Category Archives: recipes

What’s cooking pt.2

So I previously mentioned that I learned to cook from the back of the package, newspapers and magazines so here are a few samples from my repertoire.

Food companies have used the back of their package (pretty much ever since they invented packaging) to give one a recipe that uses their product. So you don’t really need to keep a copy of the recipe, it will always be there when you need it (you hope). And hopefully the recipe will be adjusted for the constantly shrinking package size.

This recipe has proved to be quite popular every time I have made it (interesting that this and the previous recipe use butterscotch). This recipe came from the Jamestown Sun (in North Dakota), and it looked unusual, so I tore it out and tried it. Definitely a keeper, I think it might have been in an article about Christmas cookies or possibly not. I’ve been making this recipe for years, but only for special occasions. (It’s so good I don’t really want to share the recipe with just anyone.)

Here’s a nice example of a recipe that I kept from a magazine, again the recipes are from a food company. Although I saved the entire page, I have only tried the pumpkin bread, but I also use this recipe for banana bread, it’s a pretty basic sort of thing. This recipe has been floating around the house since sometime in the late 70’s (maybe it needs a touch of butterscotch).

I did learn how to cook some things from my mom (honestly, not just sweets), I think I asked her for this recipe to put in one of those local cookbooks. This is something that Mom made often, because it didn’t require eggs or butter, and us kids were not exactly gourmets. She probably learned to make this when she was a young woman during WWII (before invention of butterscotch morsels).

As you can see I still know how to make lots of sweets, but these things require a crowd to gobble them up, and I seldom have one. ( I made a half recipe of the cookies for my group, and I still ended up eating a number of them. Oh well that’s the danger.) Food is meant to be shared and most everyone will take at least a nibble of a freshly baked sweet.

What’s Cooking

I think that people have been cooking ever since the invention of fire (it really makes foods quite tasty). Remote instruction in the art of cooking delicious food had to wait for the invention of writing, then for the invention of printing. The first written cookbook by a woman in English was published in 1661 and things took off from there. My mother had a 1948 copy of “The Gold Cookbook” that was probably a wedding present, and I don’t recall ever consulting it, but it had it’s special spot in the kitchen. When I learned to cook I sort of remember using recipes on food packaging (Hershey’s cocoa), the newspaper, and the occasional magazine. Now I have been cooking for a large number of years and I now own a small collection of cookbooks.

My mother bought this probably as a magazine promotion in the early 60’s. It’s a beautifully photographed book, with many of the sort of recipes that require special ingredients like lobster (never ever served at my house). It’s pretty much a fantasy of what to cook, certainly not the ordinary sort of recipes (most everyday cooking doesn’t need a written recipe). But there was one recipe in here that I tried, and I have made it often.

And of course since I have made it often, I don’t need to look at the directions anymore, and change bits depending on what’s at hand. It’s very ordinary, easy and delicious.

This booklet is also from the early 60’s and M got this from his favorite restaurant. This was a lucky purchase, because the restaurant decided to stop selling their secret recipes (I’m sure they have a few more up their sleeve).

You can tell from the red chile stains on the page that I have used this recipe a time or two, but it’s also something of a pain to make, so it’s only for special occasions

I didn’t get this book until 1970, when my first boyfriend bought it for me. And I would guess that he bought it because his mother probably had a copy and I suppose it was a hint. At that point I only knew how to make simple things and sweets, pies, cakes and candy. Since I was a grown-up (sort of) person, I learned how to make regular sorts of things, using this as my guide.

This is another recipe that I have used a zillion times. Even with my annotation, it’s a pretty basic recipe that presumes some sort of experience in the kitchen. What’s interesting to me about my cookbooks, is even though they have lots and lots of recipes, I have kept them for just a few tried and tested ones. Now there are infinite recipes and cooking styles available from the internet, but there are still physical cookbooks floating around out there in our homes and hearts. (A reprint of “The Gold Cookbook” is $35 on the internet, maybe Mom’s copy is around somewhere).


I suppose that every family has it’s traditions around the food served at this time of year. And of course I have them too, although the older I get, the less important some of them seem. But there are certain foods which are essential, like these.

I realize that this does not look especially festive, but I make this every Christmas, and only at Christmas. I don’t put any decorations on it, so it doesn’t look like much,but it is really quite delicious. And here is the recipe I use.

This recipe appeared in the St. Louis Globe Democrat, just a tiny item, not even a featured story. But my mom thought that it sounded tasty, so she made it for Christmas one year and I loved it. The newspaper stopped publication in 1986, so this recipe probably dates from the late 70’s or early 80’s when I was still going back to St. Louis for Christmas. I cut the recipe out of the newspaper, took it home and promptly lost it. So I sent a letter to the food editor, she dug this up from the back issues, sent it to me, and I have been making it ever since.

Krakowska from Piekutowski’s is another important ingredient for a proper Christmas feast. I have been eating this for at least 60 years (although I don’t understand how this is even possible, as I am surely not that old). The owners were friends of my grandparents, and the store is still in the same location as it was then (which puts it in a very bad neighborhood). The Polish Pope himself said that this was the best Krakowska outside of the stuff from Krakow, which is high praise indeed.

Also one must do something to attract luck in the coming year, so at the end of the holiday season, one must eat some black-eyed peas for New Year’s Day. This seems to especially bring luck to farmers of black-eyed peas, but no matter (really, they don’t taste like anything special). But it’s part of the ritual of the season, so I do this every year (maybe this is the year I win the lottery). ūüėČ

Cooking class

I admit that I love anything that has lots of sugar and butter in the recipe (although it does not necessarily love me back).¬† One of my friends has taken a lot of classes at a local cooking school, and she talked about how much fun this was.¬† So I decided I might give this a go, especially as the class used my favored ingredients.¬† And I found out how simple it is to make toffee, particularly if someone else does all the prep work.¬† ūüėČ

They had toasted and chopped 10 1/2 ounces of almonds and separated it into chunky bits and dust.   We put 8 ounces of butter, 8 ounces of sugar, 3 ounces of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a pan and took it over to the induction stove top.

Here it is boiling merrily away.   Then we put in a candy thermometer, gave it a stir from time to time, and 25 minutes later it looked like this.

It is boiling hot at this point, so we carefully tipped in the large bits of almond (saving the fine particles for topping), and spread it out on a half sheet pan.   Then we sprinkled 7 ounces of chocolate chips over the top.   As it was boiling hot, the chips quickly melted and we slathered them over the top and added a fine almond dust over everything.

It doesn’t really look very appetizing at this point, in fact it looks rather like a large cow pie (although it smells much better).

Now it looks delicious!   As there were several groups of people in the class, we made different flavors of toffee and got to take home some of each.   So I have white chocolate raisin toffee, dark chocolate coconut toffee, dark chocolate and milk chocolate toffees.  Now all I have to do is package this up for friends and avoid eating all of this myself.

Christmas food

Since it is almost Christmas I decided to go ahead and start my cooking. ¬† It’s tradition and you can’t mess with tradition. ¬† This recipe was printed in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, a newspaper that was published from 1852 to 1986. ¬† I’m guessing that this recipe is from 1976 or 77. ¬† Mom saw it, clipped it out of the paper, and made it for Christmas one of those years. ¬† I thought it was delicious, and as it is a tiny recipe I promptly lost it. ¬† But the food editor of the paper kindly looked it up and sent me this copy, and I have taken more care with this copy.

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I have made this every year since then, and it’s one of the things that I only make ¬†at Christmas time. ¬†I would make this for me and make German hazelnut cookies for M. ¬† His recipe was translated from German and started out “make a mountain of flour and mine a pit in the center” [those Germans do have a way with words ;-).]

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Anyway, it doesn’t look like much, I supposed I could fancy it up but I am quite lazy. ¬† It tastes delicious and carries the taste of Christmas in my mind. ¬†The recipe claims to make 12 servings, but I have never found this to be the case (it’s between 4 and 8).

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And it is the perfect thing to enjoy on a gloomy winter’s day.

Father’s Day Chili

Well we are just past Father’s Day, and one of my brothers sent me a request for my father’s chili recipe. ¬† Dad was born in 1928, and in his era “Mexican” food was not so ubiquitous a part of the food landscape. ¬†He had been raised on the Eastern European diet plan: sausages when you can afford them, and potatoes and cabbage the rest of the time. ¬†So chili, even in it’s Midwestern form was somewhat exotic. ¬† And this is how he made it for us:

A pound or so of ground beef, some chopped onion to suit, one or more cans of kidney beans, a bit of salt, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of onion powder, a tablespoon of chili powder and tomato juice or V-8 juice.

Brown the ground beef with the onion and drain off the fat.  Throw in the rest of the ingredients, simmer for a bit and eat with saltine crackers.   Easy peasy!  If you need to serve more people, just use more beans and tomato juice.

This chili bears a slight resemblance to the original from Mexico. ¬† I remember the bottle of chili powder that we used for this, specially purchased for this recipe. ¬†I think it possibly contained cumin, garlic, oregano, salt and some form of mild chili powder. ¬† It couldn’t be too spicy, we just weren’t used to that.

When I moved to New Mexico I learned to make New Mexico red chili, which is a more complicated recipe.

12 pods of dried chile, 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of lard, 1 tablespoon of flour, tomato juice or water.

Wash the chile pods, removing stems and seeds.  Bring chile pods and water to boil, reduce heat and allow to steam for 10 minutes or longer.  Pour into a blender and liquify.  Strain the sauce through a sieve and add salt to taste.  Heat the lard, then add the flour to make a roux.  Pour in the chile sauce and stir until thickened.   Add tomato juice or more water if needed.   Cook cubes of beef in this until tender, red chili is served with the pinto beans on the side, if you care to add them.

Both recipes are good in their own ways, I would make New Mexico red for M, and Midwestern chili for myself whenever I got a hankering for it. ¬†I think I’ll make some tonight (but with more chili powder, I like it hot).

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It’s been a snowy week, so it’s a great time to make comfort food, those ordinary easy recipes that remind you of home. ¬† ¬†This recipe is courtesy of my gran. ¬† It is undated, but I asked her for it when I was a young woman, so I have had this piece of paper for at least 40 years (perhaps more).


Gran had stopped school when she was 15 to work as a factory girl, and she did not write much, so it is a very minimal recipe.  She liked it because it is dirt simple to make, unlike some of her other recipes.    I saw an almost identical recipe on the internet today, so it is still popular.  And it comes from Kentucky.

Batter ingredients:

1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar (this is really a lot, I usually use 3/4 cup or less), 1 cup of milk, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt.   Mix this together to make a batter.

Melt one stick of butter in the bottom of your baking dish. ¬† What size? ¬† I use a 10″ round corning ware pan, otherwise I think the batter is too thick. ¬† ¬†Pour the batter over the melted butter.

Drain a large can of peaches or cherries.   Make sure they are well drained.    Place the fruit evenly over the batter, it will rise up and cover the fruit as it cooks.   Bake at 350 F for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it is golden brown to the very center.

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I used too many peaches in this version, because I had thawed out a large sack of them.   But it was delicious, and perfect for eating on a cold snowy day.


My gran is the woman on the right, my beloved grandmother is the woman on the left, and that’s my older brother in the middle.