Barb Lewis and Diane Roisland make pistachio almond wreaths
Women who tweak recipes together stay together
If you give Barb Lewis and Diane Roisland some flour, sugar, butter and eggs they're going to want to bake some cookies.
And if they bake some cookies they're going to want to share.
"We can't stop ourselves," says Barb, a Palatine resident. "I've never see anybody frown when they look at a cookie."
Like a handwritten note, a homemade cookie demonstrates "a commitment, a level of care," says Diane. "It's an expression of love and concern."
The two long-time friends and members of Holy Family Church, Inverness, bake for the homeless shelter at the church, organize bake sales for fund-raisers there and bring goodies to their bi-weekly small group meetings.
The women bake separately but "tweak together," says Diane, comparing recipe notes on their latest variation of banana bread or chocolate chip cookies.
Diane, president of K & C Machining, Inc., Wood Dale, bakes 18 to 22 varieties of cookies for the holidays and gives out platters of them to friends, family and colleagues.
Well before Thanksgiving she selects recipes, tallies up eggs, butter, extracts and sprinkles and gets organized.
"I start accumulating butter around Halloween," she says, along with oversized bottles of vanilla - "you have to use real vanilla" - and food-service-sized bags of flour and sugar.
During the week she might make three or four different kinds of cookie dough for day-long baking sessions on the weekend.
An ICU nurse at Lutheran General Hospital for 25 years, Barb knows the kind of stress and drama that accompany intensive care patients.
She shows up so often with treats that her colleagues call her "Betty Crocker" and dash to the break room to see what she's brought.
"It's an instant soother and it makes people feel special," Barb says.
Barb's nickname is apropos; her all-time favorite present was the Betty Crocker Easy-Bake Oven she received at age 6. She keeps a picture of herself with the oven in her kitchen.
What started with tiny pans of cake batter and the heat from a light bulb ignited once she gained access to from-scratch ingredients and seriously hot ovens.
"No matter what happens in my life, there's always time for baking," says Barb. "There's nothing that a hot bath and a cookie can't make a little better."
Diane and Barb get us started on the cookie half of the equation with three pretty holiday treats.
The hot bath is up to you.