Archive for the ‘Random Stories’ Category

We make towering cakes, slather them with frosting and poke long wax sticks in the top.

We sing “Happy Birthday” off pitch.

They blow out the candles…

…making sure not to leave one burning so the aunts and uncles won’t tease them about having a girlfriend.

We slice the cake, revealing mammoth layers of soft chocolate and lip smacking frosting.

Everyone leaves and it’s time to clean up the mess. But why is it so hard for us to throw out the candles? Is it because they were only lit long enough to sing one rendition of “Happy Birthday” before the smoke drifted through the kitchen?

Or does it make us sad to see our babies getting older and we’re overcome with nostalgia? Are we afraid we’ll lose the memories of each party, each balloon, each cake, each smile, each celebration?

Or are we afraid they will forget?

Sweet and burning wishes,



Read Full Post »

Have you ever driven down the interstate, passed a vehicle and looked over and wondered how in the world a toddler is driving the car next to you?

kids in cozy coupe

Perhaps toddler is an exaggeration. But it’s possible the young driver’s parent is back at home (tracking them at every mile marker on Find My iPhone), frenetically doing laundry and scrubbing floors with a toothbrush to keep their mind off the fact they just let their teenager take the car 53 miles down Interstate-29—alone for the first time.

And in the parent’s mind, they can’t shake the terrifying feeling like they’ve just let their toddler run with scissors across a busy intersection, street covered in glassy ice, in an area with frequent DWI and distracted driving crashes.

Cozy Coupe

I know why we have fear like this. It’s not because we don’t trust our kids or feel like we haven’t prepared them. But we know life happens and in the middle of our routine, daily lives, people die. And it seems like barreling down the interstate at 80 mph opens the door to tragedy, because let’s face it, you and I both know there are idiot drivers out there who aren’t paying attention to anything but Snapchat stories of people they don’t know or the slimy lettuce that just fell out of their taco onto the floor.

Little Tikes

But if we look at it from our kids’ point of views, they just want freedom. The day after I rode with my teenager on the interstate for the first time, author and 12-year-old Minnesota blogger (That is Great!) Oscar Wolfe published Great Survey: Parents Give Us Freedom! and although it didn’t ease my vehicular fears, it reminded me that I’m not the only person in this decision. Especially at the age of 17 and having driven for almost two years, my daughter deserved to have me listen to her reasoning about why she thought it was OK for her to drive on I-29 alone.

We had a good conversation and she has since then driven a few times alone to Sioux Falls on the interstate and she does just fine. As parents, it’s hard to look at our young adult children and see young adults rather than babies. We still see the kid who rode on top of the Cozy Coupe while her brother was driving.

cozy coupe

But if I take another look, she was wearing a bike helmet so even at the age of four she inherently practiced road safety in the garage.

And yes, my floors are spotless and I still track her at every mile marker.

Sweet freedom wishes,


I also love Oscar’s follow-up article, How Parents Make the Rules. Often times, kids don’t know why we make the decisions we do about their freedoms. It usually has nothing to do with us trusting or not trusting our kids. And what matters most to us in this world is keeping them safe and alive.

Read Full Post »

Another year leaves us with a trail of flour dust and kitchen memories. We’ve read enough “Top 10 recipes of 2014” articles to set our Pinterest boards on fire. Maybe you want to know my most popular recipes for the past 12 months but for now, let’s have fun with the 24 most curious and amusing search terms that brought people to Random Sweetness Baking in 2014.

The searches that made me laugh. 

I’m guessing the following searches brought people to my second most popular recipe in 2014, I was a better than sex cake virgin:

  1. “How long does better than sex cake last in fridge?” In my house, a day if we’re all home. At the office, within minutes of an instant message announcing its arrival. But I suppose it could last a couple of days in the fridge before it would get soggy.
  2. “Better than whatever cake” Clearly, this person already knew there are multiple names for better than sex cake.
  3. “Is there a recipe for virgin cake or is there a virgin cake recipe like the better than sex cake?” I’m so confused.
  4. “Virgin first time sex” I hope this guy’s wife doesn’t look at his Internet search history. Maybe he should spend more time in the kitchen baking cake.

Better than sex cake

The next one made me laugh AND tell my sisters:

5. “Why do old people like bran muffins?”

6. “Bran muffins for elderly”

Bran muffins aren’t just for old people and raisins ruin everything probably didn’t answer their questions because I didn’t talk about the benefits of fiber.

bran muffins | Random Sweetness Baking

My third most popular recipe in 2014 drew in a lot of people from searches for buffalo chicken dip with ranch, chilled buffalo chicken ranch dip, chicken wing dip with ranch, buffalo chicken dip for 16 people, buffalo chicken dip without blue cheese, and many others like:

7. “Can you make buffalo chicken dip with dark meat?” Yes, of course you can!

8. “Blue cheese dressing without blue cheese in it” Since I don’t eat blue cheese dressing, my suggestion is to just make the dressing but don’t add the crumbled cheese. Or seriously, don’t eat it at all.

9. “I want to make buffalo chicken dip but I don’t have any ranch dressing” Oh bummer! Then you can’t make my version but here’s a recipe from Food Network for buffalo chicken dip with blue cheese and no ranch.

Buffalo ranch chicken dip | Random Sweetness Baking

10. “Make celery sweeter” I’m not a dietician but celery is a vegetable. Maybe add peanut butter and chocolate chips if you want it sweeter? But here’s how I use celery in my simple tuna salad sandwich, my kids’ favorite homemade chicken noodle soup with healing powers, and crunchy ex-in-law broccoli ranch salad.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

11. “Random shit you can bake” Ha ha! I’m picturing a sprightly redhead sitting at the nail salon waiting for the paint to dry on her toes, passing time on her phone and suddenly deciding to bake something when she gets home.

12. “I want to bake something sweet” Me too, me too! I’m glad you found me and I’m hoping you found some random sweets you can bake! How about making the #1 recipe on Random Sweetness Baking, Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies?

Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies

13. “Can kids have tequila lime chicken?” I won’t laugh because I’m sure there’s a concerned parent out there who didn’t know that alcohol burns off in the cooking process.

14.  “How do Mexicans make chicken street tacos?” I don’t know but this is how Minnesotans make chicken street tacos with cilantro and red onion.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

The searches that hopefully led to answers.

15. “Hershey’s Kisses won’t melt turned hard” It sounds like you passed that crucial melting point where the Kiss got hard and then there’s no turning back. Read about it in my recipe for mint pretzel Kisses.

mint pretzel Kisses

16. “If you bake a Hershey’s Kiss in a cupcake does it turn hard after cooling?” I’ve never baked a Kiss in a cupcake but I’m certain it would turn hard when it cools.

17. “Can you make cream cheese deli meat wrap a day in advance?” You certainly can. And in my recipe for crunchy deli wraps, I suggest that you can store the wraps in the refrigerator or a cooler for up to 12 hours. That’s why they are terrific for camping or picnics.

veggie and deli meat wraps

18. “Can I put baking dish from fridge into oven?” It depends on the pan. Never put a glass dish from the refrigerator directly to the oven or you risk the potential for the glass to shatter. But I think metal or stone would be ok. For example, if you prepare smoky ham and cheddar hash brown casserole ahead of time, you could put it in the oven from the refrigerator if it’s in a metal or stone pan.

19. “Only like the Chex cereal in the mix how to just use the cereal” Then by all means, substitute Chex cereal for all the mixed nuts and pretzels in Chex mix.

Staci's version of Chex mix

20. “Cookies chocolate island” If you found a chocolate island that serves cookies, I want to GO! All I can do is give you chocolate island mint bars.

Chocolate Island Mint Bars

21. “Hershey’s skillet cookie for 1” How about something even better – bake this giant chocolate chip skillet cookie, slice into triangles, eat a few, and freeze the rest.

skillet chocolate chip cookie

22. “Chocolate stringy brownie cookie” What exactly is a stringy brownie cookie?

23. “Casserole for boys” The most requested casserole from the boys in my family is hot dog casserole.

24. “Cook slice hot dogs with chips on the side” See #23.

And that’s a wrap on 2014! It’s been a fun and fast year of sharing what’s going on in my kitchen. Thank you for reading and sharing with me. There’s nothing better than getting an email from you asking about a recipe or seeing you in the grocery store and you telling me you have ingredients on your list to make something from my blog. Or when you stop me at a hockey game and tell me that what I wrote made you laugh. It’s just you and me kid.

Hoping to see you around Random Sweetness Baking on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Cheers to a new year!

Sweet & bubbly wishes,


Read Full Post »

Decorating the tree and tucking presents snuggly under the branches brings joy to those of us who celebrate Christmas. I know I’m excited to open the box that was delivered from Tiffany & Co. this week. But as I’m prancing around the kitchen this morning, I’m thinking about what gifts I really want to give and receive.

Santa and baby Jesus

1. If I could give my children and loved ones the gift of seeing themselves as others do, I’d never buy wrapping paper again.

ornament from 1973

2. True inner peace and happiness for my children and family members. The kind of peace that comes from having faith in God.

kids in 2004

3. That my loved ones are here this same time next year.

in memory of Maui ornament

4. Hope for the future. Each year I put my hope ornament at the top of our tree – a reminder of the year I bought it with some of the last dollars in my pocket.

hope ornament

What are some Christmas gifts that you want now that you are older?

Sweet Christmas wishes,


Read Full Post »

You are enough. Have you ever really thought about what you mean to people – what you really mean to people? Not how they like your shirt or boots (not boobs either), or if they think you are thin enough or are having a bad hair day? Not what car you are driving or if it has a mound of gravel dust on it?

You may not know who, but you ARE an inspiration to someone. I bet you’ve uplifted or made someone smile today. Isn’t that enough?

Sweet wishes,

Read Full Post »

We all know our grandparents don’t want anything from us for Christmas except to be together for the holidays and maybe a couple school pictures of the kiddos. Yet it’s in our nature to be giving and thoughtful.

chicken and berries

Fuzzy iPhone photo because I’m too lazy to get out my camera

This year for Christmas, I’m giving my 87-year-old grandma locally grown strawberries that I stuck away this summer and a few nicely portioned freezer bags of fully cooked rotisserie chicken. I think she’ll use the juicy strawberries to dot her tiny bowls of vanilla ice cream. And after a conversation we had this fall about rotisserie chicken, I know she’ll enjoy a few lunch sandwiches and think of me.

At least this year she won’t unwrap a box full of single-serve soups, only to find out a few weeks later that grandma doesn’t like soup but was too nice to tell me.

What are some thoughtful gifts you’ve given to your elderly grandparents or parents?

Sweet holiday wishes,

Read Full Post »

December is coming to an end and South Dakota Magazine will remove my favorite issue from the shelves, soon restocking and mailing the January/February edition. More than 45,000 subscribers will toss the holiday copy onto a towering stack of magazines or they’ll donate it to a local library. (Some might even throw it in the recycling bin. GAK!)

magazine layout

Although I didn’t frame it, the November/December issue of South Dakota Magazine will be my most treasured because it’s the first publication that printed my writing and my photos. The people who publish it are truly devoted to the history and future of my home state of South Dakota. They are storytellers and photographers – they are my kindred spirits. And more personally, I am honored to share a family recipe and a story about my Grandma Janet.

grandmas story

White Cookie Tradition
(Slightly extended version)

My grandma Janet has arrived at Christmas dinners carrying a tall plastic bucket delicately packed with thin, white cookies twinkling of fine sugar for as long as we can remember.

grandmas white cookies ©Staci Perry 2013

It wasn’t until a few years ago that we allowed ourselves to accept that grandma, who turned 87 in October, would not be the white cookie matriarch forever. She happily shared the recipe with us, which is particularly light on instruction, and said, “I don’t do anything special to them.” I knew it was time for me to learn how to make her signature cookies.

recipe card ©Staci Perry 2013

Shortly after she married my grandpa Elroy in 1945, grandma purchased a hefty Sunbeam Mixmaster electric mixer from a store in a town near their farm. She thinks they got it from Hanson’s Hardware in Astoria, S.D., which is also where they bought the only toaster her and grandpa ever owned.

The day grandma taught me how to make her white cookies, she pulled the faded rooster terry cloth cover off the mixer, releasing a flood of sweet memories into the kitchen. It was like peeling back the dusty cover on a hot rod after countless years in storage.

grandmas mixer ©Staci Perry 2013

She chuckled a little when I expressed amazement that with all the baking she has done in her lifetime it is the only electric mixer she’s ever used.

“I was happy when I got it because I did a lot of beating by hand,” she laughed.

Grandma almost crawled into the cupboard to unearth her favorite cookie sheet. “They don’t make them like this anymore and it’s the only one I have,” she told me as she handed me the heavy piece of stainless steel. She won the pan, made by Clydeware Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Ill., at a home party in the early 1950s.

grandma with cookie sheet ©Staci Perry 2013

As we baked that day, I pictured grandpa, with his hands the size of Little League gloves, grabbing a handful of grandma’s white cookies, his long legs pulling up a chair at the kitchen table, steeping the crispy round cookies into his steaming coffee until soggy crumbs floated to the top of the cup. It was one of his favorite cookies.

It’s no surprise – his mother, Ruth Moe, is the one who gave the white cookie recipe to his lovely bride. His father, Edwin Moe, made the richly marbled apple wood rolling-pin that grandma still uses.

rolling pin ©Staci Perry 2013

After almost 70 years of warmly saturating her home with the sweet scent of homemade goodies, grandma’s baking sheets have become almost too heavy for one oven mitt to hold, the dough is getting harder for aged hands to stir, and her kitchen counters have mysteriously gotten taller.

Although my first crack at baking grandma’s cookies taught me that it will take practice before they look perfect like hers, my kids devoured them when I got home. And grandma asked me to come back and make them again because she’d like to have more around. To me, that’s what baking and sharing is all about.

Now it’s my turn to give grandma a tall, plastic bucket overflowing with family tradition and sweet memories that will spread farther than a handful of flour tossed into the South Dakota wind.

Grandma Janet’s White Sugar Cookies

2 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable shortening (NOT butter-flavored)

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sour cream, room temperature

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

White sugar to sprinkle on top of the cookies

Flour for rolling out the cookies

Prep work: Bring the eggs to room temperature, approximately 30 minutes. At the same time, measure 1 cup of sour cream into a medium bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon of baking soda. The sour cream will begin to swell as the soda dissolves. Let set while the eggs are coming to room temperature.

Make the dough:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat white sugar and shortening together until creamy.
  2. In a separate bowl, vigorously stir eggs with a table fork or small whisk until well beaten. Add to the sugar mixture and beat on medium-high until combined.
  3. Spoon sour cream into the batter and pour in the teaspoon of vanilla. Beat on medium-high for 3 minutes, turning off the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Into a separate large bowl, dump 6 ½ cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of baking powder, stirring together so the powder is dispersed throughout. Add the flour to the cookie batter 1 cup at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is stiff. If it’s not firming up, sprinkle in more flour until stiff. Depending on how powerful your electric mixer is, you may need a thick wooden or heavy metal spoon to stir in the last few cups of flour by hand.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight. The batter is ready when it’s firm and doesn’t stick on your finger. If the dough still seems sticky after refrigerating, stir in a little more flour.

Roll out and bake cookies: Preheat oven to 350˚. Grab a cooling rack, rolling-pin, two cookie sheets, and two spatulas (metal works best).

  1. On a heavily floured surface, roll a huge handful of cookie dough into a flattened 1/8-inch thick sheet, dusting with flour to keep it from sticking to the rolling-pin or counter as you rotate the dough.
  2. Cut the cookies using a lightly floured 2 or 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, turning the cutter slightly as you lift it off the dough. Slide a lightly floured spatula under each cookie to ease it from the surface and transfer it to a cookie sheet, lining cookies 1 inch part. (If the cookie sticks to the counter, there wasn’t enough flour on the rolling surface so add more next round.)
  3. Scatter a generous amount of sugar onto the tops of the cookies.
  4. Bake 7-8 minutes. The cookies go from white to golden brown in a matter of seconds so watch closely in the last minute. The whiter the cookies, the softer they are in the middle. For a crisper cookie perfect for coffee dunking, bake 8-10 minutes removing from oven as they turn a darker shade of brown.
  5. Transfer to cooling rack. Let cool completely before stacking cookies in an airtight container, where cookies will keep nicely for at least three weeks.
  6. Repeat in batches until the dough is gone. Makes approximately 7 dozen cookies, give or take the few you eat along the way.

If you really want to get your hands on this issue, it will probably be on the shelves for another week or so. You can follow South Dakota Magazine on Facebook and Twitter. And join me and 45,000 others who subscribe to the magazine.

Maybe I’ll get to share your story next…

*  *  *  *  *  *

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: