she took her name off the list

butter cookies | the merry gourmet

I’m sharing a butter cookie recipe with you today, a really simple and delicious cookie recipe. The recipe comes from Gourmet magazine (of course – all the good ones do), and I only tweaked it a tiny bit, not enough to really count.

But really, what I want to share with you is a story about my mother.

*    *    *    *    *

My mother is a teacher. She is retired now, but once a teacher, always a teacher. During my early school years, she taught sixth grade, but the year I started fourth grade, she transferred to my school and taught the fourth grade class across the hall from mine. The teachers switched classrooms for part of the day – or maybe the students did – so for some hours of the day, my mother was my teacher.

I was so proud of my mother for being a teacher. It was exhilarating having her stand in front of my classroom, and I loved being known as “Mrs. George’s daughter.” I loved watching her teach, but it terrified me when she called on me. I didn’t want to disappoint her by not knowing the answer, and I definitely didn’t want her to think I was stupid. It’s only fitting that the one time I can vividly recall her calling on me in class is the time that I got tongue-twisted and stammered out an answer that made no sense.

My mom continued to teach for a long time after that, until May 2010, when she retired. I think she intended to travel with my father, to spend the daylight hours photographing birds and flowers, to enjoy her grandchildren, and to relax. Instead, my grandmother was diagnosed with lymphoma, moved in with my parents, and my mother became her caregiver.

Within a year, she became a caregiver again, for my father, when he had his first illness, the one that put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

And all of this time, she has been the main source of support for my disabled brother, who has schizophrenia.

My mother has shown incredible strength these last several years, since she retired and took on caregiving full time. She has been strong not because she wanted to be, or because she is inherently strong (she is), but because she simply had no other choice. Out of necessity – and out of love – she has prioritized the needs and desires of other people.

In the process, she has repeatedly put herself last.

When my father died in late February, Mom didn’t just put herself last on the list – she took her name off the list entirely.

She stopped socializing as often with her teacher friends. The regular dominoes game she played with another group of women fell to the wayside, replaced by taking my grandmother for a haircut or some other obligation. She stopped reading, unless it was my grandmother’s prescription bottles or the regular monthly bills that came in the mail. She stopped cooking.

Finally, she stopped eating.

My mother was hospitalized last week with dehydration and malnutrition. She spent five days in that hospital room, undergoing blood tests, scans, procedures, and receiving intravenous fluids. Scary diagnoses were ruled out, one by one, and slowly she began to feel more like herself.

I sat by her side as often as I could, but not as often as I would have liked (that whole work/parenting/life balance thing). But when I was there, we were able to simply be together and to talk when the mood struck. I flipped through magazines, knit some stitches on the scarf I’m working on, and we reminisced.

“This reminds me of your father,” she said once, when she tried to walk on shaky legs.

As she was being wheeled to the endoscopy suite, she said, “I remember this tunnel.” Of course she did. My father had been wheeled through that same tunnel, the one that connects the two towers of the hospital, several times.

When she was finally discharged, on the fifth day, her discharge instructions were simple: Eat. And though the final diagnosis was not on the paperwork, we both knew what it was. It was grief.

She’s doing better now, after almost one full week at home. Thanks to her amazing friends, she has had plenty of hot meals on hand – ready to eat, no cooking required. She plans to play dominoes again soon, and I hope she begins reading again.

My mother is beautiful and strong, even after losing a ridiculous amount of weight these past months. She has the most wonderful sense of humor. She is creative and inspiring. Her passion for teaching – and her skill at doing so – is unrivaled. I have been proud of my mother for all of these things and so many more, for as long as I can remember.

Today, I am most proud of my mom for putting herself back on her list.

And I will always love being known as “Mrs. George’s daughter.”

Yield: 2 to 3 dozen, depending on slice thickness

Butter Cookies

These cookies are so simple and yet so delicious. The hardest parts of the recipe are waiting for the butter to come to room temperature and then waiting for the dough to chill.


2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup; 170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Egg wash (1 egg white mixed with 1 teaspoon water)
Turbinado or sanding sugar, for garnish


In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and granulated sugar with a hand mixer (or using a stand mixer) on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, around 3-5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla paste. On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Roll the dough into a 12-inch long log, approximately 2 inches in diameter. Press and shape the log into a rectangle if you prefer rectangular cookies. Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill on a baking sheet until firm, at least 4 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees and place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Unwrap cookie dough and slice into 1/8-to-1/4-inch slices. Place them 1 inch apart on two sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Chill any unused dough. Brush each cookie evenly with egg wash, then sprinkle with turbinado or sanding sugar.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time, until cookies are golden. Cool on the cookie sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Note: Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days or frozen, wrapped tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap, for 1 month.

Hardly tweaked from this recipe from Gourmet 2003.

    Pin It

10 Responses to “talking turkey, and a casserole: turkey tetrazzini”

  1. Kathryn — November 3, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    What a delicious way to use up some leftover turkey – they’re normally such big beasts that there’s plenty to go round and then some!

  2. Kate @ Savour Fare — November 3, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    You’ve got to do a dry brine! It’s 100% easier than a wet brine (who has a big enough vessel?, let alone refrigerator) and yields turkey that tastes like turkey, not like ham. Here’s my recipe:

    And the LA Times:

    And now I’m trying to figure out how to make turkey tetrazzini BEFORE Thanksgiving.

  3. jenn s. — November 3, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    Steve smokes our turkey on the grill. Even people that aren’t crazy about turkey love his grilled/smoked turkey! I always buy with the intentions of having enough leftover turkey meat to make turkey tetrazinni. It has become a tradition for us (I usually make it on Sat. or Sun. after T-giving to give the bloat of Thursday’s meal time to level off, LOL!) The smokey flavor of the turkey gives the tetrazinni a unique and certainly delicious flavor.

  4. Paula — November 3, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

    I haven’t been on Twitter a lot lately and I’m not sure if you sent any tweets about your Dad so reading today that he has been moved to a rehabilitation centre does sound encouraging and I hope and pray the he continues to see some improvement in his condition over the next several weeks. I know that prepping a dinner for such a large crowd can be stressful, especially if this is your first big turkey roast. I have no doubt however that your meal will be wonderful and I’m sure that everyone will be more than willing to pitch in and help. Perhaps they’ll just leave the turkey to you and they will bring all the other dishes…a big family pot luck 🙂
    Your tetrazinni looks good!

    P.S. I did see Gail’s tweet however on your Exemplary Teacher Award but never sent a congratulatory one to you. I think it’s wonderful that you received this award and can only imagine how proud you must be of it. Sincere congratulations Merry-Jennifer!

  5. Nutmeg Nanny — November 7, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

    I have never done a whole turkey either. Last year Mr. Nutmeg Nanny was getting over a cold so we had to stay home (his dad was recovering from cancer surgery.) So I ended up making roast turkey parts but not actually the whole bird. I wish I would have seen this recipe for the leftovers. I would have been all over it! I love tetrazzini!

    P.S. I hope all is going well with your dad. I’m sending lots of prayers your way.

  6. Lucy — November 15, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    So glad your dad is doing better. It’s exciting to host Thanksgiving! I’ve been hosting my husband’s family for years. Though you didn’t ask for turkey advice, I highly recommend brining the turkey (you can buy a 5 gallon stock pot at Walmart for about $45-50 that’s perfect for a 20 lb turkey) and then rubbing all over with herb butter. Both recipes on my site. And give yourself plenty of time to let the turkey rest before and after roasting. You’ll do a great job and can’t wait to hear about it!

  7. Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos — November 15, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

    Such a great idea for leftovers 🙂 Hopefully your father has a speedy recovery!

  8. Pingback: Cooking 'Round The Web - Thanksgiving Edition | Cooking In Stilettos

  9. Pingback: Meal Plan: Recipes From the Fridge and Pantry

  10. Pingback: Recipe ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers | Garnish with Lemon

Leave a Comment