Category Archives: Cookbooks

Reading Material

As a quick look around our home will tell you, I love to read. Books, magazines, old letters, vintage catalogs (!), clipped articles, and yes, even cereal boxes. When I go to the antique mall or a garage sale, rarely do I buy anything that isn’t printed. Occasionally a pretty dish or a doll. Maybe a vintage article of clothing or old sewing supplies.


More often, my treasure sack contains various types of ephemera: old sewing patterns, a pattern catalog from the 1950s, a 16 Magazine from 1965, Needlecraft Magazine from 1932, a very well-worn elementary reader from the 1930s, a slim WWII volume: This is the Navy, a 1960 Montgomery Ward catalog, the little booklet/catalog that came with Barbie dolls in 1962, an old drama script, a handmade wedding album from the Depression, old high school and college yearbooks, cookbooks, paper dolls (!), school room ephemera (the seasonal cardboard cut-outs that teachers used to decorate their door with). Let’s pause and take a breath. (And yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition. It just didn’t sound right when I used “with which”.)

I just love the printed word.

However, not all printed words.

A few weeks ago Joe and I went to the Grapevine Public Library to see what offerings were in the Friends of the Library nook. These are items which have been donated to them, which they can’t keep and they will let you take them home for a donation to their funds.

One of the employees was re-stocking the shelves and I asked her if they had any donations which were too tattered to put out and that would go straight to the paper recycler. I explained that I like to do paper crafts and find it very difficult to tear up a book to use for projects (and I can never alter one that I liked). I explained the caveat that the books cannot be prurient, even for crafting. Can you just imagine a collaged piece from a Harold Robbins book?! Yikes!

(As a Fawlty Towers fan, I first typed Harold Robinson, then caught myself and corrected it. I think the Waldorf Salad episode was my favorite one.)

Anyway, she said that they had just received a large donation (I’m guessing several hundred books), most of which wouldn’t sell and that I could go into the office and look at them and see if there was anything I liked.


She showed me the Jalna series of books by Mazo de la Roche. The Jalna books were a popular series, the first of which was written in 1927. The lady told me that they would not sell.


Also there was the World War II collection by Winston Churchill, missing one volume.

On and on it went. I ended up with 41 books in my stack, knowing that only a few would end up as craft material. One slightly unpleasant aspect of all of it was the pricing. These were books without a price tag. Buyers are expected to come up with what they think is reasonable and fair. My general rule of thumb is a garage sale price. Magazines are a dime, children’s books and paperbacks a quarter and hardbacks .50 unless in very bad condition. But she wasn’t happy with my offer of $20.00.

Now, before you hit that comment link about how greedy I was, take a deep breath and remember that she considered all of these books unsaleable. They would get nothing for them when sent to the pulp mill. My choices were 39 hardbacks and 2 paperbacks (39 x .50 = $19.50 + .25 +.25 +$20.00). So, I offered her $25.00 and she accepted.

My plans are to read the Jalna series this summer, then perhaps start on the Churchill books this fall (they are huge – over 700 pages each; the usual goal of 1 book per week will collapse with those).

Many of the others are simply old novels. Maybe I’ll read them and then be willing to tear out the pages. But maybe not.


Three of them were old looking and when I read the titles I thought, “Surely I won’t mind tearing these up.”

Then we got them home and I really looked at them (I didn’t spend the time to look them over carefully while at the library).

One of belongs in a genealogy department because it’s an 1886 list of Illinois Civil War veterans, which includes their dates of service and promotions. Scratch this one from the scrap heap.


The next one is an 1898 volume called “The Lives of the Saints”. Even though we aren’t Catholic, a saint is a saint and my husband is particularly interested in St. Theresa of Avila, who is chapter one. Scratch this one from the scrap heap.


The last really old looking one was called the Illinois Blue Book, 1933-34. It was a state government book published in 1933. Alright! Here was one that I could use! A lot of cool looking photos of state officials and lists of government projects … and then right in the center is this gorgeous section of photos and drawings of the “Century of Progress Exposition 1833 – 1933, Held at Chicago, May 27 to Nov. 12, 1933”.

Argggghhhh!

And ebay? Ebay?? Someone save me from ebay. (However, I just got the bid on the most fantastic bundle of 1965 and 1967 Seventeen magazines. I’ll share the photos with you later.)

*Updated May 26, 2013

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Books Read in December, 2009


Village Christmas, (1966) Miss Read
First published as what Miss Read would call “a slim volume”, this edition of Village Christmas, along with The Christmas Mouse, was included in an omnibus entitled Christmas Tales. Set in Fairacre, it is the story of 2 aging sisters who are comfortable in their set ways, until their world is invaded by a young family who moves in across the road. Diana Emery and her husband have 3 cheerful little girls and another baby due any minute. Margaret and Mary are constantly shocked by the Emerys: Diana smoked, wore torn stockings, sent the children over to borrow a bit of string for a parcel, and was actually friendly.

“As Mary had foreseen, her Bohemian garments scandalized the older generation. An then, she was so breath-takingly friendly! She had introduced herself to Mr. Lamb in the Post Office, and to two venerable residents who were collecting their pensions, shaking hands with them warmly and asking such personal questions as where they lived and what were their names.

‘Wonder she didn’t ask us how old we be,’ said one to the other when they escaped into the open air. ‘She be a baggage, I’ll lay. I’ll take good care to steer clear of that ‘un.’ ”

While not exactly a spoiler, I just have to include a passage from the last few pages, because, of course, everything turns out to be okay. New babies have a way of changing things.

” ‘D’you know what Vanessa said when her father fetched her?’ asked Margaret. ‘She said” “This is the loveliest Christmas we’ve ever had!” ‘Twas good of the child to say it, I thought, after such a muddling old day. It touched me very much.’

‘She spoke the truth,’ replied Mary slowly. ‘Not only for herself, but for all of us here in Fairacre. ‘Tis a funny thing, sister, but when I crept up the stairs to take a first look at that new babe the thought came to me: “Ah! You’re a true Fairacre child, just as I was once, born here, and most likely to be bred up here, the Lord willing!” And then another thought came: “You’ve warmed up us cold old Fairacre folk quicker’n the sun melts frost.” You know, Margaret, them Emery’s have put us all to shame, many a time, with their friendly ways, and been snubbed too, often as not. It took a Christmas baby to kindle some proper Christmas goodwill in Fairacre.’ ”

The Christmas Mouse, (1973) Miss Read
The second Fairacre story in this volume is the story of old, widowed Mrs. Berry, her young widowed daughter Mary and Mary’s two little girls and a couple of unexpected guests on Christmas eve. It’s a bit longer than the previous story and is also a morality story with a good bit of wisdom in it.

No Holly for Miss Quinn, (1976) Miss Read

This third Miss Read Christmas story is also set in Fairacre, with a different set of characters. Miss Quinn is an efficient, executive secretary for a businessman. Her life is well ordered and just the way she wants it, with very little fuss and certainly no big celebration at Christmas. Then her brother sends out a call for help with his children when his wife has to go into the hospital and he, being a vicar, is busy with parish duties.

Caring for a whole household is a new experience:

“With a shock she remembered that there had been no preparations made for lunch at home. For the first time in her life, she bought fish fingers, and a ready-made blackcurrant tart. How often she had watched scornfully the feckless mothers buying the expensive “convenience” foods. Now, with three children distracting her and the clock ticking on inexorably, she sympathized with them. Catering for one, she began to realize, was quite a different matter from trying to please the varying tastes of five people, and hungry ones at that.”

It’s a lovely story, with even a touch of romance, and I read it again nearly every year.

Christmas Scrapbook, (2005) Phillip Gulley

A second Harmony Christmas story by Gulley, concerns the Quaker minister’s attempts to make a really special gift for his wife, a scrapbook of her life. Gulley is a real-life Quaker minister and I’m a little uncomfortable with the casual lying in which his protagonist engages. It’s an okay book, but no great shakes, and unlike the Miss Read pieces, I won’t reread.
Esther’s Gift, (2002) Jan Karon

If you’ve read any of the Mitford books, you know that Esther Bolick’s claim to fame is her Orange Marmalade Cake. This story is about her preparation of several to give as Christmas gifts and her struggle with generosity.

Once I read that when Jan Karon first mentioned the cakes in her series, that she didn’t have a recipe for it, just the idea. Memory fails me as to how she finally came up with it, but I’m glad that it’s included at the end of this story. It sounds mouth-watering.

Same Kind of Different as Me, (2006) Ron Hall and Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent

Not a Christmas book at all, but simply an incredible story, Same Kind of Different as Me, is a double first hand account of redemption and freindship. More on this book later. Here is their website.

Christmas Cookie Murder, (1999) Leslie Meier

Really, I should know better. A couple of weeks ago I was at our local library and looking for some light reading and picked this one up. One of the Lucy Stone series, it’s set in a little town in Maine. Lucy is a wife, mother and part-time reporter for the local newspaper. Meirer’s story lines are mildly interesting but they drip with political correctness.

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Filed under Books, Christmas, Cookbooks, Cozy, Faith, Fiction

Remarkable Fudge

1971 edition

There are 2 theories about fudge making (that I know about). One is what I think of as the old-fashioned kind: a little grainy and thin, the kind my mother made.

The other is the marshmallow cream kind, which is what my husband prefers and has made every Christmas season for over 30 years.

Both are wonderful. My mother’s recipe is the one that I make. It’s not the instant kind (with powdered sugar), but it’s a lot faster to make than Joe’s. He allows 2-3 hours from start to finish.

It’s called Remarkable Fudge and it is indeed. We had the last pieces from this year’s batch with coffee yesterday morning and I miss it already.

Because of the the time and attention required, it probably takes a serious cook or at least one who is serious about fudge to undertake the endeavor, but it really is wonderful. Candy shop fudge has never been as good to me since we discovered this recipe.

The size of the flame.

Last year we realized our candy thermometer was broken and I forgot to replace it.  So he used the old standard soft-ball test and it worked just fine.  Joe ices down the water for the test.

This is what it looks like after cooling down.

For something this time consuming, it pays to use real butter and vanilla.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

This post is linked to Food on Friday at annkroeker.

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Filed under Books, Christmas, Cookbooks, Cookies, Family

Gingerbread Men

Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1968 edition

My friend Merrily gave me this cookbook when I was 16. She was one of the best cooks I knew, and certainly the best cookie maker. The recipe for my sour cream pound cake came from her.

We have literally worn the cover off of this book over the last 39 years. Joe’s luscious fudge is in this book, and this is the only gingerbread man recipe I’ve ever used.

Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1968

Notes:

* If rolled thick, this recipe makes a soft cookie, which is what my family prefers. However, with the last bit of dough, I roll them thinner for a crunchy cookie which goes well with morning coffee.
* Plan ahead and chill the dough. It does make a difference. I’ve tried doing it in a rush and it just doesn’t work. The dough is sticky and then I add too much flour.
*I’ve never used shortening, I’ve always used vegetable oil (canola, etc.).
* Make sure the cookie cutters are well floured before each cutting, or you’ll start losing arms, heads, etc. that don’t want to separate from the cutter.
* Keep a pastry brush handy. Flour is needed to dust both the rolling pin and the rolling surface, but you don’t want that floury taste on the bottom of the cookies. It’s a hassle, but dust them off before placing them on the baking sheet.
* Parchment paper gives the best result. For years I Pammed the sheet, but the pp results in a better cookie.
* Press raisins into the cookie after they’re on the sheet. Frozen raisins work better. Soft, room-temperature ones don’t want to press in and will likely fall off.
* Sprinkle sugar over the tops before baking.
* Bake one sheet at a time, although it isn’t as important with this recipe as it is with chocolate chip type cookies.
* Turn sheet around half way through baking.
*After baking, let set for about 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

I store the finished cookies in a clear jar on my counter-top. If left out on a plate in humid weather for a long time they stay soft, but not as nice. Besides, it’s way too easy to pick up one from a plate everytime I pass by.

My grandsons love these. In fact, they asked me to make paper gingerbread men for them to play with last summer. I used my larger sized cutter for a pattern and we had the plain, regular gingerbread man, plus Gingerbread Batman, Gingerbread Robin, Gingerbread Joker, Gingerbread Superman. Construction paper was cut out to make their clothes and their faces were done with Crayolas.

This post linked to Food on Fridays @ annkroeker.

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Filed under 1960's, Baking, Books, Christmas, Cookbooks, Cookies, Cooking

Chocolate Syrup

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from The Tightwad Gazette II


This recipe is from Amy Dacyczyn’s book The Tightwad Gazette II, which I highly recommend. It’s good for making chocolate milk, hot chocolate or an ice cream topping. Since the publication date is 1995, I’m sure the price of Hershey’s chocolate syrup has gone up. I don’t know because I haven’t bought any for years.

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It is cheaper and tastes better than commercial chocolate syrup. Just don’t overcook it. You will end up with something like fudge sauce, which is great over ice cream, but difficult to dissolve in a glass to make chocolate milk.

It doesn’t take very long to make; after it comes to a boil, you only cook it 3 minutes. It’s easy to make, our grandson almost always asks for it and if we don’t have any in the refrigerator, he loves to help his grandpa make some.

And while it’s cooking, well, that fragrance in the kitchen is like perfume.

This post is linked to:
Food on Fridays @ annkroeker
Frugal Fridays @ Life as Mom

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Filed under Books, Cookbooks, Cooking, Family, Kitchens, Thrift

Cockeyed Cake (Chocolate)

Don’t have any eggs, shortening or 30 minutes to devote to making a cake? Cockeyed Cake doesn’t even require a mixer and is a very thrifty recipe.

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The I Hate to Cook Book


This recipe comes from the Peg Bracken’s 1960 “The I Hate to Cook Book”. As you can see from the photo, my copy is quite worn, but it’s one of my favorite cookbooks because it blends good, dependable recipes with humor and clever illustrations. It’s very mid-century, so if you like this era, I highly recommend this book.

When I was in grade school at Mingo (and when school cafeterias actually cooked instead of the way they do it now – just reheating frozen food), the cafeteria ladies made this cake but they called it Wacky Cake. This is what Peg says on pages 91-92 and will give you an idea about her writing style, which I find very amusing:

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Illustrations by Hilary Knight


“This is a famous recipe, I believe, but I haven’t the faintest idea who invented it. I saw it in a newspaper years ago, meant to clip it, didn’t, and finally bumped into the cake itself in the apartment of a friend of mine. It was dark, rich, moist, and chocolatey, and she said it took no more than five minutes to mix it up. So I tried it, and, oddly enough, mine, too, was dark, rich, moist and chocolatey. My own timing was five and a half minutes, but that includes looking for the vinegar.)

Cockeyed Cake

1 1/2 c. sifted flour
3 T. cocoa
1 t. soda
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
~~

5 T. cooking oil
1 T. vinegar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. cold water

Put your sifted flour back in the sifter, add to it the cocoa, soda, sugar and salt, and sift this right into a greased square cake pan, about 9x9x2 inches. Now you make three grooves, or holes, in this dry mixture. Into one, pour the oil; into the next the vinegar; into the next the vanilla. Now pour the cold water over it all. You’ll feel like you’re making mud pies now, but beat it with a spoon until it’s nearly smooth and you can’t see the flour. Bake it at 350 degrees for half an hour.”

Chocolate Icing
1 T. butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. cocoa
dash salt
1 t. vanilla
3-4 T. milk
1/2 c. chopped pecans

1.While cake is baking, place butter in mixing bowl to allow to come to room temperature.
2. Sift powdered sugar, salt and cocoa together.
3. Add most of the milk and vanilla. Blend well.
4. Mix in chopped pecans.
5. Place on warm, not hot, cake and allow to soften a bit before icing.


Cake Notes
:
*At the bottom of this post I’ll include the amounts for a double recipe, which is what I usually make. Realizing that anyone can double the above amounts, I have gotten myself in trouble on other recipes by forgetting to double some of them. It’s so much easier to have it all written down.
*Even though she says you can mix it in the cake pan itself, I find it difficult to do. If you are proficient at it, go ahead, it will save you having to wash a bowl.
*A few years ago, I read that one should only grease the bottom of a cake pan, because an ungreased side gives the cake something to cling to and rise nicely. So that’s what I’ve down ever since and it’s never caused a problem. Just run a knife around the edge of the pan before serving to loosen it.
*The picture below doesn’t do justice to the cake. It’s a really nice, chocolatey cake, just as Peg said.

Icing Notes

*The Mingo School cafeteria ladies didn’t ice the cake, they simply sifted powdered sugar over the cake. This works fine if you’re serving all of it immediately, but the next day it absorbs some of the oil from the cake and begins to look tired.
*This is my standard icing recipe that I learned from my mother. I never measure the ingredients, but I did today for this post.
* Baking time is subject to the vagaries of your own oven. This morning it took an extra 30 minutes. There must be something wrong with my thermostat. Just keep checking it after 30 minutes and use the toothpick test.
*Once I used cream in the icing recipe instead of milk and really didn’t care for the result. It stayed way too soft for me.
*The milk requirement in the icing is variable. Too much and it will be runny, too little and it will tear up the cake when you try to spread it. After adding the initial amount, mix it up and add only 1 T. at a time.
*Don’t put the sifter in the sink after you use it. You might need to add more powdered sugar if the icing is too thin. This has happened to me many times.
*This is a good recipe if you have a vegan in your family. Just use vegetable shortening (instead of butter) and water (instead of milk) in the icing recipe.

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Cockeyed Cake

Double Cake Recipe:
3. c. flour
6 T. cocoa (1/4 c. + 1/8 c.)
2 t. soda
2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
~~
10 T. oil (1/2 c. + 1/8 c.)
2 T. vinegar
2 t. vanilla
2 c. cold water

Double Icing Recipe
2 T. butter
3 c. powdered sugar
dash salt
2 t. vanilla
1/4 + 1/8 c. milk
1 c. chopped pecans

This post is linked to:
Food on Fridays @ annkroeker
Frugal Fridays @ Life as Mom

*Updated October 28, 2012: a reader (Peg) pointed out that I had doubled the amount of cocoa in the half recipe. That has been corrected, and I sincerely hope it didn’t cause any trouble for anyone. The Wacky Cake recipe that our cafeteria ladies made was indeed more chocolatey than this one from the I Hate to Cook Book, but I doubt it was twice as chocolatey.

Mea Culpa.

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Filed under 1960's, Books, Cookbooks, Cooking, Mingo, Oklahoma, Thrift, Using What You Have

Friday Night Pizza – on Thursday

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Fridays feel like celebration days to me and I want something fun to eat and do. That usually means pizza and a movie. Years ago we usually went out to a movie, but the pickings are getting pretty slim and even if we find something we want to pay to see, we go to the Saturday matinee. Much cheaper. Also, we used to order the pizza and my husband would pick it up on the way home but I’ve found that it takes about the same amount of time to make one as it does to order and wait for it. Homemade is a lot cheaper and most of the time it tastes better, too. But this week I knew I’d be too tired to come home and cook on Friday (it was Grandparents Day at our grandsons’ two schools); hence, the celebration night was moved to Thursday. We had the leftovers on Friday while we watched a James Stewart comedy, (“Dear Brigette”) and that worked out great.


Friday Night Special

Dough

Preheat oven to 450-500 degrees. Keep the kids away from the oven.
2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 t. active dry yeast
1 t. sugar
1 T. olive oil
2/3 to 1 c. warm water

Combine either by hand or in a heavy duty mixer (don’t try this with a hand held mixer; it won’t work the heavy dough and you might burn out the motor): mix everything together, and knead for about 5 minutes.

Roll out dough to a little larger size than the pan, on a floured surface and brush off excess flour. Place on a oiled or Pam-ed pizza pan. Fold over the extra and press down to make the border.

Toppings
1 T. olive oil –
2 T.tomato sauce (more if you want)
1/4 t. garlic powder (or the real thing if you have any)
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. basil
Salt
Pepper

Shredded motzarella – about 2 cups

1/4 onion
1/4 green pepper
3 whole mushrooms
3 slices jalapenos
1 can black olives, drained
Dash of marjoram
Dash of thyme

Rub oil lightly over the top of crust, including the border.
Spread tomato sauce using the back of a large spoon.
Evenly distribute the herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle about 1/2 c. mozzarella evenly over the top.

Chop the vegetables together. My husband chops them moderately fine, but not minced. Add herbs and mix well.
Drop evenly over the top.
Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese.

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Set the timer for 5 minutes and bake on the lower rack. This gives the bottom of the crust a chance to get crisp.

Then move to middle rack and check after 5-7 minutes, until it’s the browness you like. Slide off onto a clean counter or large cutting board and slice. We place ours onto a wire cooling rack so the crust doesn’t get soggy.

The above amounts are flexible. I usually use a little more water if the dough doesn’t seem pliable enough, but it shouldn’t feel sticky, either, if it does use a small amount of flour (a couple of tablespoons) and knead it some more.

Left over spaghetti sauce works great instead of plain tomato sauce.

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