Category Archives: My Kitchen

EXPIRATION DATES AND OTHER FOIBLES OF THE CANNED FOOD INDUSTRY

What, exactly, is it about expiration dates on the packages of cookies or crackers, or expiration dates on canned food prod products? Actually, for what it’s worth, dozens of different kinds of expiration dated-foods can frequently be found on marked down grocery items and I veer directly towards them. I have found some fantastic sale items this way. In the fresh product section, I often find lettuce, yogurt, cottage cheese and other dairy items marked down as much as half price. One of my best finds a year ago were large bottles of Karo light corn syrup for 75c—more than half off. Then I began thinking about all the uses for light corn syrup during the holidays –but when I went back to the store, all of those bottles of karo syrup had been bought. Now I try to pay closer attention. A similar situation took place when my daughter in law bought 2-lb bags of brown sugar. I bought 4 or 5 bags and when I went back to the store, intending to buy whatever remained –and they had all been sold. And the reason those items were marked way down was that the manufacturer was introducing a new plastic bag. And if you worry about having too many bags of raisins or brown sugar, you can re-bag the products into glass jars. The major complaint that I hear from friends or family member is that “the product inside won’t be any good” This is probably the food industry’s number one “the joke’s is on you”

The reason I wanted to share these letters with you was due to comments that appeared in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine March/April in -2012. I have been contending for years that canned food with long-ago expiration dates, no dents or flaws in the container—are still safe to eat. Two of my grandchildren check the dates on everything edible (consequently, if I am preparing a food with a canned food content, I put the canned food into a baking dish and bury the cans at the bottom of the trash can).

What did Cooks Illustrated have to say about this issue?
A subscriber wrote to say she recently used a can of chicken broth and later discovered it had a “best buy” date of several years past–but the product tasted fine and no one got sick.

Says Cooks Illustrated “The best buy” printed on some labels is not a hard and fast rule; it refers strictly to the manufacturers recommendation for peak quality, not safety concerns. In theory, as long as cans are in good condition and have been stored under the right conditions (in a dry place between 40 and 70 degrees, their contents should remain safe to use indefinitely.

That said, natural chemicals in foods continually react with the metal in cans and over time canned food’s taste, texture and nutritional value will gradually deteriorate.

The question is when. Manufacturers have an incentive to cite “a best buy” date that is a conservative estimate of when the food may lose quality. But it’s possible that some canned foods will last for decades without any dip in taste or nutrition.

In a shelf life study conducted by the National Food Processors Association and cited in FDA Consumer, even 100 year old canned food was found to be remarkably well preserved with a drop in some nutrients but not others….”
I’m sure there have been or will be studies to detract from the above study – my point is just this: I have grandchildren who read all the labels and if any of the cereal or other breakfast food has an expiration date of even one week, they won’t eat it. They have been so indoctrinated that no one can tell them any different. (So I transfer food, including cereal, to jars whenever possible. No expiration dates. No problem). But I am also a believer in moving canned foods around so that the oldest in the shelves is up front and will be used next.
This also brings me up to date on another kind of canned food product – those you make yourself, using up fresh fruit when you have an abundance of a crop—or when a friend has more apples, pears, peaches, tomatoes—or any other food they can’t use. Actually, it’s not a matter of having too many apples, tomatoes or whatever—but rather, it’s being gifted with the neighbor or friend’s overflow. I just love being presented with whatever overflow a friend or neighbor can offer to us; Last summer, I dehydrated chili peppers and green bell peppers—other bell peppers were converted into stuffed bell peppers that were cooked, then frozen. We froze an enormous amount of bell peppers and cooked fresh corn on the cob to have for dinners. We picked little red tomatoes and I converted almost all of these into tomato sauce. There is a huge amount of work but an equal amount of satisfaction for having converted vegetables into tomato sauce, canned tomato sauce with hot sauce added to it, working on tomatoes until I had done something with all of it.

We have been giving serious consideration to “what will be next”. Mind you, my garden was a fraction of the size of my son’s in 2013. A survey of all the jars of tomatoes and sauces is very satisfying. (And doesn’t even take into consideration the canning of fruit juices in preparation for jelly and jam making. But that’s another story!

Sandra Lee Smith

NUTRITION ACTION HEALTHLETTER

While I can’t copy all the explanations for the following 10 super foods, I can provide you with an email address to order a copy of the list.

  1. SWEET POTATOES
  2. MANGOES
  3. UNSWEETENED GREEK YOGURT
  4. BROCCOLI
  5. WILD SALMON
  6. CRISPBREADS (i.e., such as Ry-Krisp)
  7. GARBANZO BEANS
  8. WATERMELON
  9. BUTTERNUT SQUASH

10. LEAFY GREENS

To request a copy of this list, write to orders.cspinet.org

Sandy

 

LISTS, LISTS, MORE LISTS

We’re more than halfway into January and a couple more lists have come to my attention.  Well, one of them must have come in the mail encouraging me to renew my subscription to Rachel Ray’s Everyday magazine. Or maybe it fell out of one of her magazines—I don’t always remember how I acquire bits and pieces of stuff – like someone else’s list. This one was titled 12 Bites of Every Day Food Wisdom from Rachel.

  • Recipes: First Things First – Rachel instructs us to always read each menu or recipe through before you begin. It’s the best way to check out your ingredient list and get familiar with the steps. Good tip. I find myself checking the list of ingredients first, then reading through the recipe and then, often as not, I go back and re-read some vital piece of information, like yesterday when I was making pistachio dried cranberry ice box cookies for my daughter in law. I was well into the recipe when I asked myself “wait!  Where does the egg fit into this?”  Turns out the egg is just an ingredient that gets brushed onto the dough before it goes into the oven.
  • Shortcuts: sometimes Okay. Rachel tells us there are times when store bought items simply make sense. For example, she often suggests pre-shredded cheese and pre-cut veggies as options in her recipes. One of my favorite short cut ingredients is pre-made salsa, green or red, that comes in many sizes and varieties. I poured some into my chicken tortilla soup a few days ago to give it the kick that it needed.
  • Substitutions: Why Not? Rachel says personally she rarely uses them but it’s up to you. Substitute freely, she says, as you like or need. If you prefer reduced fat cheese and dairy products, she warns, be aware that the consistency of spreads, dips or sauces may be slightly thinner. I just want to add—my youngest son had to give up dairy for health reasons; I began buying soy-based shredded cheddar cheese for him; we tried different varieties until he found one the most palatable. Personally, I despise salt substitutes and would rather use less and stick to the real thing—well, we did graduate to sea salt.
  • Smell and Taste as You Go—Rachel says learning about food and flavor is part of developing as a cook. Bu tasting and sniffing your way through different types of recipes, your palate will play matchmaker and you’ll learn how to associate flavors and textures that complement one another. I thought this tip was just about as basic as anything you could learn at your mother’s elbow or in a high school cooking class—and I taste everything as I go. I keep a pan of hot soapy water in the sink to drop the spoons into so there’s no double dipping, but you know what? It amazes me how often a chef on the Food Network program CHOPPED (which I love) hasn’t TASTED his or her recipe as they went along. The judges often ask “Did you taste this?” knowing full well which contestants have or haven’t seasoned a dish. Those judges don’t miss much!
  • One-Fell-Swoop Washing.   After a trip to the market, says Rachel, unpack, rinse and re-pack greens—like parsley—in plastic bags with damp paper towels before storing in the fridge. It cuts prep time all week. And I want to add, I repack and freeze almost all meats that I buy in quantity. My daughter in law’s tip is to buy large quantities of boneless chicken breasts when on sale and then she repacks and freezes them in one quart size freezer bags. She always has the amount she needs on hand, and the one quart bags take less time to defrost.
  • SWEETENING SAUCE: To sweeten tomato sauce, says Rachel, don’t add sugar; add half a mince onion to the garlic beforehand. Let it soften and sweeten over medium low heat for 10 minutes, then add to your tomato products. I confess, this is a new one for me.  I can’t wait to try it.
  • PACKAGES BROTHS: Broths and stocks have come a long way in the last few years, says Rachel; not only with taste and consistency, but in terms of packaging. They now come in re-sealable containers found in the soup aisle. The proper containers make storage of remaining product super easy. Stock up. I have to agree with this but want to add that I search for any of these products to be  on sale and then stock up.
  • GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT. Rachel keeps a big convenient earthenware garbage bowl on the counter for everything from peelings to pits to plastic wrap as she is cooking. It saves steps and time by eliminating unsanitary and repetitive trips to the trash can across the kitchen and keeps junk out of the sink drain and out of your way. I want to add to that—before we moved to the high desert where it’s not exactly safe to have a compost in a coyote might visit your back yard—Bob had a large compost area in Arleta that was walled in. All the grass clippings and leaves went into the compost along with most compostable-items such as carrot and potato peelings. He had a steady supply of rich compost soil for planting.
  • E-Z SLICING-For easy slicing of raw meat, pop it  into the freezer for 10 to 15   minutes before starting to prepare the meat. This firms it up and you’ll find that it will be easier to control the thickness of slices. (all very true—sls)
  • CRUNCHY CAPERS. Roasting gives capers a new flavor. they become a little nutty and earthy and they pop when you bite down! I’d like to add to this that my favorite fish recipe is a white fish sautéed in lemon juice and sprinkled with lemon pepper—then sprinkled with capers.
  • Oil & Vinegar.  When dressing an oil and vinegar always put the acid (vinegar) on first before the EVOO. If you add the oil first, the oil keeps the acid from getting to the greens, and your salad isn’t really “dressed”.  My comment about this one? I never add any kind of salad dressing to salads; I put them on the table for everyone to add their own favorite salad dressing. The leftover greens stay fresh this way.

Happy cooking! Sandy

MORE BACK TO BASICS RECIPES

MORE BACK TO BASICS RECIPES

Since posting the first “Back to Basics” I began finding a lot more “basic” recipes in my files. What I mean about basic recipes is those things you can easily make from scratch instead of using a prepackaged mix that generally costs a lot more than making your own – or in some instances, such as one with my younger sister, when she wanted to make something like tacos for dinner and discovered she was out of taco seasoning mix. Now she makes her own taco seasoning mix all the time. (Another bonus to making your own – there’s often no telling how long the seasoning mix was on the store shelves or in a warehouse before you bought it). When you mix your own, you know how old the spices or seasonings in your kitchen are. Anyway, here are some more basic recipes that you can print and keep in your own recipe box.

MOCK SOUR CREAM

You will need:

2 cups low fat or no fat cottage cheese
¼ cup plain yogurt
eggbeaters to equal 1 egg
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP water
½ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a blender container and process until smooth. Use for potato topping or dips.

Sandy’s Cooknote: The beauty of this recipe is that you can use no fat cottage cheese and by using egg beaters, you have a VERY LOW calorie/no fat recipe. The original recipe called for 1 egg–given that you aren’t cooking anything, I have changed it to eggbeaters to equal one egg.
**

BLENDER CARAMEL SAUCE

¾ CUP brown sugar
2 TBSP soft butter or margarine
¼ tsp salt
½ cup hot evaporated milk

Put all ingredients into blender container. Cover and process at mix until sugar is dissolved.
**
SEASONED CRUMBS

You will need:

2 CUPS fine dry bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp garlic salt
¼ cup parsley flakes, crumbled

Combine spices. Mix well. Pack loosely in jar. Use as coating for veal, pork, poultry or fish to be sautéed. Makes about 3 cups.
***

SEASONED PEPPER

You will need:

6 TBSP coarse ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar (optional)
½ tsp dried sweet red pepper
½ tsp dried finely minced onion
1 tsp paprika
1/3 tsp dried sweet green pepper

Combine spices and stir with wooden spoon. Pack tightly in glass jars. Makes about ½ cup.

Sandy’s cooknote: Ok, I do a lot of cooking but have never heard of dried sweet red or green pepper. BUT I think you could easily make your own. I chop up bell peppers when they are on sale and freeze them. I think I could just as easily dry a little of each, red and green in my oven or dehydrator to have it on hand. I’ll give this a try and get back to you on the results.
**

CREOLE RUB

You will need:

1 TBSP salt
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp round red pepper
¾ tsp black pepper
¾ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground bay leaves
¼ tsp chili powder

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container. Sprinkle on sea food, chicken or beef before grilling. Yield ¼ cup.
**

JERK RUB

You will need:

1 ½ TBSP sugar
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP dried thyme
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients. Store mixture in an airtight container. Sprinkle on chicken or seafood before grilling. Yield 1/3 cup.
**

HOMEMADE SEAFOOD SPICE

You will need:

2 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP onion powder
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp black better
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp sugar

Mix. Store in an airtight container.

Sandy’s cooknote: You will note that all of these recipes advise keeping the spice or seasoning in airtight containers. You don’t have to go out and buy a lot of jars or plastic containers. I save all kinds and sizes of glass jars when they are empty of what ever came with them. Wash them really good and remove the labels. When you put a seasoning into one of them, label it and include the date so you will remember when you made it. When I had babies, those baby food jars really came in handy for things like seasoning mixes.
**

Emeril’s BABY BAM SEASONING

You will need:

3 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP EACH salt, dried parsley, onion powder and garlic powder, oregano, basil and thyme
½ tsp celery salt

Stir well. Store in an airtight container.
**

ZESTY CHICKEN SEASONING BLEND

You will need:

2 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP garlic salt
1 TBSP paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ cup vegetable oil

In a small mixing bowl, combine all seasonings. Blend in oil, forming a paste. May be refrigerated up to 2 weeks. To use, brush mixture on whole chicken or chicken pieces and let stand 1 hr at room temperature or at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before roasting or grilling, until chicken is cooked through. Makes enough to season 7 to 8 pounds of chicken. Note: Add 2-3 TBSP lime juice to mixture if desired.
**

COPY CAT ONION SOUP MIX

You will need:

1/4 CUP dried minced onion
2 TBSP instant beef bouillon
½ tsp onion powder

Combine all ingredients. This makes the equivalent of one package of soup mix.
**

HERB SEASONING BLEND

You will need:

1 TBSP dried thyme
1 TBSP dried oregano
2 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried basil]
1 tsp dried parsley flakes

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use in omelets and to season fish, vegetables or chicken. Makes ¼ cup.
**

The following are a few good recipes for making your own marinades:

SECRET STEAK MARINADE

You will need:

1 CUP soy sauce
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, halves
¼ cup Kitchen Bouquet*
2 tsp Beau Monde seasoning

Combine soy sauce, onion and garlic in blender ad high speed 1 minute or until mix is smooth. Stir in Kitchen Bouquet and Beau Monde seasoning. Makes 2 ½ cups.
To marinate: arrange steaks in shallow glass baking dish (or use a zip lock bag) and pour ½ cup marinade over each steak or chop. Allow to stand at room temp 2 hours OR cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours, then bring meat to room temperature before cooking.

Sandy’s cooknote: Kitchen Bouquet! It’s a flavor enhancer that makes brown gravies a nice dark rich brown and is wonderful in pot roasts. My mother always had a tiny bottle of Kitchen Bouquet in the kitchen cupboard. Well, it floored me, the cost of those little bottles – we have a warehouse-kind of supermarket that is called Smart & Final, but I would imagine that Sam’s Club and/or Costco might keep the large quart size bottle in stock. I get a QUART bottle for about the same price as those little bitty ones. I swear by Kitchen Bouquet and wouldn’t be without it. Beau Monde is another but that’s another story.
**

HERB WINE MARINADE

You will need:

1 cup red wine*
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic. Crushed
1/3 tsp crushed rosemary
½ tsp EACH salt & pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp marjoram

Blend ingredients and let stand overnight. Remove garlic clove. Cover and store until ready to use.

Sandy’s cooknote: A lot of my recipes call for red wine. I keep a LARGE bottle of Burgundy wine in the kitchen pantry – just for these recipes.
**

BASIC MARINADE FOR POULTRY

You will need:

2 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP soy sauce
¼ cup dry (red or white) wine
2 tsp Tarragon or thyme
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients. Add more salt and pepper if you want. Marinate chicken or turkey overnight or brush on 15-20 minutes before grilling.
**

CITRUS MARINADE

You will need:

2 large garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
3 TBSP packed dark brown sugar
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh orange or lime juice
1 ½ tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Thinly slice garlic and in a small saucepan, cook in oil over moderately low heat just until it begins to turn golden. Remove pan from heat and with a slotted spoon, discard garlic. In oil in pan, add remaining ingredients and salt & pepper to taste. Cool marinade. Makes about 1 cup, enough marinade for 1 ½ to 2 pounds chicken or shrimp.
**

BEER MARINADE

You will need:

¼ cup salad oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup beer
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
¾ tsp pepper
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp crushed basil leaves
¼ tsp crushed oregano leaves

Blend all ingredients

To make beef kabobs:

You will need

1 ½ lbs flank steak
beer marinade
1 large green pepper, parboiled
12 cherry tomatoes
12 medium mushroom halves
12 small white onions, parboiled

Cut flank steak crosswise on the diagonal into 1” wide strips. There should be about 12 good strips. Place meat and marinade in a bowl and chill overnight. Cut green pepper into 12 small squares. For each kabob, thread meat alternatively with 1 green pepper square, 1 cherry tomato, 1 mushroom half and 1 onion on skewer. Broil 6-8” from source of heat for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until meat is desired doneness. Brush with marinade before turning.

Sandy’s Cooknote: I know a little something about making shish-kabobs. We made them for YEARS while my sons were growing up. We had an assembly line going for threading the kabobs on skewers. If you are using bamboo skewers, you should know the skewers should be soaked in cold water for several hours before using, so they don’t catch on fire. But metal skewers are inexpensive and you can stock up on them to have a bunch on hand if you are feeding company. Personally, I like to toss the mushrooms into a pot of boiling water for a minute or so – OR cook them a while in melted butter…they will go on the skewers more easily & taste better too. You can use that same melted butter to brush on the kabobs when they are cooking. We also would cut up hot dogs and wrap raw bacon around them to stretch the meat (I was raising four sons). I liked to cut the meat (often something like London Broil) into bite-size chunks and then marinate it for a few hours in something like a red-wine marinade with tenderizer sprinkled on, so that the meat was good and tender. Kabobs is a good company meal. Sometimes we also used chicken breast, cut into chunks – and when my son Steve was being lavish (and doing the cooking) he would get a pound of halibut and cut that into chunks to go onto the skewers. All great eating.
***

CIDER MARINADE FOR CHICKEN OR PORK

You will need:

¼ tsp crushed red chile flakes
1 tsp rubber dry sage
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/3 tsp celery seed
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley, optional
1 tsp finely minced lemon zest
½ cup apple cider
4 tsp cider vinegar
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
¼ cup cooking oil

Whisk together red chile flakes, sage, thyme, celery seed, sugar, parsley, lemon zest, apple cider, vinegar, mustard and oil. Use to marinate chicken breasts or pork chops at least for 4 hours or up to 8 hours. Will keep refrigerated up to 1 week.
**
Happy Cooking!

WHEN RADIO WAS KING-PART 2

Kate Brew Vaughn was another early pioneer of the radio recipe program. I had the good fortune to be introduced some years ago to one of Ms. Vaughn’s granddaughters, who provided me with some insightful details to her incredible grandmother. Ms. Vaughn was a caterer in North Carolina, raising five children, when she happened to come to the attention of Mr. Gamble, of Proctor & Gamble fame. He suggested she make a trip to New York City for an interview, for the possible job of hostessing a radio recipe program on the west coast. Ms. Vaughn made the trip to New York, arriving there with twenty five cents to her name! She got the job, then proceeded to move to Los Angeles, with her five children and a typewriter. Along with hostessing a local radio program, which was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble, Ms. Vaughn wrote a number of cookbooks, including “UP TO THE MINUTE COOKBOOK” “CULINARY ECHOS FROM DIXIE” “ART OF PRESERVING AND CANNING” and “TABLE TREATS FOR WAR TIME”. She also worked as director of the Home Economics Department of the Los Angeles Evening Express which was, I am told, the forerunner of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

Then there was Aunt Susan. You may have seen a published, (1989) attractive black and white cookbook titled “Long Lost Recipes of Aunt Susan”, edited by Patty Vineyard MacDonald. Ms. MacDonald tells us how many of her favorite recipes in her recipe box were handed down from Aunt Susan, whom she assumed for years to be some elusive member of her family. When she questioned her mother, she discovered that Aunt Susan was everybody’s aunt and the recipes had been clipped from her newspaper column.
Writes Ms. MacDonald, “Aunt Susan was actually Edna Vance Adams Mueller who, along with serving as food editor of the Daily Oklahoman, at one time also hostessed a cooking school show on radio station WKY during the 30s and 40s. It was through her skill baking and selling Lady Baltimore cakes that Aunt Susan came to the attention of the managing editor of the Daily Oklahoman and Times; her career as Aunt Susan began in the late 1920s with a newspaper column. For fifteen years, Aunt Susan not only wrote a newspaper column but she also broadcast a radio program of recipes and tips on
homemaking over station WKY. Her program was considered “chatty”, as if she dictated her columns to her secretary who transcribed them exactly as they were told to her. Early columns were little more than recipe exchanges between her readers. In addition to all this, Aunt Susan conducted a popular cooking school, from 1931 to 1941, each autumn for eleven years, at a coliseum in Packingtown. A staff of 15 assistants helped stage what became the southwest’s most popular food fair, with an AVERAGE daily attendance of 5,000 -or 25,000 Oklahoma homemakers for the week. This annual cooking school brought phenomenal space and radio time sales with Aunt Susan endorsing hundreds of products”. In the 30s, in addition to traveling to England, where she met with the chef at Buckingham Palace (and received the Queen Mother’s favorite recipe for Strawberry souffle from the King’s chef, P.H. Pouport), Aunt Susan also made a trip to Washington D.C., for an interview with Henrietta Nesbitt, who was the Roosevelt’s housekeeper. Mrs. Nesbitt gave Aunt Susan President Roosevelt’s favorite recipe for corned beef hash and Eleanor Roosevelt invited her upstairs for tea.

Aunt Susan’s last column for the Oklahoman was in 1943, when she moved to New York, where she went to work at McCall’s Magazine as Associate Good Editor and then became Food Editor in 1946, writing under the name of Susan Adams. A hard to find book you may wish to look for was “Susan Adams’ How to Cook Book” In 1947, she resigned from McCalls to devote full time to supervising the “BETTY CROCKER MAGAZINE OF THE AIR”, a transcontinental radio show that aired five mornings a week over 192 ABC stations. One of her many tasks was to train an actress named Zella Layne to voice the role of Betty Crocker. Aunt Susan planned and prepared all the food scripts, supervised a staff of script writers and coordinated guest contracts. Her new test kitchen made it possible to give all shows a live audience, utilizing techniques she had been
devising over the years. Later Aunt Susan and her husband went on to co-produce television programs, including two television shows, “Kitchen Fare” and “Susan Adams’ Kitchen” which ran successfully on TV for 5 1/2 years. Sadly, years later after her husband died, Aunt Susan’s own health and income began to fail and she resorted to selling rare volumes from her cookbook collection to live. She died in Colorado of a heart condition in 1972. The editor of “LONG LOST RECIPES OF AUNT SUSAN”, Patty Vineyard MacDonald, does not indicate what became of the rest of Aunt Susan’s
collection. Her enormous contribution to radio and television recipe programs, and newspaper food columns, seem to have been largely forgotten over the decades.

Then, there was the Neighbor Lady! The Neighbor Lady was Wynn Speece -who first went on the air in 1941 as a kind of programming experiment. She was, amazingly, hardly more than a young girl when she became the Neighbor Lady. Wynn’s first job was reading Sunday funnies over station KRNT in Des Moines..in this role, she played Olive Oyl, Maggie (of Maggie & Jiggs) and one of the mischievous Katzenjammer kids..for which they earned $2.00 per show! However, Ed Barrett, head of the radio department at Drake, hosted the Sunday morning program as Uncle Bill and it was he who taught
Wynn the fine points of radio broadcasting and helped her fine-tune her skills. Meanwhile, Wynn worked for her theater degree, not sure what she was going to do with it, and thinking she might pursue teaching, she enrolled in education courses to prepare herself for that work. But, she writes, in her book, “THE BEST OF THE NEIGHBOR LADY”, one day at a theatre rehearsal, she overheard a conversation that abruptly changed her mind. Some of her classmates were discussing the all-too-common question, what do you want to be when you grow up? Several of them said-with defeatist finality-they were going to teach because “there’s nothing better to do with a theater major”. Wynn was, in her own words, appalled. She immediately dropped her education courses, because she didn’t want to be a teacher of young, impressionable children, simply because there was nothing better to do. She began to think more and more about radio. Job opportunities were developing; serials were attracting many listeners. Wynn obtained a $400 loan from a national women’s organization to get herself through her senior year, enabling her to concentrate on radio studies. Wynn used the last $25 of the loan money to travel to Yankton, South Dakota, to accept a position as a writer, encouraged by a fellow student from her university days. Wynn was just a young girl in her
early 20s when she accepted the job in Yankton, and radio was in its infancy…but growing fast. Meanwhile, Wynn was happy with her job, writing commercials and maintaining the daily advertising log. Her work included research to the various facilities of various sponsors where she learned more about them and their products. Sometime later, the radio manager gave her a 15-minute slot, every Saturday morning, to talk about special premiums offered by WNAX advertisers. It was a turning point.

In the early summer of 1941, impressed with the way she handled her program, WIN WITH WYNN, and needing a replacement for the WNAX women’s director, manager Phil Hoffman turned to Wynn again. She was given a 15-minute program, six days a week, patterned especially for homemakers. She had only a weekend to prepare for her debut program..but the Neighbor Lady was on her way! The show was an immediate success, reaching farm and ranch wives in ten states; many of them were isolated and lonely, so that her daily visits were eagerly awaited. Wynn asked her listeners to share their recipes, household hints and favorite quotations. She sent them Good Deed dollars for their contributions. It appears that, from the very beginning, WNAX knew they had a good thing going. Annual booklets were published, compiling the year’s best recipes
and household hints, letters and readers’ favorite verses. The oldest I have was published in 1943, and is titled “Another Year with the Neighbor Lady”. Many years of the Neighbor Lady would follow–there was even a 25th Anniversary booklet, published in 1966. The final edition was published in 1972. In all, there were 31 soft cover booklets, greatly cherished by Wynn’s faithful following. This tradition had its beginning in 1942, when numerous listeners requested copies of material from Wynn’s broadcasts. In the years that followed, the Neighbor Lady booklets became almost as important as the show itself–and from a beginning production of only 1,000 copies (limited by war time
restrictions), publication grew to 20,000 copies which sold eventually, for $1.00 a copy. And although it was never planned that way, the booklets became collector’s items, and were greatly sought-after in the WNAX broadcasting region. I have a few of the booklets; it’s easy to understand why they were in such great demand. Even today, they are great
fun to read. Wynn had been on the air less than five months when the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor took place…and the war that followed was reflected in the contents of Neighbor Lady shows, with recipes that stressed meat shortages and various ways to overcome shortages. Instead of Good Deed dollars, she sent war stamps for her listener’s contributions. I find that one of the most intriguing aspects of Wynn Speece’s life is that she carved out a career for herself in radio at a time when most women stayed at home to raise their families…not only that, but she built that career AROUND homemaking…and when she proposed to “retire” from radio to stay at home to raise her family, WNAX would have none of it-they took radio to her home, and from there Wynn continued to do her program. Wynn was so popular with her listeners that they often dropped in to visit her, unannounced. People considered her their personal friend, and although this was a burden at times, she never turned anyone away–can you imagine inviting fans into your home TODAY? How times have changed!

There were numerous other radio recipe personalities, like Wynn Speece, in various other parts of the country. It was an idea whose time had come–some other programs appear to be copy-cat imitations of Wynn Speece’s Neighbor Lady Program. For instance, in Colorado on station KOA, there was a program called “Hello Neighbor” which, like Wynn Speece’s neighbor lady, resulted in an annual recipe/household hint booklet. From KOIN radio in Portland Oregon, came Betty Davis’ program–with recipe booklets one could request by mail, and here in Los Angeles, chef Mike Roy hosted a program on KNX radio for a number of years, and authored numerous cookbooks. A penpal in Illinois ent me some recipe leaflets from station WMT in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hosted by Jim Loyd, this program started in 1963, sending out 2600 recipe leaflets their first month on the air. Two years later, this number had increased to 7000, proving that even in the 1960s, radio recipe programs were still popular. Years later, television would attempt to mimic the success of radio recipe programs. There was, for instance, “Sunshine Home” with Keith & Maggie on TV station KEY-T in Santa Barbara in the early 50s; the booklets they published with recipe contributions from their viewers are reminiscent of the Best of the Neighbor Lady. Other programs would follow, but there was, perhaps, a lull between the fame of radio recipe programs and the advent of the hugely popular TV cooking shows today. However, I don’t think that anything we available to us today provides the kind of impact that Aunt Sammy or Aunt Susan or The Neighbor Lady imparted on this country way back… when radio was king.

(originally published in Cookbook Collectors Exchange as “Don’t Touch That Dial” by author).

Old Time Radio Program Cookbooks

old time radio program cookbooks

old time radio program cookbooks

Some Very Old Cookbooks

some very old cookbooks

some very old cookbooks