First Grandmother' Club members fill their cookbook with recipes from the heart

Anyone who grew up knowing a grandmother's loving affection knows what a treasure that is, and that caring often included gifts from the kitchen. But not every kid has been lucky enough to benefit from this kind of upbringing.

Founded 10 years ago by 14 Fort Worth women, the First Grandmothers' Club set goals to help all area children -- not just their own grandchildren -- with grandmotherly warmth. The group's 350 members work together on fundraising that supports programs and agencies that pertain to the welfare of children, particularly at hospitals, homeless shelters and community facilities.

The FGC's latest effort toward this end will purchase a Fort Worth Zoo bench to be dedicated to children. The fundraiser takes flight this week, and it tastes really good.

Marshaled into being by founding member Carol Stripling, A Legacy of Love, Cooking From the Heart ($20, Morris Press Cookbooks) is the First Grandmothers' Club cookbook, which goes on sale Wednesday.

Roughly a year ago, Stripling and fellow members conceived the book; Stripling spent a few months collecting and formatting 399 recipes, and several cooks in the group worked in their own kitchens making sure each recipe tested correctly.

Most club members participated in some way, says president and founding member Lenda Richards.

"We wanted to have a big celebration for our 10th anniversary and threw around a lot of ideas. We wanted something memorable, something good for the community," Richards says. "The bench seemed like a great idea but we needed to fund it."

The cookbook idea grew on everyone quickly. Even those who don't cook have someone close by who does.

"We wanted all of the members to take ownership of it by contributing recipes, if not from themselves, then from friends and family," Richards says. "The book is a keepsake for all of us, and the timing turned out well -- it's a good hostess and holiday gift, too."

At $20 each, the goal of financing the $2,000 bench and $100 plaque honoring children should be a snap. Whatever surplus the club has at the end of the year is distributed to community agencies serving children's needs.

The cookbook is thick and divided into sections such as Kids Cook!, featuring recipes specially geared for young chefs, including ones for tiger butter candy, "roll the can" ice cream and kids' fondue. Other sections include Vegetables & Sides; Entrees; Breads; Breakfast Favorites; Cookies & Candy; and Desserts.

The cookbook's first section, however, contains recipes from club members' friends, including such local chefs as Vance Martin, Michael Thomson, Jon Bonnell, Renie Steves, Blaine Staniford, Tom McGrath, Lanny Lancarte and Molly McCook. Other area dignitaries and celebrities, including Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, Mayor Betsy Price and former Fort Worth first lady Rosie Moncrief, contributed recipes, too.

We caught up with a couple of the grandmothers in the kitchen, making recipes from the book with their grandchildren. Founding member Jane Chapman of Fort Worth, with granddaughter Tess Jenkins, 7, made green chili chicken enchiladas, one of Chapman's specialties. With just one quick lesson, Tess rolled tortillas around the filling and positioned enchiladas in the casserole dish like a pro.

Meanwhile, member Suzanne Ward and 9-year-old grandson John O'Neil iced some of Ward's cherry pastries, small turnovers that John found as much fun to make as baking cookies.

Until you have a copy of the book, here are recipes from its pages to try now.

Pumpkin bread

This bread, from Cleo Trapp, freezes well. You can serve it warm with whipped cream or ice cream for a dessert, or slice it and warm in a skillet with butter for breakfast, too.

2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2/3 cup water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees; grease 2 loaf pans (or Bundt pans).

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, soda, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Add pumpkin, oil, eggs and water, mixing well. Add vanilla; mix again. Fold in pecans. Pour into pans.

3. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Nutritional information per slice, 12 slices per loaf: 279 calories, 13 grams fat, 38 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 35 milligrams cholesterol, 252 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 43 percent of calories from fat.

World-renowned antipasto dip

Betty Hove's appetizer makes a great party dish, served with crudités and crackers. It's also great as a salad.

2/3 cup white distilled vinegar

2/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup dried minced onions

2 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon onion salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (5.75-ounce) jar Spanish olives, drained and chopped

1 (8-ounce) can mushrooms, drained and chopped

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 (4-ounce) can chopped ripe olives, drained

1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1. In a small saucepan, combine and boil the vinegar, oil, dried onion, Italian seasoning, salt, seasoned salt, garlic salt, onion salt, sugar and black pepper, stirring until mixed well.

2. In a large bowl, combine the Spanish olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, ripe olives, bell pepper and celery.

3. Pour the dressing mixture over, mix and chill several hours or overnight.

Nutritional information per 1-tablespoon serving: 37 calories, 3 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, no cholesterol, 171 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 74 percent of calories from fat.

Cherry or apricot pastries

Suzanne Ward's treats are best with a simple glaze. Combine 2 cups confectioners' sugar with 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; mix well and spoon over baked pastries.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup butter, softened

1 tablespoon sour cream

Cherry or apricot preserves

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, cream cheese, butter, and sour cream; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough out onto a floured board to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch squares or circles. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon preserves into center of each square. Moisten edges and fold in half diagonally, keeping edges even. Press edges together with a fork to seal.

3. Bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

Nutritional information per pastry: 148 calories, 11 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 31 milligrams cholesterol, 108 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 67 percent of calories from fat.