Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Three days. 8,000 cookies. A family tradition.


November 22, 2018

Lois E. Johnson

From left: Amy, Kristina, Shelly, Paula, Riley and Joan. Carly is in the back. Emily is part of the crew but had to leave for work.

Sheets, plates and pans of cookies were everywhere in the log home of Paula Engstrom on the shore of Sand Lake Saturday, Nov. 17, as two families gathered for their annual three-day cookie baking session. Christmas music was playing in the background.

"We make 8,000 cookies in 21 varieties," said Grandmother Joan Morehouse, in an interview while Paula and Joan's daughters and granddaughters baked and rolled Mexican Wedding Cakes in powdered sugar on the kitchen island counter. "Katie Stevenson, who took photos of all of the activity to post on Facebook, dubbed it 'The Amazing Cookie Extravaganza.'"

Daughter Kristina and granddaughter Carly were making trees, Let It Snow signs and candy canes in molds with almond bark on the kitchen table. Granddaughter Riley watched the two ovens to make sure that the cookies were baked for the proper length of time.

"We call her the Cookie Rookie," said Joan. "The kids usually start working with us when they are 12 or 13. They don't have the stamina for the long baking sessions until then."

It all started 15 years ago, she explained.

"I baked with the girls since they were small," she added. "My mother baked with me, and her mother baked with her.

"These days, Paula sends out a spreadsheet each year of what each one needs to bring. She has a tackle box of supplies that she's accumulated."

Paula is the adopted daughter of John Engstrom, who has a cabin on another bay of the lake. John and his first wife adopted Paula and David, their son, who lives in South Dakota. John's first wife died seven or eight years ago, and John married Joanna several years ago, Joan explained. Katie, the photographer of the event, is Joanna's daughter.

John and Terry Morehouse, Joan's husband, became best friends in the seminary, and are still best friends to this day. Both became Lutheran ministers.

The baking crew consists of members of those families. John was one of the taste testers.

Paula is the only one that has a year-around log home on Sand Lake. She lives and works, with the aid of the Internet, from her six-year-old home. The home is on the site of John Engstrom's father's cabin.

The others are summer residents and have been for decades.

The John Engstrom family have owned property on the lake since 1938, and the Morehouses have lived next door to what is now Paula's home since 1968 in an original log cabin that was built in 1926.

The Swedish families celebrated St. Lucia Day in past years and made the traditional Swedish cookies for the event.

"My grandmother immigrated from Sweden in 1912 and brought her Swedish recipes for pepperkakor, rosettes and spritz cookies," said Joan. "We still make them every year. But this is the first year that there will be no Lucia tradition in the family."

Joan's daughters, Kristina, Shelly and Amy, and three granddaughters, Emily, Carly and Riley, as well as Paula, make up the baking crew. But the crew isn't limited to females.

"My grandson used to help," said Joan. "He was good at making rosettes. He's 21 now."

The crew travels from the Twin Cities area and Duluth for the cookie baking session.

Lois E. Johnson

"Shelly and Paula started baking on Thursday," said Joan. "They made the pepperkakor and spritz cookies. The rest of us came on Friday. Kristina brought a cooler full of dough and the granddaughters rolled the dough into balls. Riley unwrapped 500 Hershey's kisses. We used 480."

The cookies are for family and friends.

"We send them as far away as Alaska, California, South Dakota and Colorado and bring them to neighbors, teachers and family," said Joan. "None are sold."

As the crew continued to work on the cookies, Joan thought back over the years and all of the good times that she has had working with her family.

"What a thrill to bake with my daughters and granddaughters," she said. "It's been really fun to do. It started with the Lucia tradition and now we send the cookies to friends and family."


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