The Simplest Gift

I think my love of the west and cowboys grew out of my love for my grandparents’ Iowa farm. I loved that place. I did a lot of thinking and dreaming there. I also learned a lot, mainly from my grandmother. The older I get the more I appreciate what I learned from her. She was an incredibly strong woman, but she possessed a quiet strength. She worked the farm and raised six children. I always thought her the most patient person I knew. She never had a cross word for anyone, and I can count on one hand the number of times she lost her temper.

My grandmother always made time for me and my endless questions. Such a simple gift, her time and attention, and yet, such an important one. And I had a lot of questions about whatever she was doing, whether it be gardening, crocheting, sewing or cooking. All of which I still enjoy doing today.

One day when she was making one of my two favorite treats, cream puffs–the other was her angle food cake with fresh strawberries–I asked questions and wrote down what she told me. Because of my curiosity, I have my grandmother’s recipe for cream puffs.

For a holiday gift, I’m sharing her recipe with you.

Cream Puffs

½ C butter

½ tsp salt

1 C water

1 C sifted flour

4 eggs

Combine butter, salt and water in heavy saucepan. Bring to a hard boil. Remove from heat and dump in flour all at once. Stir until the mixture sticks together in a ball and leaves the edges of the pan. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until egg has been completely absorbed. Drop by tablespoonful, heaping in the middle, on greased baking sheet with 3 inches between each. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake 10 minutes. Do not open oven during baking or cream puffs could 



Mix together—

4 Tablespoons sugar

2 egg yolks (beaten)

1 heaping Tablespoon cornstarch

2 Tablespoons milk


In a heavy saucepan, bring 1 C milk to a boil. Stir in above mixture. Reduce heat and cook until thick. When cool combine with ½ pint whipped heavy cream.

Leave a comment about your favorite holiday treat and be entered to win a cup and plate set along with a copy of Family Ties. May 2019 be filled with many wonders and joys for you and your family, and remember, of all the gifts you can give, the best is your time and attention. 

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Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at

45 thoughts on “The Simplest Gift”

  1. There are two cookies I usually make only during the holidays even though they aren’t specifically holiday treats. Bourbon Balls are relatively easy to make and a bit strong. We all like them, maybe a bit too much. I hide them in the back of the refrigerator to make them last longer. Swiss Merengue Horns are another thing I make at Christmas, but they aren’t really Christmas cookies. Actually, a deer friend was getting married and requested I make several batches for the reception. They are time consuming but not really hard since they take sort of a three step process. The recipe makes 10 dozen so it takes a while. They are wonderfully light and melt in your mouth. Those, too, I keep tucked away until time for every one to be there. They disappear rather fast.

    • Patricia, they both sound wonderful and what a compliment to have a friend ask you to make the one cookies for her wedding. They must really be fantastic! Thanks for stopping by to talk about our favorite holiday treats!

  2. I wish I had one of your cream puffs! My sugar intake has had to change so now I make a wonderful treat by combining softened cream cheese, a box of sugar free chocolate pudding mix, a can of evaporated milk and vanilla. Mix thoroughly, pour into a beautiful bowl, top with sugar free Cool Whip and enjoy!

    • I know what you mean about the sugar, Melanie. I’ve cut way back, too. The nice thing about the cream puffs is they only have 4 T of refined sugar in the whole batch. You could probably make them and fill them with a vanilla version of your pudding. Giving up sugar has been way harder than I expected it to be. May we both do well with resisting it in 2019!

  3. Yummy recipe. My mother was a wonderful cook. She used to make what she called apple slices with a flaky pastry dough, and eclairs. Every year I vow to make them but somehow the time gets away. Happy New Year! Here’s to a great 2019.

    • Sally, time is the issue isn’t it? I used to bake a lot more items, but have struggled with time and stress lately. What I do is make one thing that is one person’s favorite. That’s brought baking down to manageable. Thanks for stopping by today.

    • Jerri Lynn, what kind of fruit salad? My grandmother made one with small pasta, peaches and crushed pineapple. It has a lemon sauce that’s then mixed with whipped cream. It’s my hubby’s favorite.

  4. Not commenting for the give a way
    Happy New Year, thank you for the recipe. I also remember spending precious time with my grandmother and learning many things. How rich she made life. One of her favorite desserts was Cherries Jubilee. It became my birthday cake.

    • Lori, thanks for stopping by. Wow! Cherries Jubilee! Anything that flames would be off limits for me to try making. I’m a bit of a clutz. Who knows what damage I’d do with that, but I have had it a couple times. Thanks for stopping by to chat today. Have a blessed 2019.

  5. I love cookies and my favorite is peanut butter whirls. They are made with vanilla wafers. I am looking for a gluten free brand that I like

    • Debra, those sound yummy. The perfect thing to munch on with a cup of tea or coffee. It’s been so gray and rainy here lately that’s all I’ve wanted to do–curl up with my dogs, a good book and a cup of hot tea. Have a great 2019 and thanks for stopping by.

  6. Thanks for sharing cream puff recipe. I remember every Christmas season watching my grandmother and aunts making Italian cookies (cucedatti) ? It was very time consuming but so worth it. One of my favorite cookies.

    • Carol, that’s what’s neat about family recipes–they can bring up such wonderful memories. I still can see me helping with the cream puffs in my Grandma Walter’s kitchen. The tiny house would be filled with my aunts and uncles along with their families. The cream puffs would be gone in minutes once we got them filled. I also remember divinity making. One year everyone was so upset. I remember there was a point when divinity gets hard to stir. One of my uncles was stirring it and the wooden spoon broke! The whole batch had to be thrown away because we were worried there would be wood splinters in it. That was quite a debate with some of the family being willing to risk it rather than throw out the divinity! Thanks for commenting and bringing to mind those wonderful times!

  7. The cream puffs sound really good. I haven’t had one in years. My family didn’t pass any recipes down, but I do remember my mother making little cookies rolled into balls and covered with powdered sugar. She called them snowballs. They were always my favorite.

    • Janine, my mother made cookies like that and they were called snowballs! You wouldn’t believe how many different items she made at the holiday. It was easily 20+ types of cookies, candies and breads. She would take plates of treats to so many people. I never could find time to do all that. I’ve decided I’d rather make one favorite item for each of my kids and hubby and have more time to spend with them.

      • My mom would make a bunch of different kinds for weeks leading up to Christmas. Then she would freeze them until it was Christmas. She hasn’t made any in years. I never got the cooking gene, so I don’t do anything.

    • Kim, the grandma I wrote about was Norwegian! She also made lefse. Another one of my favorites, but talk about taking a lot of time! Ufda! My husband gave me a lefse griddle one year, but I’ve never used it. Lefse is something that would be fun to make if a bunch of friends got together and made them, but alone? Way too much work. What are krumkake? I’ve never heard of those which is odd because Decorah, Iowa, where my grandparents’ farm was has a Nordic Fest every year. Did you grow up hearing horror stories about lutefisk? We’ll have to compare Norwegian stories some time!

      • They are cookies shaped like a sugar cone not as sweet but good with jam, jelly or ice cream inside.

          • You will need to buy a special griddle to make them and you will make mistakes till you have one that is just write and it sits on top of a burner the griddle. Both my paternal grandparents were from norway.

  8. My grandma always made her famous banket. She taught a few of us grand daughters how to do it before she passed away. We have tried to keep up her tradition but we certainly don’t have her 80+ years of experience!

    • Susan, how wonderful that your grandmother shared the tradition with you! I wish I’d written down more things when mine was cooking. So many of her recipes were lost. Women our grandmother’s age didn’t write down their recipes. They just kept them in their heads and often didn’t measure. I remember once asking my grandma how long to cook something and she said, “Cook it until it’s done.” I laughed and asked if she could give me an idea of how long. 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days? 🙂

  9. I don’t bake a lot anymore and I try not to eat a lot of sweets because of my blood sugar. However at Christmas I usually can’t resist a good piece of fudge. While my grandkids are out of school for the holiday break we will be making chocolate chocolate chip muffins.

    • Linda, fudge is one of the things I make because my sons and husband love it. Thankfully, that isn’t a treat that tempts me. I’m one of those rare people who isn’t a chocolate fanatic. I had been doing fairly well watching my sugar until the holidays hit. Now I’m paying for it because my system is getting even with me. I’m definitely going to have to have more self-control next year. That’s why I like the cream puffs. They entire recipe only had 4 tablespoons of refined sugar. One hardly has any sugar at all.

      Enjoy your time with your grandkids. How wonderful that you’ll be making cookies. What’s really important is you’ll be making memories. Some day they’ll be telling their children and friends about the days they spent with you!

    • Colleen, for us it’s also pumpkin bread. Two of my boys go crazy over it. But I’m with you, give me pumpkin pie! Thanks for stopping by today. Have a blessed 2019!

  10. I want to thank you first of all for sharing a family recipe, I have known many people who hold onto recipes and just want to keep them secret from others, so THANK YOU. My favorite holiday treat was my aunts Christmas sugar cookies. I looked forward to them every year. I was fortunate she did share the recipe with me, but you know they just never tasted the same as hers.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed my sharing. My grandmother would have been tickled and probably a little embarrassed over my sharing one of her recipes. She was also the most modest woman I’ve ever known!

  11. Each year my grandmother would make the most delectable apple strudel. I cannot duplicate it since I am not a master baker.

    • Anne, apple strudel sounds yummy. Nothing I make comes anywhere close to what my grandmother used to make. I’ve always been too scared of being totally disappointed to try angelfood cake. That’s what I would always ask her to make for my birthday. I never wanted it frosted. I wanted her to mush up strawberries to pour over it. Better than frosting any day! Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

  12. When I bake the best marble cake in this house it goes very quickly. The flavor is a blend of vanilla, and chocolate and just so enticing and perfect. I enjoy this most of all in the winter.

    • Pearl, your cake sounds wonderful. It would probably be a big hit in my house. Chocolate for all the guys in my house and enough vanilla to make me happy. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!

  13. When the winter arrives I love to bake lemon squares since everyone loves them. I wrap them in beautiful delicate paper and put them in decorated boxes and give them as gifts.

    • Sharon, the other thing I make that’s one of my grandmother’s recipe is her lemon bars! I don’t make them very often because everyone else in the house is chocolate crazy, but whenever I make a dessert to take somewhere, that’s what I choose. That way I get to have them, but don’t eat the whole pan! I may steal your idea of wrapping them in the pretty paper and a decorated box to give away next year. That way I could save a few for myself. What kind of paper do you wrap them in? Thanks so much for the fantastic idea for next year!

  14. My favorite holiday treat is sand tarts. I make them and lots of other cookies ever year. I learned to make cream puffs in my 7th grade Homemaking class in Amarillo, Texas.

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