A recipe with the title of "Harvest Softies" sounds as though it should accompany turkey and dressing and pecan pie.
But smack in the middle of July, these delightful frosted cookies were perfect for the summer taste buds as well. They ushered in a harvest of blessings as they lined trays at my book-signing on Saturday during the July 4th weekend.
The Generator coffee shop in Historic Downtown Garland on the Square was the setting for the Garland launch for Way Back in the Country Garden (the Delta County launch is set for July 10 in Cooper, TX). A more perfect spot than this trendy Internet coffee shop could not have been selected.
My mother, one of the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls who are the main characters in my new cookbook, had so grieved over the formerly sad status of The Generator's site before it recently was restored. A Garlandite since 1941, my mother remembered the Square in its former glory days when it was the center of the universe in our hometown. As the years went by, shopkeepers retired, stores closed, and people sped to the malls to do their shopping, so often the stores stood vacant. My mother would wring her hands until some new ownership could be found in each and business was revitalized in those spots that held such memories.
This particular location on the Square's west side took an especially long and agonizing time to become regentrified. At last the spot at which The Generator now stands was purchased by Robert Smith, the son of a respected "old-Garland" family who was the ideal person to add proper credence to an earnest and accurate re-do of the once beautiful building.
Now The Generator--stunningly restored on both inside and out--is the Square's happenin' place. The proprietor, Tammy Long, makes a special effort to meet today's healthy eating requisites, with nonfat, gluten-free, and vegan offerings on the menu as well as regular fare. Tammy really outdid herself for my signing and prepared several Way Back in the Country featured recipes to offer to customers on Saturday. In baking cupcakes from Aunt Frances' Strawberry Cake recipe, Tammy served up one cupcake batch that was made gluten-free as well as stirring up another batch the traditional way. Being an Internet cafe, The Generator has Wi-Fi available, so customers with laptops dotted tables in the cafe's cheerful setting. A jazz band ensemble with a singer belted out upbeat tunes as customers poured in.
My book-signing table saw friends and loved ones pop in as a tremendous show of loving support. They included several "anchors" from my growing-up days at First Baptist Church of Garland; family members and neighbors who made special efforts to stop by on a busy weekend; civic and community contacts; some new friends who visited so they could share about their own backyard gardens; and even Garland's Mayor Pro Tem--city councilwoman Laura Perkins "Perky" Cox, who lent her perkiness to my table display and helped "arrange" my location for maximum exposure (as only a true politico knows how.)
Visitors to my table were invited to sample one of the Harvest Softies (the recipe, that features grated fresh apple, appears below) as well as Texas Pecan Pie Mini-Muffins (recipe on page 140 of Way Back in the Country Garden. These concerned nuts from our pecan trees.) Both items were a hit with guests and in some cases spurred them to take home a copy of the cookbook so they could stir up their own batch of the pastries.
I hope that on Saturday, God granted my mother a spot at the balustrade of heaven so she could peek down on the convivial setting in a venerable Garland building she once thought was beyond the pale. I think the lively scene that symbolized a bright future for the old downtown Garland Square would have made this little Red-Haired Miller Girl very happy.
1 cooking apple (such as MacIntosh), peeled and cored
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg (we used egg substitute)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup apple juice
Line 2 large baking sheets with foil. Lightly spray foil so cookies won't stick. Grate apple into a bowl; add apple juice. In a separate large bowl with a mixer beat butter, sugar, egg, and cinnamon until the mixture is fluffy (about 2 minutes). With a spoon stir in half the flour, the apple mixture, then the remaining flour. Drop batter by tablespoons onto the prepared sheets, with cookies spaced 3-inches apart. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 17 minutes until cookies are lightly browned. Remove to a rack; cool completely. Repeat. For icing in medium-sized bowl blend sifted powdered sugar and apple juice until smooth and firm enough so icing won't run. Spread icing on top of cookie; leave about 1/4-inch of cookie showing around edge. When icing is firm, store cookies in refrigerator until time to serve.