Jane Olszowka makes chocolate 'Gizmos'
Jane Olszowka has a lot in common with that lovable Sesame Street character known as Cookie Monster.
As far back as the 79-year-old grandmother of five can remember, she's rarely met a cookie she didn't like or didn't want to try baking.
"My cookie recipes are three inches thick on 4-by-6 cards," says Jane. "I have made close to 100 cookie recipes, and I have a stack of 150 I'd like to try."
Sure, she bakes a lot of them for the holidays, usually 14 different kinds. But this is a year-round effort for Jane who has created sweets tables for family bridal and baby showers and a graduation party for one of her grandchildren.
"It was for 200 people," says Jane, who baked 18 different sweets for the occasion, among them lemon bars, brownies, butter cookies and meringues.
"People wanted some of my recipes," she says. "I think it's an honor, so I'm willing to share."
Frosted cakes, coffee cakes and candies complete her repertoire. She has taken a cake decorating class and, many years ago, a candy making class.
"My sister and I used to sell 700 pounds of chocolates for Christmas and Easter," says Jane, who has been giving them away to family and friends for years.
Now she is passing that tradition down to her two daughters and three granddaughters.
"You would never find a more kind and generous person who puts family above all else," says her niece, Eileen Silldorf of Hoffman Estates.
Yet Jane also delivers baked goods to church events and neighbors in her Arlington Heights condo complex. She treats herself right, too.
"I'm not a Lean Cuisine person; I cook for myself," she says. "Yesterday I made lamb roast and I'll be eating the leftovers for weeks," she adds quite cheerfully.
There are no power outages in Jane's high-energy life. She takes knitting and quilting lessons at the local senior center - "I can't just sit and watch T.V." - and she attends water exercise classes at the Northwest Community Hospital Wellness Center. She is an officer in her condo association and volunteers to drive neighbors to doctor or hair appointments.
"I have to be doing something all the time."
When she's baking, Jane always uses the good stuff - butter, sour cream, whole eggs, chocolate chips.
"If I'm going through all the work I want it to taste good," she says. "I'm like Paula Deen."
With her recipe for her signature "S" cookies this week Jane urges us not to substitute anything for the butter.
"In my husband's family that's the only cookie they ever ask for," she says.
Her sour cream coffee cake is unusually thin, baked in a jelly roll pan so "it is not so much cake, you get icing and a crumb topping."
Easiest and most tweakable are her Gizmos, a confection made with whipped topping and melted candy chips. Jane has tried them with semisweet and milk chocolate chips, peanut butter and raspberry chips.
She rolls them in chopped nuts but you can substitute colored shots or sugars, crushed toffee or peppermint candies.
If these treats are the secret to her long life and boundless energy, I'm going for it.