They Still Like Ike (and Mamie too)

Mamie Eisenhower’s Sugar Cookies

President Dwight D. Eisenhower is Abilene, Kansas’ favorite son. Abilene is the boyhood home of “Ike,” who served two terms as president of the United States (1953-1961). I didn’t know much about Eisenhower until we visited Abilene this summer and realized the entire town is deeply in love with the famous WWII Army general who served as supreme allied commander and later became president. A visit to the museum and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum opened a treasure of vintage history for me. For the man who saw Alaska and Hawaii become states, signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act, signed the bill creating NASA, and authorized the Interstate Highway system, he still was a gentle man who loved children enough that he named a presidential retreat after his grandson, David. (Known as Camp David in Maryland.)

Then, I Met Mamie

Mamie Eisenhower was born Mamie Geneva Doud in Boone, Iowa. On July 1, 1916, Ike and Mamie were married at noon in the Doud family home in Denver — the same day Ike received his first Army promotion. Several of her wardrobe ensembles were on display in the museum and she had incredible taste in clothing and an eye for fashion. Her hourglass figure gave way to the “Mamie look,” which was typified by her one-piece dresses cinched tightly across the waist, just below the bust line. I would love to have worn everything I saw! Lovely colors, feminine lines, and so pretty and lively. I gather Mamie also had a bubbly personality and a heart for hospitality. Quoted from the presidential library’s website, “Although she lived and traveled all over the world, Mrs. Eisenhower always remained a person who was most happy at home surrounded by her family.”

The president died in 1969 and Mamie died in 1971. They were buried in the Place of Meditation at the Eisenhower Center in Abilene, Kansas beside their first son who died of scarlet fever at age four. If you ever get to Abilene, please don’t miss the chance to visit the museum and library. There are only 13 presidential libraries in the United States. Learn more about them here.

For anyone who lived through the Eisenhower years, I would love to know what you thought about First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Please share your comments on this blog. I feel a kindred spirit or, as my friend Judy Martin would say, “sisters-under-the-skin.”

Theme of this summer’s parade, “We Still Like Ike”

Mamie Eisenhower’s Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tablespoon cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix and sift flour, baking, powder and salt. Cream butter, add sugar and cream slowly until fluffy. Stir in well-beaten egg yolks and vanilla extract. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with cream. Chill for one hour, roll and cut in any desired shape. Sprinkle with sugar before baking. Bake in moderate oven 350 degrees, 10 to 12 minutes

Recipe Courtesy of Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau and West’s Country Mart.

In Search of Sunflowers

My Kansas sunflower.

Kansas is nicknamed the Sunflower State. All I had to say on our visit this summer was that I wanted to find a sunflower field and the local folks made sure we found one. We traveled from Abilene to a town called Minneapolis, KS and somewhere off of Highway 81, we found our field. Think of the goodness we enjoy from sunflowers beyond their stunning beauty — the seeds and sunflower oil.

Thank you for your hospitality, Kansas!

Man versus Joe Snuffy’s

We had a rule about eating in Kansas. We would only eat in local or regional restaurants, no national restaurant chains. We never had a bad meal in Kansas. The cuts of meat and fresh vegetables in local dives rivaled fine restaurants in the east, but at lower prices. Not only did we find great food, we also found the most hospitable owners and staff.

One place that never seemed to close except for Tuesdays is Joe Snuffy’s in Abilene. You can read the writing on the wall (literally). The food is fresh, served piping hot, and the peanut butter pie is to die for.

My husband Bill suggested that our son and I eat lunch there one day. (He was at work and had been there many times before.) Owners Marty and his wife, Anja, gave us a big welcome. We studied the menu as we noticed orders coming out of the kitchen looking delicious.

Live Lunchtime Entertainment

To our great surprise there was a contestant in Joe Snuffy’s Triple Hammer Challenge.  Patrick had seen Adam Richman on “Man versus Food” on the Travel Channel‘s reality show many times. Now, here, live, was a real food challenge! Our lunch was getting exciting.

Marty told me the food challenge thing began because of his T-shirt. The image of the  burger was so big that his buddy said it was false advertising. So, Marty created a huge burger just like the one on the shirt. Then came the dares for people to eat it. His customers kept bugging Marty to start a food challenge. He caved and now there is “Joe Snuffy’s Triple Hammer Challenge.”

The Tripple Hammer Challenge

Rules

  1. $15.99 Triple Hammer and Fries…No subs no omissions!
  2. No sharing…This is a food challenge and not a cheap way to feed four people. (No doggy boxes.)
  3. 30 minutes to consume all food on platter. Joe Snuffy’s manager will keep the time.
  4. Drinks are not included in the price or any other sides….
  5. Contestants relieve Joe Snuffy’s of any liability resulting in challenge to include death.
  6. Contestants must sign bottom of rules form as waiver of liability.
  7. Eat it all in 30 minutes, it’s free and we give you a T-shirt.
Ken waits for the starting bell.

Ken from Arkansas

Ken came with two friends to take the challenge. The Triple Hammer and Fries came —a little more than a pound of meat, bacon, ham, hash browns, eggs equaling their triple omelet, and more, all on a huge bun, plus at least a pound of fries.

The timer began and the clock ticked. Ken ate, paused, sipped water, ate, paused, took a deep breath, and on and on. We had to leave, but told Marty we would be back to find out what happened. We came back the next night with Bill. Marty told us Ken from Arkansas didn’t finish— almost, though. There have only been seven people make it and their photos are on the wall. I wonder if Adam Richman could handle it?

Who needs a reality show when we found real-life, small-town excitement?

Owner Marty and the T-shirt.

Joe Snuffy’s is located at 209 West 1st Street, Abilene, KS 67410.Joe Snuffy's on Urbanspoon

Innkeeper for a Day

Stuffed French Toast in Abilene, KS

Like I said, Kansas people are very kind to strangers from the east. One evening while sitting on the front porch of the Abilene Bed and Breakfast watching the folks go by, a potential customer drove up. The innkeeper, Doc, said, “Oh no, I can’t have any guests, I have to get up early and leave for a funeral.”

I quickly offered to take care of the guests and prepare breakfast. Doc took me up on the offer except it wasn’t for the next day because the people drove away. The offer to make breakfast was for the day after when he had a full house!  As he told me, “I want to learn something new.”

So we reviewed what he had in stock and only had to shop for a few items. I decided on stuffed French toast which would be easy to put into production and keep warm in the oven or make on demand as guests came to the breakfast table. I also wanted a menu item that was worthy of a B&B-style breakfast. Doc agreed to the plan and rounded out the menu with sausage and fresh fruit.

Will, Luke and Johnny, here with their parents, were late sleepers. No problem holding the stuffed French toast for them.

I learned something new — being an innkeeper is no easy job, but it’s a lot of fun. Thanks, Doc, for the opportunity to be a guest chef.

Stuffed French Toast

  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8-oz.  cream cheese, softened
  • 2-3 Tablespoons strawberry jam (that’s what Doc had on hand, you can also use orange marmalade or other preserves)
  • 6 large croissants (approx.)
  • Butter for frying
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Lightly beat eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Set aside.

Mix cream cheese with a little milk and the jam to spreading consistency.

Cut the croissants in half and spread each with the cream cheese filling.

Close croissants and dip in egg batter. Fry in butter (or a little butter and oil) until browned. Flip and fry other side until browned. These will hold in a 300 degree oven.

To serve, sift confectioners sugar over croissant (I didn’t have a sifter here) and serve with maple syrup.

Abilene Bed & Breakfast Inn

Taste Hint: My favorite Vermont pure maple syrup is from Hartshorn’s Sugarhouse in Waitsfield, Vermont, 364 Hartshorn Road, Waitsfield, VT 05673. 802.496.3471.

Field of Dreams

My summer in Kansas.

This summer took us to Kansas where they’re very kind to strangers from the east. Despite the drought, the record-high temps, and suffering corn fields, their Kansas hospitality was paramount to any discomforts. They say hospitality is a quality attributed to residents of the southern region of the United States that is somewhat based on the principle of sharing resources, even when resources are limited. Kansas showed plenty of “southern hospitality” — Midwestern style. Years ago immigrants turned prairie into farmland. Today, Kansas is one of the most productive agricultural states, producing high yields of wheat, sorghum and sunflowers. (More on my sunflower field search later.)

We arrived in Abilene, the boyhood home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and checked into the Abilene Bed and Breakfast Inn, the historic home of C.L. Brown, a telephony entrepreneur who left a lasting legacy on Abilene. Brown must have been a character because in addition to the mansion, he built three Spanish-style homes around his property for his mistresses (yes, plural). The homes today are privately owned.

What’s that aroma?

Doc’s cookies

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know my mantra about feeding the travelers. We walked into the mansion and our host, “Doc,” anticipating our arrival, perfectly timed the cookies to be baked, waiting, and warm. What a welcome! I asked Doc if he would share the recipe for this blog. He replied with a laugh, “Ma’am, there is not any recipe, I just throw everything in.” The cookies were a scrumptious conglomeration of what I guess to be dough, nuts, butterscotch, cinnamon, oatmeal, coconut? Whatever, they screamed “Welcome.”

It’s so nice to go to an unfamiliar place and find that familiar hospitality.

Pretty Picnic…Indoors

Too hot to be outside? Have an afternoon summer tea with a picnic theme. Gather brightly-colored placements and napkins, make iced tea, bake some cookies, and assemble fruit kabobs from what’s in season. Wooden skewers are easily found in the grocery store. Arrange everything in a whimsical fashion on a table and indulge.

I used this theme for an office afternoon farewell for a colleague. The Pineapple Cookies (recipe here) and fruit were a refreshing break. Since we have some weight watchers on our staff, I used Crystal Light Iced Tea, Natural Lemon flavor. It was also easy to mix up quickly in the office.

Hint: In a hurry or don’t want to heat up the oven? Buy Archway Dutch Cocoa Cookies (or something similar). Arrange on platter(s) and sprinkle with sifted confectioner’s sugar. Punctuate with bright red strawberries.

Keep it simple, it’s summer.