tunno
    June 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Fran, another great post! I love your sugar cookies in whatever shape that you decide to make them. I have never been disappointed.The pictures of you and Dawn are priceless!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 12, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Love you Patty!!!!!

  • Reply
    June 10, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    yumm . I love your blog
    I want to send you information on my next Wine Women and Chocolate event.
    e-mail me so I can send you where and when.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 14, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Thank you so much Catherine. I keep posting, so feel free to post any other of my blog entries to Wine, Women and Chocolate. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    June 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    OK, I’m going home now. Who can work while thinking about those cookies? Thanks for the great recipe! Fun stuff!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Oh Don, you are the best supporter. I owe you some cookies!

  • Reply
    rob sprogell
    June 10, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Dawn cracked up when I showed her the photos, and loved the blog !!! You two– quite obviously– were out of control…

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Well, you know it’s true friendship when your bohemian friend puts on panty hose for your wedding, so I thought she and Gramma Wilkins should be feted, even if it is 24 years after the wedding and 40 years after consuming too many sugar cookies.

  • Reply
    Nicol Zanzarella
    June 10, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I am such a Cookie Monster that I don’t know whether I am thrilled or worried that I now have Gramma Wilkins’ recipe! But I do know that I love feeling as though I have just shared a little part of my day with you! Keep writing, Fran. It is always, always a treat (even when it isn’t a cookie recipe).

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Nicol, you always make my day! Thank you for reading! Enjoy the cookies, they are addictive though. Dang that Gramma Wilkins!

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    June 10, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Hey Fran,
    When are you going to start a cookie mail order business?


    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2014 at 8:23 am

      I actually looked into it. It gets complicated when you go between states. I’m still pondering it though.

  • Reply
    Fran Tunno
    June 10, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Wish I could Bob!

  • Reply
    Donna Tunno
    June 10, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Frannie, now that you’ve shared this prized cookie recipe with your loyal following, how ’bout sharing the almond-flavored-cookie-with-the-cherry-on-top recipe sometime down the road. You know, the one where “someone” might have eaten the whole tin before the intended recipient even knew they came in the mail?

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      June 10, 2014 at 7:17 am

      My Dear Donna, I already did. If you go back to my blog called, “The Demon Oven,” you will find the recipe that you so cherish. But, because you asked and because your anniversary is coming up, I will post the story of how that cookie came to be.

  • Reply
    Bob Erbeck
    June 9, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Oh, my! Would you please attach a dozen (make that a “baker’s dozen) to an e-mail for me? Mmmm! ::drool::

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